One lap around the sun later, Camp Doogs was nearing again. You could almost smell it – the jarrah-smoke and wattle; almost sense the dust and the leaves and tent-cloth tickling your elbows and earlobes. You could very nearly feel the icy lick of the Blackwood river, taste the tinnies and brazilian sangas, hear the reverberant din through the forest. But not quite, not yet. It was still a mirage, winking on the horizon, beckoning with a spectral Doog paw.
The middle of the week was a frenzy. We – J and I – were preparing an artwork for the Camp, which in this instance meant recording music and voices, writing scripts, painting pipes pink, dubbing cassettes, sawing wood and gathering spices – among scores of other arcane and absurd activities. As usual we’d bitten off more than we could chew, and were chewing like crazy, washing it all down with big pots of coffee. By Thursday night we were stopped over at a weatherboard shack in Busselton, dubbing the last of the tapes, labeling things, munching an ad-hoc dinner of pumpernickel, vinegar and canned dolmades (everything was closed). Next morning, there was no more space between us an the horizon. We drove through it, along a road stemming out from Nannup, and entered the gently familiar bush sanctuary. The bearded face of George Gifford (Flying Scotsman manager) ushered us in. We set up our bits and pieces, and as the buses of campers rolled in, at last we were done: we could sink in to Doogs Proper. Some buddies erected our tent next to theirs, and adorned it with an elastic-tethered rubber Sportsball. We gathered round a trestle table, ate snacks, cracked the first crucial tinnies (glass is a no-no). We collided with mates – mates from the real world, and mates from last Doogs. Tester tunes, deep R’n’B jams, flowed out from the PA. There were hugs and boots and grins and tent poles and colours and rucksacks and springy strides everywhere. Among the gum trees and logs and grass and sand banks and rope lights, clusters of tents suddenly grew, like polychromatic beetle shells rising up out of the earth by the dozens.
Setting up and settling in was a chain of tasks performed at a leisurely pace, and yet in seemingly no time we’d made our way to the central stage and adjoining sandpit/amphitheatre; the spiritual epicenter of Doogs magic.
PISSEDCOLAS have just played (pissed to’ve missed them, too) and YOKOHOMOS are kicking up a skuzzy punk dust storm, their animated singer propelling himself around the stage in minimal attire. ELEVENTEEN ESTON sends his grainy yatch-funk vibrations into the dusk air, sounding better than ever over the hefty PA, and joined by Jack Doepel on sultry serpentine sax. It’s a beautifully shiny counterpoint to John Tanner’s warbling loops and guitar, and the cumulative experience is a refreshing dip in a deep sonic river.
Jack’s funkophone prowess carries over to BASTIAN’S HAPPY FLIGHT, where he takes care of bass duties – meanwhile, Alex Dew, Willy Slade and Troy Mutton wield guitar, vocals/keys, and drums respectively. It’s a sad moment when they announce this might be their last gig; Bastian’s are a rare gem, a live band that brings would-be disco funk megahits into the DIY pop domain, and the bouncing knees and popping elbows surging in the crowd tonight are testament to how well they pull it off.
Speaking of great execution, ABORTED TORTOISE thrash through one of the most convincing fun-filled retro garage-punk sets you could hope to hear this side of Eddy Current, and the darkened treetop leaves rustle and roar; the pure rock and roll moods tumble on with WHIPPED CREAM CHARGERS (VIC), who huff their way through another solid set of swagger-laden riff cakes.
FELICITY GROOM appears to break up the relentless meatiness a bit, unfurling her mercurial melodies and potent new songs. Today, her new album’s out, so this is something of a launch party. A few technical difficulties do nothing to hinder the optimistic mood and taut grooves – if anything, they provide some opportunities for totally mellifluous ambient interlude noodling.
SPERMAIDS (VIC) are ridiculous. I can’t even describe them, but it’s the first time in a long time a guitar and drums duo has felt fuller than a three or four piece band to my ears; their stuttering, pitch-bending, warped effects and thundering metal-infused drum pummeling amounts to a force to be reckoned with. To call them a rock band, despite being broadly accurate, would seem to undercut how fresh and unique their sound is. 10/10 would compare to being crushed by a flashing neon steamroller.
