The Pleasure Garden enveloped Catani Gardens with an impalpable magic

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The Pleasure Garden enveloped Catani Gardens with an impalpable magic


The Pleasure Garden was back this weekend in St Kilda, and this boutique festival certainly lived up to its name. Billed as a “place where imagination and magic coalesce into sensory wonder”, Catani Gardens was buzzing with a quirky army of entertainers, jugglers, stilt walkers, hula-hoopers and more. Combined with the impressively eclectic lineup of musicians, The Pleasure Garden proved to be a delicious slice of fantasy wonderland in the Melbourne summer.

Now in its third year, this incarnation featured five stages: The Conservatory, Aurora, Bass Station, House Party and Beach Club. Wandering between them was an adventure in itself with so many activities and hang-out spots to discover. There were lawn games to partake in, lavish lounges to flop on, entertainers to engage with, carnival rides to experience. The organisers have done really well to pack this place so densely with quality and interactive distractions whilst maintaining the theme of a fantasy mad-hatters acid trip.

The facilities were top notch too. The ever-dreaded festival food was replaced with all manner of funky food trucks, the bar was well stocked with cold and affordable beer, and the portaloos are thankfully numerous. It’s also worth noting The Pleasure Garden’s admirable approach to waste reduction here as reusable water bottles are encouraged, water bubblers are many and beer cups are sold and to be reused.

First up was afro-jazz outfit The Senegambian Jazz Band. These guys had us moving from the start with their joyful fusion of traditional African musicianship and solid pop and funk beats. After this, it was time to head over to the Aurora stage and catch Sampa the Great. Treating us to her captivating blend of hip hop, soul and jazz she performed charismatically and with strength, fully utilising her large and enthusiastic crowd to join in and share the love. Next up was electro-pop party tunesters Haiku Hands who turned up the volume and brought us into full festival mode. They got the crowd bouncing with an energetic and very, very loud performance.

Back at The Conservatory stage, it was time for effervescent quartet Confidence Man to enliven the festival. Janet Planet and Sugar Bones had the crowd in the palm of their hands as they moved, sung and danced with unbridled energy. With night beginning to fall it was then time for perennial festival staple Xavier Rudd to take to the stage. I was expecting the vibe to mellow a bit, but Rudd’s performance was energetic and rousing as he electrified the fans through the rhythmic haze of his didgeridoo. Wrapping up the night was indie pop-rockers The Temper Trap, who, through their iconic anthem ‘Sweet Disposition’, sounded a memorable end to an incredible, joyous occasion.

The Pleasure Garden has become a welcome addition to the boutique festival scene over the past few years, and 2018 further consolidated its reputation. Enjoying this spacious and well-facilitated summer extravaganza, it’s easy to see why music lovers across the country are abandoning larger, more commercial festivals in favour of a more intimate experience. If their 2018 offering is anything to by, The Pleasure Garden is going from strength to strength and it’s exciting to see what they’ll have in store in the future.

By Eugene Price