Earthdance 2007 @ Sydney Park, Sydney (16/09/07)
Thu 20th Sep, 2007 Event Reviewsin
Earthdance is, without a doubt, one of the musical event of the year. Staffed by volunteers, its the unique combination of good causes, great people and amazing music that represents everything that cultural festivals can (and should) be about. Spending a sun-soaked day among the rolling hills of Sydney Park, spoilt for musical choice with your best friends and a few cold tinnies, really is hard to beat. That said, there were several obvious signs that the fun police have finally taken notice and decided to stamp their influence on what has previously been a largely unregulated day out.
Part of the charm of earlier Earthdance events has been the ability to wander in and out of Sydney Park at ones leisure. After valid concerns about crowd and motorist safety, fences were this year erected around the whole festival to create a single entry/exit point. The appearance of drug sniffer dogs, however cute, also signalled a clear break from tradition. Add in the strict no-BYO policy and at first some of the free and easy feelings of previous events seemed to have ebbed away. Despite these few changes, organisers once again elected to keep the festival free. This lack of admission charge makes you admire the passion behind the team spending months planning and incurring costs to put on a gratis party for people like you and me. Hats off to all involved.
Once through the fenced entry corridor it was the usual welcome chaos of delicious exotic food, freaks mingling with families and random earth-themed sculptures. Free sunscreen helped sate the sun’s ferocious bite and spontaneous acts of breakdancing, roaming dogs and wandering performers provided plenty to see. Modern day hippies were out in force, and though fedoras seemed to be the new trucker hats, the poser quotient was thankfully still insignificant compared to most other Sydney festivals.
Loads of charity and educational stalls offered plenty to learn for the inquiring or socially conscious mind. The Ecoliving Workshop was full of people sharing info on everything from worm farming and ethical investment to biodiesel and permaculture. One of the nicest surprises of the day was the oasis of the Chai Temple. Several times our group ended up sprawled on the Persian carpet and plush cushions, surrounded by bamboo sculptures, listening to some of the most sublime chillout music every played. Magic! The baby animal farm was also a fantastic touch – rabbits, a mini cow and a pig at a community dance festival just seemed to work. The organisers did a sterling job accommodating the needs of both party people and families and deserve hearty congratulations for this also.
Give Peace a Dance
The music was first rate, as always. You simply cannot fault a party with stages offering everything from live music and psytrance to drum n’ bass and electro. Punters either settled at their favourite stages for the day or did a nomad shuffle to catch the multitude of genres emanating from bass bins across the park.
This reporter’s Earthdance began with some percussive madness from drumming phenomenon Ben Walsh and friends at the Beyond Boundaries stage. Trekking over to Electric Earth territory a little later found Mad Racketeers Ken Cloud and Simon Caldwell putting the final touches on a rollicking set of deep exotica. Minimal Fuss lads Declan, Dave Choe and Matt Aubusson followed suit, laying down a perfect mid-afternoon set of rump shaking grooves. As their beats grew faster, more and more bodies began eating up the remaining space and by the time the Stick Figures live show appeared, Electric Earth was well and truly chockers. The little of Isaac Tucker I heard while transiting stages was smashing and Rifraf and Marcotix from Deep as Funk, certified Earthdance veterans, proved a perfect segue into Infusion. More on this later.
Not to be outdone, the Reckless Republic army was also boogying in the sunshine all day. Chunky electro sounds floated over a crowd of shirtless bodies with requisite huge sunglasses. Early in the day, rising star Matt Nugent’s bass-laden sounds filled the space back to the tree line. A little later, Telefunken were also on point, whipping the crowd into a frenzy and pulling into the crowd all who passed by. Backstage, squeezed between the palm trees and camo nets, a forty strong group was almost as wild as the front crowd, dancing on couches and skolling jager like it was water. Back on stage, Jeff Drake and Trent Rackus were dropping bomb after bomb, carving the way for the reckless duo of Emerson and chain-smoking Murat to start assaulting the crowd with a bounty of tunes including everyone’s favourite dub of Depeche Mode’s Everything Counts.
Up on a nearby hill (that seemed like a mountain later in the day), the drum n’ bass cockpit at the Urban stage was back once again. Firehouse, Mark Walton and Q45 served up dub flavoured hip-hop sounds during mid-afternoon, before drum and bass began slowly creeping in during the late afternoon, bringing with it the brock out crew who went crazy as only they can, thrashing around to machine gun bpms with carefree aplomb. Stalwarts Ritual and DSS kept the music fast and relentless and the only negative was the crowd surfer that took out one of my female friends. Everyone quickly rushed in to help though. Tis a real shame this and other stages closed earlier than others because it was clear that the drum and bass massive would have happily been an all night audience.
Fifty metres away, the Trance Experience arena was equally frantic, rammed full of people from midday to closing. A deeper side of trance was on offer early in the day, with later DJs moving towards a darker, more driving sound as the night wore on. With ten times less kicked-up dust floating about this time, punters’ lungs had only to concentrate on keeping up with the pounding fury of sets from Raptor, Ozzy, Jaimz and MSG. Each year this stage seems to get busier as more people get down to the twisted sounds of psychedelic trance – a good thing for sure.
With many of the stages closing around 6pm, the majority of the remaining crowd headed to catch either Infusion or Rastawookie. I’ve never been a rabid Infusion fan, but joining friends at the Electric Earth stage, I was pleased to discover a distinct lack of vocal numbers. The crowd lapped Infusion up (especially during Natural), but for my gold coins, I would rather have ended the night with a DJ. The sound quality at this stage was amazing, sailing crisply over the heads of the massive crowd, but the peaks and troughs of their live performance seemed to slowly suck much of the energy from the crowd. Still, the visuals and clouds of floating bubbles was a very welcome touch.
Unfortunately, the day didn’t go off without a few snags. Buying drinks proved a lottery for many. Depending where you were located, the queues for the bars were either horrendous ( Urban and Trance stages), annoying ( Electric Earth and Reckless stages) or bearable ( Beyond Boundaries ). Rumours of a wine store were kicked about all day, but finding it proved too difficult a mission for this reporter. Several people were charged with various crimes and a few idiots even decided to jump the fence at a free party. Quite a few medical incidents also occurred, the most serious of which was a cardiac arrest. With attendance estimated between twenty to thirty thousand people, a few niggles such as these were inevitable. All in all though, the crowd was very well behaved, and when compared to other Sydney dance events, there were hardly any bad vibes doing the rounds at all.
This year’s Earthdance was another complete success, offering stellar music and once again uniting the Sydney community with the rest of the world. The intrusions of perimeter fencing, a strictly enforced no BYO policy and the major police presence did little to dampen the carefree community vibe of the day. Knowing that people in 50 other countries were simultaneously sharing a similar experience was extremely humbling. With half the money raised from the Sydney event going to two great charities, we can only hope that organisers made enough money to cover costs and have a little left in the kitty for next year. The countdown begins…