Misty mountain tops, rolling green hills and gravel roads; our journey to the Red Deer Festival appeared more like a scene from the Bronte Sisters than a contemporary journey to an eclectic festival of music, dance and art. The sky grew darker, and as the gravel roads gave way to mud, we began to understand the ‘one way’ sign to the festival. But the lure of spending the night listening to The Preatures, Kite String Tangle and Kingfisha kept our sights, motivation and excitement fixed ahead.
After being greeted by the relaxed vibes of the casual Red Deer crew, we caught a glimpse of the two stages nestled in the cradle of the mountains as we rolled on to our campsite in the pouring rain.
We sought shelter under the bars’ canopies waiting for the music to start, and there below the plastic red tarp in the humidity we chatted with members of the Dark Nile Tribal Dance Company. Principle dancer Alice Knox and Amy Shoog spoke of their elaborate costumes and told us of their adventures abroad to learn and choreograph their Middle Eastern dance practice. Huddled together, artists, creatives and everyone in between, were engaged in conversations they may never have had if it weren’t for the rain and their serendipitous meeting at the Red Deer Festival.
The parting of the clouds prompted all manner of creatures to venture out from their tents, and we clambered up the hillside. Papier-Mache Aliens waved from their hillside nook, frightened their green faces would dilute and wash away with the wet. We shared drinks with Yoda, a sequined coated masked man, a trippy space Queen and a guy wearing a watermelon shirt who spent his time explaining that fruit really does meet the space odyssey theme.
Swirling ribbons and the elaborate costumes of the Dark Nile Tribal Dance Company beckoned us down to the muddy stage front to watch Mayhem for Mary. Lead singer Keith belted out the lyrics leaving the hilltops reverberating. A masked silks dancer slinked her way across the stage keeping the rhythm with Wes on base and Laurence on drums. Between sets individuals were pulled by friends and strangers into sack races, later to be retrieved from the floor a glittered and muddied mess. Others twisted time between sets hula-hooping or painting faces.
The rain returned and revellers ran to cars where many talked or drifted to sleep. The sweet tunes of Kingfisha raised the crowd from the festival quagmire, thuds of doors and squelching feet heading back to the stage.
Kite String Tangle provided a gentle calm before the storm. Festival goers swayed in their ponchos to ‘Arcadia’, humming ‘sometimes things don’t go full circle’.
Interrupting the stormy night was Transvaal Diamonds Syndicate, whose lead singer, Christian Tryhorn, played his guitar close to his chest and demanded the attention of the entire audience. Zed Charles was slick on bass guitar and had the whole audience captivated with his slurring guitar solos. Drummer Michael Gardiner was joined by Tryhorn on drums. The two shared a small space behind a single drum kit: a taut fit to match a tight and powerful performance.
The crowd — now energised by the Transvaal Diamond Syndicate’s performance — wasn’t going to allow a bit of rain get between them and The Preatures. The reflective silver of Izzi Manfredi’s jacket followed her two strutting red velvet legs across to centre of stage where the band was met with the cheers of a drenched and hungry crowd. Despite some technical difficulties The Preatures eased into their set with a cool presence. Our sore and wet limbs gave into songs like ‘Somebody Talking’ and new release ‘Yanada’, followed by the final song ‘Is this how you feel’. The pink and yellow stage lights were reflecting off the wet earth, and the crowd was lost to the ambience that is The Preatures.
Many of us wondered the hillsides of Bella Vista Deer Farm, too restless to fall asleep once the official acts had stopped. Our night and the Red Deer Festival came to a fitting end, drinking beer and sharing stories with friendly strangers on Eskies, a lost Irishmen trying to find his way to Brisbane humming tunes down the campsite path with someone else’s phone charger.
IMAGES (c) Craig Hinchcliff