Renewing the faith: Stargazing, stomping and smashing negative perceptions at Rabbits Eat Lettuce

I was beginning to feel a little disillusioned with how our beloved festival scene was being treated after it had suffered so many brutal king hits in the last few months. Not to mention all the unnecessary infighting on facey groups with psy kids accusing techno heads of being filthy trashbags (by which I mean leaving their rubbish behind at festivals). Or, self-appointed high priests of doof sermonising about what doof paraphernalia you are allowed to brandish on the dancefloor ( – whatever happened to freedom of expression, dear friends? And who are you to tell us what to carry?) So, what do you do when it all gets too much? Book a trip to Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival and take a road trip across Queensland with your long-lost partner in grime Ciggie Butt Brain, that’s what. It was time to restore the faith. And what awaited us at Cherabah Resort certainly did not disappoint.

I first went to Rabbits for its debut edition five years ago and to this day it is still up there with the best festival experiences of my life. And while there’s nothing but praise for the OG site back in Kippenduff before NSW’s powers-that-be made their poor life choices, the rabbits’ new QLD burrow was everything psychedelic dreams are made of. Hand forced, or otherwise, it was a dazzling decision to move the site to Warwick, where the festival shone brighter than ever before, far from the boundaries of hostility. It just goes to show that spirits will never be dampened and the smile will always overcome the adversity of the frown.

Is there anything like those first moments of a doof, when you shed the skin of reality and wriggle into 4-day festival feels for the weekend? The ticket link worked, you didn’t forget your ID or leave your mate at the gas station. You’ve had your first doof-strength cocktail, long before the jungle juice gets warm and the ice melts. Following the sound of the bass, you sashay on down to that enchanted grotto over yonder, where you immediately find the other half of your tribe, right there in front of you. Like glittery rave rats following the mystical bassline of the pie-eyed piper, you’re just in time for the pilgrimage en masse for the opening ceremony. I’ve never seen a stage as glorious as The Hive. A triple-stack adult jungle gym with a cavernous elevated DJ grotto the colour of sunshine and daydreams, flanked with honeycomb shaped disco windows stashed with dancers and a kaleidoscope of performers. Swarms of beautiful souls took their perch to watch the fire dancers twirl to hillbilly dub as Moontricks declared the beautiful event officially open. It was obvious that the stars had aligned to perfection.

Our group dragged me off down a tree-lined rabbit hole into a clearing to the Wabooz Stage, where we waited patiently for Hypnagog to begin as we acclimatised to Planet Awesome. What manifested in front of me pretty much encapsulated the whole weekend. Emerging out of the slowly veiling dust, a fairy-lit tapestry of jazzy progressive trance, interspliced with beat-driven melodies and psychedelic breaks saw in my first set of the festival.

As night fell, the freaks came out, praised with a full stomp sesh for The Stanton Warriors, with their killer new tune ‘UP2U’ featuring Sian Evans, introducing their new makes-you-wanna-jump-on-the-bed-til-it-breaks album ‘Rise.’ There’s no wonder they’ve been at the top of their game for 20 years.

Deep in the forest, Bassic records took over the Wabooz and stomped it to pieces with their organic-infused bush techno. It’s so good to see the best in Australian homegrown talent sprouting out of the wilderness, brandishing bunches of bright audio orchids to a frothy AF crowd. Know how some music is just supposed to be played outside? This is it. Somersault tested the waters with his as-yet-unreleased depth charge ‘Thrust.’ John-Baptiste and his bouncy man bun belted out Floorplan’s ‘Never Grow Old,’ Kaiser Souzai’s sexy-ass mix of Jaydee’s ‘Plastic Dreams’ and his own track with Liam Sieker ‘Avalanche’. Doppel smashed his own oh-so-pretty remix of Thankyou City’s ‘Three Pyramids’ at the festival where a few years ago, he played his first ever interstate gig. Zigmon championed unreleased Bassic tracks from Ark-E-Tech, EEMUS, Nanoplex, Waveback and Diamandy. There’s nothing like hearing homegrown Australian tunes, perfectly matched to their environment under the stars. Needless to say, I did not move from this stage all night, but really wished I could have cloned myself to experience everything.

There’s nothing better than resting your weary disco legs in a palatial tepee bell tent doofing nest. Especially when you didn’t have to put it up yourself. And thanks to the gorgeous bunch of legends at Wow Tents, Ciggie Butt Brain and I could dedicate all of our time to raving, or stargazing on our front porch, instead of looking for something to hammer in tent pegs. We checked in to the Rabbits Hotel like total ballers, where our white bell tent temple of pre-erected happiness awaited. A comfy mattress with a lovely warm duvet and pillows and enough room for Ciggie Butt Brain to stand up and wave his immensely long arms in the air-like-he-just-don’t-care, which he did on the regular. The added benefit of your own Wow Tent showers and toilets made it even more spesh, but the icing on the cake was of course not having to do the pack down on Monday. There is no other way to doof – especially if you are coming from interstate. It’s bliss. But be warned, after you stay in a Wow Tent, normal camping will never be able to cut it again!

