How Beyond The Valley moves with the times without losing its roots

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How Beyond The Valley moves with the times without losing its roots

Photo: Ben Jones
Words by Augustus Welby

Tyler, the Creator, Rüfüs Du Sol, The Veronicas and Skepta sit at the top of Beyond The Valley’s stacked 2019 lineup.

Held in Lardner Park approximately 75 minutes east of Melbourne, Beyond The Valley is now in its sixth year. It’s the flagship product of the Untitled Group, who also run Pitch Music & Arts, Grapevine Gathering and co-organise Ability Fest.

BTV has never been a minor festival – 2014’s inaugural event included international headliners MØ, AlunaGeorge and Danny Brown plus Allday, Pond and Peking Duk.

“We started working on the first BTV about 12 months out,” says Untitled co-director Nick Greco. “It was only going to be a smaller party with artists who had been playing in our club, but the idea snowballed and we ended up with some of the biggest acts in the world and a pretty large NYE event.”

A lot of planning goes into launching a music festival. The organisers have to find a site, decide on a name, recruit a team to work with, secure a lineup, make sure it’s amply promoted and ward off dickheads. BTV’s inaugural event was a major success, but that hasn’t blinded them to things that may need tweaking.

“We’re definitely still learning,” Greco says. “Best practice changes so quickly and we want BTV to be the best festival possible so we’re always revisiting what we’re doing.”

BTV’s popularity has grown every year since its launch and the festival’s reputation now precedes it. After each instalment, the Untitled team keep looking for ways to enhance the festival without sacrificing its identity.

“This year we are advancing the festival in other ways by introducing our sustainability policies, which will see us eliminate single-use plastic bottles across the entire site,” Greco says. “There’s a lot more to experience outside of the lineup, which we also expanded on this year.”

The Sanctuary is the place to go for these additional festival experiences. It’s a relaxed, safe space where punters can do some painting, learn how to create a doof stick or bust out a bit of Cher at karaoke. It’s also possible to get a massage in the healing tent or participate in yoga, meditation and dance workshops.

BTV’s music programming typically encompasses acts from across contemporary hip hop, dance, electronic, indie pop and singer-songwriter genres.

To illustrate, joining internationals Tyler, the Creator, Skepta, Floating Points, Patrice Bäumel and Claptone on the 2019 lineup are Australian acts Rüfüs Du Sol, Cub Sport, Meg Mac, CC:DISCO! and stacks more.

“It always starts with our wish list, which is based on who we think is going to be the hottest acts of the year, who we’d want to see and who we think our patrons want to see,” says Greco.

“The lineup probably changes about 100 times from that first list to what we announce each year and it’s a pretty gruelling and stressful process. In the end the criterion guiding the lineup comes down to value – we need to create enough value in our lineup for patrons to want to spend four days with us in our own little city.”

It’s a core objective for the organisers of any music festival to attract a loyal contingent of attendees who have the event pencilled in every year, even before the lineup gets announced. This shows trust in the event programmers and indicates the festival is conducive to self-expression.

The fact Beyond The Valley 2019 sold out many months in advance, and that the event’s now recognised all around the country, suggests they’ve achieved this feat.

“After a couple of really well thought out events our patrons now trust us to help them bring in the new year, and that’s something we have worked at 24/7 for the last six years,” Greco says. “We feel we have found the right mix of blending festival experience and lineup and it’s great to see that our patrons agree.”

Beyond The Valley (sold out) goes down at Lardner Park near Warragul from Saturday December 28 to Wednesday January 1. Find out more via the festival website.