Climate Music Festival @ Birrarung Marr, Melbourne (05/04/08)
Tue 3rd Jun, 2008 Event Reviewsin
I am a music festival fan; reborn. For years my thirst was satiated by the endless pleasures of Good Vibrations (formerly known as Vibes On A Summers Day), as they delivered quality international acts to our shores; artists and DJs who would otherwise not see Australia. Then, inevitably as always happens to a low-key fest that grows, it started to suck. Hard.
It’s enough to break a music-lover’s heart. It sounds elitist and condescending, but my ideal festival atmosphere consists of not just ample musical entertainment, but also ample space to MOVE. Good Vibes became just another blip on the festival radar that I aimed to avoid, especially after the slew of technical difficulties that plagued it in 2007. I hadn’t attended any of the big festivals since, for fear of unexpectedly emerging my deep-seated hyper-claustrophobia. I’m fine with crowds as much as I am with open space, but to feel like a sardine, slipping through non-stop body after body, it isn’t the greatest experience. The first ever Climate Music Festival, held at Birrarung Marr in Melbourne, provided me with a chance to fall in love with the festival format all over again. It reminded me of the early Good Vibes days of 2001 til about 2006. It’s a baby, if you will, barely out of its cot.
The weather wasn’t ideal for an outdoor event, with the ever-present Melbourne chill coupling with grey clouds and gusty winds. Still, the attendees braved the cold and dressed in their usual funky Melbourne style, partying with some of the best dance DJs and live acts around. However, good dance music wasn’t the only mandate for the day, as the main topic was, and is, the climate. The global state of the environment is undoubtedly the hottest topic of public debate, and with good reason. Climate change is no longer a threat so far-off into the future that we can relax and not do anything about it. Its effects are becoming more and more immediate and apparent. Sadly, an event like this is what it takes to get everyday people talking. Until the effects materialise in front of our eyes, we’d rather remain ignorant. I suppose I understand the mentality; it’s hard to imagine how the little things we humans do as individuals can have such drastic effects on global weather patterns, global warming, global dimming (look it up), or the melting of polar ice caps.
So, with such a gargantuan task, Circus Entertainment took up the challenge by choosing to do their bit through music. It doesn’t even matter if the majority of attendees weren’t the most green people around. Even if it was solely the music that attracted them, it was still money being donated towards a good cause. Quite possibly the BEST cause: the preservation of life as we know it. Working alongside Green Pages Australia, Climate Friendly and The Wilderness Society, Circus Entertainment built a not-for-profit event aimed at presenting big name artists, while keeping it carbon neutral the entire day. Climate’s motto is basically “awareness through music and education”, so on the one hand they provided dope live acts to keep crowds jumping (half to dance to the music and half to keep warm), and on the other were exposing the crowd to the environmental measures involved in running such an event. On the day this included on-site recycling, educative outlets, organic food (which smelled delicious), merchandise stalls and real time monitoring of Climate’s carbon footprint.
I generally don’t advocate the tactic of fear-mongering in order to get something done, but in this case? Now is as good a time as any to get our collective heads out of our asses. Without sounding like I’m working for Circus Entertainment, on a personal level I feel like a changed man of sorts. I now possess a wide-eyed and receptive outlook on the issues relating to our climate, and without being over-dramatic it’s an issue that effects us ALL. If there is anything that can bring humanity together, it’s global warming, however it will most-likely be when the threat to our planet reaches critical mass. By then, it might already be too late. So it’s probably a good idea we start NOW. Or, if you happen to have access to a Schwarzschild Wormhole, a ship with faster-then-light travel capabilities and an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, you can time-travel and do something about it YESTERDAY.
