I had the privilege of visiting the third edition of Babylon Festival this year – a house, techno, and psytrance bush doof held out in the country of Victoria, Australia. It’s quite a small festival for what it is – only about 5,000 people – but was the perfect size to be an almost-intimate gathering of likeminded music lovers.
Nestled on some rolling hills and between various patches of bush and shady trees, Babylon creates a remote vibe right from the start. As I danced alongside what was designed to look like a shipwrecked pirate ship, kicking up dust as I moved to the deep and resonating baselines, I thought to myself that this is the epitome of what you would think of a bush doof. Smiling people dressed in vibrant colors and sparkles moved about the countryside venue, going between yoga classes and shopping at the markets between dance sessions at any of a few main stages.
The festival really took off at night, though, when colorful lasers would begin to flicker through the crowd after a cotton candy sunset. This is when the stages started to get packed as the people gathered for what they had come for – to get lost in the deliciously deep music. The following Babylon festival review was written from a combination of my own and listening to others’ experience, and was designed to either help you look back fondly at your own experience at Babylon or to inform and guide you about every aspect of the festival you’d need to know for your trip there any other year.
The Babylon location is out in the bush near Carapooee West, Victoria. Babylon’s venue is quite small and manageable and possible to walk from one end to the other in not much more than ten minutes. There were four main stages, an enclosed independent stage, lots of food vendors, heaps of market stalls, some art, and a yoga/art/chill area that made up the main parts of the venue. The main three stages had misters above the dancing areas, to keep people cool during the day and ended up keeping dust levels down as well.
Although quite small, the venue for Babylon actually seemed a bit large for the amount of people there. It seemed quite empty each day until the sun went down, when most of the punters would emerge from the campground for a night full of beats.
The Mandala Stage was the psytrance stage located at a more removed corner of the venue. This is the stage that the faster BPMs would play at, from surface level minimal/psytrance to some more of the deeper stuff.
The hanging gardens were a beautiful stage designed like a wonky wooden pirate ship where all the deep house and slower playa techno-type vibes would play. It was nestled among some trees with multiple levels for dancing, and was great to relax in the shade or dance in the dust.
Hanging Gardens Stage
Bloc 9 Stage
>Bloc 9 was the techno stage – enough said. Bloc 9 had a bit of bouncy house and tech house during the day but by nightfall it was bona fide hard techno.
Chillimanjaro was, as its hilariously creative name suggests, the chill stage. It was a bit hard to find but was always emanating with slow and wompy chilled out baselines.
Healing Sanctuary/Hammock Garden/Art Space
Between the stages around the outside of the venue was a semi-circle of creative and chill spaces. Centered around a massive hammock structure, there was a flow art space, a small art gallery, a jam band space with tons of instruments, a help-yourself art space with body paint and group murals, and more. The Healing Sanctuary was a tent space with its own lineup of yoga, meditation, healing sessions, and even eye gazing.
Day Spa Stage
The Day Spa stage was run by the people at the Day Spa event (Sundays at Pawn & Co in Melbourne) and taken over independently by different record labels/event companies each day with their own lineups. This created a massively Melbourne stage with well-known Melbourne local dj’s in house and techno arenas. Most of the dj’s here would be residents at Melbourne clubs. They also had dress-up themes each day.
Right outside main festival entrance were a couple branded renegade parties that basically went all day every day – with their own dj’s and mini-parties. One was called ‘Let’s Get Natural’ and the other was ‘District of Love.’
Bloc 9 Stage Crowd
It’s tough to make an overarching statement about the crowd at Babylon. There were mixed reviews about the crowd’s behavior after the festival (mostly sourced from facebook) but from my experience Babylon was mostly a party crowd. They had extra activities but I would say that most people came to this festival to have a good time at the music stages and go hard. People were social but seemed to be a bit more cliquey/in their own world than some festivals I’ve been to. The classic festival vibe was still definitely present in that you were able to have a laugh with strangers and make random friends in the crowd, but it was definitely a bit scaled back at Babylon.
I would say that nearly all the attendees of Babylon festival were Aussie – mostly from/living in Victoria. There was actually a really high percentage of British and Irish people here, presumably ones that had moved to Melbourne. It didn’t seem like too many people had traveled far and wide for the festival (maybe just from NSW or SA) as Melbourne has a built-in psytrance and techno crowd who attend lots of doofs in the area.
