LIVE REVIEW: CAMP DOOGS 2016
I’ve toiled over this review for a few days now, because I’m not sure how one goes about describing and explaining the wonderland that is Camp Doogs 2016. All I can give is my own subjective experience of the event, and let’s be real, a far from sober experience. Writing a review for Doogs is a ridiculously overwhelming task, so here’s an erratic run down of some of the acts I managed to see and all the adventures I embarked on in between.
5:30am. The earliest hour I’ve seen all year. Fog so thick I thought it was rain, the city skyscrapers blanketed by humidity making it look other-worldly. That’s where we were headed – some other world. Camp Doogs. New Doogs. Harvey Doogs.
With three poets in the car and far more supplies than required (go the trusty Yaris) we made our way down to the most anticipated weekend of the year. For me, at least. I know you should never hold your expectations too high in life, but I’d just be raining on my own parade if I expected anything less than perfection of this irreplaceable annual tradition. Doogs weekend is a void one crosses into through an inconspicuous, no-ego’s-allowed portal. Well, they’re allowed, but that’s your loss if you bring it.
We cruised down the freeway to the wondrous sound of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, so early we avoided peak hour traffic. One and a half hours later we began to sink down into a valley of purple and yellow, passing paddocks of Harvey Fresh Jersey cows, trees reaching up above us while the morning sun still hung low. Then the road switched to gravel.
The signs pointing ticket-holders in the right direction were still being put up as we inched ever closer to our final destination. Then we saw George, the Old Tree Road Pixie, and we knew we’d arrived.
We were the first car in, but there’s no such thing as best dressed. New Doogs looks like this: A sweeping, open property with high sides and a deep valley, bordered by South West WA woodland, complete with a lake and a baby forest in the middle. It’s hard knowing where the ‘best spot’ to camp is, where your nearest and dearest will set-up, so like a maniac I convinced the three comrades that the far side of the paddock would be the perfect choice. Up the wall of golden capeweed we climbed to the perfect vantage point with a breathtaking view of Camp Doogs, 2016. From here we could see the entirety of the camping grounds. Ahead there was Mainstage, the red marquee Wild Doogs, the Chill Zone, food trucks, the central camp fire, orchids and the lake. To the right Deep Doogs the Ambient Tent and the alternate camping grounds located through the baby forest up the adjacent hill.
And so it began.
Over the next few hours people flooded in and tents blossomed in small clusters. The first day is mostly spent locating your buddies, so you know where to stumble once the sun has set. Brave souls dived off the jetty as others explored the grounds. I decided to check out the Chill Zone. This safe place complete with a yeti trampoline, snow queen cushion forest, communal painting canvas and a comfortable living room with couches and Persian carpet became my default go to over the next two and a half days.
Then there's Wild Doogs. From afar the red marquee looked small, but it was actually really spacious inside and surprisingly warm due to the hay bales for seating and carpeted floors, insulated by walls made of lace and paisley fabric. Wild Doogs is the tent where local Perth artists sign up to play a set. Spots filled up super fast, all performers of such splendid quality.
Then there's the sacred Main Stage. Down a muddy slope onto the banks of the river the famous pink logo took its place. The wobbly font hovering before a backdrop of water, trees and sky. From here it would resume the divine role, casting its bubblegum glow across the sky for the next two nights.
Now a few words on Friday's music (remember, I told you I was far from sober):
AXEL CARRINGTON = The most perfect, serene opener to the most perfect, serene weekend
HEARING = If I’ll never see Mazzy Star then at least I’ve seen Hearing. What a pleasure. So haunting and melancholy, that voice so comfortable to listen to I could lay beside it all day.
HUSSY = If you weren't at the front then you wouldn't have seen a thing because the marquee absolutely packed out for these babes.
GWENO = If Grimes chilled out a bit and declared a revolution, she’d sound a bit like this.
MORE OPTIONS = Like usual, the duo tangled up thoughts and blew minds.
MINK MUSSEL CREEK = I remember thinking 'Shit, I'll never see Bowie, but Nick, he's pretty close'. So good. So, so good.
Then I wandered off. Unlike all the suckers who went through the forest swamp to get to the other side, I lost about 3Kg over the weekend taking the LONG way around to Deep Doogs. I'd transitioned into a jellyfish, drifting between groups, never sticking with someone for more than a few minutes at a time - so by this point (probably 2am) I wasn’t with any friends. Some guy was convinced I was a girl named ‘Blair’. He refused to understand that I wasn’t who he was looking for, to which he replied ‘but you are’. Nice one. Eventually I managed to escape from his clutches and wander up a path I’d passed on my way there. When I got there I was as excited as a kid who's just arrived at one of those indoor gymnasiums (remember Jungle Gym, Fun Factory and Wiggles & Giggles?). There it was; a huge, white, inflatable Igloo. I opened the flaps, right leg in first. I half expected there to be a fake arctic world inside complete with snow, but looking up at the dome overhead it looked more like a plastic Pantheon. It was quiet inside, the music of Deep Doogs a distant murmur. Directly ahead of me was a tunnel. So I wandered on through and entered a far larger plastic Pantheon with three white, inflatable couches and fairy lights overhead. To put a long story short, I spent about an hour and a half here, met two strangers dressed in jungle wizard attire and lost my voice. This was the highlight of Camp Doogs for me. A serendipitous moment, a complete chance happening. People came and went, underwhelmed perhaps by the serenity of the safe space, but I was in bliss until my heart smashed into a million pieces, my soul momentarily crushed when I returned from the toilet to find it had been deflated. Someone must have tripped on the air supply. Long live the inflatable igloo. Please bring it back next year. Please.
