Strawberry Fields Festival @ Victorian Wildlands, Victoria (23/11/2012)

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Strawberry Fields was always going to be a serious contender for festival of the year. But as it turned out, Strawberry Fields hasn’t just stolen the crown for 2012’s best festival – it proved to be the best festival I have ever attended. A brazen statement, I know.

While Strawberry Fields 2011 was definitely a whole punnet of fun, the off-kilter set times, topsy-turvy camping and fairly gross toilets left many feeling jaded. I definitely wondered if the organisers could offer the same diverse line-up in their beautiful wild lands site, albeit, with more thorough organisation. They did. But before I get into the finer points of why this festival capped of the year for me, let’s go back a bit.

It’s Friday and the festivities begin. The highlight, as noted by many, was Tycho performing their psychedelic pastel hymn Dive while washed-out visuals drip behind them. However to me, the real stunners on Friday are our very own. Andras Fox opens the Wildlands main stage and surprises us with Oscar from Oscar + Martin, as his guest star; with Oscar is working soulful lyrics while Andras is kicking it live with some mesmerising 707 creativity. Audixx is another local legend and his genre-defying electronica has my feet stamping – every time his phasers end and the lows open up, I am grinning a little harder. Luke Coleman’s set during the Survivor Sessions stage takeover is my final favourite of Friday night, an example of excellent tech-house track selection and a wining mix overall. Time for a nap before dawn!

I awake on Saturday ready to head down to Bloody Mary, Beats, Bean Bags and Bitches Breakfast at my favourite, the Back of Burke Stage. Lining up, I grab my complimentary iced Bloody Mary and kick back on my picnic rug.

Strawberry resident Child is Saturday’s big opening festivity and delivers current techno and tech-house sounds with very exciting hooks. James Holden takes his place and for four hours we follow him on a journey through ambient samples, intense flanging and mysterious techno. This is all built-up to the most uplifting and climatic close. Along with the cool change coming in, he elevates the entire mood of the festival and Saturday night is capped of magnificently. I gaze into a beautiful sunset while Kyson soothes us all, unwinding his relaxed melodies.

My eyes open on Sunday morning to dawn peeping into the seams of my tent. I can hear a killer set coming my way from the Chameleon Records take-over on the Back of Burke stage. Midday’s scorching sun calls for water fights, communal sunscreen application and a scrumptious fresh falafel. I join the main stage dancefloor completely drenched, as Neelix opens his set with his signature pumping side-chains and fresh release, Dark Matter.

Everyone laps up the sprinkler action during an eclectic 4×4 set from Kollektiv Turmstrasse, and nothing follows it better than a walk down to Detroit techno king Patrice Scott’s percussive sound and migrating low and high passes, coming from the Out of Focus take-over.

As the Sunday’s heat fades away, everyone celebrates the end of a very well executed Strawberry Fields. We all are moved by Ryan Davis’ epic computer drums; the perfect main stage close. His effusive tracks surmise the bitter-sweet feeling in the air. An hour later, steel wool clouds hang over the horizon, as Floating Points play a befitting closing set on the tie-dyed Back of Burk’s. Their heartfelt grooves get the punters dancing one last time.

As you can picture, this year’s Strawberry Fields was a magical event on too many counts. The breadth of the line-up attracted the most diverse crowd that I have ever seen. At varying points, I felt like I could have been at Maitreya, Golden Plains or Dimensions festival. Everyone could be themselves and enjoy what they were there for; incredible music in a stunning natural setting. Here’s to 2013!

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