FESTIVAL REVIEW: Beyond The Valley

BTV Tent

Beyond The Valley Festival December 28th 2017 to January 1st 2018
Media passes provided by Event Organisers

Words by Mathew Toohey
Images by Alex Drewniak

It’s only been a few years since the minds behind Beyond The Valley (BTV) took a punt at launching their own festival. Already though, the annual event seems to be carving out a nice little slice of summer music pie, posing a nice alternative for those end of year shenanigans. The set list seems to grow each year, along with a slicker production, carrying a healthy litter of big names.

BTV deserves kudos for their scheduling, which limited the clashes, and gave everything a healthy pace. Generally, the roster skews towards hip-hop (see Schoolboy Q) and dance (see The Presets), while also including a few well-placed daylight sets from indie or more traditional band set-ups. The afternoons here opens up a space for the likes of Matt Corby and The Preatures, with soaring guitars and funky front-women. Other big names included Stormzy, Mura Musa and DMA’s.

‘Not far enough to feel like a road-trip, but enough to escape the concrete and fall into the rolling ebb and flow of the park’s glorious golden hills’

Held out at Lardner Park, an hour and a half east of Melbourne along the Monash Freeway. Not far enough to feel like a road-trip, but enough to escape the concrete and fall into the rolling ebb and flow of the park’s glorious golden hills.

BTV Field BTV Skegss

Now, the music.

Day one broke in nicely with high energy outfit Skegss. Their emphatic efforts being lapped up by an eager crowd, more than happy to reciprocate the early excitement. The Skegss boys dared them to mosh, and mosh they did.

NOA and her self-declared ‘wonky-funk’ feels, soothed all the idle souls to the point of trance. It was a shame the rain came down hard at that point, proving too much to bare for some.

The rain, it’s worth noting here, did not stop.

Each droplet managed to pelt down with more fury than the last. Did we anger the party gods? Who knows. Luckily there was a ready-made church on site to repent our sins. A church of the inflatable kind, sitting atop the hill facing the main stage. With drenched believers, this was the optimal place to party.

Playing inside was a mix of sing-along favourites that could be best described as taken straight from the Triple-M high rotation list. This only enlivened the soaked crowd, and with the deluge outside worsening, the congregation kept swelling.

In a moment of perfect timing, the sweet piano sample of Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ came over the speakers. It’s gospel, choir infused melody practically ushering in a priest through the church doors. An exuberant man, more than happy to groove through the outstretched hands and grab the mic to address the faithful. ‘We’re going to have a wedding!’ he declared, before marrying off a few couples and jumping back into the buoyant fray.

 

BTV The Church

You had to be game to catch The Preatures set, though many rose to the challenge. The rain at this point wavered between torrential and slightly less torrential. But smiles were all you could see in any direction though, as Isabella Manfredi worked the hell out of the crowd and drew plenty of adoration. At one point during a pause, a group began the chant of DJ Otzi’s ‘Hey Baby, will you be my girl’. Manfredi then walked over to guitarist Jack Moffitt leaning into him and his mic to say: ‘Well, they asked nicely?’

‘The sparkling guitar solos and reverb washed rhythms wailed out through the rain and galvanised most into dance. It was enough to forget you were being pummelled’

It was a punchy cocktail of rock ‘n’ roll mixed with modern pop pleasures. The sparkling guitar solos and reverb washed rhythms wailed out through the rain and galvanised most into dance. It was enough to forget you were being pummelled.

BTV Meg Mac

Day two eased up on the rain, staying overcast but still humid. With the weather dropping down a gear, the place really opened up for punters to get into sets around the main stage. Meg Mac on that front rose to the occasion; soulful pipes resounding as ever. She knows her way around a note, and her cover of Bill Wither’s ‘Grandma’s Hands’ brought plenty of cheers.

A quick break before Matt Corby emerged on stage. This man has all bases covered; a vocal gymnast, he delights in bending notes at will, reaching up towards the high register and back again, just ’cause. Corby moved from the heavy blues-rock howl of ‘Souls A’fire’, with its cranked guitar and cocked wah-pedal, to reaching the gentle melody notes on the flute in ‘Sooth Lady Wine’.

Corby’s cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ deserves special mention here too. It’s a deeply political song, and the choice to place it in his set, in front of such a large and receptive crowd, couldn’t have been anything short of that.

It felt particularly poignant in tumultuous times like these, where hate and fear are weaponised for political gain. Just see the likes of Minister Peter Dutton and the so called ‘African crime gangs’. See also, the reactionary vitriol spurred against the movement to change the date of Australia Day in respect for our First Nations people.

I couldn’t help but feel the burgeoning hope that bounced beneath each expelled note. To see Corby reach those high points, eyes closed, leaning back, face scrunched in exertion, was wholly and totally arresting.

BTV Matt Corby

Day three’s standout was Sampa the Great. She’s not tall by any stretch of the word, but on stage she towers. Mesmerising with her control of lyric and rhyme, all her bars are infused with authority. You’re witnessing someone on a mission, a person sure of themselves, and it’s heartening to watch.

The energy of the band was infectious too, with the guitarist and keys both adding solos and funk-fueled spice to the mix. A Fugees cover put everyone over the top and into a frenzy of dance, but her spoken word passages with no backing, drew absolute silence from the crowd. Seeing the power of that dynamic, thousands hanging off her every word, you knew that you were watching something special.

‘Mesmerising with her control of lyric and rhyme, all her bars are infused with authority. You’re witnessing someone on a mission’

DMA’s from there did well to hype up the crowd before the midnight set. Front man Tommy O’Dell’s energy was undying, each song building on the enthusiasm of the last. Huge tracks like ‘Delete’ and ‘Step Up The Morphine’ had the whole crowd joining in for the chorus.

The Presets harboured in the New Year, captaining the midnight set. And really, there was no other band that could of outperformed their dirty-electro punk. It hit the spot. After they finessed around the countdown, they dropped ‘My People’ as the first track of 2018 – bravo boys, bravo.