From here on I made the LONG journey back to the Chill Zone past the trampoline yeti to the living room where I found a reliable crew of good doogers on the couches. Almost immediately after I arrived a monstrously loud, heavy rain began to pour from the heavens, testing our strength and resilience. If you heard anyone complain about the weather from this point on you’d just tell them to ‘get over it’, as we were all in the same boat. Ha. Get it? Many tent lives were lost that night, to which, as a community, we expressed our deepest sorrows and sympathy.
I woke a little anxious. Going away alone is a little more appealing to me than going away with 1,000+ people, but I was safe in my little abode at the top of the hill. My tent-mates were absent who I assumed had found a far more convenient place to sleep given the rain. The location paid off when I opened the flaps and took in the dawn view of Doogs Village. If there were ever a need to flee Perth and start a new hide-out community in the country, this is how I imagine it would look. Yellow flowers carpeting the downward slope ahead, trickling into an assortment of primary colours scattered along the grass, people making their way between campsites to welcome their mates to another day in this glorious dream. I decided that some food would cure my anxiety, so I began my first stroll of the day to the food trucks. By now, every single step made a hearty squelch, oftentimes sucking you in and holding on so tight you'd have to twist your foot to uproot your heel. The morning conversations generally started with ‘Did you head the rain last night?!’. Yes. We all heard Zeus arrive. A neat row of boots lined the central camp fire to dry out. I don't know whether anybody bothered to shower with the weather forecast to be even more ruthless over the second day and night. Then something miraculous happened. The sun came out! What a truly beautiful sight to see hundreds of people turn around to bask in the warm glow, warming their eyelids and drying their bones.
Over the course of the day I took a lovely trek around the property with a friend of mine to see the 'other side' by daylight. The energy was different here as there was more tree cover and meandering trails for tents to be pitched along. I half expected The White Rabbit appear. We ended up at our friends' camp site for a little while affectionately named the 'Zeeb-Zone' until eventually we made our way back to the start. We suddenly realised we were hungry and indulged in some greasy burgers and crispy curly fries by the camp fire, licking the sauce off our dirty, muddy hands. Mmm, nutritious. Mmm, worms. Very strong gusts began to blow causing the wall of trees lining the property to release small explosions of various shades of green across the length of the paddock while the clouds above danced in and out of each other, curling into themselves like those depicted in oriental Japanese paintings. My second favourite moment, also a chance happening, was the dance I shared with two glorious women in the Main Stage mud. We invented some pretty slick new Doogs moves with our newfound ability to remain stuck in one spot no matter which direction we bent or how violently we fell. Take that, Drake.
Unfortunately, I didn't catch many of the activities on offer how ever I did witness some hat making and tie dying. I didn't tie dye anything, I just covered my hands in purple ink because I like purple. I also noticed some people walking around with the most phenomenal marble paint designs on their hands and faces.
The rest of my time at Doogs is a bit of a blur. All I know is I spent much of the second night by the fire fighting off the rather bitter cold, which lead to many honest and real conversations with strangers, new friends and old ones. That's the point of Doogs, to be around amazing people. A couple of French guys left me their umbrella which I used as both a shield from the rain and the smoke from the fire whenever a gust blew ash into our eyes. Much to the disbelief of my friends, I did not make it to Deep Doogs that night, bed was where I needed to be.
Now a few words on Saturday's music (I probably saw more bands than this...):
MILE END = I'M SO HAPPY HOLY SHIT MILE END PLAYED GUYS HELL YEAH. I think I made some big life decisions during this set.
CATLIPS = We mud danced the perfect playlist of 90's/2000's hits
BEN WITT = This magician filled out the tent in about 10 seconds. I definitely hushed someone. A communal expression of sadness followed his last song.
THE SPERTS = I mostly remember watching the bassist's hair to the their wicked sound.
STELLA DONNELLY = If there were any emotional releases made at Doogs, during Stella's set is where they happened
BOATSHOW = Angry angels
LEWIS O'DONNELL = Sounds like a hitchhiker's journey to Doogs
CATE LE BON = Lost for words
I woke Sunday morning to the sound of euphoric, dawn tunes pumping from Deep Doogs which was lovely to hear as my eyes adjusted to the sunlit tent. With the help of some V8 breakfast juice the pack-down began. For months the anticipation of the Doogs weekend had built up to an unbearable level, and then in the blink of an eye it was all over. I hope someday we'll see Doogs lasting for 3+ days. I don't want to dwell on our departure, it's simply too sad. Bob Dylan orchestrated our final moments in the magical land. We stopped off for some award winning pies, but even they couldn't ease the hearthache. Even now I feel like I've gone through a brutal break-up, one that's been left open-ended with very little closure. We had a magical time together, a time I'll never forget. See you next year, Doogs x