Just when I thought I had my shit together, Kylie Jenner took me down on January 8th with her tweet ‘I thought I realized it all in 2016’. I realised things at Meredith, abandoned everything at Freedom Time and found myself unwillingly realising all kinds of things at Sugar Mountain. No! Please! Not again! As my second festival experience of 2017 I was still working with a relatively fresh tolerance for big crowds. You could even say I was feeling pretty cocky about my ability to survive a day-to-night event. I was wrong – but I did manage to stick around long enough to hear The Avalanches announce that they were “ready to rock”. Let me assure you that I definitely did not survive that.
Sugar Mountain had me #woke. Here’s what I took away from the function:
Catering is the major key
I Oh You put on a pre-festival party at The Beaufort & Ike’s featuring a performance by The Belligerents with the promise of free drinks. That sounded cool, but not cool enough to get me out of the house before lunchtime. And then I heard about the ribs. If there is one thing that I absolutely cannot resist, it is the promise of free catering. Let the record state that if your function has free catering then I’ll be there. I’ll be there early. I’ll Instagram it. I’ll write about it. I’m writing about it right now. I knew it was a Jameson sponsored party because I was handed a shot of it upon entry. Just know that a shot for breakfast is inevitably going to lead to video evidence of me dropping ribs on the floor. I never meant to hurt them! I spent a lot of time grazing on a plate of deep fried pickles. I am and always will be peckish. The Belligerents played a chill set but the real highlight was watching Tranter DJ whilst wearing a Louis Theroux tee and playing all of the post-punk I didn’t expect to hear. He played ‘Rip It Up and Start Again’ by Orange Juice which I’ll forever remember as the soundtrack to my forthcoming fall from grace. When the music stopped they announced that everyone was getting a free ticket to Sugar Mountain (except half the room already had media passes but hey, it’s the thought that counts). There was a courtesy bus to the event. We all started chanting ‘Snowy’ at the encouragement of everyone’s favourite Herald Sun journalist Mikey Cahill. There were gift bags with drink cards inside that enabled my espresso martini and whiskey cocktail binge throughout the festival. I started out in events so I know a shit branded activation versus a good branded activation so here’s my tick of approval. Sup Jameson? @ me anytime. I see you.
Consumerism isn’t exclusive to Coachella
The last time I went to Sugar Mountain was in 2013 when it was still held at The Forum. I watched Action Bronson play to an empty room because sorry Action, but we live in Melbourne and obviously a clash with HTRK is going to swoop your crowd. Things had really stepped up since 2013. I was impressed af with the new VCA venue. This is an appropriate time to confess that this was my first time stepping onto the VCA grounds. I’ve lived here my whole life and have quite proactively avoided the place so there marks my first compromise of the day. I remembered that Sugar Mountain really pushed to incorporate equal parts art to music, so I kept an eye out for it. I think I consumed some art? I walked into some stark room with a ‘laser installation’ that made irritating noises when you walked through it. It was cool in the room and I was sweating as usual so overall it half impressed me. In hindsight, I wish I had signed up for the sensory food experience because I heard that was on another level. The walls of the Boiler Room area kind of reminded me of a piece that Futura did on a wall of Hennessy boxes for a collab they worked on years ago. But what do I know? I definitely sat on some art at one point. I started the day immersed in a branded activation so naturally when I arrived at Sugar Mountain I was tenderised and highly conscious of the brands over the art. In this malleable state I was convinced that the curated consumerism was the real art form. The Wrangler’s Denim Exchange Project was wiped clean before I even got there. I’m pretty impressed that people were dedicated enough to bring their old jeans into the festival. Two thumbs up for charity. The V Movement stage was awkwardly placed but I did spend an extended amount of time there trying to take selfies in the funhouse mirrors whilst listening to Spank Rock. The best branded activation was the Absolut hidden ‘Studio 45’ nightclub. It was the deadly combination of the Absolut shaped neon walkway, wavy projections and surprise sets by Palm Trax and Mood II Swing that won Absolut a buttload of new consumers. I heard a number of comments throughout the day in regard to the number of branded activations on site this year. There’s just no fooling the Melbourne art/fashion/cool scene. I agree that it was a touch overwhelming, but I did really appreciate the interactive nature of all the sponsorships. I definitely felt like the brands involved got value for their money. Let’s not play ignorant to the fact that smaller festivals are folding rapidly due to low attendance numbers. If your punters are crying poor then you take the corporation’s cash and do it for the culture or you don’t do it at all. We’re all consumers. What’s the difference between lining up at Supreme New York and lining up for a Jacob’s Creek photo booth? Wake up sheeple! I’m here for keeping the party going even if it means slapping a logo on it.
I am the fashion blogger nobody deserves (or wants)
In the first 10 minutes of our arrival my mate was fashion blogged by two people with matching mullets. I had a mullet once. I wore TNs in primary school back when they were still considered ‘yuck’. This encounter had me feeling hip and entitled and enabled me to start making radical statements about the ‘fashion on the field’. The Sugar Mountain crowd was definitely the same crowd from Freedom Time. Let me assure you that low cut docs were aplenty (guilty!), as were aesthetically pleasing but mostly impractical key chains loosely slung over double looped leather belts. POM’s sunglasses were almost impossible to escape. I spotted an unfortunate amount of Birkenstocks. Why would anybody expose their feet in the depths of Boiler Room?! There were used Aesop samples in the Portaloos (which may or may not have been an art installation). The most popular merch item were CC:Disco totes. CC:Disco wore the freshest slogan tee that said ‘Less chin stroking more dancing’. The best thing I saw was an actual baby wearing a nappy and oversized pastel pink headphones whilst watching Methyl Ethyl (whose child was that?) and the worst thing I saw were multiple people wearing their sunglasses upside down on the back of their neck. No. Just stop.
Boiler Room is the One Love Backroom of 2017
It was crazy to see how big the Boiler Room stage had evolved since 2013 when Peanut Butter Wolf played on the balcony of The Forum. The stage area was over capacity at all times which is a testament to two things: an impeccably curated lineup and the prestige of Boiler Room as a brand. When you have every internet ‘it’ kid pushing their way to the front of the crowd to cop a cameo on the live stream then you need to know you’ve nailed the brief. One of my favourite things to do at festivals of late is to watch CC:Disco’s set and wait for her to play Harvey Sutherland (she did). I also happened to spot Prequel nearby in full support wearing his CC:Disco tote. I’m here for artists supporting other artists. Our community needs this. Set of the festival goes to Tornado Wallace who I’ve been the biggest stan for since listening to his LP ‘Lonely Planet’ on repeat for a solid fortnight. Flashback to watching him in the One Love backroom as Lewie Day almost decade ago. Only ’00s kids would remember the mystique of the One Love Backroom. It was the sweaty hot box out the back of Prince Bandroom that housed the ‘scene elite’. It was always uncomfortably full but you absolutely had to be seen there. Boiler Room is the One Love Backroom but with a webcam installed.