Take 12,000+ eager party-goers, put them in a winery 24km from the nearest city, and then set them loose among the Chardy—what could go wrong? If your case study is the recent Perth stint of DJ Tom Loud’s ‘Hot Dub Wine Machine’ tour then the answer would be surprisingly little. As this reviewer observed, you’re more likely to get grins, comradery, and one hell of a party.

We arrived in the drop-off zone around 1:30pm: a 5-minute walk from the main event. Already we saw rows of grape vines and eager faces, as distant tunes wafted towards us in the breeze. There was a sense of excitement and possibly a stronger sense that this was the place to be seen. Sections of the crowd stopped every few meters for a cheeky Instagram photo with the squad and some green vines. Fortunately it was post-harvest and Houghton winery was at its most photogenic.

Photo by Patrick Stevenson

We entered the festival area to a booming DJ set, courtesy of Falcona, to see groups of people lounging sparsely in the shade of some evergreens. Most were laughing, but conversation was already a shouting match. A hundred-or-so people stood at the front dancing, but the general consensus leant more towards easing into it. Everyone knew there was a long way to go.

I collected a $55 bottle of Houghton’s Chardonnay (roughly a triple price mark-up) but I was just glad I wouldn’t be queuing at the bar all night. This option alone spoke volumes of trust; I couldn’t remember the last time I saw glass at a festival. We joined a group of chattering millennials under a tree with a direct view of the stage and began to unwind. The music was pleasant, the stage now yielded to Running Touch who meandered across it switching styles and instruments. The volume of the set still seemed discordant with the energy levels the audience.

The Chardy flew by in the sun; I realised I’d been given VIP access and escaped to the secluded al-fresco area right-of-stage. I watched crew and DJ’s move through the closely guarded entrance for a while, then moved up to the VIP viewing platform. The crowd filled up and the energy was starting to take hold.

Photo by Patrick Stevenson

Crooked Colours raised the first major dance pit and bring the festival into full-swing. A few hours later, PNAU drove the crowd into a full-frenzy as the crowd chanted along to Wild Strawberries in-between trap-inspired dance moves. On the main stage ‘Chameleon’ was transcendent, as we were treated to perfect fidelity and an immersive display of striking visuals.

Around me grinning faces still grasped bottles of Sauvignon & Shiraz as I made the cautionary decision to switch to beer: a rewarding choice in Margaret River’s Colonial Pale Ale. As the clock approached 8 I finally made my way down to the front of the crowd, with Young Franco keeping us all dancing ‘til the end.

Photo by Patrick Stevenson

A count-down began from 10 as the notorious Lulu Loud appeared on the main screen, replete in bright disco aesthetic. We have our guide on a journey through time in a machine apparently run on Chardonnay & Shiraz, a statement sufficient alone to get the like-wise crowd screaming.

The set started with the Hot Dub Time Machine spinning back to 1954 and we were treated to about 30 seconds-per-hit. The songs were well selected and definitely well known, but there’s barely enough time to get into the swing of it before it’s chopped and changed.

Add to that the crazy visuals, DJ Tom Loud’s possibly crazier moves and the show is essentially peak stimulation. It feels like a house party you’d come to every year; same house, different faces. We were treated to confetti cannons and giant inflatable balls bounced across the crowd as the guest stars started to roll out. Hip hop artist Ivan Ooze came to help with a track, before gracing us with an enormously impressive free-style and successive crowd-surfing demonstration.

Photo by Patrick Stevenson

Over all, it was clear we were being hooked on nostalgia. The Time Machine rested a little too long in the 90’s—the DJ’s goldilocks zone for a young crowd, and it’s hard not to feel like I’m being played.

Done with a passion and a genuine love for his craft, the set makes for a memorable experience and great party. As a debut festival, Hot Dub Wine Machine was well worth the anticipation. I only wonder whether nostalgia is a good enough fuel to take the Wine Machine into the future.