About This Festival
Extraterrestrial In The Austr-alien Bush
An hour's drive west of Melbourne feels like another universe. Head for the lush green forest of the Victoria outback (the drive alone is worth it), winding through the trees until you come to a small clearing. You'll recognize all the hallmarks of a place built with both partying and nature in mind. Is that a spaceship or a giant octopus? Clamber inside, stare up at the disco-ball chandelier ceiling, and you'll be so blown away you'll probably decide it doesn't matter either way. Futuristic shade structures stand tall around the dance floors, sitting happily amongst the surrounding woodland. Large sculptures face the main floor, and there are places for chilling and places for talking. At a festival this size, you'll definitely run into anyone you happen to meet again.
Comfy nooks are interspersed throughout the forest, where festies park their vehicles and pitch up amongst the small gatherings of higgledy-piggledy campers, snaking around the area. There's no trek from a massive concrete car park, no camping zones miles away and no feeling that you have to be super-organized to plan your meetups and toilet breaks. Quite the opposite. It's like you've gone to an impromptu, three-day house party that happens to have the outback as its setting, as if a house party got an upgrade thanks to Mother Nature.
Once the music starts, the vibe truly ignites. The dust and the heat encourage an otherwordly atmosphere; it's not uncommon to see a sight like a cyclops in grimey hotpants and a neon wig reclining seductively on a chaise lounge. At night, futuristic light installations shine amongst the crowds and the trees, signalling the move from day to night. Dozens of blinking balloons dance across the night air en masse like neon tadpoles. With such sights accompanying Chi Wow Wah's sounds, you'll quickly be glad you came.
Sustainable Growth And Charity Fundraising
Starting in 2013, Chi Wow Wah Town has set the standard in the Australian dance music festival scene. And visiting artists agree. Self-described as an underground movement, the team is "dedicated to injecting life, meaning and culture into the electronic music scene." It's an outback party with weighty artist outreach and a strong understanding of how to create a communal and alternative atmosphere. Think boutique but not bougie. What kicked off as a one-night party with a few hundred fans has grown sustainably in reputation and size. Now it's a three-day event with over 1,000 festies showing up in 2016. The lineup curation from the very beginning has been thoughtful and informed, drawing on international, as well as local, rising stars and highly regarded selectors. You won't find commercial electronic music or pop here, but you will find some of the leading lights of the non-commercial scene from Europe and beyond. Expect a mix of the distinctly experimental and rigorously orthodox to the 4x4 beat.
As well as heavily encouraging attendees to respect the festival's natural environment and leave no trace, from the outset the organizers have collaborated with MS Australia – a charity that raises funds for research and education into Multiple Sclerosis. You will see donation buckets at the entry and the chance to buy reusable camping mugs, with all proceeds going to the charity.
Doing It Right
All music genres have their heartlands – places that find themselves at the nexus of a musical movement in a given moment in time. They may have originated there, or just settled in and found a home. It was New York for disco in the 1970s, and right now, is pretty unanimously agreed that Berlin is the global hotspot for techno. Knowing this, it's particularly impressive that Chi Wow Wah Town, on the far side of the Indian Ocean, has been collaborating with artists and labels from the Berlin scene since its inception. They are doing it right, connecting communities and reaching out to artists who play across Europe at smaller niche festivals with a similar ethos. Katermukke label and the legendary Bachstelzen team bring performances and curation at Chi Wow Wah to a level that is on point and impressive for what is still a relatively small operation.
In fact, if we had to pick one thing, this is the "wow" factor of Chi Wow Wah. Hear artists like Mimi Love, Sven Dohse, Rampue and Madmotormiquel, who regularly play to tens of thousands across the European festival circuit and hold residencies at some of Berlin's best counter-culture clubs, all in a very intimate open-air setting. For anyone on the Australian side of the world who misses, or wants to hit up the German underground, you could do worse than head to the Australian outback.