In partnership with Beyond the Valley
It was technically day two of Beyond The Valley, but the fresh, unbridled energy of punters on December 29 would make you think otherwise. Boasting a site bigger than Coachella’s, the Australian festival’s new home of Barunah Plains in regional Victoria served as a sprawling playground for revellers eager to catch the day’s performances. Two, huge-scale stages – Dance Dome and Valley Stage – played host to the main acts, while Dr Dan’s disco area offered a steady stream of DJs.
The day was dominated by sun-drenched raves, a heaving disco tent and explosive mainstage sets from international heavyweights, who finally returned to Australia after years of COVID-related travel restrictions. Here’s just a few highlights from what went down.
Ninajirachi fired up the dance dome
It was 2pm when Ninajirachi took over the decks in the Dance Dome, following on from Foura’s energetic stage-opening set. The Sydney producer looked as pleased to see the crowd as they were to see her, grinning excitedly as she simmered through a remix of O.T. Genasis’ ‘CoCo’, before delivering a dirty, resounding drop.
Looking over the audience from her perch on the DJ decks, Ninajirachi had the star power of a seasoned producer. She took the crowd on a journey across her 110-minute set, effortlessly moving between fast-paced hard-style, house mixes, deep, rumbling bass lines and her own signature glitchy production. A snippet of ‘Jungle’ by UK producer Fred Again.. got a particularly massive reception, with punters flocking to the Dance Dome as the song’s distinct chorus boomed through the speakers.
Tkay Maidza has serious star power
Speaking to NME before her performance, Tkay Maidza revealed her secret to a good festival set is “energy”. It’s a simple tip, but it’s one she never fails to deliver on in her live shows, and her Valley Stage appearance was no different.
Dressed in an elaborately laced denim skirt, crop and gloves, the petite singer had a huge presence. She strutted up and down the stage while performing cuts from across her ‘Last Year Was Weird’ EP trilogy, commanding attention and fully utilising the space. At one point, she even clambered onto the barricade, to the feverish delight of fans who reached out to touch her.
After opening arena shows for the likes of Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa this past year, it’s clear the star power of these artists has rubbed off on Maidza. At this rate, it won’t be long until she’ll be headlining arena concerts of her own.
Aitch proved a master of crowd interaction
In true hip hop fashion, Aitch’s set opened not with the rapper himself, but with a warm-up performance from his hype man – not that it was needed. People were ecstatic to see the English native, who came out in a matching camo sweat suit, a cheeky smile plastered on his face.
“Beyond The Valley, you look beautiful tonight,” he called in his thick Manchester accent, causing palpable swooning among the crowd. A true master of audience interaction, Aitch paused to address revellers throughout the set, hyping them up for high-energy cuts like ‘Bamba’, ‘Rain’ and ‘Taste (Make It Shake)’, and mellowing it out mid-set for his Ed Sheeran collaboration ‘My G’.
He had the crowd wrapped around his finger by the time he closed the set with the Ashanti-featuring ‘Baby’, a sea of hands in the sky across the main paddock.
A fiery Australian return from Denzel Curry
From the opening tones of his 2022 single ‘Walkin’, Denzel Curry had the crowd hooked. It was the rapper’s first time back in Australia in more than two years, and his Valley Stage performance was absolutely worth the wait.
Curry brought an aggression to his performance that swept through the crowd like a sheer wave of energy, mobilising people to jump and hurl themselves around to the hard beats of ‘Dog Food’, his IDK collaboration, and ‘Ain’t No Way’, which features Rico Nasty.
He ploughed through other fan favourites – ‘One Liners’, ‘Ricky’, ‘Clout Cobain’ – stopping mid-set to take part in an Australian tradition, the shoey, out of one of his fresh New Balance 550s.
Curry also whipped out a special treat at the end, barking out Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Bulls On Parade’ in a low, gravelly growl, which he covered to stunning effect last time he was in Australia for triple j’s Like A Version.
Bicep bade punters a dreamy goodbye
After a day of rap, hip-hop and high-octane performances on the Valley Stage, Bicep were a breath of fresh air. Unlike their mainstage predecessors, the Irish duo were less concerned with energetic stage presence and more with rich, clean sound, and stunningly hypnotic visual accompaniment.
They offered trippy kaleidescopic projections of morphing shapes and colours on the large screens flanking the stage, as well as the one behind them. Huddled over their equipment, they were mostly silhouettes against the spectacular background, making their presence known through the undulating electronica they’ve crafted so well.
Somehow, the pair made the sprawling space feel more like a small, intimate 3am club set than a festival show – despite the sea of glittering doof sticks, which lit up the sky until the final bars of ‘Glue’ played off into the night.
Beyond the Valley 2022 runs till Jan 1, 2023 at Barunah Plains in Victoria – find more details about the line-up and tickets here