Coffee pot whistling, we bundle clothes into bags, grab way more snacks than we will eat and
fewer warm articles than we will need.
The sun’s still naked and glowing as we buzz down the freeway in my plucky hatchback,
stopping in Jandakot with the small planes circling, here to pick up S___, and to load heavy boxes of wine and beer.
South and further south, crucial Miami Bakehouse pies by the mulberry tree and shetland pony (lots of dogs here today).
a boarded-up Witch-themed roadhouse
we buy bags of ice and a souvenir stubby holder in fluorescent peach -
before the final stretch of the drive.
Meadows yellowed by capeweed, cows lazing in dense groups,
bright pink signs pointing to CAMP DOOGS – they jump out of the landscape like serendipity, when it collides you with an old friend in a distant city.
Roll down the window: tireless George wands us through. Sliding into the destination, it’s clear the rain of recent days has taken its toll on the earth underfoot.
The hatchback struggles, lurches and clangs down a swampy route to the carpark. But it prevails.
We receive our pink-threaded Doogs dog tags and begin the first muddy slog to the camping field with our ambitious cargo.
As we trudge we see the final touches being put on the main stage, just in time for GORSHA to jump in and sling us some of their slack-jawed, nasty-but-nice Darwin garage punk hootenanny.
The site is a sprawling figure-eight of fields with a lake in the middle, a creek and its capillaries running through, dense trees all around the perimeter. It’s a totally different vista and feeling to the old Doogs site in Nannup. But nevertheless beautiful, in a new, more open, more pastoral kind of way.
We’re setting up camp and getting our bearings for the next while, so I miss some bands that would’ve been good to hear, but such are the misadventures when you forget to bring a tent cover on a weekend promising thunderstorms, and have to improvise a solution (the solution is to have resourceful buddies).
I’m back down in the lakeside viewing-pit for GWENNO, who blends gently funky, artful electro-pop with the Welsh language so seamslessly you’d think it was common practice.
CALE SEXTON keeps the synthetic ingredients bubbling and increases the pump-pressure,
then over to the ineffable MINK MUSSEL CREEK, my favourite Perth band ever.
Amber Fresh introduces the biggest MMC fan of all – Nick Odell of Cease and Alzabo – to introduce Mink – who blow every leaf off every tree with their fiercer than ever delivery of oddball psych/jazz/jive/sludge classics like ‘Meeting Waterboy,’ ‘They Dated Steadily,’ ‘Cat Love Power’ and ‘Doesn’t the Moon Look Good Tonight.’
The audience is less a group of people and more a big heaving cloud of sweat, mud, limbs and howls. Unreal.
Few could follow Mink Mussel Creek at this point without feeling sheepish, but Melbourne veterans BASEBALL are firecrackers with a comparable kind of feverish, imaginative intensity. They blaze through their set of violin-strewn post-punk, Ev Morris (aka Pikelet) nonchalantly hurling intricate, heavy drum lines while singing; frontfeller Thick Passage (Cam Potts) screeching his evocative lyrical tales inspired by middle eastern history, the whole thing a thunderous thrill.
Things can’t really get any wilder, so now, an alternate tack –
the smooth track –
the mellow, cratedigger-informed jazz of Melbourne’s KRAKATAU.
Bandleader James Tom’s keys glide like a magic carpet;
much-loved Perth expat Jack Doepel switches calmly between sax and keyboard duties, massaging brains deeply with both.
The night gushes on:
DEEP DOOGS, a flashing steamy gumbo cavity
the undulating selections of RIVER YARRA
and glow-sticks and rum
and the magnificent MORI RA
Eventually enough friends have succumbed to the night
And I slink out through the trees, over the creek
and I stomp through the dark with organiser doog Matt Acorn
who’s been valiantly MCing on the fly ‘coz Tristan got sick
and Matty gets stuck knee deep in the mud but we pry him out like a scarf from a car door
In my tent it is cold and damp and getting damper as the skies open up and the patter becomes a roar but I curl up in the driest patch and wrap the dry bits of sleeping bag and doona around me and give myself over to fate.
