“I want to go back. It was a bunch nice people who just wanted to have fun in the cold together.” That’s my housemate’s review of Paradise.

We got back home not long ago and we’re watching Moulin Rouge. I don’t know why. This movie is really fucked. The fast cuts are hurting my head. And my head already hurts from the sunburn I got down at the creek today. This is grim. I want to be back on Lake Mountain.

But be a nostalgic sap all you want, time doesn’t work like that. All you can do is try to remember the good parts. So let’s do just that. Here are the highlights of another great year at Paradise.

friendships were the highlight of the weekend

friendships completely blew me away with their large-scale set at Golden Plains and tonight they’re just as spellbinding, even with Paradise’s comparatively smaller setup. Actually, I think it might be the best set I’ve seen them play to date. Their ambitious audiovisual set comes into its true form in a festival setting, and Lake Mountain’s valley of dead trees, cast over by a thick, low-hanging fog, is providing the most fitting scenery possible for their dark, borderline nightmarish energy.

Nic is wearing a black veiled hat and kind of looks like a grim reaper. Misha is casting a hypnotic barrage of visuals—warped computerised faces, floating molecules and light particles, 3D grids that morph into muscular human bodies—and I think maybe those shroom caps weren’t entire duds after all. They fittingly kick it off with the abrasive jungle assault of ‘Paradise’, and yep. This is great.

They drop a jacked-up version of their remix of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Slow’, which was the track that first introduced me into them. I’m grinning. ‘When I Feel Like Killing, I Murder’ is truly massive live. Then Maia of Habits comes on to perform ‘Spit::Flesh::Splinter’ and I’m calling it: this is the peak moment of Paradise. Of 2016. Of “Life”. Lots of gaping jaws in the crowd.

Nic’s spoken word of ‘Footscray 1989’ is harrowingly beautiful. Gritty, affective, gut-wrenching. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea—particularly the images of guts and maggots—but friendships are tapping into something really significant here. I have chills.

It finishes, and I need to take a little breather to digest. I’m a bit stunned. (I’d say speechless, but that’s a lie. If you ran into me at any point on Saturday night I probably told you about how good it was. Even if you saw it yourself. Or even if it was your own performance. Sorry for gushing at you, Misha.)

Brooke Powers was the late night standout

I was initially a bit worried about Brooke Powers getting scheduled on the outside stage at 1:30am. I thought she could’ve been given the same slot in Clubland as Lucy Cliche the previous night, who absolutely killed it. I was scared that a lot of people—myself included—wouldn’t be able to bear almost sub-zero temperatures to see her play, especially with two cosy indoor stages to choose from.

But Brooke has a reputation as one of Melbourne’s best club DJs, and it proved in the end that the cold didn’t matter. There’s a huge turnout here to see her close the main stage on Saturday night, and those of us who braved are being rewarded with an absolute two-hour masterclass. Probably the funnest set of the weekend. Bangers. Brooke recently got announced for Golden Plains 2017 and you know it’s going to be one to remember. Huge stuff.

Potato cakes were back (briefly)

Last year in my review I complained about the lack of potato cakes. Clearly my cries were heard, because they were back on the menu for 2016. And thank fuck. $1 PCs are godsend. They become a form of currency. For example: would you rather pay $12 for an espresso martini or have 12 discs of happiness? It really makes you reassess your priorities, your needs, your life.

But all good things come to an end. The supply ran dry at around 2pm on Saturday. My friend did some investigating and apparently there were only 1,300 potato cakes ordered for the weekend. Petition to double that for 2017. I probably care too much about potato cakes.

Support yr locals

The Paradise lineup consistently showcases some of the most exciting acts in our country. It’s possible that you might’ve seen a portion of the lineup play somewhere locally over the past six-twelve months but that never hinders the experience. Everyone seems to play their best on the mountain, and you’re always guaranteed to discover some new names.

For me that happened right off the bat with Hi-Tec Emotions, who open proceedings with a nice set of moody synthpop. I really like their song ‘Heart Line’. Later in the afternoon Sui Zhen delights with the glistening pastel pop shades of tracks like ‘Infinity Street’ and ‘Take It All Back’ partnered with some great synchronised choreography with vocalist Ashley Bundang (Totally Mild, Zoned Out). It winds up with the debuting of a new track called ‘Perfect Place’ which officially starts the first big dance of the festival. People are jogging down the hill to join the fun.

HTMLflowers and Oscar Key Sung’s Lossless project is pure unadulterated fun on day two. “I’m too drunk to be playing a live show” is endearing stage banter in my books. Lots of middle fingers are being thrown at the crowd, lyrics getting forgotten (and forgiven) and onstage valiums being taken. It’s a party.

Speaking of party: Shouse. The duo only have one EP to their names but tonight their setlist already feels like a Best Of Hits. Huge house tracks with infectious pop hooks sung by some of the most exciting vocalists around. Maia comes back on for ‘Whisper’. People are losing it. Have Shouse cracked the code to giddy dancefloors? I’m looking around and there’s big singalongs, big smiles, big fist pumps. Brilliant.

It all goes to show: who needs an international headliner when our homegrown talent is this good?

Fog or shine, it’s always Paradise

The cold weather might not have dealt us the Ultimate Summer Vibes this year, but that didn’t break everyone’s spirits. Driving up through the fog on day one was a bit confronting at first, but once you got rugged up you could really start to appreciate the Twin Peaks atmosphere. (A David Lynch reference? Really? Sue me. You were thinking it too.)

The weather eventually brightened up on the second day, so we ended up getting the best of both worlds. I’ve been to this festival three years now and I still get taken aback by how goddamn beautiful it is. Thank you again Paradise.

@paradisemusicau you little spooky thing you

A photo posted by GH0STGVMS (@gh0stgvms) on