On The Banks of the Hawkesbury, We Return to Rio

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 What went down at Return To Rio

Pack a bag, pack a hat, fuel up the stretch Hummer and you are en route to Return To Rio, the unique boutique festival experience set right on the banks of the mighty Hawkesbury River. Boasting a solid international lineup of artists, the Del Rio Riverside and Resort transforms for the weekend into paradise of dance and good vibes. As the sun sets and the stars fill the night sky, the kooks of Rio emerge, sparkling and star studded and ready to join in the frivolities that lay ahead.

Energising the dance floor and elevating you up to audible elation, Rio boasts an all star cast of headliners including Sasha, Lee Burridge, Skream, Roni Size and Greg Wilson. The valley pulses to the sounds of techno, house, disco and drum and bass to ensure your musical appetite is fed and watered. The camp resort has full amenities with shower, toilets, beverages and bare essentials available at the kiosk so you are never too far away from civilization.

However, Return To Rio doesn’t come without its faults, whether it’s finding a comfy spot on one of the bean bags in the shade around the main stage or engaging in inflatable unicorn warfare in the pool. Patrons can always be assured that wherever they are, good times are abounds.

The Journey

To ensure complete festival immersion, my assistant Tom and I decided to camp at the farthest reach of the festival and make it a quest to reach to the stage every night, whilst accepting every possible distraction along the way as we could. For as much as the festival itself is your adventure, it is the people you meet along the way that leave you with the long lasting impressions.

We met an amazing variety of people on our journey and had equally as many amazing conversations, ranging from all things life, love, compilations of bird noises that can be made by humans, dog pics, cat memes, spots for sunset and most importantly, chatter about the elusive grand after party.

Potential Winner For Most Extravagant Costume

Midday Seduction

Batteria 61 Grupo Di Samba Backup Dancers

Two Friends Hanging Out

Waterpark Dancers

Solar Powered Dancer

Draco Malfoy And Slagrid

As Above, So Below

Vibes were high amongst the campground, campsites were hosting their own renegade parties with portable sound systems and lighting rigs. Combined with high levels of banter you were bound to be sucked into a spontaneous dance vortex on your way to the stage. After successfully navigating the campground parties and drum troupes it was time for one last feed and a hit of glitter. We swung by the pizza truck and Ocean Soul Vibes for a quick touch up before setting up for a proper rinsing with Roni Size and a final shakedown at Sasha on the main stage.

This is not the end of the night for folk of Rio. Cue cabin parties and pop up dance floors as revellers open up cabin lounge rooms, decks, bbq areas in an effort to see the sunrise over the hills along the river. We did our very best, trawling the park for the best party and best crowd even with a pitstop in the neighbouring field for a quick rest and a recharge under the stars. Returning to camp for a glass of Prosecco we were delighted to find the one and only DJ Tony Garcia blasting tunes from his sound system. Bringing the night to a close we had one last boogie by the river before heading back to camp for a well deserved sleep.

Off Duty Authority

We had the fantastic luck of setting up camp next to DJ Tony Garcia of the Rotarydisco outfit and managed to gather his thoughts on the Return To Rio experience. After catching his Sunday afternoon red hot disco house set I was compelled to learn more about what keeps him coming back.

Hi Tony, I hope you are well. What is that you love most about Return To Rio and what keeps you coming back?

Hard question to answer as there are so many things about Return to Rio I love, but if I can narrow it down to a few things. It’s never the same and always a surprise. The people, the outfits, the smiles, location and of course the music are all special.

Are you planning to return again next year?

YES!!!!! I have been privileged to play at the last 5 Return to Rio parties as one part of Rotarydisco, alongside old mate Andy Donaldson. And even if we weren’t playing I would still be there every year. It is the one place you can honestly let go and be yourself with the environment, people and music.

What is your number one Return To Rio festival hack?

Not really a hack but advice… It’s a marathon not a sprint, the three days are all special and you can’t afford to miss any of it.

What are the plans for Rotarydisco over the coming summer festival season?

We have a few things in the pipelines, Angelo Ferreri on 15th Dec @ the Flinders and a soon to be special announcement for NYD, also the addition of Romy Black from Souluxe Records to the the team.

Can we find more of your mixes online?

Sure can! you can find me on Soundcloud

Given the situation with the attack of the bull ants around out campsite should we camp somewhere else next time or run the gauntlet again in the quest for shade?

Hahhahahaha, to be fair to the little guys, that was the first year we experienced the bull ants and their ferocity and the fiery bite. Must of been mating season!!

Dancefloor Gift Givers

Chicks At The Pool Stage

Return To Rio in all its glory is a uniquely interesting party. It’s small size and buzzing atmosphere welcomed anyone and everyone into its sunburnt arms and left you with nothing but smiles and good memories. A definite must for anyone looking for a intro to camping festivals.


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Gus Armstrong

Gus Armstrong prides himself on his ability to seek out all things weird and wonderful. When asked what Armstrong enjoys photographing, he always replies with, ‘I just like to photograph interesting things'. It is through this approach that we see his enjoyment for creativity and all things strange and curious. He mixes these elements of spontaneity with careful planning and technique to produce these highly individualised works.


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