The Victorian New Year’s festival Beyond The Valley has grown more innovative and progressive each year. The four-day camping festival returned in full form over the final days of 2022, with Australian and international artists performing across three stages in the new location of Barunah Plains, 45kms west of Geelong.
Situated on the lands of the Wadawurrung people of the Kulin Nation and the Eastern Maar people of south-western Victoria, the new event site is more spread out than BTV’s previous home, allowing attendees to choose their own adventure each day. Some punters remained in the Dance Dome for 12 hours, and others traversed back and forth between The Valley main stage and the dancefloor colosseum Dr Dan’s.
The Valley stage was bookended by two large video screens projecting close-ups of the performers, snippets of people bopping in the crowd and Auslan interpreters signing the lyrics to songs. It was an honour to witness the Wadawurrung Traditional Custodians conduct a Welcome to Country. The Traditional Custodians appeared onstage multiple times throughout the festival, arriving to sing, tell stories and impart spiritual wisdom.
Big names impress at Beyond The Valley’s return to regional Victoria
Main stage performers included festival favourites Lime Cordiale and Dom Dolla and rising standouts Shygirl, Budjerah, JK-47 and Jnr Choi. Flight Facilities’ ‘Clair de Lune’, BENEE’s ‘Supalonely’ and Confidence Man’s cover of DJ Sammy and Yanou’s ‘Heaven’ sent joyous energy radiating out into the ether.
Undisputed favourites were Thursday headliners Bicep and Denzel Curry and Friday headliners Lime Cordiale and Partiboi96. New Year’s Eve tone setter Kaytranada raised the energy ahead of fellow Canadian, Nelly Furtado. Witnessing the pop icon was a nostalgic dream come true.
Despite an audio glitch at the beginning of her set, Furtado’s ‘Promiscuous’, ‘Maneater’, ‘Say It Right’ and ‘I’m Like a Bird’ generated a lively and satisfying mood in anticipation of the New Year’s countdown. Dom Dolla had the honour of whisking the crowd into 2023 with all heads bouncing and arms in the air.
Nelly Furtado – ‘Maneater’
The Dance Dome featured a 70-metre stretch of LED panels, integrated structural lighting and its iconic coloured shades, which helped some party animals remain there from dusk to dawn. Obvious ear pleasers were Patrick Topping, Diplo and Charlotte de Witte, who all attracted youthful audiences, including many who were letting loose at a major festival for the first time.
Earlier acts such as STÜM, Caitlin Medcalf B2B Denim and The Illustrious Blacks brought in significant crowd numbers, with everyone dancing and sweating in the swirling heat. The siren song of DJ Boring summoned travellers from other stages, while Folamour broke up the usual heaviness with some welcomed funk. You can imagine the Dance Dome one day superseding the popularity of Beyond The Valley’s main stage.
Dr Dan’s, the smallest of the three music stages, had a makeover this year, becoming a cubed, two-story party zone. Security manned a set of stairs on each corner of the venue, leading up to four balconies. It was the go-to spot for sunset boogies and getting up close and personal with the acts, including Hyper Binary and the Poof Doof takeover.
DJ Boring – ‘Winona’
More than a music festival
For people desiring a wholesome time away from the stages or a serotonin level-out, the Sanctuary offered daily sound healing and yoga classes, sustainability talks and even speed dating. Beyond The Valley also added a Podcast Stage for 2022/23, which recognised the widespread shift in audience listening habits.
Unfortunately, the popular It’s A Lot with Abbie Chatfield podcast was pulled from the lineup last minute, but there were still live podcast recordings of The Handbags with Michael Brunelli and Josh Moss, and Dylan Alcott and Angus O’Loughlin’s ListenABLE.
The drag performances courtesy of Poof Doof’s Pride Patrol will hopefully become part of BTV’s core programming. Secret DJ sets and the hidden Schmall Klüb – concealed within portaloos – returned this year and absolutely proved their worth. And while it was rather low-key, the market stall area also returned, housing clothing shops, body paint application stations and weather appropriate accessories such as fans and sunnies.
Speaking of weather, although there was ample access to drinking water around the site, the combination of intoxication, sun and exhaustion is a dangerous recipe for heat stroke. In the blistering Australian summer heat, a lot more shade was needed. Some eager sun-seekers found respite upon the soft white sand of the Beach Club, which had its own bar, parasols, deck chairs and pools made from large shipping containers.
Managing an event of this scale in the midst of a heat wave was obviously challenging, but there were some hygienic and logistical lowlights that must be acknowledged. The state of the facilities in all camping areas, regardless of wristband colour, detracted from the fun.
The toilets were almost always out of paper and many had no flushing water or water for hand washing. User etiquette can’t be controlled, but regular maintenance was lacking. The portaloos were often outrageously filthy, rendering them unusable.
The showers were more accessible than previous years, but they were prone to flooding, which caused a pool of grime and germs to emerge. Other showers on site were reported to be streaming a brown hue, leaving many to make-do with baby wipes.
The premium camping area was closer to the stages and had a powered area to charge electronics. The $99 extra didn’t seem worthwhile, however, as the promise of premium toilets and showers was the big drawcard.
The exiting fiasco was horrific enough to make headlines. The event organisers published a genuine apology for leaving bedraggled festivalgoers stuck in their cars for several hours in sweltering heat, the result of a mass traffic jam.
Organisers Untitled Group are committed to injecting $50,000 annually into the local community and are donating $1 from each ticket sale to the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience. There were several other initiatives in place to enhance BTV’s social and environmental impact.
Single-use plastic was banned and vendors were only offering compostable serviceware. Crews roamed the festival encouraging proper waste management and clean-ups. BTV’s new Ugly Vodka product, which launched at the festival, is made from apples that would otherwise be destined for landfill.
Beyond The Valley has partnered with Humanitix, which sends ticketing fees towards funding education projects for disadvantaged children, and with Treecreds, contributing a portion of vehicle pass revenue to purchase carbon credits to offset the environmental impact.
Though there is obviously room to improve, the overall atmosphere at Beyond the Valley 2022/23 was one of high spirits and the music itself was phenomenal.
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