Gig Review: Listen Out Festival

Saturday 28th September @ Centennial Parklands

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If you ever get the chance to go to Centennial Park for a concert/festival, do it. It is one of the most beautiful places to witness live music. That’s where I found myself on Saturday, a wooded glen in the middle of the parklands. To my right was a forest of fake tan, to my left shirtless, tattooed masqueraders shelving pills like no tomorrow, and in front of me was eight hours of EDM. Walking in with mixed feelings, the Listen Out’s debut year managed to be a pleasant surprise.

As the sweltering sun burned my skin to a crisp amber, Yahtzel opened up the day on the 909 stage. The man is insane-2:30 in the afternoon, with only a small contingent gathered to witness him, and yet, he’s playing like he’s headlining Tomorrowland. Yahtzel threw everything he had into the crowd, stunning the contingent with deep bass grooves, and hyping like he was the white Sydney-based twin of Kanye West. A thoroughly impressive start to the day, the greatness of Yahtzel is a mixture of fantastic music (check out ‘High With Me’ here) and over-the-top enthusiasm.

The next to hit the stage was local wunderkid Hayden James, one of the more recent signings to (one of the best labels in Australia) Future Classic. On a label that’s home to Flume and Jagwar Ma, Hayden James stands out like a person with taste at a Riff Raff concert. Of course, you would’ve heard ‘Permission to Love’, a song that gets under your skin and thumps around your skull like an Alien made out of electronic awesomeness, however his whole debut EP is sexy goodness, ready to permeate every inch of your soul with greatness. Whilst the crowd was strong for the beginning of the set, after ‘Permission to Love’ set the crowd alight in a frenzy of electro groove, most dissipated to score a good spot for Triple J stalwarts RUFUS. After ten more minutes of continued sweetness, only the hardcore fans (read: me) were there to witness one of the greatest producers going around right now absolutely kill it on that small stage. Even though there weren’t that many people there, those that got to check Hayden James do his thing bore witness to Stephen-Hawking levels of genius.

Since I’m a conformist with no sense of individuality, I also went along to the RUFUS gig, after Hayden James packed his shit up. RUFUS are a band in the more conventional sense of the word, so it was uncertain how they would perform in a festival dedicated to EDM. However, with a completely sold-out album tour under their belt, and Triple J love pouring in from evry direction, RUFUS had no problem with putting on a gorgeous performance. The three piece engaged a set that had every one in the crowd jiving and twisting, with set highlights coming from massive hits like ‘Take Me’, ‘Desert Night’ and the older but still potent ‘Paris Collides’. When the dreamy ‘Nulla boys  finished their set, it was off to Touch Sensitive, another staple of the Future Classic stable. Most will know the young Ron Jeremy doppelganger for his fucking awesome song/clip ‘Pizza Guy’, but witnessing this dude in action is something else. A laptop, touch pad and an assortment of knobs were at his disposal, but Touch Sensitive also slung a bass guitar over his purple tye-dye shirt. And man did he rock that thing-Touch Sensitive brought more funk with that bass than Stevie Wonder on steroids. It was a pleasure to see a guy so engrossed with his craft, and so good at it too, colliding a live element with samples, and delivering above and beyond expectations. Unfortunately, the crowd seemed more into taking selfies and chatting, but those that paid even the slightest of attention became totally entranced with this moustachioed legend.

As the sun began to set, and a purple hue blossomed over the sky, AlunaGeorge took to the stage. Although the whole R&B thing isn’t something I would usually go out of my way to see, AlunaGeorge put on a killer set….killer. Aluna was on fire, working the crowd with sexy magic, a leather-clad R&B wizardess. Whilst on the main stage Azealia Banks threw a hissy fit (for those who remember Azealia’s previous Australian performances, you’ll see a theme emerging…maybe it’s time to accept the fact that she really is a fucking average one hit wonder princess, who should be given the same level of attention as snail intestines?), AlunaGeorge was gaining universal love, twisting the crowd with songs that the internet loves more than cat videos. Major hits came from ‘You Know You Like It’ and ‘Your Drums, Your Love’, with a smorgasbord of a crowd singing back to the band with total love and adoration.

To finish out the night was the much hyped TNGHT and Disclosure. The former were a major, major disapointment-the duo of Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, two incredibly proficent and well respected DJ/Producers, turned into a show of flashing lights and nothing more. Although the duo aren’t to be totally blamed for the horrific set, as their sound levels was majorly reduced to cope with high decibel demands, and a strong wind manipulated their noise level to a middle-aged-dinner-party-background-music level. Still, there was almost no energy coming from the stage, and the blinding lights did acted more of a distraction than as accompaniment. Most people in the audience were chewing their gums in anticipation for Disclosure’s set, and just sort of milling around and chatting with each other…the exact opposite effect that a group, considered to be one of the most explosive and jaw-dropping electronic music acts of today, should have. However, Disclosure made up for what had been lost by TNGHT. As there was no contender on any other stage, every single person still at the festival was in the audience for the Mercury-Prize nominated Disclosure, bringing the overblown festival vibe to an extraordinary high. The crowd pulsated with electricity as hit singles, such as ‘Latch’, ‘White Noise’ and (a personal favourite) ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’, exploded on stage. The visuals that accompanied the show were intense, and the throbbing crowd screamed for the brothers. When the set finished, a set that felt like the world’s most intense party, if there was a participator not covered in sweat, then they had been watching something else entirely.

Overall, Listen Out’s debut year was a fine start. The music choices were solid and firm, and for the most part the artist delivered amazing sets. Future Classic were the winners of the day, and TNGHT were, without a doubt, the losers. Hopefully the sound kinks will be worked out next year, but Listen Out is a festival that is guaranteed to keep on growing for the years to come.

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