Tallarook is a small central Victorian town located roughly between Kilmore and Seymour. There's a railway station, a mostly empty main street, and one really great old pub. There's nothing particularly remarkable about the place but every Easter weekend families, punks, teenagers and weirdos descend for Boogie festival.
Now in its eleventh year, Boogie has carved its own little spot in the middle ground between the juggernauts of Falls and Meredith Music Festival, and the small local festivals that operate around Australia on most weekends. This allows Boogie to hit a unique sweet spot that draws awesome international acts to an intimate setting that never feels too cramped or restrictive. It's the kind of festival where if you want a coffee in the morning, it'll be in your hands in five minutes. I can't say that about any other festival I've ever been to.
After taking the shuttle bus from the railway station into the festival, on a site called Bruzzy's Farm, we discover that our friends have already set up atop a hill. But as soon as I'm sitting, liquor in hand, watching the sun hit the rolling hills on the horizon, it's clear that we have the best spot in the festival. Meredith's Inspiration Point can go eat its heart out – my Boogie campsite has one of the most inspiring views I've seen.
Drug Sweat. Donned in black hoodies and speed dealers, the band's yobbo-disco chic extends into their music; a wholly bizarre rhythmic clatter that owes as much to Australia's boogie rock history as it does to pressing your fingers into your eyes and making weird colours. Add to this the band's own hype man, a long haired, lanky beauty known only as Rod Ferrari who prances and shakes their tramp stamp at a salivating crowd, and you've got one of the most engaging and memorable sets of the weekend.
Boogie gets cold, an unrelenting, bone-chilling cold that descends as soon as the sun dips. It's actually difficult to succinctly articulate exactly how cold it was, but even after four layers of clothing it stuck with me more than anything else.
Thankfully, it wasn't long until we were back in the warm embrace of the crowd for Sonny & The Sunsets. As a long-time fan of Sonny Smith's music, this set was the drawcard for getting me to Boogie and it was everything I was hoping for. Backed by a band of Aussie music heroes, Sonny smashed through a set from primarily his first two records (my guess is these were the tracks the band knew best at short notice), only stopping to fit in a medley of modern Aus classics, including Eddy Current's "Memory Lane" and "Head Back" by Dick Diver.
During the set a wide-eyed three or four-year-old kid sprinted to the front of stage and stood beside me. "He really wanted to get up front" the kid's father laughs to me after chasing after him, "he bloody loves it".
Families, often with very young children, were a familiar sight over the weekend and events such as the 'Boogie Jr. Air Guitar Spectacular' were set up especially for kids. There were even calls for an under-16 curfew at 9:30 ("things are about to get weird"). The festival doesn't just cater to the presence of children and families; it wholeheartedly embraces them. And if that means that I get to dance with a four-year-old to Sonny & The Sunsets, then I am 1000% on board.
Following Sonny was pizza, whiskey, and a long sit on the big hill next to the stage. The food all looked good and for a festival, the drinks were reasonably priced. Unfortunately every transaction was complicated by the use of Boogie Bucks the festival's own currency.
One way to beat the cold was to defrost at one of two massive bonfires that raged throughout the night. After the music had finished it was ,a rotation of talking shit and getting toasty at the fire followed by heading back to camp to restock on beers, with occasional forays into the after-hours Hillbilly Disco; where DJs played wonderfully selected but weirdly quiet dance tracks well into the early morning.
The next morning the incredible melodies of Gregor's "The Actress" accompanies breakfast and a coffee. I couldn't think of a better band to start the day.
Dressed in matching red jumpsuits Crop Top channelled both Kraftwerk and Bruce Lee on the Boogie stage, launching from an a cappella Lana Del Rey cover directly into their punk rock'n'roll squawk. The Melbourne four-piece have always been an excellent live band, but this was the best I'd seen them; a confident and playful set that elevated every song.
Saturday we scoffed more pizza and beer before the blistering stadium rock of Scott & Charlene's Wedding took to the stage. Not even Gil's broken guitar string ("my first ever!") could slow them down for long in a set that featured old songs, new songs, and drummer Joe Alexander stripping down to his underwear. It was during their cover of Mental As Anything's "Live It Up" that I experienced what might be as purely distilled a Boogie moment as you're likely to find. To my left was front man Craig Dermody screaming his guts out atop the audience, to my right a small child held aloft, completely unfazed by the entire situation. Two Boogie babies surfing the crowd.
Back at camp we found that cramming six people into a two man tent was an extremely effective way of keeping warm, but it didn't feel like long before we had to head down to the stage again to see Tyrannamen close out the night. Repeating the fire/camp/disco pattern of the night before, we spent much of the early hours of the morning sitting on a hill near the fire swapping stories amidst, as a friend called it, "the hum of a thousand gacked conversations".
While enjoying a cheese and tomato piadina the next morning I realised that I'd eaten nothing but bread, cheese and tomato for the entire weekend. Never felt better. Krakatau provided another perfect breakfast soundtrack, and Melbourne's RVG were a last minute surprise highlight of the festival.
Following that, however, I was spent. And I wasn't alone; it seemed that much of the festival took the same approach (including every person at our camp site), and decided that three nights is simply one too many. And so, with our hearts warmed and our pockets full of now useless Boogie Bucks, we hitched a ride in a spare car and headed along the M31 home to Melbourne. Easter weekend well spent.