I’d completed my first road trip in the campervan from Adelaide to Melbourne, been to the Australian Tennis Open, and was now starting to think I really ought to start looking for a job. But there was one last thing I wanted to do before facing reality, and that was go to an Australian music festival.
I’ve never been to a festival quite like Rainbow Serpent. Located in Western Victoria, this is a magical place where like-minded people from all walks of life come together, and for 4 days, they leave their ‘real’ lives behind and become whoever they want to be.
This festival has a unique culture. As you walk around the stalls you can immerse yourself in art, world food, alternative clothing, spiritual education, healing, and most importantly, music.
From when the music kicks off on the Friday afternoon it doesn’t stop until Monday. The names on the line up may not be the biggest but no expense has been spared when it comes to the speakers and sound systems. As you dance at the ‘Market Stage’ it’s easy to lose yourself as the crystal clear music hits your ears and goes right through your body.
The range of music itself was most definitely not a disappointment. Mainly electronic it ranged from psytrance, to progressive house, to ambient sounds at the Chillout Stage. Or if you wanted a change of scene you could take a trip to the circus style ‘Playground Tent’, where bands made up of trumpets, trombones and sax played music with ska and funky jazz influences.
One of the highlights was seeing headliners ‘The Orb’ on the Saturday night. Every element had been thought through, the artistic stage décor, the laser lights, and the intense visuals hitting you straight in the face melting in with the sounds. Around the outskirts of the dance floor people danced with glow in the dark props; hula hoops, diabolos, and Poi Spinning. The best way to describe it all was as a sensory overload.
One thought that came back to me over and over again through out the course of the festival was ‘who are these people?’ It was the opening ceremony on the Saturday evening when the main stage would open for 24 hours. Every year it is tradition for aboriginals to open the stage with a display of their culture through costume and dance. You learn where the name Rainbow Serpent has come from and that to the aboriginals, the original landowners, the Rainbow Serpent is the protector of the land and source of all life.
The ceremony brought all the festival goers together and as I looked around and took everyone in, I couldn’t stop smiling as I realised not a single person looked ‘normal’.
There were dreadlocks, body art, dramatic costumes, hippy clothing, and everyone looked so happy; you’d find it difficult to find anyone dressed normally in the crowd. These people had come from not just every corner of Australia but all over the world.
You could tell that for some people this wasn’t much different to their usual life, I’d imagine they would appear much the same if I were to see them in a weeks time walking down the street in Melbourne.
But what do all the others do? What lives do they lead outside Rainbow? There could be teachers, doctors, accountants, anyone here, and you’d never know. Although the music is great, the art stalls are interesting; it’s the Rainbow Serpent culture and the escapism it provides that makes this festival so great.