Harbourlife @ Mrs Macquarie's Chair, Sydney (03/10/04)

Image for Harbourlife @ Mrs Macquarie's Chair, Sydney (03/10/04)

To say that anticipation was high for Harbourlife 2004 would be a tremendous understatement. With tickets selling out more than three weeks before the actual day, the ITM forums were running hot with desperate pleas for spare tickets as well as offers of tickets for sale that ranged in price from retail to the downright ludicrous. Sydney’s weather packing it in late in the week induced flashbacks of the torrential downpour that ensued last year and as the day approached there were a few thousand very nervous people constantly checking the weather forecast. Would Mother Nature deliver or would we see a repeat of last year’s downfall?

Come Sunday morning, for once it seemed that the man everyone loves to hate, Tim Bailey for once had got it right. The weather was perfect – blue skies, some scattered fluffy white clouds and a light breeze. Like so many others I decided to take full advantage of the day and as we strolled around the point from the Opera House the procession of partygoers grew thicker – everyone was smiling and looking well and truly up for it. Finding a queue of epidemic proportions did nothing to dampen people’s spirits – by accounts the gates opened half an hour late due to the set-up time being cut short by Thursday and Friday’s bad weather, but inside it seemed that any gripes were already long forgotten.

Becoming acquainted with the layout it became apparent that things were pretty much the same as the previous year, the notable exception being the addition of a breaks arena. Despite having played the first half of his set to well… err… no one, Illya delivered a classy set that managed to get the kids dancing early and those that took the opportunity to stake their patch of grass bouncing in their seats. I don’t need to go on about the location… in a word, priceless. And so against the backdrop of the Opera House, the Harbour and Bridge, Harbourlife 2004 was off and racing.

Making our way up the hill to the breaks arena (which was on a slope?!?) we managed to catch the end of James Taylor’s set who had done an excellent job warming up  the crowd for A Skillz. For the next two hours the man known to his mother as Adam delivered a flawlessly mixed breaks set that had the crowd dancing up a storm and with their hands in the air to classics such as ‘Tricka Technology’. Despite at times starting to feel like he was taking a slightly more commercial direction (for example with a number of Beastie Boys tracks), he kept everyone guessing and proved his worth as a solo artist by dropping and layering in a combination of mash-ups and acapellas.

Leaving the breaks massive ‘busting their moves’ we made our way down to the house arena to take in the view and the end of Ajax’s set. The bars were doing a steady trade however the queues were minimal and as we caught up with friends Ajax’s worth as a true warm up DJ was immediately apparent with groovy baselines and lyrics doing a perfect job of building the ever skyrocketing atmosphere.

Next up was Jon Wall who took over from Ajax and played a surprisingly deep(ish) set including tracks like ‘2 after 909’ and ‘New York, New York’. By now the dancefloor was packed, the crowd was dancing in the stands and as the minutes ticked closer to sunset and the arrival of Kaskade the atmosphere was simply electric.

Finding myself smack bang in the middle of centre stage as Jon Wall finished his set, his co-partner in crime (Ming) stepped up and introduced the man it seemed most people had come to check out – Kaskade.  The crowd went mental as Ryan Raddon dropped his first track and settled down to business for the next two hours. It was pandemonium down the front – there were girls professing (read: screaming) their love for the man, people were sitting up on shoulders, a ‘beaming’ Illya was dancing up on stage, camera flashes were going off left right and centre all amongst a couple of thousand people dancing their asses off. By now the sun was well and truly sinking below the horizon and as the arena was lit up against the city lights, he dropped a mix of ‘The Bomb’ and ‘It’s You, It’s Me’ that seemed to just go on and on (in a good way). House purists were in heaven for the next couple of hours as tracks like ‘Gonna Make It’ and ‘Stepping Out’ provided the four-on-the-floor fix that so many had come to get.

Slipping away from the mayhem shortly before the end of the set we were disappointed to find the bars were out of Smirnoff Blacks (not so bad) and a twenty minute lineup for the toilets (bad). Taking advantage of the wait as a chance to take a breather and make a mental note to become an ITM VIP (already taken care of), it was at that point that light rain began to fall however it seemed that no one really cared. We heard Kaskade finish up what most people seemed to think was a good (albeit slightly predictable) set and hand over to the other major draw card for the night – Sandy Rivera. Watching from the safety of the path that ran across the top of the arena, the sight of the sea of people packing the dance floor is a sight that I’m sure most people won’t forget in a hurry.

In this reviewer’s opinion Rivera’s set was a tad disappointing that at times verged on being almost boring with some very commercial track selection catering for the masses, most notably including ‘Lola’s Theme’ and some Armand van Helden thrown in for luck. However that said he did things at a hectic level and the dance floor packed which ultimately is the point. Other tracks included ‘Strings of Life’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘Finally’ which had the crowd belting out the vocals as a beaming Sandy Rivera looked on.

All in all Fuzzy delivered yet another top notch event, which they can add to their ever-increasing list of quality productions. Whilst some of the music was less than spectacular, the crowd and atmosphere were fantastic, organisation was close to perfect and words cannot begin to describe just how breathtaking the venue is. Once again the bar has been raised and a new standard set and with Parklife tickets already on sale, I suggest people don’t delay because after the overall success that was Harbourlife 2004, I have a strange feeling that tickets may well sell out very quickly.

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