Party In The Paddock 2019
… or, A Comedy of Errors and The Road to DZ Deathrays
February 7-9th, White Hills, Tasmania
When you live in Tasmania, the opportunities to see live music aren’t exactly abundant. Certainly, at least, not when you’re comparing it to my native mainland. So when Browny offered me the chance to cover Party In The Paddock in Tasmania’s stunning northeast, I jumped at the opportunity.
The site is nestled firmly in the pristine lands covered by the imposing silhouette of Ben Lomond (topping out at 1572m, it’s the second highest peak on the island), and some of the darkest skies on earth. Of course, then, it makes sense to put on a three day festival in the middle of a field there. And so it was done. The transport situation isn’t ideal (for festivals on the island it seldom is), and there’s about 1 bar of mobile reception if you’re lucky, but when you’re there it doesn’t really matter much.
Running from Thursday through Saturday, my original plan was to leave from my muggle job on Friday afternoon in Hobart and arrive at the site early in the evening. For those familiar with the geography of the island, you may already be understanding the folly of my decision. The drive isn’t an easy one — the trip is nearly 300km, a bunch of which is on dirt roads. I know the area well, regularly shooting the southern lights there, but time is a foreign concept to some of us. I eventually arrived just shy of midnight, well and truly too late to even contemplate attempting entry.
Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I took a drive up Ben Lomond. That was a mistake. Although, I did get trapped in my car inside of a snow storm on top of one of the most treacherous roads on the island, so that was fun. Yes, it does snow in Tasmania during summer, which is hilarious when you deserted the heatwaves of the mainland.
Having negotiated my way down Jacob’s Ladder with all of the ability to barely see beyond the leading edge of my windscreen wipers, I hung out and waited to head in, in the morning. I had no idea what to expect.
The setup itself is pretty cool – broken down into camping and then two main arena areas, with a few concession stands, and a VIP tent. All inside of a natural amphitheatre-like valley. There’s a bunch of non-musical stuff playing in Vibestown, like comedy and an impromptu outdoor rainbow cathedral. The main stage is in a much wider area, where all of the fun happens.
My schedule was pretty empty until the afternoon, when I was lucky enough to sit down with some of my hometown heroes, DZ Deathrays. After an overcast morning, around their arrival on-site, we were struck with a sudden severe thunderstorm, complete with thunder and lightning bolts hitting the parched landscape. It certainly made for an interesting chat with the boys!
A couple of hours later, the boys took the stage. And boy did the crowd respond. They always respond – and why wouldn’t they? By now, you know exactly what you’ll get out of a DZ set, and this was no different. We tripped through old and new, venturing as far back as “Dollar Chills” off of their debut effort, Bloodstreams. Back when they first were forging a name for themselves, prior to winning their first ARIA, this was a fan favourite – half a decade later and things have not changed.
Hearing them play outdoors in such a stunning location was a real treat, even if slightly moist. The crowd’s insistence on staying the course was rewarded as the clouds parted and revealed the gorgeous landscape they had been hiding.
All in all, this is the kind of environment they need to be seen in. In a dive bar at midnight surrounded by drunkards and pill freaks is one thing, but in the late afternoon as the sun is getting low to the horizon in the middle of a mountain range? Sign me the fuck up. What more is there to say? It’s not like they were going to go out and play a disappointing set. These guys love what they do too much to go out and give a half-arsed set. But you knew that, didn’t you?
Next up was the real surprise of the event: Yungblud. Before the festival, I had less than no fucking idea who the hell he was, and I’m sure much of the readership here is in the same boat. I was packing my stuff up to head to the car for the long trip home when I heard one of the other media staff say that something was about to go down on stage and that we’d all want to be there for it.
Turns out that something was a girl who’d organised for herself and her girlfriend to be taken to side stage, ostensibly as the winners of a prize, to watch the set. What her girlfriend didn’t know was that the reason for that was so part-way through his song “I Love You, Will You Marry Me” (one which apparently was a sentimental one for them), he could call them to the mic for the girl to propose. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sound quite as loud as the crowd’s reaction, nor seen somebody jump celebratorily as high as the man himself when she said yes.
I can’t say I am the hugest fan of his music, but I have never seen the press corps work so hard for the course of three songs. It was like trying to take shots at a methed-up housefly from long range with a pea shooter. Dude is every bit a rock star, and I’m glad I took the opportunity to cover him.
I ended up sitting on a milk crate for about 2 hours running a timelapse of the Vibestown gate (and explaining no less than 821 times that my camera would automatically take a photo every ten seconds) as the sun set over the venue. People loved it. A fat bloke in a Hawaiian shirt with a camera, who wouldn’t? And what a sunset! The day full of on-and-off drizzle had rewarded us with wall-to-wall tangerine and peach being draped over the mountains, giving way to the most beautiful crescent moon.
After covering Lily Allen (for my own interest more than anything), I shot some more of the venue (I actually shot a panorama of her on stage stretching out to a very gorgeous Milky Way behind the crowd – one of the coolest features of the location owing to the skies being inky black), then packed up. By the time I arrived back in Hobart, I’d been awake for a touch over 48 hours, and I’d racked up 700km behind the wheel. Just another standard weekend down here, really.
Would I do it again? Are you kidding me? Of course I would. Any excuse to get out of the house. Gotta love how Tassie does things just that little bit differently.