[Saturday Morning. Grey light, pre-dawn]
I’d said I’d do a sunrise performance on Sunday and maybe Saturday too, and heck I’ve woken up at 5am so why not. I slip out the zip, stomp through the frosty air to my car, fetch a guitar and an amp and a sampler. It starts raining, I dash for the nearest undercover area, which is the main stage. No-one is around save for one technician clambering around to keep things dry. I try to help and then I set up my stuff.
“Whaddya doing ya crazy dickhead? There’s no-one around! Go to bed.”
He’s right of course, but I’m here now and I feel like playing, so I strum a gentle drone into the foggy, wet, silvery sunrise as the man clambers into the back of a truck to sleep.
A few hours later, the sun a little higher -
it’s the BURUNDI PEACE BAND & CHOIR
I’m immediately smiling, overwhelmed by the life-affirming East African grooves and the group’s heartwarming community vibe. Keyboard drum machine keeps things pumping along, guitar pings, bass gambols, the choir’s voices ring out in a rich polyphony. At the end of the set, kids emerge from backstage - break dancing and doing backflips – I’m grinning my head off and my eyes are wet and it’s not from the rain.
Soon, HEARING – another Melbourne band; hard to google, with ridiculously good pop songs, well-balanced arrangements with beautiful clean-guitar lead lines, all buoyed by Liv’s flawless vocals. One of the weekend’s surprise highlights for sure.
A quick lap of the property, a visit/last repsects paid to the semi-submerged Mitsubishi Magna in the too-deep dip in the side road… RIP
And VERGE COLLECTION – undeniably fun, hummable guitar music embracing the “dolewave” fascination with suburban banality, personal narratives and jangly chords, but forgoing the fairly common affected sloppiness. The screws are screwed in tight and shiny in the comfort of a well-lit back shed.
ALL THE WEATHERS are willfully silly, wonderful and baffling; ADAM SAID GALORE are dark and jagged, tucked into a kind of niche tonality that sounds like nothing else this weekend. LALIC (pictured) bring emotive spacious prog-pop – hazy, layered, erratic, unshaken by the breeze of trends.
Reformed Perth unit MILE END sound impossibly tight and intense after so much time apart, and are a thrill to watch, as buddies drift by behind them on the lake on a dinghy. SARAH MARY CHADWICK soon after is a total u-turn, raw, bare, direct and at times clumsy; ultimately honest and great.
The afropop energy of SOUKOUSS INTERNATIONALE results in a big sexy muddy party in the rain, before Melbourne’s GREGOR brings us approachable yet arcane indie rock, expounding a kind of slow-burn harmonic science.
PIKELET jumps up solo and forges a set consisting of relatively few songs, but each one a masterpiece, delivered with Evelyn’s trademark casual virtuosity (on the synth, looper, floor tom, voice etc) and lo-fi sensibility. It’s a low-key but high-spirited performance imbued with a simmering political polemic (back to back anti-capitalism missives!) and lots of bright, earnest love (back to back songs about gratitude for friends).
CATE LE BON closes the main stage with joyously ragged melodic rock music, twang and pummel underscored by thoughtful songwriting and overlaid with some of the weekend’s standout vocals.
those were some musical things that happened
but have I even begun to communicate
the smiling soul of camp doogs?
have I told you about:
the ‘deep water greenhouse,’ (the cosy ambient tent jack and rory made and that countless beautiful people played in)?
ECOHOONS: bmx riding with magenta body armour and gabber blasting?
the magic drag of ash baroque?
tarot readings by the campfire?
sunrise performance #2, the proper one, with L___ reading poems,
with people asleep on the trampoline and the couches,
someone sipping whisky as the sun comes up?
deep doogs #2, when it got moved to the Wild Doogs stage coz the original one was too munted by the rain, and Mori Ra powered through the morning with a blissful rainbow of japanese pop?
the purple flowers?
the yellow raincoats?
shaved heads kissing in the half-light?
the creaking branches?
the ludicrous chats?
the ominous slate-coloured clouds?
the glorious, finally emerging sun?
have I really told you about camp doogs?
But if you were there, you know what it was – you feel it in your breath, in your blood, and in between your mud-stained toes.
And if you weren’t. I hope I’ll see you next year.
Photo credit: Eleni Battalis