Future Music Festival 2015

Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

Festivals in Melbourne. Generally, that means pouring rain or 40+ temperatures. Future Music 2015 though saw the city turn on the perfect day for a lineup that didn’t always hit the mark but ended on a high – even if for some it was a substance assisted one.

As the early trickle of punters made their way into the Flemington Racecourse grounds, the pulsating bass was already shaking the ground more than a bunched Melbourne Cup field at the same venue rounding the post for the first time. Pushing earplugs just a little further in than usual, the long day ahead started with some food and drink in the plush surrounds of the ‘First Class Bar’. Festivals around Australia – probably around the world – are really beginning to chase the ‘upsell’ festival dollar. Having already spent $175 on a ticket, punters had the option pay another $65 or $190 depending on their choice of fanciness to upgrade their ‘experience’.

Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

The views of the two main stages from either side were excellent, though with both stages going constantly the sound wash from one to the other would prove tough to take. Still, the drink queues were non-existent, and with toilets apparently cleaned just that bit more frequently than those out amongst the ‘common folk’, the chances of stepping in vomit around 8pm were somewhat decreased. A mud-filled Glastonbury this most certainly wasn’t, but as the day went on the atmosphere on the balconies improved with the growing crowd below.

With 3 main stages – a ‘Live’ (in so much as Electronic Dance Music or Hip Hop can be live) stage, the main ‘we’re here for the ipod and the fireworks’ stage and a more familiar ‘boiler room’ type setup for the Futuredome – there was plenty of ground to cover. Add to this smaller stages, foam pits, some really high quality food options and – uncharacteristically – a LOT of toilets, and it was clear that Future Music had their layout spot on for the venue.

Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

Though 15 minutes behind schedule (which would lead to some irritating delays and clashes throughout the day, but more on that later), the Future Live stage was kicked off by Canadian 80s throwback Kiesza. For the early afternoon, her brand of early ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ era Madonna inspired dance moves were well received, and she seemed genuinely happy to give us the ‘running man’ and ‘the sprinkler’ in between vocals. With a couple of extra dancers on stage though one would be forgiven for wondering if the three had actually met prior to coming on stage. Maybe the primary school level choreography is an ironic ‘thing’ now?

Kiesza @ Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

Kiesza @ Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

Passing the main stage en route to the Future Dome, Germany’s Robin Schulz was in charge of the buttons. Clearly this was where much of the crowd would spend the day, as the area was already building to solid numbers. Overheard though was something that may have summed up the ‘DJ as live act’ thing to the uninitiated: “so who is this guy?”. Fact is it doesn’t really matter, but it was hard to argue with the numbers, given hands were in the air and girls were on shoulders. DJ: 1 v Unintiated: 0.

Robin Schulz @ Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

Robin Schulz @ Future Music Festival (Melbourne, 8th March 2015)

Yellow Claw were halfway through their set in the full to the brim Futuredome. With Bizzey out front, they’ve got a commanding stage presence despite the lyrics hitting almost every misogynist stereotype possible. At no point boring, theirs is a set that provides one of the day’s few highlights. There’s even a circle pit going towards the end of the set. Encouraging.

Yellow Claw @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Yellow Claw @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Gorgon City have brought their full setup on tour with them, complete with live drummer and a pair of vocalists. With the majority of artists on the lineup today having a lot of ‘feat.’s’ (songs ‘featuring’ a variety of different vocalists), it’s great to see some live vocalists roaming the stage and interacting with the crowd. Some top notch drumming though and with Kye Gibbon and Matt Robson-Scott working feverishly behind their laptops it’s a solid set, albeit one that never really takes off. Perhaps bathed in the bright sunshine, with lighting setups that take no effect given the time of day, it’s not the best time nor place for this type of music.

Gorgon City @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Gorgon City @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Heading back across the site to catch the second half of Darude’s set in the Futuredome was a complete waste of time. The Finnish DJ, whose actions behind the decks were limited to scrawling words – and pictures of the Finnish flag – on sheets of A4 paper as epilepsy-inducing LEDs flashed behind him would leave many disappointed. The crowd were flat, the sound monotonous without any highs nor lows, and the song everyone had come to hear – Sandstorm – was unremarkable. There are artists that make one think ‘hey, some of this stuff is actually OK’, and then there are artists that reinforce the quite brilliant Saturday Night Live ‘When Will The Bass Drop’ sketch as fact. This fell well and truly into the latter category, minus the exploding heads.

