Future Music Festival
14 March 2011, Flemington Racecourse
After watching the Melbourne leg of the Future Music Festival 2011 being put together over the course of a week (check out my report on behind the scenes experience here) I couldn't wait to be let loose inside the Flemington Racecourse grounds and marvel at the glorious final product. And how glorious it was!
The line-up of bands and DJs was a fine mix of international and Australian artists who mainly specialised in electronic music. They were accompanied by a vast array of other acts, which meant that there was something to suit every taste. The festival was basically a raving collection of dance parties happening in unison.
Putting on a show
It is worth mentioning that the line-up was complemented by state-of-the-art crystal clear sound and cutting edge multimedia, lighting and staging technologies. The progression of technology has meant very cool things for electronic music, and the best way to fully experience it is at large-scale festivals like Future Music.
Prior to the festival the organisers had declared on their website that they were going to "deliver what promises to be a new benchmark in major festival event production standards". They delivered, and despite the unkind weather they were able to pull off a truly spectacular show.
When the gates opened at noon it was still sunny enough to make me consider ditching the hoodie in my bag (thankfully I didn't). It took about an hour before punters really started rolling in and then it seemed to get very crowded very quickly. The stages and venue had been decked out with a Vegas casino theme: lots of flashy neon signage, bright colours, pink flamingos, and of course the little naked gnomey girl that has come to be Future Music Festival's mascot.
There were about 90 acts over 10 different stages to choose from. The rain didn't start until Australian duo Gypsy & the Cat had begun their set, which included their bigger hits like "The Piper's Song" and "Time To Wander". We all hoped that it was just a passing shower, but those pesky rain clouds hung around all afternoon. Out came the hoodies and the plastic ponchos. By about 4.30pm every merchandise stall had sold out of Future Music Festival hoodies.
Ke$ha! Art vs Science! Mark Ronson!
The next big thing to happen was all-American party girl Ke$ha. There had previously been some questioning as to why Ke$ha was thrown onto the festival bill. While it had seemed like an odd choice, the size of the crowd that swarmed to watch her showed that it wasn't a bad decision after all. I couldn't really get comfortably close to the stage, but from what I saw on the big screens on either side she seemed to be doing a good job of pumping up the crowd with her better-known tunes and radio hits.
At the end of her set there was a mad dash as festival-goers scurried off to find shelter any place they could. The Likes Of You tent and the silent disco had suddenly become the most popular places to be. In fact there was a long line of shivering punters waiting to get into the silent disco, but nobody was coming out in that weather.
Water and electricity don't really mix, and as it turns out, neither does rain and electronic music. The crowd and the rain made moving in between stages a little difficult, but we made the trek over to see Sydney local boys Art vs Science at the Future Music stage. It was a treat to get to dance and sing along to "Parlez-Vous Français" and "Magic Fountain".
After Art vs Science finished there was still time to catch the second half of Mark Ronson & the Business International's set. He had managed to put together a live band to play some of his greatest hits, like "Bang Bang Bang" and "The Bike Song'" as well as a cover of Phantom Planet's "California". There was more goodness from Sydney as psychedelic duo The Presets followed with a visually striking set on the other main stage.
MGMT! Dizzee Rascal! Pendulum!
Fortunately for the more well-known bands, there weren't too many timetable clashes. I left The Presets a little early to catch MGMT. By this time many punters had been thoroughly soaked, but that wasn't going to stop anyone from dancing to favourites like "Kids" and "Electric Feel". It was also a chance to hear them play some songs from their second album Congratulations, which has been hailed by Daft Punk as album of the year. (check out roving reporter Josh's review of Congratulations here - ed)
The rain finally stopped, the sun was beginning to set (I think so anyway... it was hard to tell behind the mass of dark grey clouds) and the big guns were coming out to party. All the way from London came the effervescent hip hop artist Dizzee Rascal, packing tunes like "Holiday" and sending the crowd into a frenzy with "Bonkers".
When Pendulum took to the Flamingo stage, the ground felt like it was pulsing from the massive amounts of bass they were pumping and the crowd all jumping together. The best way to warm up was to stand among the thousands of other people and use their body heat, or to dance and create a little of your own.
We knew something awesome was going to happen at the Future Music stage when the introduction for the Chemical Brothers began. At first the backdrop of lights made it look like the British duo were being abducted by aliens as they opened with "Galvanize".
The pioneers of electronic dance music played an epic one-and-a-half-hour set consisting of tunes like "Do It Again", "Hey Boy, Hey Girl", and "Star Guitar". Against the dark skies their crystal clear video and perfectly timed light show really stood out and looked quite amazing. They were a mind-blowing experience to behold and the definite highlight of the festival.
4 out of 5 (diluted only by Melbourne's infamous weather)
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