By Calen Vanstone
What a six months it’s been for music festivals. Kicking things off with Parklife and Stereosonic last year, through to Big Day Out, Soundwave and WOMADelaide this year. Each promised greatness, and only a few delivered. Future Music Festival offered a stellar line-up, including seasoned veterans Fatboy Slim and New Order through to contemporary radio stars like Jessie J and Tinie Tempah. Despite this, dance music festivals are rarely about the music, instead they are usually much more about the “experience”. However, with such respectable and unique acts performing here, I hoped otherwise.
The crowd was an interesting mix. As always, the young club-goers are the majority here, most heavily underdressed, which must surely only be to combat the hot weather. I mean the hundreds of girls who could have more effectively clothed themselves with a ball of string must have only had the heat on their mind. Sadly, no. I hate to begin on such a note, but unfortunately that is what most of the day entailed. Boys and girls who basically hit puberty on the way in were dropping like flies before midday. The rest of them, still either heavily intoxicated and/or tripping, looked like they had decided to recreate the Woodstock movie, as if directed by Paul Verhoeven.
I normally wouldn’t care, seeing they are usually not the type to encounter any other time unless you are one of them too. However, when these teens make up eighty-percent of the crowd, they are inescapable, and you wonder why they paid all this money to get so messed up and most likely forget what they have done all day. Regardless, I was here for the music and was determined to enjoy it as much as I could.
Jessie J was first up for me, performing with her full band on the main stages, thankfully right next to the entrance, so I could hear it all as I walked in. With a fairly decent audience trying their best not to be annihilated by the leering sun overhead, Jessie J was in total control, and has a fantastic stage presence. She is instantly likeable and is fun to watch regardless of musical tastes. To those unfamiliar with her, her song “Domino” has been blasted on the radio for months now, and would prove to be one of the few moments to truly enjoy, as the live sound wasn’t clear enough to properly attract anyone other than keen fans. It was a tight set that pulled all the right punches for a festival audience, but due to the searing temperature and nature of the festival, it was only briefly applauded, and just as soon forgotten. With a deserved later time slot, it would have been quite the opposite.
After going over the venue map I realised how vast this festival was, and was quick to venture down to check out the stages at the other end of the park. In particular, one featuring Seen N Destroy and Leah Mencel on DJ duties to name a few, that was aptly named “Foam-A-Rama” due to the large soapy foam pit at the base of the tower structure that housed the DJ decks at the top and two foam guns a level down, manned by two overly enthusiastic guys.
Back up to the main area, and after a quick toilet break I stopped off at arguably the best place in the whole festival, the Mazda tent. They provided free short massages, sunscreen, seating, phone chargers and a photo booth along with the obvious feature of shade. Other festivals take note.
Next, it was back to the main stage for the latter half of Chase And Status’ set and about two songs of Skrillex. The former are a drum and bass/breakbeat duo who’ve been on the rise since their formation in 2003 and were an explosive alternative to most of the music provided today so far. Next was the greatly anticipated Skrillex, a.k.a. Sonny Moore formerly of post-hardcore act From First To Last, before hitting the big time with his move to dubstep. Those who read my review of Soundwave also understand what huge anticipation preceding an act’s set can do, especially one that doesn’t come close to meeting it. As I mentioned before, it took me two songs before I left. The thick steel wall of anticipation was met with bricks, and by bricks I mean ping-pong balls. When I brought this up with someone at the end of the night, they argued it was the best set of the day. He also admitted he was on pills all day. Must that be the only way to enjoy this kind of festival? Regardless, the boring opening minutes weren’t enough to keep me there to find out if it would get better, and knowing that Die Antwoord was to be on soon, I thought it best to go and get a good position for that.
Ah shade. The … tent was where the latest cult sensation would soon appear. After hearing out Oliver Huntemann’s closing half-hour, the same level of anticipation that I witnessed earlier was present here. However, I knew these guys would deliver. After witnessing “The Answer” (rough English translation of band name) at Big Day Out last year I knew everyone here would be in for a treat again. Unlike last time, many more were prepared for this. DJ Hi-Tek appeared, orange prison jumpsuits and signature mask in tow. Portions of the crowd were chanting “DJ Hi-Tek is gonna fuck you in the ass”, before he even started it himself. After a minute or so of this, it was time for remaining members Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er to get the party started. Kicking right into “Fok Julle Naaiers”, they jumped around the stage focusing all of their energy on every single person in the audience. New tracks, like the infectious “I Fink U Freeky” fit seamlessly with older favourites, in particular the one that started it all, crowd-favourite “Enter The Ninja”. For those not yet under the spell of Die Antwoord, they were easily converted. As for those devoted fans, it was a reassuring and enjoyably absurd forty-minutes reinforcing that the bizarre South African rap group are now much much more than just a big hit on Youtube. One of the other highlights was a hilarious tribute to Kevin “Bloody” Wilson from Ninja, who he credited as the man who taught him how to swear.