As with any festival, Babylon was full of happy people roaming around, dancing, laughing, and having a good time. Apart from the normal great festival vibes, the vibe could occasionally get a bit intense here. This is because quite a few of the punters didn’t really know how to properly conduct themselves – either going a bit too hard or not understanding how to take care of their own messes/rubbish. This was rare however and it was mostly happy and fun.
Some performers at Bloc 9 Stage
Amazing bush sunsets
Babylon did REALLY well with the stages and design, and had a fair amount of fun art around the venue as well. There were quite a few colorful shade structures through the venue both above the stages and above some seating areas near the food stalls and healing gardens area that added a nice vibrant vibe to the space.
The festival entrance was graced by an absolutely gorgeous female buddha-like wooden installation that sort-of became a part of the tree it was up against. This and the small hut made from scraggly branches near the mandala stage were my favorite; the hut had a little herb garden and crystals hanging around it that made for a lovely chill space.
The stages were organized well – far enough apart from each other that there wasn’t too much noise pollution (although sometimes there was a crossover between the Day Spa stage and the Bloc 9 Stage) but close enough to walk very easily. As i mentioned before, however, the venue sometimes seemed a bit large for the amount of people there. I’m not sure if tickets were undersold, if most of the people didn’t come into the venue until night time (entirely possible), or if there was simply a bit too much space for the capacity, but it did sometimes feel quite empty to my group and I.
Olivia Dawn performing live violin over house music
Live painting going on at the Hanging Gardens stage
Babylon Festival had an all-time lineup of house, techno, and psytrance. There were big names in all three of these genres that no doubt brought in masses of crowds for their specific shows.
At the hanging gardens (house and ethereal tech), headliners were Guy J, Eagles & Butterflies, Damian Lazarus, Olivia Dawn, Behrouz, and Undercatt.’
At Bloc 9, the headliners were Nina Kraviz, Carl Cox, Sam Paganini, Luigi Madonna, Amelie Lens, Solardo, Butch, and Dax-J.
At the mandala stage, some of the headliners were Bliss, Laughing Buddha, Waio, Skwid, Earthlink, Emok, and Rayman.
The organization pf the music was great and the lineup and set times were on point, rising in intensity with the hour of the night. You could expect dj’s to increase the heat until about midnight, where the biggest headliners would come on consecutively until about 4am. The heaviest part of the night was definitely midnight to 4am or so (other stages too?) with the daytime bringing lighter and bouncier tunes.
A few artist highlights/mentions:
Nina Kraviz headlined night one, bringing a very interesting and fairly intense vibe to the beginning of the night. She started out with techno, eventuating even to some more hardstyle-esque beats with an acid sound. Dax-J brought the crowd up with a heavy techno set afterwards, as did an absoplutely all-time lineup of Butch (rising into the night with some tech house), into Luigi Madonna, Carl Cox, Sam Paganini, and Amelie Lens IN A ROW on the Saturday night. This night of heavy techno was balanced by some vibey house at the Day Spa stage for a change, a night of local Melbourne DJ’s at the Hanging Gardens, and some heavier psy at Mandala.
As he has for the past three years, Carl Cox and Eric Powell closed out the festival on Day 3 with their amazing, light-hearted Mobile Disco set full of 80’s bangers and good vibes. This was rivaled by am amazing psytrance set topped with amazing electric guitar by Bliss, and a very progressive 4-HOUR set by the incredible Guy J at Hanging Gardens. It was hard to decide where to go!
My favorite sets at this festival were actually all by artists that I hadn’t seen/heard of before – probably because I didn’t know what to expect from them but had an amazing time. These were by Olivia Dawn at Hanging Gardens (ethereal house/techno with live violin), Butch (bouncy + fun tech house at Bloc 9), Eagles & Butterflies at Hanging Gardens (amazingly melodic playa techno), and Bliss (progressive + bouncy psytrance with live electric guitar).
Relaxing in the shade of a beautiful little hut made from tree branches
There were five main camping areas at Babylon, laid out nearly into a grid next to some areas of bush and a glamping ‘alpha camp.’ Gridded roads passed through these different areas where people were free to camp at their own will. There was no arranging people in any specific order; you could literally drive anywhere and set up wherever you pleased.
The farthest corner camp spot from the entrance was probably about a 15 minute walk to the venue – not too far at all. There were a few trees scattered throughout the area, but not too many – don’t count on tree shade; make sure to bring shade structures because it can get very hot!
Because the festival/venue was quite small, there weren’t any amenities that were specific to the camping area besides some toilets and showers. all the food, activities, markets, and extra amenities were inside the venue.
