Reviewed Friday February 17 – Monday February 20 (photo by Leah Hattendorff)
Having experienced the weird wonders of accompanying David Hasselhoff on an EDM cruise last November (and yes, that was really a thing), there seemed no finer opportunity to put my newfound skills to the test than catching the 12th Earth Frequency Festival, an hour west of Brisbane at Ivory’s Rock. I had an inkling of what to expect when it came to the music, and given similar audiences I’d encountered in the past (on the whole, a crowd ready to write themselves off in colourful abandon), I thought I had that figure, too.
Here I was entirely mistaken, and happily so, as it was the spontaneous friendliness and fellowship of the festival-goers that made this four-day dervish so memorable. The moment you step aside from any activity to take a breath and look around – be it dancing to Formidable Vegetable Sound System, pitching your tent, or learning how to telepathically communicate with whales (the trick is to start small; dolphins, the instructor recommended, but given my lack of success I’d suggest kicking things off with a polite-if-informal dialogue with some local mollusc and working your way up) – there would be some smiling stranger at your side, dropping in for effusive and endearing conversation before you ricocheted off to the next colour-drenched pathway or distant thumping beat.
Even the artists themselves seemed tuned to this conversational, communal atmosphere. Si Mullumby is one hell of a didge performer, but his scattershot explanations of how he came to forsake his medical career and follow the transient life of a busking muso were as engaging as the music itself. Even those who had perhaps partaken of more esoteric festival fare were enchanted.
“Brother,” one perplexed and grinning stranger said on approach, “this guy is so good, but I’ve just taken all the acid in the world and I don’t know what I am any more.”
“Don’t worry!” I said, “you’re in the right place! You’re the trumpet player!”
“Sure you are!”
And so we played imaginary trumpets for five minutes until he felt better, and wandered off to follow the meandering trails of light snaking across the fields.
“I’ve been coming here for six years now,” a crystal-healer told me over coffee (who nursed, somewhat ironically, a broken arm in plaster). “It’s different to other festivals. You get a different crowd, and you don’t get many dickheads and everyone’s just loving being here.”
So far as I could tell, she is right. The atmosphere is chilled and inquisitive, and while the dancefloors are places of wild energy and abandon, full of every size and shade, decked in glitter and feathers and streams of colour, from steam-punk to flannelette to stripped-bare … it all somehow works, and there is no sense of aggression from unruly punters (not having bars onsite may well assist this; the festival is entirely BYO). Festival director Paul Abad is quite earnest in his desire for Earth Frequency (or Earth Freak, as you quickly learn) to feel a lot like a family gathering… albeit one with dedicated workshops on spirituality and ecological awareness, and a Sanctuary Stage that never sleeps.
But the music! Beardyman was in fine form, sharing the stage with an artist painting the moment on a canvas at front of stage, and nominal headliners The Herd delivered an expansive, raucous set. Following the traditional dance of the Welcoming Ceremony, Deya Dova won for both vocal chops and my Best Dressed Award, with extra points for Kingfisha and Safire and, particularly, the sprawling talents of Mr. Mal Webb.
Panels on permaculture, dancing the sunrise, wine in the rain and 5,000 friendly strangers; Earth Frequency is a unique (and exhausting) ride in beautiful surrounds. What a happily bizarre gig.