Andre Hillas

Last week, Paradise Music Festival, Australia’s only mountain-based underground music festival, located atop Lake Mountain in Victoria, had its glimmering weekend in the sun. Acts included Australian notables Oscar Key Sung, Kirin J Callinan, Rat & Co., Young Franco, I’lls, Friendships, UV boi, Banoffee, Total Giovanni, LUCIANBLOMKAMP, and Planète.

At the tender toddler age of two, Paradise Music Festival is growing smoothly and steadily. Andre Hillas, the 24-year-old whippersnapper behind the music-mountain phenomenon said, “We don’t really have money for promotion. We had 800 people last year, and 1400 this year. I think word of mouth is what sold the event.”


Andre Hillas, founder of Paradise Music Festival – photo by Andy Glover


Ensconced in a mountain forest of white wooden tusks, the outdoor stage (a natural amphitheatre) presented a passel of Australian electronic, indie and alternative acts. The musical highlight of the festival goes to a marvellously orchestrated sequence of performances on the Saturday evening, kicking off with electronic experimentalists I’lls. I’lls’ latest release, two-track Fifty phiphti/Akasuka further apprises their fervour for musical transformation. Hearing and seeing them live felt like entering a dimension hidden between dimensions.


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Two of the three-piece electronic band I’lls – photo by Chris Le Messurier

Following that was the chameleonic Kirin J Callinan. Teamed up with a stern-faced, skivvy-wearing bassist and a “drummer” who played an orb instrument with two hand-held remotes, Callininan’s elusive sound continually morphed in genre and tone. This shapeshifting creature is truly a sight to behold.


Total Giovanni completed the sequence of musical excellence. The crowd launched into motion at the band’s first note. Merely one year old, the five-piece electronic/disco/yacht rock outfit have done immeasurably well for themselves in Melbourne and beyond, having already been invited to play at Dark Mofo this year. Australia is waiting for their first EP to drop which will surely be slurped up ravenously by their ever-expanding fanbase.


Trippers enjoying paradise – photo by Iain Excellent


One of the biggest changes from last year to this was moving Clubland — a stage held inside the Lake Mountain Snow Alpine Region Resort — from a small basement to a larger room upstairs with a massive triangular window wall that overlooks a striking vista of mountain ranges, replete with millions of spooky, skeletal trees scorched ivory-white from the terrifying fires of Black Saturday. Another alteration involved moving the cafeteria to an upstairs bar where more people could enjoy more cheap booze (e.g. $4 for a can of Globe Draught) and affordable breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. And lastly, the nights were not so viciously cold as they were the year prior, which made the camping experience much more bearable.

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Clubland – photo by Josh Keating


No festival is perfect, even one divined as paradise. While Clubland rumbled with club beats til sunrise on both nights of the festival, the early hours of Saturday night was a jarring experience at times. Throughout the night, the Clubland music sporadically wavered from one genre to the next, with fluctuating tempos, and intermittently knocked you out of your blissful trance. Wild variety is not usually what a late night crowd craves; the sapphire hours call for coherence and reliability.

Clubland Clubland – photo by Josh Keating


On Saturday night, a guy brought out a large rope and used it to skip with, inviting passers-by to join the primary school nostalgia trip. Skipping a rope, off your head, locking eyes with strangers to maintain focus, was the perfect thing to be doing at that time of night. Wonderfully, Heidi Barrett and Alice Glenn, the gorgeous pair of valkyries who brought the dance phenomenon No Lights No Lycra to the world at large, joined the drunken skip-rope goofery.

There is an 800 metre track you can take at the car park that leads you up a magical pathway to Lake Mountain’s summit and panoramic vision of the voluptuous horizon. Totally worth the effort upwards.

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Towards Lake Mountain Summit – photo by Chris Le Messurier

Down a dusty track at the lowest part of the festival camping grounds, cool mountain water spills through a small creek adorned with large warm boulders that you can sit on, soak up some sun, sup on fresh water, and have a little skinny dip. So revitalising after a grimy night out.

Festivals are best when you discover something unexpected. In this case, a hip-hop act originally slotted elsewhere in the lineup, Urban Problems, played out the front end of the Alpine Resort. Naturally, people gravitated towards the anomaly and the place began to wobble with energy.

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An impromptu performance: Urban Problems – photo by Chris Le Messurier


Paradise Music Festival is now two years old. It is beginning to establish itself as a festival of many strengths: a truly unique setting with some of the most exhilarant underground musicians in the electronic, indie and alternative scenes. The changes made this year bolstered the festival’s ability to feed the needs of the people, and to establish a firm platform onto which further enhancements can be made. That notwithstanding, the overall atmosphere of festival stayed put, indicating that the ebullient founder, Andre Hillas, is satisfied with Paradise at its core.

Hillas said, “There was a moment where I came back to the outdoor stage on Friday at around 11pm, and I saw the crowd, and it was big. It was so big. That was a moment, man. I was beaming. I was just so happy. To see all your hard work pay off, to see all these people who rocked up to this thing you had a part in. I can’t really explain it. It’s just really good.”

Andre Hillas

Andre Hillas, founder of Paradise Music Festival, celebrating the end of the weekend                                 – photo by Ash Buchanan

Read about the first Paradise Music Festival ever here.

Photos by Chris Le Messurier, Josh Keating, Ash Buchanan, Andy Glover and Iain Excellent

Check out Chris Le Messurier’s blog here and Josh Keating’s site here.

Words by Iain Excellent

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