Situated just a few kilometres north of Ararat is a large volcanic crater some kilometre wide. Aside from a small lake and a vineyard up the top (shoutout to Kulkurt Volcanic Shiraz for making a delicious drop) – this spot might not be too much to write home about. However in recent years, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Hopkins Creek team, they have managed to put this spot on the map. More so than just a festival, Hopkins has gone some lengths to foster a genuine atmosphere and a music-loving community. Having come some way from its first incarnation, it is very refreshing to see how a music festival can progress in size from a single stage and a selection of (excellent) local acts, to the full-blown festival it is now with a bevy of international acts.
With all the new faces on the lineup at Hopkins, it was nice to see some familiar ones like Sunnyside. Kicking things off on Friday afternoon, the sextet got people dancing with some uptempo funk brimming with energy.
Part of the Hopkins Crew, Ryan Berkeley has been making some waves with his live sets lately. Working his way through dubbier sounds to more pumping techno, Ryan worked his way over an impressive set of machinery, backed up at times with the sultry sounds of Sunnyside member Archie on saxophone.
Another standout live performance was that of Norachi, who probably gets the gong for best on for Friday evening. With warm, aqueous sounds playing out for the start of his set, Norachi brought things deeper and darker as the night went on.
Onto Saturday morning and Adriana was kicking off proceedings, with plenty of tracks international in flavour and a lovely version of “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” by Takuya Kuroda and “Parachute” by Sylvia.
Later in the afternoon, the music died down for a Welcome to Country. Not something to risk overlooking in the festivities, it was a spot on idea to do it in the middle where people can take a moment to absorb and appreciate the information. Jidah Clark spoke to the festival goers about the origins of the land and how people used to hunt the eels in the area. Jidah also talked about how Hopkins Creek team rallied around the community to save some local redwood trees slated for destruction. Building a festival through solidarity that really feels inclusive goes beyond more than pitching a stage and a bar once a year, it means getting behind the community in those instances they need it.
As the evening rolled in though, the skies opened up above the crater and started to wreak some havoc on the festival. As the main stage closed and the tent was taken down it felt like we were there more for a long time than a good time.
Despite the inclement weather, nothing could stop Millú delivering some heat from FFSOM’s “Resist the Beat”, recently released on Noise In My Head’s compilation of 3AM Spares and “Make Me” by Borai & Denham Audio.
The pelting rain and open main stage meant that Barry’s Bait Shop on the hill was the next destination. At this point, it’s worth noting the effort invested in putting together a second stage with its own identity. Clever bar set up and some nifty graphic design goes a very long way to making a stage feel just a bit more special. No one up at the bait stage was ever in doubt where they were or what kind of time they were here for…
Having made her first Australian appearance, the crowd was raring to go for Ciel‘s second performance after her brief stint on the main stage. Hemmed in from all sides of the bait shop, Ciel delivered blistering track after the next, highlights including her own track “Hundred Flowers Groove” on the EP of the same name.
Next to grace the stage was the no holds barred performance from Swede Samo DJ. Straddling the unlikely balance of harder techno and R&B samples, one of his closing tracks sounded like an entire Kelis track played over a relentless beat (please let me know if you find an ID). The set was unabated with tunes like “Da Rebels” by House Nations Under A Groove; a perfect slot for the earlier hours of the Sunday morning.
With the sun starting to peek through, Mitsuki was about to enter the booth with some 350 records in tow from Japan. Playing almost exclusively on vinyl, Mitsuki played to the rising sun an incredibly jazzy and uplifting house set throwing down plenty of Detroit classics. Some notable numbers would be everyone singing along to “Set It Out” by Omar-S, Mood II Swing‘s “All Night Long” and Dubtribe Sound System “Do It Now”. Even at 7.30AM Mitsuki obliged the crowd with an encore, putting on one last record and leaving the booth for a cigarette and a chat to those bedraggled and very muddy dancers who had stuck it out.
Having made a bit of noise on Butter Sessions this year, I was quite keen on seeing what Turner Street Sound had to offer – the side project of Dan White and Midnight Tenderness. Real smokey and shaking dub tracks, with jungle undertones throughout their DJ set shook the crater to its core. Playing rock steady tunes on Sunday morning the pair was one of the highlights of the festival.
