It’s almost an Aussie rite of passage to head to a festival over New Year’s Eve. Beyond the Valley (BTV) has become something of an institution in this space. When it returns this year, from December 28 to January 1, the New Year’s Eve festival will host around 35,000 revellers, all of whom flock not just for performers like Kelis, Rüfüs Du Sol and the Jungle Giants, but also for the festival’s pop-up city atmosphere. Before it became a yearly tradition, though, co-founder Nicholas Greco was just trying to recapture some magic he found elsewhere.

“I went to Pyramid Rock about 15 years ago and that was the very first music festival that I went to,” says Greco. “As part of my first live music experience, it blew my mind, basically.”

That same site at Phillip Island hosted the first BTV in 2014, a much smaller 8000-capacity festival headlined by Action Bronson, the Preatures and Peking Duk. Now, based at Barunah Plains (about 40 kilometres west of Geelong), BTV has evolved to be about more than just the music. It’s become a rite of passage, and an event worth planning your summer and New Year plans around – Greco thinks that’s what makes it so successful.

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“I think it’s the experience,” he says. “We’ve pulled a lot of [festival] elements from overseas to try and make the experience of BTV very unique.”

Whether you’re a yearly regular or heading along for the first time, there’s plenty to get excited about this year. Greco shared some of his highlights with us.

Podcast Stage
Last year, Beyond the Valley diverged from usual programming, with the addition of a podcast stage for the first time. “We weren’t sure how it was going to get received,” says Greco. “We’re traditionally a music festival and people come to see artists perform, but it was packed out from start to finish and the crowd was very receptive, very respectful.”

This year, the stage is headlined by Scheana Shay of Vanderpump Rules fame, with 10 other podcasts rotating throughout the four days, including The Mason Cox Show and Curious Conversation with Tully and Sarah.

Inflatable Wedding Chapel
They say that what happens at a festival, stays at a festival – but that’s not necessarily true of BTV’s Inflatable Wedding Chapel. “Every 30 minutes there’s a whole team of people in this inflatable wedding chapel and they throw a crazy, unique wedding for the happy couple,” says Greco. “Everything from signing papers and walking down the aisle … the wedding party and bucks party.”

So how many actually tie the knot each year? More than you’d think. “I kind of get a bit scared thinking about that actually,” he says. “There’s definitely a few annulments the next day.”

Poof Doof Pride Patrol and Schmall Klub
BTV keeps the party rolling outside of the stages, but it’s not always where you’d expect. Case in point, Poof Doof’s pride patrol tends to sneak up on you. “Having the roving performances throughout the festival, it adds an element of surprise,” says Greco. “You come here to watch a band and there’s a drag performance going on, someone’s getting married – it’s those unique moments that you treasure.”

On the other side, there’s Schmall Klub, which keeps things on the down low. First suggested by RÜFÜS DU SOL in 2019, this is a secret-entry dance club featuring headline acts and other surprises. But you have to find it first. “We never reveal [where] it is, but people tend to work it out and by the end of the festival everyone is trying to find [it],” he says.

A few touches of luxury
While BTV is a typically raucous music festival, some of us need to take it easy to last the full four days. Glamping is always popular for festival veterans (“It’s not their first rodeo, they want everything handled for them,” says Greco) while mornings begin with yoga sessions and other wellness activities. “The music goes till 3am or 4am most nights – it’s really good the next day to break that up with a bit of yoga and wellness activities,” says Greco.

Same goes for the Beach Club, hosted by Inspired Unemployed’s Better Beer brand. “We’ve got multiple swimming pools on-site, a lifeguard, real sand,” says Greco. “[People] can sit down and get drinks – it’s a fully functioning beach club.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Beyond The Valley. General camp, premium camp and luxe camp packages are now sold out; pre-pitched camping (with the tent already set up, an air mattress and bed linen) is still available and the only remaining way to camp at Beyond the Valley. Festival entry tickets with no camping are also available, with the ability to stay nearby and come in and out each day.