“Each new generation ushers in a new feeling”
We’ve been critical about the finest things life has to offer (some of us are just miserable and doomed). But 2015’s Inner Varnika experience seemed to have put a spanner in our ways. After last year’s venue vexations, the festival was back for the third time, a new home in tact. The location looked like something from Sound of Music: the Hills Have Eyes, or Windows 95, as some punters had aptly pointed out: A serene, (semi)hillside landscape with a grazing of grass and sprinkling of rocks: tranquil during the day and somewhat ominous during the misty nights. A small valley-like formation in the middle of this setting — a nature’s basin — had carved out a cozy haven for the magic to unfold.
And magic did unfold. It’s probably fair to say that Melbourne’s Finest truly made this festival their own. Representing a city that was creatively twirlin’ on the world stage, they delivered on that promise: Andras Fox gave a gentle (yet sublime) reminder as to why he is so goddamn good, repeating his 2013 magic with more late-morning dreamscape music. On the opening night, chromatic selector Simon TK maneuvered a driving set replete with shifty quirks and bends. Sleep D proved why their live performance once drew awe from the great Fred P. Zanzibar Chanel bounced around stage with Notorious abandon. Dan White, billed as a “live set of full of jams that are so damn good”, delivered just that. True to their name, Sound of Thought DJs (Bryce Lawrence, Scott Levy & Wael Najm) played ballsy left-leaning sets, some at peak time. Home Loan Records Bossman (and all round maverick) Michael Ozone was a highlight, a true inspiration. Starting off by completely clearing the (previously) dusted-up floor with some records from (probably) the 17th century, hardly dabbling in the 4-4, his beat music platter tapped into our primal rhythm membrane that gets you movin’ no matter what.
But it seemed Ozone was only the primer. What followed him was the Ultimate DJ on Earth: Mr Ties. Ties was on edge, playing like there was no tomorrow, making the whole house jack (jack, jack, jack) with the sheer power of his will (and rotary) alone. Did we mention that it was the purest of dat jackin’ sound? There, in the sun, the floor seemed the most happy and free. The music at the festival never sounded better (maybe the man has a point, after all) yet watching Ties on deck was equally exhilarating, his silent eyes surveying the crowd like a fox, feeding off the energy of the best dancers on the floor. Seeing NYC’s pulsar star Terekke for the first time was a dream fulfilled. Neel’s planetary-ambient was extra-terrestrial and grueling (in the best way).
Then came the keynote: It’s difficult to articulate what Donato Dozzy does (especially when you’re rolling like a bullet train underneath a misty Blood Moon) but it seemed like he was pushing deeper and wider into that canyon of… pulse-techno, frequency music, working on vibrations and clatter, amplified in the mids and cushioned in the kicks (like an extended “Czeslawa”, head-stuck-in-a-beehive music). During the course of his set, we saw planes, microorganisms and glaciers melting. It was a virtuoso 5 hours of what techno in its purest form could do, the experience amplified by a Blood Moon engulfing everything in a Saturnic haze, switching the ambiance to almost evil. Finally, on the evening of Day 3, Sex Tags (DJ Sotofett & Fett Burger) began to close with loose, swinging, balearic, polka house that felt like the best thing at the time.
Inner Varnika seemed the work of a collective of astute disciples (of dance music and life), who succeeded in translating (several years later) what they had learned along the way. This transpired in the flawless curation, programming, setting and the supreme care displayed for the people and the environment. The festival was rich and colourful musically, at a time when grayscale techno seems to proliferate again. Most of all, IV felt like a torch-bearer for Melbourne’s own. Speaking to one of the city’s forerunners Christian Vance (quoted above) now in Berlin, I said I didn’t remember its music scene being so vibrant (note: these were only memories from about half a decade ago, as a distant observer). Then he went on to tell me few rave dad stories from the late 90s, which had me digging up this Jeff Mills warehouse poster. Maybe that was Melbourne’s Golden Era… Or this was.
It didn’t matter: A new, familiar feeling was in the air. \/