Like a shining beacon of light at the end of 2021’s long dark tunnel, Elements festival defied all odds to top off the year that wasn’t with basically everything that was. Across four days of seamless production, we lapped up the cream of bohemia’s best performers and techno, bass, psy and prog music from across Australia in the green pastures of Landcruiser Park – what a ride!
While the rest of Australia were photocopying their arses and eating party pies at lame-o Christmas parties, dedicated Elementals were making their long awaited and much postponed pilgrimage for some festive season festivities, ready to doof the hills with bags of jollies.
What followed was a celestial weekend of star studded joy, creative performance, friendship and dead set bangers.
Driving in, our weekend began when Sesh Gremlin’s ambo van bust a gasket mid entry-queue. The anticipation of waiting to get in was clearly too much for the Adventure Before Dementia wagon. Thanks to the lovely couple who generously saved us and apologies we never found you to return the tow rope.
Later than we’d anticipated, we were reunited with the rest of our crew who had set up camp by the lake. Resigned to the fact that I would not be putting a tent up for night one, it was straight into it.
Melbourne melodic techno goddess Ebony Willis breathed life into the Love Camp Stage setting the tone with her signature style injected with some tasty bush techno flavours. The afternoon stretched into evening with some sacred offerings from Rosie Katie and Orca at the Sonic Sorcery Stage and Psymon and Om River at the Love Camp. As is customary, the first night became much more than dipping our big toes in the water as a blur of psy and techno blended into some next level D&Ms back at the campsite, trying to convince our bodies we were still in warm up mode as the sun came up.
Launching on Friday night with a spinetingling Opening Ceremony, The Tribal Council stage was an undulating wooden jigsaw puzzle of imagination, whose timber tiger stripes and etched vines played host to some burning moments of incandescence.
Ringleaders Moodswing and Chevy Bass declared the circus open with their trademark flourish, flanked by not-your-average five piece band, which included a cameo appearance from renegade cellist Wilma, who also played with Double Touch on Saturday.
“It’s a custom made turquoise painted Yamaha electric cello,” she said when I asked her about her instrument.
“It was absolutely incredible to get the opportunity to do two cameo performances as well as my solo set on Sunday night.”
Doctor Werewolf then lubed us up with some 174, playing his signature luxury filth for decadent bass goblins with some proper party pants drum and bass. He sent his upcoming release on Brisbane based dnb label 8 Ball Audio, the pinchy and punchy Crab Wars (out 14 Jan) into battle on a festival stage for the first time, flanked by the most stunning acrobatic hoop trio dressed head to toe in all white with matching dazzling smiles.
Then De La Haye and Kosha D absolutely rinsed a double header journey through some slickly produced steppas to fire off the final rounds off the night, peaking for me in Kosha’s new release Burn, which is out now also on 8 Ball Audio.
They say that sleep is for the weak, but when insomnia is involuntarily inescapable, it is actually the privilege of the fortunate. As night dissolved into another morning, and I jealously listened to the rumble of snoring from tents and vans, there was nothing for it but to soldier on. I found myself slowly baking alive in the early morning sun at our waterside campsite, feeling hotter than a slice of tomato in a cheese toastie , drinking 12 year old Speyside Malt Whiskey out of a copper cup with my newfound friend Mr Sparkly Mint, who was dressed as a Fijian princess. We watched naturists turning a blind eye to the “No swimming” signs bobbing their bronzed butts on inflatables and cooling off in the brown Human Soup lake, emerging from their bathing like radioactive Saskwatch. When in Rome …
Dusting ourselves both up and down, we headed back to the stage in the afternoon.
DJ Royalty Anthony Pappa is known for his marathon sets and seamless mixing that has fixed his crown at the top of the global music scene for the last 30+ years. His flawless 90 minute microcosm from dreamy progressive to driving techno elevated me every step of the way on a journey to another dimension, with standout moments including his recent release with Jamie Stevens, Here We Go on Selador, a resurrection of Junkie XL with a hat trick of tracks from his new album A Fluff Scam and even a tickle of some vintage X-Press2 (the new Guy J remix of course). Look out for a solo interview with the one and only Pappa upcoming with Melbourne Royalty later this year and relive the magic of his set via this link.
Dragged away from Bec Grenfell and Freya to the Sonic Sorcery stage, nekminnit we were balls deep in bass where K+Lab dumped a steaming garbage truck of filth and intergalactic funk in a loose AF sweaty stomp sesh to close out our afternoon with rabid grins.
It was some time after that that the cool raindrops of a much needed storm washed away our sins so we were ready to commit new ones as night veiled and the freaks came out.
