Review: Strawberry Fields 2018

The 10th incarnation of Strawberry Fields welcomed a fresh site, a mouth watering lineup and a palpable excitement that could withstand even the longest country drive. At it’s conclusion, and after 8 years of 6AM ATG at Tocumwal, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to say that we reckon this was the best one yet.

The Site

Having moved homes a number of times over the decade-long journey of the festival, the chatter about a new site for it’s 2018 incarnation brought eager anticipation, particularly when it came with the promise of a five year permit. It was immediately clear that this long term residency had allowed more sustainable facilities and a large number of impressive art builds. 

Photo: Natalie Jurrjens. 

The four primary stages formed a semi-circle that curved it’s way around the outskirts of the site, following the bend of the Murray River. Cutting through the centre were the food stalls and markets, with an expansive camping area on their other side that mirrored the layout of the entertainment spaces. The clear distinction of each area meant that punters had a plethora of choice with regards to the type of festival experience they had, with no infringement from another. Perhaps the best element of this was the biggest and safest ever Strawberry Fields beach, which gave the option for rinsed out party kids to reset themselves before heading back into the dusty abyss. As much as we loved the five layers of dirt and grime synonymous with early 2010s SF, the equal opportunity given for a chilled out festival in 2018 was impressive (and very much appreciated). 

The Lineup

Putting together an array of talented local and international musicians has never been a big struggle for the SF booking team, but it was the programming, placement and set times of the individual stages that really stood out in 2018. Clearly, huge effort had been put in to maintaining a consistent musical identity at each, which ebbed and flowed beautifully as the festival progressed. You could just easily find Sasha, Peter Van Hoesen and DJ Nobu ripping the lid off it one night as you could three of the finest jazz bands going around on another. Kamaal Williams, 30/70 and The Senegambian Jazz Band back to back to back was as impressive a sequence as the Move D meets Jayda G brilliance at the beach. 

Photo: Natalie Jurrjens. 

As ever, the festival gave local artists every chance to shine. Jess Zammit took to the Deep Jungle stage brilliantly, as did Wax’o Paradiso, Midnight Tenderness and Adi Toohey at the beach. The fact that a brief generator failure at that stage ultimately gave rise to an even better vibe was a clear sign of the overwhelming goodwill on every level of the festival. Equally, a haphazard building of gaff-meets-paper-umbrella sunshields to save Move D’s records from warping put smiles on everyone’s faces. 

Andy Garvey and CC:DISCO! did nothing but add to the overwhelming brilliance of Australia’s current DJ crop (props on playing Simona Castricum’s Farnham edit, CC), before Honey Dijon brought some serious house banger spice to further heat the Wildlands stage crowd. Notable mentions have to go out to her selection of Crystal Waters’ ‘Gypsy Woman’ and Ultra Nate’s ‘Free’, which almost convinced one crew to sprint barefoot with a bag of ice back to the stage. 

Photo: Natalie Jurrjens. 

It’s clear you’ve had a bit of fun when forget you’ve still got Carl Craig to look forward to. In the end, that proved the cherry on top of an already delicious cake, as the father of house entertained with tracks ranging from Lil Louis’ ‘French Kiss’ to Moodyman, Eurythmics and Derrick May’s ‘Strings of Life’ to finish a stunning weekend.

The Art

It was an impressive year all around at Strawberry Fields, but the most impressive growth was definitely in the art department.

Month long builds meant that massive structures were able to be scattered across the site, each as impressive in the day as they were at night. No explanation in this review could really do them justice, but several that stood out included the multicoloured and interactive bus, an intricate, triangular wooden structure (built by friend of 6AM, Patrick Stokes) and a massive wooden bird that left us in total awe. 

Photo: Patrick Stokes.

A special mention also has to go out to the architecture students who built an entire building out of cardboard to house the ‘ten years of SF stories’ gallery. 

With every year that passes, more festivals pop up to add to what is a thriving Australian dance community. Strawberry Fields remains a flag bearer for all those newcomers, representative of all the values of freedom, identity and independence that have defined the genre from the beginning. Props, and see you next year.

Strawberry Fields Website