The showers at Babylon were scattered on a few sides of the camping area, and were stall-type warm showers that were free to use. The lines got slightly long in the morning but with the dust and grime the wait was worth it!
Some interesting trinkets for sale near the public jam space, and a juggler at work in the flow arts tent
Festival Amenities – Other Stuff to Do
There was a corner of the festival entirely dedicated to other activities, arts & crafts, yoga, and more. Here’s what they had:
This was a dome tent full of different kinds of art, paintings, murals, prints, and trinkets for sale. The work of a few different artists was on display along the walls.
This was a really cool covered area with tons of different instruments that different people would pick up throughout the day and play together. There were hooked up microphones, tons of instruments: bongos, guitar, drums, microphones, and even people banging along on anything at all to the beat. This was all next to a quirky pawn shop-esque stand selling all kinds of interesting trinkets – fun to browse through!
This was a stretch tent and carpeted area that hosted a range of workshops and activities such as yoga, meditation, festival recovery, eye gazing, sound healing, and even pilates. There were about 5-6 different activities scheduled each day for people to come and have a bit of a release from relentless baselines, flow a bit, and let their creativity free.
There were dozens of awesome market stalls at Babylon, all along the back fence of the venue. From door clothes to sunglasses to special Chili sauces and dread locks, Babylon really had it all. It was hard not to get sidetracked looking at some awesome shopping options while on the way from one side of the venue to the other.
This was an open area with tubs of body paint for anyone’s use, and open art walls for anyone to contribute to. It was a carpeted and shaded space that was perfect to relax or unleash a bit of creativity either on a wall, on yourself, or on a friend!
Babylon Market Stalls by night
Babylon had some official buses traveling from the CBD to the festival run by the popular festival bus company, Banana bus. These buses left from the city and dropped off near the intersection of the Alpha camp, the pink camp, and the bush which were very affordable and convenient.
Other than that I would say that most people either drove or hired their own bus to transport a group of friends (which is what I did). Parking was anywhere that you wanted to put your car within the camping areas (no different camping areas with car/no car). I highly doubt anyone stayed in hotels as the festival was quite remote and everyone camped.
Some food options at Babylon Festival
The food at Babylon Festival was outstanding. There were dozens of vendors offering too many different options to possibly be able to choose – all along the front side of the venue between the entrance and the Bloc 9 Stage.
Babylon had quite similar food vendors as many of the Victoria doofs – but they are all awesome! They have the chai tea lounge which was well-loved at Rainbow Serpent, the delicious royal Burgers (and mac-n-cheese croquettes) stand, superfood smoothies, El Chivi hour get burgers, the avocado-on-everything booth, tons of different pizza, much more, and my personal favorite – KEBABYLON. I would say most full meals went for about $12 – $17AUD.
Although Babylon was a limited BYO event (allowed one slab and one decanted bottle of spirit per person – not that they really checked!), there was also alcohol for sale. There were a couple bars – the most prominent of which was right next to the Day Spa stage. The bar was selling classic mixed drinks into reusable cups, a couple different pre-mixed cans, and other soft drinks too. You’d be looking at about $10 for a can of pre-mix here.
Babylon Ticket Price
Babylon tickets go for just over $220 pre-sale, and go up to about 300. If you add in transport of $89 return taking the Banana bus, and a certain amount for food/drinks/etc each day, you should have your budget!
Hanging out at the Day Spa Stage
Babylon security was fairly lax. Upon going into the gates, my experience was that a security guard came onto our bud (about 17 people) and said hello, asked if we had any glass containers or anything else that we shouldn’t have, and upon hearing us say ’no,’ wished us a great time and gave us directions to the camping area we were looking for. We then had a few volunteers come on and scan/give wristbands, and then we were in.
The line to get in took ages, which makes me think that they had searched some cars better than others. I believe however that they were also searching for glass to keep the campsites safe.
Babylon Festival had blocks of porta-potty style toilets scattered throughout the venue. They were in blocks of about 16 or so and were the kind with miniature sinks and flush functions inside them. Honestly, if I could say one bad thing about this festival it would be the bathrooms,. The year I went, they were honestly some of the most rank toilets I have ever seen at a festival, which really is saying something if you know how many I have been to!