The sole reason I was initially attracted to this festival, before knowing Die Antword was to be featuring as well, was the promise of the one-and-only Norman Cook, or to most, Fatboy Slim, on our shores. Being an insanely big fan of his albums and DJing I was looking forward to this next ninety-minutes most of all. His second album You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby was the first album I ever truly got into as a kid, so when he arrived on stage it was all a bit overwhelming for me. A true legend of the dance world, who pioneered a particular form of breakbeat music that made its way into the mainstream, along with The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and The Crystal Method. He is best known for tracks “Praise You” and “The Rockafeller Skank”, and the memorable video clips that accompanied all his singles (Christopher Walken dancing around an empty hotel lobby anyone?).
The master of the decks provided us with arguably one of the most enjoyable dance music sets South Australia has ever seen, yet it seemed to go largely unappreciated. Several people made a fair point that they came to see him play his hits and were thus disappointed. I then realised they probably should have advertised better that it would be a “DJ set” on the posters and so on. I was lucky to know he is a DJ first and foremost, and as such I got exactly what I expected. However, it might have been a different affair then if everyone else was aware of this, too. Despite that, the people outside of the D-Barricade seemed to enjoy Cook’s set much more than those on the inside. I assume this was mostly due to there being more room to move and dance, but on closer inspection it was actually because the majority were older people. I’m not talking parent-age, I mean people who weren’t popping pimples and scratching their hairless nut-sacks between songs. These “older” people were the life of the party now. The crowd inside the barricade was on constant rotation, many leaving each minute, with new blood appearing at an equal rate. There was only a dedicated bunch that was sticking it out front of stage for the whole thing. I just couldn’t understand it. Other than the remarks about the lack of Cook’s singles being played in great length, it was the perfect festival set, current radio tracks chopped up and mixed together with some golden oldies and spat out again with such skill and enthusiasm for his craft, Fatboy Slim was providing us with a chance to relish what he has been the king of for two decades.
It took less than a minute for the applause to die-out after Cook left the stage. To be fair, it had been like that all day. Only Gym Class Heroes broke that tradition, thanks to what I heard was a great set by them, that I was only able to witness from my position waiting for Die Antword. Another notable tradition of the day, which was also brought up by the aforementioned Leah Mencel on Twitter, was that most of the big acts were borrowing heavily from other performers from the day. Also, it’s worth mentioning each stage had “host DJs”, like the Stafford Brothers at the main stage. It seemed as though they were not there to necessarily keep the flow going between sets but for a much simpler purpose, to not bore people. It was if a minute without a steady dance beat was criminal. One drunken wanderer, talking to one of his mates after it had all finished, summed it up simply, “it’s so weird not having DOOF DOOF in your ear”.
The exit to the main stage barricades were now host to large puddles because of some poorly aimed water taps, and thanks to the lighting situation, were invisible to many as they left the area. Waiting for Swedish House Mafia, I was able to witness everyone who failed to see the mud puddle, and was surprised at how few people actually cared about their new brown-coated legs. Despite everything I have said about the attitudes of audiences today, people were clearly enjoying themselves one way or another, even if they are all mostly on acid or ten-standard drinks down.
The mud. The foam. The alcohol. The near-nakedness. By the time Swedish House Mafia (consisting of the three best European house DJs at the moment Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso) had started it was like Adelaide was hosting it’s own little Ibiza. Over the next thirty minutes the atmosphere changed dramatically. I soon realised what was going on. It was nine-pm. Swedish House Mafia were headlining the main stage, where every single one of the young teen club-goers were now getting their final chance to let loose. Over in the … tent was the eerie, Aphex Twin and ex-Joy Division-ers, New Order next door at the … Stage where the remaining fragments of the Future Music Festival-goers were now residing, those who would never be caught out at a club cranking Rihanna and David Guetta if their life depended on it. A balance had now ensued and strangely enough made this the best part of the night. Everyone was in their place, enjoying whatever they wanted, in whatever capacity. Calmness was never a word I thought I would have used to describe it, but there was this sense of peace, much more akin to the vibe at WOMADelaide.
I stuck it out for another thirty-minutes, checking out the previously mentioned Aphex Twin and New Order each, before heading out. Personally, it was hard to top Fatboy Slim’s sunset set, especially as he was the main reason I was there in the first place, but the three headline acts I briefly witnessed were all solid, and hitting the right mark with their audiences. As I left, I was still irked about what seemed like a lack of respect shown for the big names, yet very few people seemed to be having a bad time. Maybe this can serve as a warning to those who are yet to attend and are curious about these kinds of festivals. Sure big names may well mean a really solid DJ set, and you’ll be lucky every so often to see a group like Die Antwoord doing their thing, but if you’re going for the “music”, you’re largely better off hanging out with your mates and turning the “crossfade” setting on your iTunes on. It will be a lot cheaper too. Unless plastered half-naked people and foam pits are your thing… actually, now that I think about it, maybe I’ve been looking at this the wrong way…
To check out pictures from the day, go here http://www.kryztoff.com/RAW/?p=5264
Follow Calen on Twitter, @CalenVanstone