Dance music festivals always attract a certain crowd. Namely, more drug dealers than you can count with a scientific calculator. However, amongst the sniffer dogs and police searches, the trashed port-a-loos and crowded bars, floating in a sea of skin greater than a dermatologist sees in a lifetime of work, there are dance music fans. Whether these are teenage wallflowers or mature-age ravers, this is their day. The ninth Future Music Festival delivered a lineup worth being happy over, even without Pharrell, who was reportedly lost somewhere inside his giant mountie hat.
The tag line for this year’s safari-themed festival was “Get your brave on”. If being brave was supposed to mean shirking a shirt, sidelining sunscreen, and asking strangers if they would like shoulder rides, then Brisbane’s RNA Showground was full of a noble race of fearless weekend warriors. However, the slogan proved just as meaningless as the opening acts for the day.
Programmed by talent rather than fame, the food chain of performers was fascinating. At the lower levels were the filter feeders of the DJ world. These bottom dwellers like Martin Garrix, Will Sparks, and the Stafford Brothers were expert at recycling other people’s material. Reusing melodies from bigger name producers like Calvin Harris, these artists remixed them with brain-numbing break downs. They were the sucker-fish DJs of the day.
Moving up the feeding line and past the tuneless tuna, Bassjackers, R3hab and Adventure Club still played remixes, but with their own spin. Dispersing colourful samples like schools of tropical fish, they kept the bass currents strong, and the waves of beats rolling. Omnivorous tracklists with more variation and quick mixes distinguished them from their peers, but there were bigger fish to be sampled.
Israeli producer and DJ, Guy Gerber, was the first live show for the festival, and also the first name big enough to draw a crowd to the beautifully decked-out Cocoon stage. Plastic elephants, giraffes, and a plethora of palm trees coolly swayed to his organic sounds. Tweaking tempos and twisting beats, he played his trademark deep house midnight grooves at the makeshift midday oasis.
Inside the RNA International Convention Centre, the Knife Party’s Haunted House stage was decorated as a home for the undead. After some difficulties with set up, Netsky (as in Sky Net from Terminator, reversed) and his musicians looked ready for world domination. Unfortunately, his hypeman joined them for the ride, like an annoying sidekick. Thankfully vocalist Billie was around to sashay those troubles away with ‘Come Alive’ and the bouncing, ebullient sounds of ‘We Can Only Live Today’.
Furthering the day’s foray into soaring, melodic, chord-based music, Kaskade performed a blissful set under the setting sun at the main stage. He was charismatic and relaxed, his progressive house songs like ‘Atmosphere’ brought a much-needed emotional connection to the early evening.
Kaytranada then sent the sun down with his sultry blend of hip-hop, R&B and electronica. Opening with the delicious synthesiser sounds of Flume’s ‘Holdin On’, his set was full of slippery soulful vocals and well-placed handclaps. If you were looking for the black population of the festival, you needed look no further. Working his way through his edits of Teedra Moses and Modjo, he climaxed the memorable set with his club-favourite remix of Janet Jackson’s ‘If’.
Back in the darkness of the Haunted House, the trap lord Baauer returned. The 24 year-old was here last year celebrating his globalisation of the trap genre, Harlem-Globtrotting his hit ‘Harlem Shake’ around the world. It turns out he had a dozen other limb shaking basslines up his baggy sleeves. Mixing a playful set, he threw in plenty of hip-hop including Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Snoop Dogg, finishing with a snippet of the song that started his career.
Electro-house guru Porter Robinson wasn’t the heralded king of his genre, but he knew his crowd. Playing hard-hitting, technicolour remixes of Miike Snow, Kanye West, and other indie favourites, his set was a Triple J listener’s heaven.
It was well and truly time for the biggest fish in the sea, the first headliner of the night; Eric Prydz. For his first ever Australian show, the Swedish producer made one big splash. The bass was shaking hats off heads and pixelating cameras. Each track rolled into the next with seamless precision, note for note, harmonically mixed to perfection. Vocal edits were kept to a minimum, because he was Eric Prydz, and because his ‘Call On Me’ days were behind him. Finishing the behemoth set with ‘Everyday’, he gave the fans a set that was worth waiting for.
Gessaffelstein blew the fish right out of the water, ending our metaphor. The French techno artist was not only the best looking performer, but also the suavest. Apparating onto the suitably spartan stage in an open suit and smoking a pre-lit cigarette, he built up metallic, ringing sounds into the mechanical rhythms of his song ‘OPR’. Cool, calm, and collected, his coiffured hair bounced smoothly to the aggressive, nihilistic sounds. His style was more suited to France’s avant-garde art scene, alongside visual artists like Francis Picabia and Benjamin Peret, than the DJ world; he was more Dada than Dada Life. If one fact can be known about his influences, though; it’s that he’s spent time studying the rolling and scratching sounds of his French classmates Daft Punk’s Homework.
On a sonic journey of their own, Cut Copy opened with ‘We Are Explorers’ to the few people that came to see them. While they seemed a little detached from the crowd with all their exploring, the sound of an actual bass guitar was a welcome relief from the electronic bass of the day. It was like stepping off public transport and letting your feet do the wandering. In this respect, the band truly did ‘Free Your Mind’. Balancing new material with older hits like ‘Hearts on Fire’ and ‘Take Me Over’, the band were strongest when they focused less on exploration and more on moving bodies. Dedicating ‘Out There on the Ice’ to the recently passed producer Ajax, the Melbourne band finished with their signature hit, and reason we came to the festival today, ‘Lights and Music’.
The conundrum behind Phoenix's music was similar to Gessaffelstein's. The French band were true tragic heroes, wrapping their emotionally fraught sentiments with glossy packaging. Despite lead singer Thomas Mars' pained songwriting and plaintive accent, the band couldn't resist finding joy in their own aesthetic. Opening with 'Entertainment', Mars was enjoying himself, even letting the crowd sing the chorus on 'Listomania'. From the emotional mess to the masses, his music was the work of a true perfectionist. “This song was the first song we ever wrote, and it took 13 years to get it right,” Mars prefaced the disco-ball-featuring 'If I Ever Feel Better', before finishing with 'Rome'. Jumping from the stage to walk through the crowd, he joked, “I'm going to shake every hand here.” Meanwhile the band played a farewell with an instrumental reprise of 'Entertainment', because they were artistes with an 'e'.
With such a strong and pleasing finish, it’s a shame Future Music saved the bands for the last performance slots. If the quality of music had been distributed more evenly throughout the day, it would have been a fantastic festival. Nonetheless, the small fries of today could be the Super-Size-Me’s of tomorrow, and every artists needs a start somewhere. Providing a range of established and breaking performers, the festival was an impressive success.
- Hey, it’s valentine’s day soon!
1. Watch Rushmore
(Best film to watch alone)
(Best friend you’ve never met)
3. Listen to an album made my someone who is still making music at an old age
(Best limit the amount you listen to this)
(Best done with colourful pants)
5. Make or do something nice for someone else
(Hint: This is actually no. 1)