Snuggled in between the towering mountains and greenery of Glenworth Valley on New South Wales’ Central Coast, thousands travelled to Lost Paradise to say sayo-fucking-nara to 2016 this past weekend. This was Lost Paradise’s third year running and with a stellar lineup and three days of camping on the cards, it was bound to be a good’un.
After setting up their tents and gazebos in 42-degree heat, festival goers were more than ready to get into the thick of things on day one. With a mixed crowd of electro lovers and flower children, attendees happily went from DJ sets from the likes of Mike Who and Bronx to the indie rock stylings of The Love Bombs or Betty & Oswald in one afternoon.
Meanwhile, as dusk fell over the Arcadia main stage, Montaigne’s sharp falsetto pierced through the thick, humid air. Easily one of Australia’s biggest breakout artists of 2016, the Sydney-sider didn’t struggle to draw a crowd. “Just to let you know, the triple j Hottest 100 is open and I have two songs that could make it into the top 10,” said Montaigne without a hint of false modesty. One of these, of course, was the absolute banger ‘Because I Love You’. The songstress animated every lyric with a dance move as the crowd boogied along in suit, probably picking up a few extra votes before the set ended.
As the night cooled down to just the right balmy temperature, Big Scary awoke the main stage with ‘Oxygen’, the first track off their latest album Animal. The duo were joined by their stage band and Tom Iansek even whipped out the sax to jazz up a few tracks. ‘The Opposite Of Us’ was an undeniable crowd favourite, with watchers swaying along to the sultry keyboard melodies. Closing the night with ‘Twin Rivers’, Big Scary had prepped the crowd just enough in time for headliners Gang of Youths.
Big Scary. Photo: Facebook/ 1337 Photography
At 12am exactly, the crowd roared as frontman Dave Le’aupepe, lead guitarist Joji Malani, drummer Donnie Borzestowski and keyboardist and guitarist Jung Kim staunched the stage. When the familiar sound of ‘Magnolia’ filled the night, the mosh quickly became a sea of girls on shoulders. While Dave was apparently fighting through the flu, he continued to saunter around the stage, tossing his mane of raven curls and delivering his best swoon-inducing and Michael Hutchence-style moves. If you saw Gang of Youths at Splendour in the Grass last year, you’d remember Dave’s speech about how terrified he was at the state of the world. Reflecting on the year that was 2016, Dave had similar sentiments to share at Lost Paradise: “I am just as scared and lost as you are,” he confessed before insisting that this shouldn’t stop us from enjoying peaceful moments like these. “This is a piece of Gang of Youths history,” he then went on to say before launching into a stellar rendition of ‘Strange Diseases’. Closing the set with ‘Vital Signs’, Gang of Youths finished day one of Lost Paradise with an absolute fucking bang.
With another 40-degree day on the rise, Lost Paradise punters spent day two lining up for $8 bags of ice and floating on an assortment of inflatables (including blow up mattresses) in the muddy but refreshing creek. For those crazy enough to brave the heat, there was also yoga sessions, retro games, traditional Maori dancing performances and hula hooping to keep festival-goers occupied until acts like The Colonel, Jennifer Jennifer, Wild Honey and Mosquito Coast pushed off the proceedings.
As twilight fell, Set Mo and Hot Chip churned out sets of electro tunes from the pyramid-shaped Lost Disco stage as everyone danced under a rainbow canopy. Meanwhile, on the main stage, Brisbane’s The Belligerents and Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems showed off some of their best indie pop rock. As the crowd kicked up their feet and danced, clouds of dust, glitter and bubbles swirled through the air. Later that night, Melbourne’s NO ZU ramped up the energy levels tenfold at the Arcadia stage with their electro dance tunes. Between the housey synths, Latin-style percussion and horns, plus some stellar dance moves, there was no way you couldn’t be bewitched by the sonic magic of this octet.
After announcing their upcoming indefinite hiatus just two weeks before the festival, Sticky Fingers’ set was easily one of the most anticipated acts of the festival. Opening with the psychedelic ‘Land of Pleasure’ at the stroke of midnight, the set was back to back Sticky hits including ‘Gold Snafu’, ‘Our Town’, ‘Outcast At Last’ and ‘How To Fly’. While the band sounded tighter than ever, there was a sombre vibe in the air that held back some of their usual energy. Missing bassist Paddy Cornwall’s mid-set banter, frontman Dylan Frost’s brief thank yous between songs were the only times the band really communicated with the crowd outside of the songs.
This didn’t stop most of the crowd from lapping up every minute of it, though. Clearly wary that this would be the last time they’d get to see StiFi live for a while (if not ever), they did not hold back and sang along to every word. Not everyone was sad to see the back of Sticky Fingers, though, with Dylan copping at least two drinks to the face from the crowd. But when the boys closed the set with ‘Australia Street’, at least most of their fans could agree with Dylan as he sang “for the rest of my life that memory will stay. Man, fuck that was a good time.”
Sticky Fingers. Photo: Sally McMullen
While outfits were clearly a priority for many for the duration of the festival, most saved their festival best for New Year’s Eve on day three. Everywhere you looked you could see anything from cockatoo costumes and mermaids to aliens and bodies literally doused in gold paint. And glitter. Dear god, so much damn glitter. An honourable mention goes to the man dressed as Dorothy and woman dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West who were spotted making out under a tree draped in fairy lights. Dishonourable mentions go to the countless insensitive ignoramuses who thought that sporting Native American headdresses was edgy rather than racist.
As well as the sea of costumes, Harts was easily one of the highlights of the night (if not the entire festival). The Melbourne muso smashed out tracks like ‘Lovers In Bloom’, ‘Red & Blue’ and ‘Peculiar’ with a mixture of crooning vocals and piercing “ows!”. And stellar pipes aside, my god can he shred. Whether he was executing a noodly guitar riff or showing off by playing a solo on his back, he enunciated every chord with wild mouth movements as if he was trying to sing along with the sounds he was making with his fingers.
Fat Freddy’s Drop’s fusion of dub, jazz and reggae was another Lost Paradise stand out. The seven-headed soul machine reworked songs and extended solos to create a unique live show extravaganza. Between multi-instrumentalist Joe “Hopepa” Lindsay busting out killer trombone solos in a matching bedazzled shorts and singlet set, the electrifying guitar solos from Jetlag Johnson and constant deafening bass lines, Fat Freddy’s Drop had the whole crowd boogieing and possibly had their ears ringing well into New Year’s Day.
Flight Facilities took on the risky role of not only toasting the end of the festival but the end of 2016. After smashing out ‘Hold Me Down’, the countdown to the new year was accompanied by a montage of 2016’s most iconic moments including footage from both the Australian and US elections and clips of lost icons such as George Michael and Gene Wilder. As the clock ticked over to 12am, a rainfall of coloured confetti drenched the crowd and the electro duo kicked off 2017 with the electro pop track ‘Sunshine’. To cover the female vocals, Flight Facilities brought on Michaela Baranov who smashed out hits including ‘Crave You’ and the always beautiful ‘Clair De Lune’. With a crowd full of dancing music lovers dressed as anything from cowboys to Animal from the Muppets and holding poles decorated with everything from metallic goon bags and glowing unicorn heads to a foam vagina with a fairy-light clitoris, it was truly a New Year’s Eve you needed to see to believe. Finishing the set with a stunning cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’, Flight Facilities welcomed 2017 in the best way possible.
Despite the oppressive heat wave, dust and always disgusting festival toilets, it was the good company, picturesque scenery and smorgasbord of tunes that helped Lost Paradise live up to its name.