Jungle Love @ Imbil, 25-26th November

Harken back to days gone by and try to remember the wacky children’s book, Alice In Wonderland. If you can recall the acid-fuelled adventure that was Alice falling down a magical (and surprisingly spacious) rabbit hole and entering a new and bizarre world, you can probably begin to imagine Jungle Love festival. Sure, the rabbit hole is less a hole and more a winding road through dense bushland and past the teeny town of Imbil, but the transformation is a real one. Also, Alice did not have to go through the process of setting up an ambitiously large tent in around thirty degrees, and as far I remember, she didn’t fuel the tent-building with copious amounts of alcohol, string cheese, and Sakata crackers. Still, the metaphor sticks, because as soon as you enter the world of Jungle Love, everything is indeed new, strange, and totally immersive.

The festival is set up in four sections: the creek, where punters float lazily on blow-up flamingoes and listen to chilled out tunes from the small, colourful stage nearby; the foody bit, where tasty food trucks compete for festival-goers appetites; the chill out tent, a mess of bodies napping communally on beanbags and sofas flavoured with Chai; and the stage section, where two stages are separated by a tastefully ramshackle multi-level treehouse overlooking both venues. Scattered in between each section are small oddities: a marriage alter, for example, where actors marry random onlookers in a Woodstock-style show of free love. Artists create large murals on each side of a wooden cube, developing their work over the course of the festival into spectacular street art creations. Beneath a pretty bamboo walkway decorated with fabric, hula-hoopers give impromptu classes to interested passers-by. There is never a shortage of bubbles, glitter (environmentally safe, of course), and fascinating people watching. I see a topless girl with little felt vaginas stuck on her nipples marry a man with a purple glittery beard. Jungle Love is not for the prudish, or the faint of heart.

The atmosphere of the place is tangible – both eccentric and electric – and the musical acts are no exception. A diverse mishmash of songsters, the one feature all acts seemed to share was a passionate stage presence, each band igniting their set with genuine excitement. Pumped up indie pop-rockers POP CULT see punters swaying and grooving in the midday heat, before Jesswah warms up the creek with an injection of funk-addled weirdness. Kudos then takes over, effortlessly reciting his clever verses as his audience closes their eyes and lets the beat take them away. I make my way over to where Accomplice Collective have slowed everyone right down, their jazzy infusions carrying multicoloured bubbles over the heads of the mellow public.

After a truly delicious plate of melawach (look it up, my gift to you), I meander over to where Brisbane favourites The Jensens are captivating a crowd in comfortable cover of darkness, before beneb rock out at the stage next door, covered in glitter and sweat. I watch Sahara Beck enchant with her soul-soothing voice from the upper levels of the chill out space, pizza in hand. The mellow sound of Cheap Fakes’ reggae-tinged tunes is the last thing I hear before I get roaringly drunk and spend the rest of the evening tramping through bushes to find a secret S&M themed club in a shipping container in a nearby paddock. Yes, I am serious. Apparently, many amped-up festival goers appreciate a decent spanking come nighttime.

Saturday boasts another round of delectable acts, despite the horrendous and continuous downfall for most of the day. Although the rain causes widespread chaos, I luckily still get a chance to see the lovely Austin before the storm hits, whose sunny voice tricks us all into thinking we were in for a cloudless day. Yoste chilled everyone out with his laid-back indie tracks, before torrential rain sends punters either dancing or running for cover. I spend the rest of the morning sprawled in the relatively dry Chai tent, listening to the beautiful tones of Angharad Drake, and then the hilarity of the Ruckus poetry slam. When the rain stops, I head over to see Confidence Man, who are directing a writhing crowd of adoring fans with choreographed dance moves and electric sounds. After a brief break to hula hoop, I swing by Sovereign‘s set, who are putting their own spin on endless popular tracks, much to the delight of the crowd. I end the night with Vaudeville Smash, whose manic energy and 80s vibes (deceptively non-Vaudevillian) get everyone dancing.

It’s a slow start come Sunday morning, with everyone clearly reluctant to head back into the real world. Jungle Love is bright, wild and endlessly optimistic, every moment encouraging you to let your freak flag fly. I pack up my thoroughly damp campsite, and head back into reality. It has been a most enjoyable rabbit hole.

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