For those who go hard on the first night – and honestly, if you don’t there’s something up with you – doof day two is always a bit of a drifty one. The clouds’ ballet was a beautiful backdrop for being a bit lazy on a bean bag. There was nothing like a spot of 24 hours star gazing, whether the stars were out or not. Dipping our big toe into a bit of glitch from Skiitour and Chamberlain in the decidedly Melbourne-esque weather, we may have not had any sleep, but it didn’t matter.

The evening took a very weird turn and we ended up spangled and starry-eyed at the Hey Sunshine Stage listening to the absolutely delightful Joe Newton jamming some reggae on a guitar with broken strings, with his saxophone playing friend Frank, who he met busking on the street a couple of weeks before. Then we moshed out to Red Entries dropping grungey, post-punk indie rock with so much attitude we felt dizzy. One of my favourite things about festivals is bumping into music that you wouldn’t normally listen to and going ‘what the fuck is this? I love it!’ Later, the Hive copped a pounding from NZ sub bass supervillains Truth as the bass canons fired at will relentlessly into the night. One of the myriad things that must be praised about rabbits is the vast variety of music that graced the speakers, all up to a stellar standard, whether it was your poison or not.

Waking up to a distant, cheeky dnb mix of Warren G’s ‘Regulate’ and the realisation that it was Easter Sunday, it was the very last day for these two wide-eyed Easter bunnies to hop their fluffy butts around the big field. While the rest of Australia was chasing chocolate eggs around their garden, those who were front and centre for Moodswing and Chevy Bass experienced pure scenes holding their beloved aloft DJ crowd-surf style in an inflatable dinghy, which he paddled across the crowd. The view from The Hive of hundreds of sparkly bush babies, dreadlocked warriors and lords of the underworld converged en masse below looked like Mad Max meets 28 days later: Rave edit – and I mean that in the most complimentary way.

Melbourne’s most infamous outlaw Uone, the cowboy of Rancho-Relaxo played an outstanding Sunday lunchtime set painting the dancefloor every colour of the rainbow, including the fabulous ‘Directions’ by Wevie Stonder and Boy Oh Boy’s ‘My Witch’ out on Uone’s own Beat&Path Label.

Channelling their inner Orbital with head torches and glow in the dark boiler suits, The Nights took us full throttle into our last evening, before Tube & Berger, Pleasurekraft and Quivver wound up a truly celestial weekend.

Countless shout outs and megaphone hollers of gratitude go to the insanely creative true doof heroes. The lovely, bearded dancefloor warrior, who danced for days with a water bottle or frying pan of falafel balanced on his head (– is it just me or was he everywhere? What a Lord). The gorgeous Captain Hydrate and H2Go Girl adding some serious sex appeal to water drinking, armed with super soakers and some sassy choreography to keep everyone in a liquid state. The yummy liquorice allsorts dancers. The stunningly beautiful elastic girls spinning some serious sugar in Lyra hoops.

I’m still applauding those cats responsible for keeping us intrigued and sensory overloaded with everything from sunrise acro yoga sessions to speed dating, cats claws basket weaving to parkour. If you were feeling really bling, there were even helicopter flights over the festival. Or the Urban Kinetic Insect (UKI) stage, a bush doof spawned mobile mutant cicada, who steampunked a metallic militia through the undergrowth, stun gunning everything in its path with sweet and contagious stings of bass virus. My friend Jydn played his set on it on Saturday night and said it was like nothing else.

Sunshine Coast based artist Rabea Stader, who worked with Lucid Space who designed The Hive and Hey Sunshine stages saw the festival as an exercise in collaboration. ‘I have my own business creating large scale art installations, stage art, murals, visionary art and sacred geometry. My background as an architect came in really handy designing and painting the artwork for the Hive stage. I also designed the tipi as a natural stick installation and had my artwork displayed in the Art Gallery. The community effort at Rabbits is incredible. Andy from Folcrum Design, the designer of the Wabooz stage also did an outstanding job and we all helped each other, wherever needed.’ I thought I’d reached the point where I thought nothing could dazzle me. The ridiculous thought had even crossed my mind that it might even be time to hang my raving boots. Ad then there was Rabbits Eat Lettuce. And once again my heart is full and my spirit is nourished. Serious props to Jess Green for making the magic happen, leading hands-down the most professional and creative festival team I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and to everyone who raved with me under that rainbow. Thank you for reigniting my sparkle. See you again next year!

Photographs by Storm Gale, Dan Stewart, Karl Crooks, Twelve Shot, and Moja Film.

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About the Author

Kate Stephenson's dangerous obsession with music and words has taken her to every corner of the globe in the quest for the filthiest bassline. Heralding from the mean streets of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England, she earned her raving stripes in the early 2000s at celestial institutions like Back to Basics in Leeds and Bugged Out in Liverpool, standing in queues snaking for hours round the block in freezing February nights before she knew how to hustle a guestie.

Having decamped to (slightly) more clement temperatures, Kate now calls the outstanding city of Melbourne home, feeling oh-so-very-welcome in a place where you are actively encouraged to party from Thursday to Tuesday. Kate stays alive on a strict diet of techno,jungle drum and bass and cheeky garage remixes, smooshed in with a little bit of everything in between. You can either find her with hands in the air, by the front left speaker or typing up a storm in bed drinking Yorkshire Tea by the gallon.