Review: Sugar Mountain 2018

For many of the 6am family, Sugar Mountain is an annual tradition on January party calenders. They have religiously attended past incarnations and often argue about which years reign supreme in the memories of others. However, I am not one of those. One day festivals often leave a bad taste in my mouth. I feel they are always a hotbed of poor programming, operational nightmares and lack a sense of soul you get from the weekend format. I feel they are for the faint of heart and the vein who can’t go a day without a shower or a place to charge their phone. With all of that said, here are some ways that Sugar Mountain has changed my pessimistic perspective on the one-day festival.

Photo: Lisa Businovski

Each stage had its own identity

Usually, when you attempt to accommodate for such a range of genres you take a step backwards to the bygone days of Big Day Out or Parklife. However, the way the stages were programmed offered an avenue for each cross section of taste and type of punter to really find their groove throughout the day. Instead of a sea of servo sunnies and tote bags scurrying between stages all day, everyone seemed to find their niche, plant their crew and dig a dancing trench for the day.

The Boiler Room stage (where I spent most of my day) catered for the fist-pumpers and your usual late night suspects. The DJ’s playing the stage step it up a notch and dig a bit deeper as they know that their sets will circulate the web and reach more ears then just that in front of them. Standouts on the day included Bristol’s Shanti Celeste and Honey Dijon, whose infectious selections incited joyous anarchy and extended praise from an adoring crowd.

Indoors was the Merlyn Theatre, that housed the more experimental sets for the day and maintained the interest of the arty crowd. I didn’t catch the entirety of Laurel Halo’s set, but what I did see impressed me as usual. She always seems to be pushing the envelope and in turn dragging my taste and interest behind that envelope.

The main stage (Dodds Street) catered for the general populous, the type of people who would call most electronic music “boring and repetitive”, but will happily wait around all day until Cut Copy play a song they recognise from an album made a decade ago. With that being said I heard many good things from friends about Joey Bada$$, who you would probably say was the headline act of the festival. I also was told by some cross-eyed punter it was his birthday on the day too. If so, that’s a very large birthday party and we were all invited.

Photo: Michele He

The art element was engaging and not half-assed

Often I find at many Australian weekend festivals that the art installations can sometimes be a bit lacklustre. Maybe they get lost in the doof aesthetic or they are simply there to please council permits that the weekend stomp is, in fact, a “celebration of art, culture and music”. Whatever the case this cannot be said of Sugar Mountain. Whilst the art did play second fiddle to the music and yes, it is a festival in an art college and behind the National Gallery of Victoria, so you would have some expectations of it – that should not subtract from how great some of the installations and pieces on show were.

Photo: Lisa Businovski

I didn’t miss the faux hippies

Pre-entering the festival I pondered the question of what are worse, fucc boi’s and wannabe influencers or faux hippies? Sugar Mountain answered that one unequivocally – faux hippies. Bartenders were not staring deep into some drug-fuelled abyss when I ordered drinks. Art installations were not still exploring fractal patterns. Nobody was fire-twirling, slack-lining or whatever that thing with those cones that are on those strings that you throw in the air is called. Whilst these are all part of the fabric that makes weekend festivals and doofs unique and I wouldn’t take them away from my experiences there, I definitely enjoyed having a dance away from it all, at the expense of a few extra phones and 35mm cameras waving around.

Photo: Chip Mooney

Whilst, I don’t think I will be completely rescheduling my festival calendar and swapping my camping experience for a heightened awareness of my Klout score – Sugar Mountain has definitely opened my eyes to the pros of the one day format. If next years’ lineup is anything like this years then it is safe to say I’ll be awkwardly bobbing away all day at The Boiler Room stage in 2019 too!

Sugar Mountain Website HERE