I’m not sure if the problem was the people being messy, or the fact that they weren’t cleaned enough. I think it was a bit of both, honestly – I only saw them getting cleaned a couple times and the ones near my tent definitely went nearly full days without being seen to multiple times, when they were already extremely unsanitary and at the point i thought it would be a legitimate threat to health. I think having drop/compost toilets would fix this problem – having tiny flushable toilet bowls that easily clog is a big problem with heavy use and rare cleaning.
My very favorite installation at Babylon festival, right outside the entrance.
An amazing sunrise I was able to catch when I woke up in the middle of the night!
Weather at Babylon
The bush of Victoria in mid-February can get hot, hot, hot! It would be wise to prepare for high temperatures during the day. My year it was about 28, 31, and 33 on the three festival days, which was very bearable and actually quite lovely. But, it can get much hotter around these parts.
It cooled down substantially at night, to the point that you would probably be uncomfortably cold without a coat unless you were in the middle of the crowd dancing nonstop (which is obviously very possible!). Warmth for sleeping is also a must – it got pretty chilly just before dawn in the camping areas so sleeping bags/blankets are a good idea.
The Babylon festival venue was also very dusty! Many people coped with this with bandanas around their noses/faces to breathe in cleaner air and not sniff tons of dust up their nose (hello, dove boogers! :P). The ground was also quite rocky so boots would be a good idea as well as a bandana. The sun was also really strong, so hats and sunglasses are also important for commutes in the hot sun (as with anywhere in Australia!).
Some gorgeous festie gals on their way to a stage
Babylon was some pretty classic doof fashion. It almost seemed as if the whole festival had shopped at Tibbs & Bones, Dolls Kill, or Frothlyf together and come in wearing the same outfits. You’d see leotards/high-waisted bottoms and shiny tops, fishnets, boots, braids, colorful thin sunnies, and tons of stick-on gems and glitter for the girls, and either party shirts and/or tight shiny leggings and silly accessories and sunnies for the boys. Plus, there were parasols and bandanas all around! I definitely saw quite a few girls in the same expensive shiny leotards over the weekend, which seems to be a shame given that doofs were originally a place of radical self-expression and have become their own mainstream fashion in and of themselves. But hey, the outfits were still cute as hell 😛
Babylon ran from the early afternoon each day (Mandala and Hanging Gardens started up around noon each day and 10am on Sunday) until LATE at night. The Bloc 9 Stage didn’t start until 3-4pm each day (and 12pm Sunday) and ran until 5am with its hard techno and incredible light shows.
However, this festival honestly seemed quite dead during the day. I think it attracted the after-party type crowd who like to go to kick-ons and attend the later-night parties rather than the daytime ones. It seemed to go from quite sparse during the day to absolutely packed and crazy a few hours into the night, and this was something we found really interesting about Babylon. Some of the craziest times on the dance floor were when it was about to close, and some of the loudest campsite parties were actually Sunday night after the entire festival was over. I’m not sure what that means, but it was an interesting observation!
Hustle & Bustle outside the festival entrance
One of the first yoga classes on Friday afternoon at the Healing Garden
Babylon merchants pretty much only took cash, in that there wasn’t much phone signal whatsoever to connect to the internet for cards. I would just bring plenty of cash with you!
Babylon reception was slim to none. There were a few random high points in the venue where I would receive a bunch of text messages (like the toilets near my camp, strangely enough), but I really would not count on being able to get in contact with anyone. You ‘might/ be able to send a text or two, but the reception is so scarce that it would be to your benefit not to even try and to just enjoy being present.
There were tons of volunteers which helped to make the festival such a success. Many of them went around the campgrounds helloing to clean and giving out trash bags, some went around the crowds to give out water and make sure everyone was okay, and some helped with the crowd flow in and out of the venue.
If you are interested to volunteer at Babylon festival, make sure to check the website a few months before to apply! The volunteers were vital to the event and super helpful.
One of the art installations lit up by night!
Final Babylon Festival Tips
- Check out the extra activities – they’re heaps of fun and a lot of effort went into the healing garden program! drop by a yoga or sound healing class to get some zen in your busy day of dancing.
- Make sure to check out some different food – the options were fantastic and delish.
- Try all of the stages and experience all the different kinds of music that people come for! Rather than sticking to what you know, try to branch out a bit – the talent in each genre is top-notch.
- Make sure to stop by Chillimanjaro – it’s a bit tougher to find as it’s technically outside the main venue, m but it’s a cool space.
- Keep in mind that this venue is extremely dusty – especially anywhere there weren’t misters going (i.e. Day Spa stage). It’s smart to bring a bandana.