“There will be some culinary delights on display and there’ll be some heat in the kitchen,” he says.
This will be Boxwars’ eighth appearance at the glorious music festival, which is no doubt one of the more intimate on the Victorian circuit. If you’re not familiar with Boxwars, the event sees a large group of slightly unhinged but hugely artistic individuals create incredibly detailed costumes and props out of cardboard boxes, then stage a battle where all costumes and props are systematically and dramatically destroyed. Boxwars’ history stretches back to Boxing Day 2002, and the planning started, as you can imagine, with beer.
“We were at a party and we were drinking… We had those pool noodles and we were having a sword fight while drunk. If you know those things, you know that no matter how hard you hit, it doesn’t hurt, so you can go a little bit ballistic.” Koger explains.
“Afterwards, we were like, ‘How can we make this better?’ and that’s when we came up with the idea of dressing up in cardboard armour. Then we thought, ‘What do we need the pool noodles for? Let’s just toss away the pool noodles and let’s use cardboard swords and cardboard weaponry’.”
Just like in a real war, the suits started getting bigger and eventually, they had to take it out of their backyards and into the park. That’s where the first Boxing Day event happened.
The Boxwars crew met the Boogie crew at another music festival tour, Big Day Out, where Koger was running Boxwars in each city.
“They mentioned to us that they were starting a new festival called ‘Boogie’ and wondered if we wanted to be part of it… The Boogie Festival has evolved just like Boxwars has – we’ve been improving and getting bigger and more epic, and so has Boogie itself. So it’s been a unique position to watch that festival grow and us too,” Koger says.
The Boxing Day event, which takes place every year, has a very different vibe to the Boogie experience, with lots of kids and families taking up their place in Caulfield Park to cheer on the warriors.
“For Boxing Day, it’s what’s we consider our open event, it’s our annual event and it’s also something that we have to hold because that’s what Boxwars originated from and we keep that open and anybody who wants to participate in it can do it. All they have to do is dress up in cardboard armour, say they want to participate and sign up at the desk,” Koger says.
“But for Boogie, it’s a little bit different. It’s a chance for us to show off our abilities to build an event. It’s a closed event and we have our own warriors involved, but if you’re a great warrior, for instance on Boxing Day, then you get the opportunity to come and join us in events around Australia when we do music festivals.”
So what sort of slightly deranged individual decides to spend weeks putting together their armoury and partake in a Boxwar?
“They’re a cardboard warrior. They’re creative and destructive at the same time. The unique quality of a cardboard warrior is that they see something and they want to destroy it. But, at the same time, they have the innate ability to be able to construct it. I think there’s a paradox in a Box Warrior, but I think it’s one that everyone can find entertainment value in,” Koger explains, with a scary level of gravitas.
When asked to name his favourite Boxwar themes, Koger’s first pick is Boogie last year, with an idea to make a symphony and then destroy it with a monster truck.
“Then we actually made it happen and the monster truck was about three metres tall. The best thing was when we rode that into the centre of the battle and we were playing AC/DC’s Long Way To the Top – we had a drum kit and a guitar on the back and it was just one of those moments that was amazing,” Koger proclaims.
While there’s a fair amount of alcohol-based lubrication to get the good times rolling at Boogie, the boys place the emphasis firmly on fun and less on competition, which is what always makes being a spectator a rollicking good time.
“The main point of Boxwars is not to win,” says Koger. “There are no winners in Boxwars, there’s only losers.”
BY ISABELLE ODERBERG