Much like the life they reside within, doofs gain a whole new dimension when explored like video games.
From the campground to the stages and everything in between, they are filled with an endlessly erupting multitude of events, all going on at conflicting points in space and time, meaning no two players will ever have the same experience.
And that’s the beauty of it. Your adventure and the memories and lessons you take home with you will be unique; a reflection of your life leading up to the event and the paths you choose to follow while you’re there. That’s how I like to think of it anyway.
Image © AXLIMAGING
And 15-17 September marked the arrival of a new game for my metacognitive console: Elements. The festival was tucked away in a tree-laden valley (SE QLD), rolling hills on one side and rocky cliffs on the other. In true Aussie style, the land was gifted with a wonderfully self-contradictory ability to be lush and green yet dry and dusty all at the same time.
In true gaming style, the descent from camping was dramatically soundtracked by the Thunder Dome; a post-apocalyptic steampunk stage that perfectly suited the Mad Max levels of dust on site. On the other side of the valley, the colossal wooden head of the Cyclops Zone erupted from the ground, its frowning glare and wide, toothy grin towering over the rest of the festival.
Between the two aptly named stages stretched an array of markets, art instalments, chill areas and a suspended trampoline (which didn’t get a moment's rest the whole festival). This was one of the most thoughtful set-ups I’ve seen at a doof. The stages were arranged to ensure you didn’t get even a hint of competing sound.
And having the markets spread between them meant every trek between stages or back to camp reminded you about food and nourishment; the basics you often forget about amid the laughs, tunes, dancefloor philosophising and whirling currents of activity.
Image © AXLIMAGING
The music was beautifully balanced between the stages; so if it was fast on one, it was slow on the other, dark on one, cheery and bouncy on the other. If you weren’t feeling the vibes at the Cyclops Zone, guaranteed you’d be feeling it at the Thunder Dome.
And the styles flowed between the stages over the course of the festival, which meant the die-hard genre fanatics got to have a taste of both dancefloors instead of being stuck at one the whole time. And mixing it up gave us the opportunity to unlock secret levels, discovering artists and genres we never would’ve thought we’d dig.
The first peak moment of my Elements play-through came on Saturday arvo at the Cyclops Zone with a rippling joyride of dirty, fat beats from Dinobitch and Hugh Jass. It was a joyously-trashy techno session with the music demanding copious amounts of exaggerated booty shaking.
The floor of the Cyclops Zone was covered in clouds of soft, bouncy hay which took dancing to a whole, new level and, surprisingly, provided a blanket of insulation as the night crept up and strangled the afternoon warmth.
Tranceducer’s Saturday night set drew the crowd together perfectly. The beats melted around each other like marshmallows on hot chocolate, warming us up with a slow build of energy and momentum. From there, the music grew progressively faster and darker reaching critical mass with Mindsdream in the early hours of Sunday morning.
His music immediately blew the settled dust out of my mind, a glistening sense of clarity slinking in to take its place. I felt like a tuning fork whose note had been struck, my whole body resonating and flowing with the sounds, bouncing with the beats on an ocean of fluffy hay.
Image © AXLIMAGING
The dark music continued through sunrise and into the day, leading me to adopt a poorly-thought out strategy of jettisoning sleep in favour of charging on. Not a solid game plan. Later that day, as I lay sprawled out at camp, paying the price for my lack of self-care, I had a semi-conscious conversation with a lovely girl who was horrified at the “dark and heavy” vibes at the Cyclops stage that morning.
She felt mornings should be filled with happy, bubbly, “friendly” music and was delighted to find just that at the Thunder Dome. I exchanged a silent smile and telepathic giggle with a mate who was perched on a camp chair nearby. It’s a funny thing hearing someone state an opinion that opposes yours as though it’s a known fact of the world.
While my view conflicted with the floaty hippie, that didn’t make either of us right or wrong; we were each just playing the game our own way. And the wonderful thing about Elements was, it was designed to allow even such vastly divergent gamers to play through the same festival and have profoundly different but equally awesome experiences.
Everything was made with the intention of creating happiness and joy in those who came to play. Woven in among my musical adventures were many crazy missions and side quests; the highlight of which was making a cake (out of cardboard and gaff tape) for the unicorns whose birthday first sparked the idea for Elements.
Celebrating with the birthday unicorns - image © Nay Cananzi
Having grown from such pure and fluffy beginnings, it makes sense that the festival was so thoughtfully designed. It was one of the tidiest I’ve ever been to which is a testament to the organisers (who had volunteers distributing bin bags around the campsite and cleaning up the dancefloors) but also to the crowd. There were flourishes of rubbish here and there but a lot less than you see at most festivals.
In the age of reality TV star world leaders, flat-Earthers and climate-change deniers, it gives you a whisper of hope in humanity to see people taking responsibility for themselves and caring for the beautiful environment we have the privilege of partying in.