Review: Blenheim Festival, still the best way to spend your Easter weekend

Words by Emile Pearson
Photos by Georgia Matthews

Blenheim Festival, a music and camping fiesta residing in the picturesque Clare Valley of South Australia’s vine country, succeeds and exceeds expectations once again for it's ninth year.

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The two-day feet stompin’, boot rompin’ rural shindig, situated only a short, but scenically sweet drive from Adelaide continues to be the best way to spend your Easter weekend in South Australia. An opportunity to breath in fresh country air and contribute to a worthwhile cause, New Hope Cambodia.

The Thursday afternoon kicked off with the soulful acoustic blues from Kelly Brouhaha. Her voice meandering through the various camping set ups; ranging from the latest Jackaroo ten-person tent sullied with Waeco cooler lobbies, to the modest of foam mattresses strewn about in the back of vintage vans. Some would call the choice of allowing seven strangers you have only yelled at from a distance to join your merriment upon the roof of your prized automobile irresponsible, but I believe the word is welcoming.

Day 1 highlights included The Ukulele Death Squad defying their label by bringing the crowd to life, as the sun retreated and the festivities begun. During the set, little Lachlan – the son of one of the singer/ukulele slayers on stage – melted the audience singing with his father (nawww).

Mia Dyson serenaded the crowd with her spicy lyrics and limber guitar riffs and, alternatively there was no shortage of excitement as West Thebarton brought their signature high energy show to party-goers in the evening.

Trying to maintain a good level of wine under your belt on the first night proved taxing, but our drunken appetites were satisfied by Phat Buddha Rolls – delicious accompaniments to lighten the next morning’s hangover.

As a bright farmland sunrise brought everyone out of their dusty comas, there was some quality coffee consumed from Booknook & Bean, boasting smooth espresso from the Fleurieu Peninsula roaster, De Groots.

The Welcome to Country ceremony was an intimate introduction to the festival for the growing crowd on Friday morning. Acknowledging the Ngadjuri people as traditional owners of the mid north region was an important reminder of the the land we were eating, drinking and celebrating on.

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The stellar line-up continued with the young Trav Collins revving everyone up in the morning, followed by the sing-a-long energies of Wanderers, making Good Friday quite an apt title. While the crystal blue roof above the Hilltop stage offered a sunlit arena for Timberwolf to grin and swing under.

The brilliance of Blenheim is its openness as a festival for the whole family and the abundance of opportunities to have a good old boogie in the Aussie Outback. Kids of all ages were seen swinging their hips at The Bait Fridge: an artistic collective showcasing some incredible outfits from derelict rags and crazy patterned materials. These costumed enigmas were roaming as moving art installations, bedazzling the young and old with inventive cosmetics and reinventions of traditional uses of junk and debris.

As Friday night witnessed the musical genius of The Black Seeds, Z Star Delta and Kings & Associates, the late-night excitement was brought together in an exuberant dance fest supplied by Emdee. The drum & bass group packing a punchy drum kit and selection of haunting didgeridoos, bringing out the rhythmic beings within all of us.

With Saturday morning sunglasses appearing quite dusty on some familiar faces, it was time for the dreaded pack up. This was a good time to reflect on the festival memories made, new friendships and solemn goodbyes.

Until next year Blenheim, thank you for the sensational times and delicious wines! In the words of The Skeleton Club’s lyrics, “Let our hearts be renegades,” at least for another year.