In the most Saturday-est of Saturday nights, The Tribal Council stage copped a proper pounding from Melbourne techno overlords Handsdown & Leighboy, belting out a juggernaut set of all their own original tunes, taking us deep into the thick of the night and all that’s unholy.
“This event is a catalyst in the Australian festival calendar, and really is a true and honest representation of the blossoming music scene we have” they said.
Bringing some absolute facemelters like The Meg and angry atom bombs like Ego Death; their heat seeking missile of a tweak up of alltime crowd pleaser Faithless Insomnia and culminating in a grand finale remix of Kosheen Catch You was a fully stacked, no messing set, which you can revisit the mayhem of below.
Performing during Leighboy and Handsdown’s set was the stunning Fire performer Elektra Flare.
“I just love the atmosphere at Elements,” she told me.
“As a performer I feel really accommodated for. There’s so much assistance and support backstage from the crew and other artists. The staging has been designed to feature performers as individual artists and not just side entertainment. I love being able to collaborate with such talented and genuine people.”
It was lovely to catch up with Azrin, who took the helm of the main stage from 9.30 as it began its super psychedelic takeover.
“It’s hard to summarise the festival vibe and experience without writing a novel [tell me about it!!] but a few words that really ring true are family, community, inclusion, artistic and holistic,” he said.
“In contrast to the last time I performed a daytime set at Elements 2020, I pulled out the harder side of Azrin and massaged the crowd with deep, hypnotic, psychedelic sounds, sending everyone down a very twisted rabbit hole.”
Azrin was followed hot on the tails by the absolutely lovely Lunar, who had some pretty impressive things to share about her peak time main stage experience.
“Elements 2021 was hands down the most electric and energetic feeling I’ve ever felt in seven years of DJing,” she said.
“I was completely spoilt when it came to production. I’ve played all the different day slots at elements and I was finally gifted the main stage slot on Saturday at 11pm. I had a laser show, a fire dance troupe, fire cannons, sparkle bombs. I felt like a Rockstar. It was genuinely one of the best moments of my life.”
“There was a moment in my set where all I could see were hundreds of floating love hearts. Everyone in the crowd was responding to the love heart that I put up at them and were sending it back. Because it was so dark all I could see were silhouettes of love hearts across the entire dancefloor. It was so potent. I’m very grateful and have so much love for the entire crew at Elements festival.”
“I still get quite emotional talking about it.”
Some of the most beautiful festival moments are found in the blur of delirium far from the madding crowd. You’ve sloughed off the skin of reality and have become part of the tribe. As a new day comes to life, Trash Panda and I went for a wobbly morning wander and found a blow up couch in some sort of shade by the Main Stage. It was the perfect spot for kicking back and surveying the detritus of our kingdom in the aftermath of Saturday night before they turned the music back on. We watched the final day on Planet Bliss stretch, yawn and reignite into life, munching a Mushroom Nourish Bowl while enjoying some early morning sonic snacks from Smilk and Birrang Mill Mob.
Sunday brunch was served hot and tasty at the Sonic Sorcery stage by Melbourne’s Liam Sieker, whose blissed out set, with tracks like Rauschhaus’ Waiting for the Birds and Modd’s Gambit were as welcome as the breeze.
The Journey closing the Sonic Sorcery was something I’d been looking forward to all weekend. And what a sublime set it was. Some rando was trying to strike up a conversation with me as the bells of Quench & The Journey’s Dreams 2021 chimed in and as he continued to talk during the monumental you-have-just-been-teleported-back-to-1993 drop I legit had to resist the urge to smack him with my Tibbs & Bones holographic fan. My moment was fully redeemed by their absolute 100/10 choice for the last track, the radiant sunbeams and tribal drums of The Journey’s edit of Dario G’s classic Sunchyme – without a doubt one of the most beaming dancefloor moments in a long time. Listen to the full set below – comes with strong FOMO warning.
Butterz has been a part of the festival for many years, and was onsite two weeks before to work on the stage build. I caught up with him after the festival.
“We’re so used to the site now, and every year it grows in terms of infrastructure and new ideas,” he said.
“Everything gets an upgrade each time. It’s such a wild experience seeing the place kinda pop up out of nowhere within a week.”
“Running Love camp is super fun. We bring basically everything in a horse float. Couches, rugs, décor, lampshades; basically anything comfortable and a sick sound system. We’re like the lounge room of the doof. Bringing the Sub Rosa Couch onto the stage for a front row seat was absolutely paramount. Just quietly, I had the best time of my life. ”
We pay our respects to the Kabi Kabi/Gubbi Gubbi and Jinibara peoples on whose land Elements was held.
Courtesy of Josephine Cubis