Beyond The Valley closed a difficult year with the purest of celebrations
As a musical microcosm, Beyond The Valley exemplified the inherent passion and thrill within supporters of the industry that will never, ever die. In many ways, enthusiasts have potentially been tested in this past year, be it through the closing of live music venues, the relentless cancellation of long-standing festivals and the passing of several beloved musical icons. Punters are a resilient lot, however, and even after a fierce lash of weather there was nothing but the purity of celebration come Saturday December 31. The downpour of two days prior had left not a dent in the surrounds and the minds of those that inhabited it. From atop a lush green rise rolled a rich swathe of tent-coated hills, pumping with energy from the glorious sunshine.
Upon entry to the main Festival Site, a smiling security greeted you with high-fives and cheerful "Heys," welcoming you to a world of warped wonder. People from all walks of life - and often, it seemed, different dimensions entirely - bound together in love of dance and a good time. Figures cloaked only in goggles, pants and capes laughed with those in tie-dye robes and morphsuits. Friends shared a wide range of food and grog, surrounded by burgers, hot dogs, paella and satisfying champagne icy-poles. Camaraderie came thick and fast.
Vera Blue's intoxicating vibes pulsed from the main stage, transporting the crowd to her powerful, surreal landscape. Later, Emma Louise blew her fans away with her incredible vocal stylings and Highasakite graced our presence - all the way from Norway - to provide their sweet pop ambience. Over at the dance tent - a haven for those after a gorgeous audiovisual treat of lasers and screens - MSTRKRFT carved a thumping path of power with their trademark electricity. The Central Park stage bought the delight of groovy, fast-rising local talent. A forest of refreshing hoses and a tapestry of interweaving sculptures and shade-cloths provided a rainbow-coloured playground for the ecstatic grown-ups. An inflatable church gave impromptu ceremonies to elated couples, and the (non-legally-bound) newlyweds danced down the aisle to a procession of new glitter-coated friends and a Speedo-clad "Priest" with Flashdance... What A Feeling. "God isn't fuckin' around today," he said with a wide smile, taking photographs for his grateful and giggling companions.
As the sun set over the fields, the landscape burst into gorgeous ropes of amber light, shimmering beyond the vibrant blue florescence of the main stage. Droves of attendees regrouped into a humongous animated collective, ready to power through until the early hours. Carl Craig proved his legendary status with an invigorating mix of genre, and sneaking in Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) pulled a thunderous singalong reception from the crowd. Safia delivered a tremendous energy, including a Stairway To Heaven-tinged version of Counting Sheep. With midnight ticking tantalisingly close, Roland Tings detonated the countdown by launching pounding beats and gigantic beach-ball-like balloons into an ecstatic crowd, while Sticky Fingers simultaneously opened the New Year with streams of confetti bellowing forth.
The sun rose once more, and people raged against the waning hours of the festival. Loud techno boomed from every third campsite, almost as a plea not to finish the good times. Exhausted, but content, the communal bubble faded, and those enthusiasts packing their world away once more could be found with weary smiles at every turn. Beyond The Valley was a great time, but also a message to the universe from the fans of live music in 2016: we are relentless, and we shall see you next year for another round of musical magic.
Words by Jacob Colliver
Image by Michael Woods