HIDEOUS SUN DEMON, with their erupting guitars and writhing titanium rhythm skeleton, carry the wildness over the midnight line, affirming Friday night’s status as predominantly a showcase of mind-zapping heaviness interspersed with smooth reprieve.
The DEEP DOOGS tent – a haven of profound groove, up the hill and round the bend – pulsates into the late night, with Djs representing from Cloudwaves, Sweat Werx and The Monarchy. Alas, I’m truly spent, so my dance tent experience will have to wait ‘til tomorrow night.
Tomorrow arrives. At some unknown hour I scramble out of bed and stroll through and orchard and past still-smouldering bonfire rubble towards the emanations of the ethereal JONI AND THE MOON, and the powerful yet smooth psych-pop of DREAM RIMMY. LALIC (VIC) follow on, washing the crust off our souls with their metamorphic art-rock that belongs somewhere amid the cruious triangulation of Deerhunter, Jeff Buckley and early ‘70s Pink Floyd.
I finally source some coffee from the nice bearded coffee men, who yes, are also surfers. It’s bloody good coffee. The air is medium-warm and the sky mottled blue and grey. Down amid the red-brown dirt, SHIT NARNIA deliver a noontime dose of loud and heartening realness. Songs about love, awkward teenage sex, the end of childhood, Albany. Hugh Manning, in his spoken-word meets punk-vocal intensity, stomps around the stage and through the crowd, filling our souls with joy and pathos.
COOL BAND are the silly (but brilliant) antithesis to Shit Narnia’s irreverent, intellectual earnestness; they’re something of a one-note joke (which typically involves yelling out “COOL BAND!” or brief colloquial punchlines) but since the group comprises incredible musicians and has a joyous reckless abandon about it, they’re actually bloody good. Cool band indeed.
REPTILLUMINATI (fronted by Doogs co-organizer Steve Hughes) bring the requisite cosmic chug-jams, before CROTCH (VIC) balance it out with self-deprecating, semi-acoustic storytelling that has ocker charm in spades – not to mention stellar dance moves from Leonie Brialey and an impromptu guest man-choir.
The BOTTLES OF CONFIDENCE play, which is darn good fun (I’m handling violin) especially since Dave Taylor (Hunting Huxley) and James Ireland (Savoir, Gunns, Hamjam) are joining in all of a sudden, adding their sweet flavours; MAN THE CLOUDS pick up where 4:20 left off with some bright reggae-rock and in an unforgettable late-afternoon hour, EMLYN JOHNSON serenades us down by the river.
There’s BAMODI’s ballistic hyperactivity, ORLANDO FURIOUS’ (VIC) one-man electro-noise poetic explosion, and MENTAL POWER’s fascinating foray into jazz-flecked soft-rock (which, true to form, is still something singular and skewed and strangely beautiful – now with the addition of Brendan Jay on trumpet and electronics).
We watch some Jurassic Park at the Magnolia’s bush cinema, catch uber-skilled duo COSMO GETS in all their ferocious electro-funk glory, and bliss out to the swampy astral loop explorations of Japanese duo SARRY.
As the night blazes on, we hear the tumultuous yet sunny coastal punk of GUNNS and at last the harlequin batshit-wild brilliance of Mangelwurzel, replete with fierce banter and more horns than you can poke a slightly worryingly huge bonfire at.
Toninght I do find myself at the DEEP DOOGS tent, hoofing it to sheer infectiousness courtesy Jack D and Ben Taafe and Jo Lettenmaier and many more until dawn. It’s one of the best nights in recent memory. Sunday heralds a reviving river-swim, coffee, brazilian sandwiches and at last – the bittersweet packup, the always just-too-soon journey home.
The big question mark over this year’s Doogs was always: can it live up to the mythology? A year after the unforgettable inaugural Camp Doogs, the answer is a resounding yes. This year was bigger and smoother, while losing none of its vital intimate charm. The most wonderful upshot of this is that it shows Doogs round one was not a fluke or an over-hyped anomaly; it was the beginning of a truly magical tradition.