Rounding out the afternoon was Love on the Rocks label head Paramida. The German DJ had an uncanny ability to read the festival and play the weird and wonderful tunes that make a set of Funktion-1’s sing. I didn’t get as many IDs as I would’ve liked to but I can tell you that Paramida’s edit of Run DMC vs. Jason Nevin’s “It’s Like That” was a set highlight. Fingers crossed the Hopkins team gets round to releasing the mix for our listening pleasure. With the tent taken down from Saturday’s storm, the lid was really off for all three hours of Paramida, before closing her set in a cacophony of creepy laughter samples.
Sydney’s Ben Fester was next up, keeping the energy going. Shoutouts go to dropping Ultra Nate’s “Free” to get everyone up and around each other, the disco goodness of Fern Kinney‘s “Love Me Tonight” and the breaksy singalong “It’s My Life (Max D Edit)” by Watt Noize.
For those still keen after the main stage closing, it was back up to Baz’s for the last dose of music for the festival (notwithstanding some scattered mind’s playing “Keep The Fire Burning” on a muddy UE Boom). The level Hopkins crew reached last year was hard to top but the DJs gave it their best shot with some time honed classics.
All in all, you have to admire the ability to nurture an idea of a few renegade parties, through to a festival of this size with only one serious hiccup. For all the natural beauty of the crater and investment in the local community, the location was an issue for the festival. The storm well and truly flattened tents, gazebos and stages and sent a few punters home early – something that is very hard to mitigate. Putting that aside, Hopkins is a festival truly deserving of all the love that the festival goers have for it.
Ahead of the third instalment of the ever-growing Hopkins Creek, we decided to give you a run-down of what is fast becoming one of Victoria’s premier festivals.
Hopkins has stepped up its international lineup exponentially, from two international acts in its 2017 edition to seven in 2018. With humble beginnings in a few recreant bush parties with a home built sound system, seeing a homegrown festival grow in size stirs a little pride in your dedicated punter.
Highlights from previous years would definitely include Sleep D’s hybrid set of 2016, unleashing tracks like ‘Ground Loop‘ by Atom™ in the early hours of the crater, as well as the Hopkins Creek DJs themselves playing a completely stacked crowd-pleaser set to close off 2017.
A stalwart of the Discwoman roster, Cindy Li honed her eclectic taste on college radio. Ciel, as she is known as, is a multi-talented DJ, producer, presenter and party-thrower, as well as being a vocal advocate for female-identifying talent in the electronic music sphere. Ciel’s release on Shanti Celeste’s Peach Discs last year straddles a perfect balance between electro sounds and dreamy synths. This latest release has proven to be hugely listenable, making Ciel one to watch.
Local in origin and international in flavour, Fantastic Man is an Australian DJ and producer who plays all around the world. Holding numerous titles from Mic Newman, Mind Lotion, and P.M.T.C, Fantastic Man has taste and talent in spades – just check his Sugar Mountain set if you need any reassurance.
Swedish artist Samo Forsberg aka Samo DJ has made a splash on labels including Trilogy Tapes, L.I.E.S., Born Free, and Public Possession. With a left-of-centre sound that’s equal parts demanding and playful, Samo is sure to take the crowd for a ride.
Garnering quite the name for herself with a key performance at Freedom Time, Wax O’ Paradiso and Inner Varnika, Millú has shown an impressive level of versatility. Her latest Melbourne Deepcast is a testament to that, playing deeper tracks peppered with plenty of UK breaks.
One of the standout acts from last year’s Hopkins, Sunnyside’s infectious energy was the perfect balm for any hangover. In a line up heavy on DJs and producers, Sunnyside brings a ray of difference to the Hopkins Creek roster, a welcome wedge of jazzy goodness.
Grab your tickets here before they sell out for Hopkins Creek 2018 (Nov 30th – Dec 2nd)
The months leading up to Christmas can be an absolutely tiring time for some. Between festivals that go loud and large like Strawberry Fields, time honoured classics like Meredith and a slew of other events, it’s easy to get lost among the big names. Hopkins Creek not so much managed to get its foot in the door for summer festivals, as it did firmly kick the door down. While only sporting two international headliners, Hopkins Creek nailed so many things in its second year that larger and more established festivals still seem to fluff up.
If you’ve kept your ear to the ground you’re sure to have picked up a bevvy of track IDs from the weekend – so rather than a comprehensive list of every act, we decided to go with Hopkins Creek’s top five moments (in no particular order). Hopefully, if you were there you might agree – and if you missed out, maybe this will encourage you to get your act together and come along next year.
