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Rainbow Serpent 2018: Fire, sweat and techno

The long-running Australian festival delivered another life-affirming party as it turned 21 in style

  • WORDS: SCOTT CARBINES, PICTURE: ZEAZY
  • 16 February 2018

Smoke billows up towards the sky just over the hill that divides the campsite from the undulating plains of the central Victorian bush.

One of the bolts of lightning that had cracked and rippled above our heads moments earlier had struck the dry landscape only 400m from Rainbow Serpent, just outside the tiny town of Lexton, two hours’ drive from Melbourne, sparking a fire in the mid-thirty-degree heat and humidity of late afternoon at the peak of Australian summer.

The flashing lights of a fire engine rush through the site entrance, carving their way towards the threat, with the opening sets of 2018 moments away from kicking off beneath our perch in the east camp.

Minutes later, torrential rain, mentioned nowhere in weather forecasts poured over all week, drenches the festival as the bushfire is controlled and a blackened hill provides a stark backdrop while Sleep D opens the Sunset Stage from 4pm. As Revolver resident Kids Table takes the reins, slugging out absolute bangers, the skies open once again, washing away any stress of a hectic opening as feet splash in mud to techno and pure smiles grow across ecstatic dancefloor faces.

When things clear, a previously moody Mother Nature beams down upon more than 15,000 festival-goers as a massive Rainbow arches across the site and the party kicks into gear with three full days and nights of freedom, hedonism and new experiences stretching ahead.

This year’s festival was one of extremes, with brutal humidity and temperatures sitting around the high 30s for most of the four days.

But the creativity, outfits and attitudes were as vibrant as ever, with the stages always packed beneath vivid shade structures adorned with welcoming sprinklers keeping bodies and minds cool beneath.

“It’s not every decade you get to celebrate two milestone years in a row,” the festival’s program reads, and its 21st delivered as solid a line-up as ever following the huge 20th anniversary celebrations of 2017.

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