72 hours lost in the doof: The Rainbow Serpent Survival Guide

The overnight drizzle turns to a deluge around 6am, drenching those still making it back from Bean Bag Babylon or any of the other myriad pre-party happenings. Laughter rings out across the north campground as cars continue to pour in, soundtracked by Sunset’s techs giving their system its first psy workout of the weekend.

Talk under the Crackie totem turns to the weekend’s survival guide. With four official stages running at any one time over four days, Rainbow Serpent requires a precision tactical assault. Acts are circled on the timetable. Pockets of sleep time are identified. Must-sees are set in stone: The Orb, Sensient, Meat Katie early Sunday morning; the Max Cooper/King Unique/James Zabiela triple-threat that’ll close the Market Stage on Monday afternoon.

There’s a restless tension in the air; not nerves, but something just short of anxiety. We’re 200 metres from four dancefloors that sit idle, taunting us. Someone asks for some music to be put on. An elaborate game combining frisbee, cricket and target shooting breaks out on a nearby road. Crackie is unfitted from his stand to lead the group to a sister campsite, where a guy has flown in from Amsterdam and will fly back when the festival is done. Inflatables are inflated. The 4pm kick-off comes and goes. Even the cicadas above Sunset are getting impatient, mimicking a hi-hat pattern: “tk-cht-tkka-cht.” Johnny Mac rolls the first tune, a filtered kick eventually becoming Turn The Tide from Involv3r. It’s showtime.

[Sunset pic]

It’s not so much a day at a festival as a series of absurd vignettes. A gentleman in faux-leather tights and leopard print singlet paces urgently, chanting “it’s Rainbow, it’s Rainbow!” as his jaw tenses and his circle work becomes more erratic. A ‘normal’ looking couple of middle-class thirtysomethings dance with their two pre-kindie children on the Sunset floor fringes. It’s the whole family’s first Rainbow, the festival winning the long-weekend toss of the coin over Noosa. In two days the kids will be dropped off with the grandparents in Avoca so Mum and Dad can return to finish what they’ve started.

A meet-up is missed, Crackie is lost, then two hours later the group reforms just as Thankyou City ease into their spacey prog-tech creations.

Darkness slowly descends. It’s cold, then it’s hot, then a wind blows in from somewhere near the South Pole. Several thousand are kicking up dust at Market as local live duo Staunch deliver glitch hop with the emphasis on the hop and hints of G-Funk. Elite Force plays like his life depends on it, opening with a fresh remake of Underworld’s Cowgirl before rolling relentlessly through the tech classics. Is that Man With The Red Face? It is, with Downpipe to follow. Gandalf stands impassively in the thick of it, a gentle sway, a subtle foot tap, the occasional closed eyes to soak it all in.

The music on the Chill stage stutters and swoops like a system error; one of those happy accidents of sound that somehow works for both couch dwellers and interpretive dance enthusiasts. The Playground stage is already an hour behind the timetable. From the campsite the sound systems fight a battle in the distance, BPMs and sonic swirls colliding and combining like a soundclash amongst the gods.

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