Driving up the mountain to Paradise Music Festival felt like watching a series of repetitive images go by, our heads turning mechanically to catch the last glimpse of each view. As the trees – marked by fire – started to lose their colour, we knew we were approaching the Lake Mountain Alpine Resort. Everyone in the car was suddenly restless and chatty again, eager to get out and see it all. We pre-emptively added several layers, bracing ourselves for the cold weather we had experienced the previous year.
We pulled up to the gate, where a woman asked for our names. One of our friends had bulk bought tickets for us all, but had neglected to tell us that he had given us all the names of Shrek characters on the order. Thankfully, the staff appreciated the joke and we were waved through. My immediate feeling as we crept into the car park was that the festival felt larger, and I worried this would take away from the intimacy I fondly recalled from a year earlier.
There was a chilly bite in the air, but nothing like the cold we would experience later in the night. We settled on a campsite with 5% grass, 95% rocks, the best we could find that late at night. Regardless, the group persevered through the rough terrain- one bent tent peg at a time. Our initial setup frustrations were replaced with appreciation as we realised that our campsite had fallen amongst those of an extended groups of friends.
We all agreed that while large festivals have a certain excitement to them, nothing beats the feeling of familiarity at small festivals. A familiarity that allows you to find your groove, your friends’ campsites and your favourite secret nooks and crannies. It was impressive that Paradise managed to achieve this feeling despite a large increase in tickets sold.
Being accustomed to festivals with a more intense ‘doof’ vibe, and a hot, dusty atmosphere, Paradise was a breath of fresh air. In fact, so fresh was the air that you tended to find people sitting in the heated cafeteria in the earlier hours of the night, still too sober to brave the cold. Clubland, where the majority of DJs were booked to play, sat above the cafeteria with club-style opening hours: 10pm-7am. Like the previous year, it occupied the building reserved for the ski resort at all other times of the year. The indoor resort location gave Clubland a sort of high school dance-hall feel. The real-life cafeteria with bain-maries added to that, particularly when combined with the presence of toilets and showers in the same building. While all were things usually absent at festivals, they were charming in a way, and added to the sense of community, even if they did give off a strange vibe. Vibes aside, everyone was appreciative of Clubland when the cold hit, saved from tears and the potential loss of extremities. Regardless of this saving grace, the general consensus among our group was that people come to a festival for the festival, not for a club. It may be harsh, but Clubland felt like a Melbourne club with a weird atmosphere and inconsistent music, leaving people unsure as to where they wanted to be.
Sadly, we missed Andre Eremin as we wanted to make the most of the outside stage while it was open. Though as 1am approached, music became the preference again and we watched Roland Tings’ amazing set, which closed Stage Paradise. He created a journey from the very beginning, with a long, drawn out intro. Slowly and subtly he heightened energy levels, and for the second half of his set the audience were jumping and dancing with ear-to-ear smiles on their faces. Cassius Select followed directly afterwards at Clubland, which kept the vibe up. After that though, it seemed as though the mood of the festival dropped, and suddenly the 6am set time for Misty Nights seemed much further away.
Despite any of the shortcomings at Clubland, Stage Paradise provided an excellent setting for a range of acts. From Roland Tings on Friday night to The Harpoons on Saturday Afternoon, there were several moments there where the audience felt united in euphoria. Walking up the hill from Stage Paradise after Roland Tings finished, all I could hear were people raving about his set. He really managed to set the mood for the rest of the night, and was the highlight of Friday. During the daytime, the Amphitheatre-like space at Stage Paradise bought back fond memories of Meredith. We sat at the top of the hill and looked down at all the people lying on the grass, or sitting on couches they had brought themselves, with live music from Good Morning and Totally Mild to add to the atmosphere.
Feeling crisp from a day frolicking in the sun, chasing waterfalls and climbing mountains, we fell asleep in the warm sun. After a few hazy hours of lying on the grass drifting in and out of sleep, the familiar sound of the Harpoons’ melodies graced the space, and suddenly we found it in ourselves, despite feeling like fried tomatoes, to get amongst the crowd and join them in dancing. The Harpoons’ set built up to be the pinnacle of the festival.
Regardless of the music, which was only questionable at times, Paradise 2015 was a really good time. If there was no music and Paradise was just a congregation of strangers who decided to go camping it still would have been a really good time. The scenery is overwhelmingly incredible; it would have been worth it just for that. Paradise had the best of both worlds in that it was small enough to remain feeling like a closely knit group of like-minded people, but not too small that there was no adventure. The Lake Mountain Alpine Resort is a perfect festival location for punters who are keen to go exploring. Walking around the festival, I heard as many people praising the scenery as I did the music. Although the set times could have been orchestrated a little better, the music itself was of high quality, and it was nice to see a bit of diversity in genres. The team did a really good job at marketing the festival to a good crowd. Rarely, if ever, did we walk around feeling like there was a large presence of dickheads we had to avoid. More so than any other festival I’ve been to, everybody at Paradise appeared to be in sync with one another. Thanks to this, some minor slip ups didn’t matter, because at the end of the festival everyone I spoke to had had a great time.
Photos courtesy of Michael Benham and Eliza Oliver.