Secret Sessions Festival @ Landcruiser Mountain Park, Jimna (09-11/09/09)

Image for Secret Sessions Festival @ Landcruiser Mountain Park, Jimna (09-11/09/09)

Ssshhhh…… It’s a Secret! Well at least for the few years of offering the Secret Sessions Festival was indeed kept from mainstream knowledge; for no other reason than keeping tradition with the original concept, building anticipation and excitement in the lead-up to all who have grown to love this annual community and lifestyle event. Now in its 5th year, the all ages family-friendly festival has grown from strength to strength, not only in presenting an eclectic line-up of international, interstate, and local performing artists of music, dance, and the arts, but in the transforming and enhancing of nature’s gifts with each location. Despite the misinterpreted public media attention in the lead-up, Virus Light and Sound, and Bear Essential Promotions, pulled out all the stops securing the beautiful Landcruiser Mountain Park as the location, and along with an ever-expanding production crew, presented an amazingly spectacular weekend-long audio-visual experience!

Situated in the Jimna State Forest, west of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, with proceedings commencing on Friday afternoon right through to Sunday afternoon, Secret Sessions Festival is not an event you decide at the last minute, you might just rock up to. Given that with any ‘secret’ that’s worth telling, as has been the case with the superior production of Secret Sessions, punters come from far and wide spending weeks preparing their crews, camping requirements, outfits, essential nourishment and hydration supplies, protective items, and ensuring their vehicles are well equipped for the long trek. With all preparations finalised and directions released, the anticipation of Mother Nature herself along with what the festival organisers have in store, all add to the enthusiastic exhilaration of actually getting there.

Luckily to have arrived without incident, rally driving the dry dirt road along the gully behind the site, excitement was further fuelled knowing the final destination was within reach, with glimpses of the Sessions stage visuals highlighting the trees with glorious colour. Having selected and quickly constructed the essentials of the campsite, not too far from the amenities made my way for the first of many downhill treks to the Sessions Stage. It was late Friday evening, and with the party already in full swing, the first amazing spectacle I noticed was the clearest of skies in all her sparkling glory; it really did seem like you could you see forever. Down on the flat, the dome housing the sound equipment and DJ desk was flourished with dancing bodies in its forefront.

With ear-to-ear smiles, and already a very comfortable and welcoming vibe, free and happy was the essence captured, as though explicitly delivered by the sound waves and spectrum of colour emitted from the most spectacular of lighting equipment. With plenty of dancing room between the dome and shelter providing tee-pee tent rose a little in front of the stage area, roaming performers weaved in and out adding magic and fantasy to an already wonderful scene. The wandering around of many an unleashed canine and the presence of children frolicking amongst the crowd, only added to the wonderment to what seemed like a living fairy-tale.

Flanked closely by the camping perimeter to one side, the Market Place was spread out in the other direction, with each stall adjacent to the next, in front of the gully all the way down to where the Secret Stage was situated. With a full timetabled schedule, the Performance and Cinema Space, provided an alternative means of entertainment, in the form of live dance, audio-visual poetry, documentaries and full feature movies – all allotted in age appropriate timeslots. The Chill Out Lounge area raised above the Market Place provided a lovely area for some time out, though within full view of both stages and the passage between them.

One thing I’m purposely not going to do is try to describe each of the sets of the artists that I actually heard; there is already enough information about each of the artists available, and in such an event it’s impossible to hear all of them, then attempting a description would not give justice at all. However, it does need to be mentioned that the planning of the timeslots for each of the music artists at both the Sessions and Secret Stage (Saturday afternoon onward), was indeed well thought out and programmed superbly – something the mainstream commercial events fail to do effectively, in building and heightening the atmosphere over the weekend of entertainment. Friday night into early Saturday morn, the musical delights featured a nice mix of the more commercial tech-house, electro, progressive, and trance sounds, before entering the deeper psy realm of the wee hours of Saturday AM.

With an unexpected and particularly low overnight temperature, Saturday morning bringing with it a mild though noticeable dust layer, was not too inviting for those who opted for some tent-laden sleep. With the sound off, providing only the sounds of nature to accompany the morning workshops and discussions, for many who endured the overnight dance floor entertainment, the day allowed for attempted rest. Camped at the highest peak above the Secret Stage, the battle with the wind and the tarpaulin shelter, not to mention keeping some of the less stable tents upright and ground-fixed, certainly provided a different form of entertainment, and the testing of one’s patience. The plus side with being directly at the back of the Secret Stage meant that it wasn’t far to walk down, when the artists eventually kicked off the stage Saturday night into Sunday.

The sound system was brilliant – in fact where I was based, a downhill walk wasn’t necessary to hear the tunes, but being amongst it all, it was sets these type of festivals apart from the mainstream. As day turned to night, and the visuals came to light, the massive bunch of laser beams projecting high into the sky, and the rainbow coloured moving lights projected high onto the trees brought nature to life; and these were only backdrop visuals. The entire lighting production on its own would’ve kept you in awe for hours, but intelligently and cleverly programmed to journey alongside the audio output of the various artists, was up there with some of the best I’ve seen. If you can imagine some of the most magical and mystical fairy tale images of colour and light that you may’ve conjured up as a child, think that; others may be little more non-descript, but try to give meaning by simply exclaiming ‘Out-of this-World!’

One thing I failed to think of in advance when I realised my tent was near the Secret Stage, is that forget any chance of overnight sleep when you’re in earshot of Agent 23 or Dark Nebula; the mind may try to rest with shut-eye, but the body has other ideas, it’s almost impossible to be still when these two artists’ tunes are let loose in the middle of nowhere! Nevertheless, whether one chose to be enraptured by the Saturday night / Sunday morn line-up, attempt a warmer snug sleep, or be enthralled watching the changing patterns of the nearby bush fire from atop the campsite peak; for many the best was yet to come. Waking to a mild rain shower, the widespread campsite area had thinned a little, with many choosing to make an early return home getaway.

For many of the diehards, musically the best was yet to come. In contrast to the day before, the overcast sky and cooler temperatures, with promise of more rain was the perfect accompaniment, as the Sunday morning vibe shifted to a more relaxed and carefree feel heightened by the ambient sounds of Tetrameth and Sun Control Species into the early afternoon. All good things must come to an end, and seemingly over way too quickly – perhaps overloaded by the sensory stimulation of the entire event which without doubt exceeded last year in every way (who would’ve thought it possible?) – took the comfortable and pleasant mood I had captured on the dance floor to my vehicle for the drive back home.

To Virus Light and Sound, Bear Essential Promotions, and everyone directly involved, you truly deserve a massive congratulations; it is your event that certainly shows the importance of cohesive team-work in making dreams come true year after year!

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