CC Disco smashing out “Great Southern Land” by Icehouse
If you follow Melbourne’s disco darling on Instagram you might have seen a great clip from under the tent of Courtney pounding out an Australian classic. In a set typical of CC’s fondness for definitive disco cuts verging into housier gems, it’s hard to pick out a song or two. However, closing up her set as Saturday night ticked over was a track that got everyone singing. Other noteworthy numbers would be “Dance Ritual I (Lipelis Dream Dance Remix)” by Auntie Flo, but nothing quite compares to a track that would have my parents dancing as much as I was.
Mount Liberation Unlimited teasing out “Double Dance Lover”
The two Swedish maestros brought a brimming live performance to the crater this year, the first international act to play for the festival. Stringing the crowd along with the chipmunk vocal snippets of their most popular track, Mount Lib kept punters going with a fifteen-minute epic.
Sunnyside bringing the funk on Sunday morning
Bringing some balance to the electronic skew of tracks, Sunnyside’s psychedelic jazz performance was the perfect balm for those who might’ve gone a bit too deep in the crater the night before. Proving once and for all that the clarinet can well and truly be an instrument of dancefloor destruction, the quartet swung effortlessly through tempos and some bonus lyricism, bringing some hip-hop swing to their jazz.
Brian Not Brian singing along to Vera’s “Take Me To The Bridge”
Coming in hot from the UK was certified crate digger Brian Not Brian to headline Hopkins Creek. Slotted with the closing set for Hopkins, Brian Not Brian came on after a phenomenal closing track from Pjenne (Kings Of Tomorrow’s “Finally” if you’re interested). Opening up with a spoken word piece announcing that “peace is the word, the word is peace. Peace,” Brian brought in the healthy kick drum, bells, and whistles of Beautiful Swimmer’s “Oh Yeah”. With plenty more percussive belters like “Trummor” by HNNY, Brian Not Brian guided dancers through an exceptional sunset over the crater. As darkness settled and the end of Brian’s set came rolling around, a scarily familiar slap bass line came crawling over the speakers. There was a palpable energy as everyone grabbed their closest friend and sung the hook to “Take Me To The Bridge”. Clearly, Brian was vibing it too –
having an absolute ball in his gumboots (clearly well equipped) and it was enough to get an extra half an hour out of his set.
Hopkins Creek DJs, playing pretty much every classic under the sun
Whispers had been floating around that there would be an extended bar set after Brian Not Brian from the organisers – and after such a stellar effort from the team, they had truly earnt themselves that dream closing slot. Not one for subtleties, things got started with Tears For Fears‘ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”. Between Todd, Olly, Ryan, Josh and James Keys there was a bit of one man upmanship over some hours, maybe being a bit disjointed sometimes but certainly entertaining. Everything from some deeper cuts (Dense & Pika’s “Colt” and Fort Romeau’s “Saku”) to soulful disco numbers (Jocelyn Brown’s “Somebody Else’s Guy” and Mary Clarke Jr’s “Take Me I’m Yours”) to the downright classics (Eric Prydz “Call On Me” and Groove Armada “Superstylin’ ”). Arguably it would be “Retro Grade” by Moda that burnt the house down, heavy on the effects and a nostalgic throwback to the parties that incubated the idea of Hopkins Creek. For me, that would have to be a personal highlight for Hopkins Creek 2017.
Of course, there were plenty of other exceptional moments that deserve a mention. Andy Garvey playing some electro bombs like “My World (Night Drive Mix)” by Sunday Brunch would have to be a hit. Also props to the annoyingly rare “Do I Do” by Maurice McGee getting a spin by Barry Sunset and Fitz-e (Rayko’s edit to be specific, a gem that teases out the vocal for oh so long). Also Claudia Jones – you guys were so much fun and exactly what Hopkins needed to get everyone dancing that Friday night.
All in all, Hopkins Creek proved that bigger isn’t necessarily better, during a time where Australians seem to steer towards smaller and more boutique festivals. The organisers held it together despite any inclement weather (I was feeling nervous camping in what was essentially a giant bowl during a one in a hundred year storm).
Everyone looked like they were having a good time, and from what I heard their policy of inclusivity and calling out any unwanted behaviour was held up. Facilities were ace; staff, sound, and light all did a fantastic job – as did Rhys Newling on the visuals. Not to mention the setting in the crater was sublime. Checklists aside, it was simply an incredibly fun weekend, and hats off to the crew who put it together. You can count me in for the crater next year.