Festival Review: The Pleasure Garden lives up to its name in St. Kilda

The Pleasure Garden is what I imagine tea with the Mad Hatter would be like. Sitting on a couch in the middle of a garden, sipping on gin, greeting people dressed as exotic birds who offer you lollipops whilst Fat Freddy’s Drop plays in the background. Add Hula Hoops, delectable street food, a smooth musical line up and some palm trees to polish off the backdrop, and you’ve got yourself a weird and wonderful day/night ahead of you.

Returning for its second year, The Pleasure Garden bloomed once again in St Kilda’s Catani Gardens on Saturday December 9. Promising an ‘immersive music and arts festival that blends live music and visual art and performance,’ punters were not disappointed with the art festival echoing similarities to WOMAdelaide and Glastonbury.

The Garden is set up so that there are two main stages, The Conservatory and Aurora, and two smaller areas. The Bass Station is a small DJ booth that played host to the likes of Melbourne Dj’s Nam, Lickweed and JPS. Whilst on the other side of the festival, House Party lived true to its stage name, presented as a small house with a turn table, surrounded by couches, a bed and even a dressing table so you can touch up your glitter.

The day kicked started with a traditional smoking ceremony from Arweet Carolyn Briggs of the Boon Wurrung Foundation, before Baker Boy took to the Aurora stage with resilient Hip Hop vibes, warming up the small crowd. As the day went on, more people started to fill the grounds, the sun shone brighter, and Aurora was the place to be if you wanted to cool down with smooth Hip Hop. L-Fresh The Lion tore down the stage with his deep rhymes, whilst Remi, a Melbourne local favourite, drew big crowds and got everyone moving.

Over at The Conservatory, things were a little mellower and trance like. The massive stage looked like an abandoned house that the forest had taken over. On the balconies women dressed as birds danced along to the music being pumped out from the core of the stage, whilst bubbles floated in. Crooked Colours killed their set, with fresh as hell beats that had everyone hypnotised. Rows of people swayed in unison, entranced by the electronic seductiveness. I always forget about how awesome Crooked Colours are, so it was nice to have this intense reminder be sprung on me whilst dancing under the sun.

Montaigne followed shortly after, casually jumping on stage to a very unprepared crowd, unleashing her vocals to a very scattered audience. But like the pied piper, her angelic voice hooked onto your ears and dragged you in. Throwing her body around the stage (literally, she chucked herself onto the floor many times, it was great!), she proved to be an unforgettable performer. If having a uniquely fucking brilliant voice wasn’t enough, she knew exactly how to work the crowd, jumping from speaker to speaker and down into crowd to shake punters hands. Red lipstick smeared all over her face, her set was a like a shot of vodka. So many emotions in such a short burst, but boy did it leave you perky.

By time Fat Freddy’s Drop landed on stage at The Conservatory, it seemed that this was the reason everyone had attended the event today. Packing out the grounds, the New Zealand seven-piece band pumped out dub-reggae-soul-jazz that simply comatose the audience…in the best way possible!

Among the smorgasbord of music, there were weird and quirky art installations, roaming street performers, people handing out platters of fruit, garden games such totem pole tennis and giant Jenga, countless areas for relaxation, carnival games and rides (yes I did ride the bumper cars!).

The Pleasure Garden lives true to its name, offering something for everyone. The thing I liked about this festival was its laid back, and extremely chilled approach. The line-up teamed with the art installations and just the whole set up its self, made for a very relaxing experience. Not to mention St Kilda being the perfect location, with the sun setting over the palm trees adding that extra tropical flare…matching the, ‘Birds of Paradise,’ theme of the day. Still a relatively new festival, it’s exciting to see where this will go in coming years.