Porchland – The Festival of Nice Times

Upon entering Porchland, my friend (and photographer) Michael remarked “Gee this looks nice”, as we surveyed the grassed area, covered with shady tents and surrounded by local vendor stalls and food trucks. 

We made our way down to a spot inside the tent in front of the main stage, set up our blanket and looked towards the main performance space (dubbed the Porch Stage) – a simple stage framed by large pine trees, with vineyards and rolling hills visible through the treeline. Other festival goers were setting up their picnics and blankets around us, dogs on leashes yipping and playing with each other (it’s a doggo friendly festival!) as we waited for the first act to start. 

“Yeah” I replied. “This certainly is a nice place”

Now in its fourth year, Porchland festival is located on the Range, a spot 40 minutes south of Adelaide in the heart of the Vales, the southern wine region. Despite 40 degree (100F) plus temperatures during the week, the gods were smiling and blessed us with a pleasant 24 degree (75F) day, with a soft breeze. For a festival that prides itself on being ‘the festival of nice times’ it certainly couldn’t have gotten nicer weather.

And indeed, the festival certainly lived up to its promise. The chilled out vibe was present from the moment we walked in, and was thoroughly established with the first set of the day, a yoga and meditation session by Lululemon. 

Local rockers Dead Roo kicked off the music part of proceedings with some lovely soft alt country, and showed how wonderfully casual the event was. “I’m terrible at naming songs” said front-woman Jessica Johns. “So our set list is has just Jess’ new song written on it – bear with us.”

Separate from the main stage was a space dubbed the Pergola Stage, new for this year, where artists Alana Jest, Tom West, Asha Jefferies, Jordie Lane and Ainslie Wills played solo, near MTV unplugged style, sets between main stage performances. Located by the secret potions bar (where all manner of clever drink mixing was taking place!) this was a space to become even more chilled out, if that was even possible.

Ollie English, an award winning Adelaide blues and roots artist, was the first to break us from our chilled out state getting the crowd up and moving to a cover of Sam Smith’s hit, Black and Gold. His set invigorated the crowd, providing a welcome pick me up in the sunshine in the middle of the afternoon.

There was time for culture also. Local elder Jack Buckskin performed a Welcome to Country ceremony, and taught us a little bit of the Kaurna language. Having this performed in the middle of the day rather than at the beginning was a master stroke – Welcome to Country ceremonies are often forgotten or missed by the majority of event goers due to their placement at the start of the event. Placing it in the middle meant that all goers were able to be welcomed and respect the native land they were dancing on.

Retro-groovers Slowmango had the crowd up and moving once again with a modern take on some very 60s and 70s rock. With bongos and xylophone frequently utilised alongside the traditional guitar, drums and bass, the crowd quickly came around to their frenetic energy and off-beat groove. They also had some of the best merch of any band at the festival – actual mangoes, that could be purchased from the band members as they moved about the festival.

Tasmanian artist Milan Ring was a stand out for me – coming on stage with just a mixer, her guitar and an accompanying bass player, she wowed the audience sampling herself and creating loops that built into full tracks that captivated the crowd.

But there was no act that captivated the crowd more than Babe Rainbow, who had the entire festival up and grooving to their 60s sunshine pop. With their set commencing as the sun went down, the festival was bathed in sugar sweet grooves and orange and red hues, as revelers danced until the sun disappeared behind the hills.

Billy Davis and the Good Lords, So.Crates and Dider Kumalo kept the beats grooving after dark and with an old drive in theatre screen lit up with an electronic art installation from local artist Ryan Sahb, the festival continued to amaze and excite.

As we left the festival chomping on some delightful locally made chocolate brownies, I asked Michael:
“So did you have a nice time?”
“It was bloody lovely. What about you?”
“It was a very nice time” I replied. 

A nice time in the heart of the Adelaide Hills, in the spring sunshine with chilled out tunes and an even more chilled out atmosphere, what more could you ask for, beside a ticket for next year?

To hear the sounds of Porchland, check out the official playlist below.

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