Darude @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Darude @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Back on the live stage, Sigma were getting into their set, which picked up pretty much where Gorgon City left off – live vocalists & live drummer – but with a seemingly higher lighting budget. LED screens littered the stage and their set, whilst an improvement on earlier seats from other artists, still seemed lost in the bright sunshine of the vast stage. Hard not to think that the majority of the sets on the Future Live stage would have been better served by smaller setups in spaces such as the Futuredome, although the limits that would place on capacity probably means that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Sigma @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Sigma @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Ah. Australian Hip Hop. A genre singlehandedly dragged into the mainstream by Triple J and as a result a constant fixture at Australian festivals of any genre, perhaps Soundwave excluded. Hilltop Hoods, having played at virtually every festival on these shores over the past 10 years, were a late addition to the lineup for 2015 and judging by the huge crowd assembling as the sun got a little lower in the sky, it was a good call by organisers to add them. Problem is… getting any enjoyment out of listening to them is something these ears find impossible. What’s undeniable though is that these guys know how to deliver a live set, whether it’s a 90 minute headliner or a late afternoon 45 minute run through. They’ve got the catalogue, they work the stage from left to right, mercilessly, and they’ve been together long enough for that chemistry (even with the dodgy soundtrack) to prove the day’s highlight on the main stage. Giant balloons sprinkled confetti to all corners of the crowd, and with Cosby Sweater, the set was over in the blink of an eye. When artists whose music you can’t stand deliver great live sets, it’s difficult to not applaud that.

Hilltop Hoods @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Hilltop Hoods @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

From highs to lows – Example was next up on the bill, and frankly, far too high up on it based on a performance that never seemed to get the crowd out of second gear. The UK rapper unfortunately expected far more people in the crowd to know his lyrics, repeatedly holding the mic out to have them sing and getting little back for his efforts. Notable for the first sighting of one of those rare endangered EDM festival species – a guitar – patchy vocals and a bass heavy mix had to compete as acts did all day with thumping from the DJs on the main stage. It made it tough to listen to, so after 20 minutes it was off to the Futuredome. Die Antwoord were waiting in the wings.

Example @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Example @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

It’s hard to imagine that there could be a scarier looking pair than the South African duo out there in world music at the moment. Yolandi Visser’s blacked out eyes and albino-esque hair, set against the towering Ninja make this a compelling setting before the music even comes into the equation. The contrasting rap of Ninja and Visser’s high pitched squeaks jar against each other, intentionally. Their use of the whole venue – not just the stage – show that MCs backed by DJs (in this case, it’s DJ Hi-Tek on the decks) can deliver live performances with incredible impact. Die Antwoord might just be the best going around in this regard at present.

Die Antwoord @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Die Antwoord @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

If some rappers try to break down stereotypes, then the next up on the Live stage – 2 Chainz – isn’t one of them. With a huge crowd assembling ahead of headliner Drake, his contemporary has the job of warming up the crowd which he does admirably. It’s bouncing out in the pit and as each rap cliché is ticked off, the crowd get just that bit more excited. 2 Chainz winds up his set, but many are convinced it won’t be the last we see of him this evening, with it seeming a certainty that he will join Drizzy in a little over an hour.

Waiting for Drake... @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Waiting for Drake… @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

And so the wait begins. Due on stage at 8:30pm, the minutes tick by ahead of Drake’s headline set, with only a large illuminated owl on the screen and some rather bored looking roadies on stage for company. By 8:45, we’ve hit Prodigy time over the Futuredome and a call has to be made – stay for Drake or catch the Prodigy? Opting for the latter, the UK legends take the stage shrouded in smoke as Liam Howlett kicks in with Nasty. Out front, Keith Flint and Maxim work every corner of the stage. It could be 1997 again as the opening notes of Breathe ring out. The crowd lose their collective shit and suddenly a day heavy on ordinary performances starts its redemption. Ironically, it’s left to a group who’ve been around for 25 years to set Future Music alight and whilst the reports of Drake on the live stage are solid, it’s hard to wonder whether the crowd out there know quite what they’re missing out on.

The Prodigy @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

The Prodigy @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Walking back past the main future stage, Avicii is keeping pyrotechnic providers and  LED manufacturers in business as he delivers his jukebox of hits. Dwarfed by the stage, and offering little more than the occasional hand in the air or elaborate form of sign language, his set is every bit the cliché the world has come to expect from highly paid and in demand DJs. Hook after hook after hook, and when the bass drops, 10,000 heads do explode. No doubt it’s the best night of their lives, but to these eyes and ears it was a day of troughs, with the peaks very few and far between.

Avicii @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Avicii @ Future Music Festival (8th March 2015)

Avicii

The Prodigy

Die Antwoord

2 Chainz

Example

Hilltop Hoods

Sigma

Darude

Gorgon City

Yellow Claw

Robin Schulz

Kiesza

Crowd

 

 

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