It’s fair to say that the majority of revelers weren’t there to fervently champion the cause, but that’s not a slight against them. Shit, I was one of them. The hope is that everyone left the festival a little more conscious about the topic at hand. All it takes is a simple Google search to begin educating yourself on the situation. In the midst of this there was the music (OMG he’s finally gonna talk about the music!) Apart from a slopey, steepish hill that you had to climb to get from one half of the complex to the other, Birrarung Marr was a choice location for staging what will hopefully become an annual event. The park was split into 5 stages: Global, Oh-Zone, Bonsai Garden, The Perfect World and a V.I.P. area. The overall theme of the day was house music in all its forms and shapes, most notably harder tech and electro. The Oh-Zone tent featured mostly acts of similar ilk, with the standouts being Klaas and DJ T. Seany B also rocked the crowd, and while I’m not exactly what you’d call a fan of the guy, he put on a decent show.
The Bonsai Garden featured mostly house, techno and electro, headlined by Canadian Mark Mendes, Frenchman Eric Laville and local Victorian disco-house outfit Orkestrated. The stage also featured another local talent, like Chardy. He’s been around since the late 90s doing his thing, spinning mostly dirty electro, and he has a rep for gauging a crowd and playing to them, not at them. It was a talent he put to good use today. The Perfect World stage had a slightly more experimental line-up, with acts like poprock/power-pop group Sneako, T-Rek and band, and The Scientists Of Modern Music. It subsequently received much less love. I also think its placement on the dirty gravel (almost isolated from the rest of the festival thanks to the hill), gave it a disadvantage. I took up a vantage point on the hill so I could sit in the middle between Oh-Zone and The Perfect World, the mission being to take in as much audio as possible.
Back at the Global Stage funky UK outfit Supafly Inc. were incorporating house beats with live instruments, an amalgam I am eternally a fan of. It creates the perfect marriage when done right. With a name like Supafly Inc, though, it’s hard to go wrong. Employing live saxophone and catchy call-and-response vocals, they had the crowd (well, it wasn’t an armada of people, but a crowd nonetheless) pleased. Junkie XL came on next and pretty much set the stage for what was to follow for the rest of the evening: hard, unrelenting electro and house. I’m usually an advocate for deep house, but the harder stuff (dare I say, techno) do have their place. The festival stage is where they shine.
Throughout the day there was one Aussie group in particular who impressed. Amidst the more well-known locals like Agent 86 and the Resin Dogs, The Scientists Of Modern Music stood out. TSOMM are Cal Young and Simon McIntosh, an electro duo hailing from Hobart. Apart from claiming to be Jason Donovan’s love children, they possess an entertaining-as-hell live show consisting of a catchy blend of electronic music and rock. It’s territory few artists are willing to cover, but slowly more electronic-driven artists are seeing the links between dance and rock. It’s the dissidence of sound and music that joins the two, working so well in a live setting. A somewhat recent example of this would be ‘Rock Number One’ by Cassius (from their 2006 album ‘15 Again’). If this is the direction former strictly-electro and house artists are heading, then what of the other side of the spectrum, like the rock artists? If the name Tommy Lee is the last person you’d think of, you’re not alone…
Until recently the ex-Motley Crue drummer and infamous sex tape star wasn’t exactly a name you’d think when discussing the dance festival circuit. But apparently, unbeknownst to me, Tommy Lee & DJ Aero have been blitzing audiences at some of the biggest clubs in the world with their Electro Mayhem tour. They’ve played Pacha in New York, Utopia in Costa Rica and Mansion in Miami. At first I was puzzled at the pairing of Tommy with a DJ, as I was perplexed at what his role would be. This is how it works; Aero drops non-stop balls-to-the-wall hard electro on one side, while Tommy adds cuts, samples and electric percussion on the other. The LAST person who I expected to blow my socks off as a live electronic act was Tommy-fucking-Lee, but there he was, in all his tattooed glory. At one point, the rock star in him came to the fore as he jumped off-stage and came to the front of the barricades. I couldn’t see what he was actually doing to the crowd, but he was definitely doing SOMETHING to get them excited. I just assumed he was shaking hands and giving hi-fives, until he was right in front of my face. I yelled out his name, “yooooooo TOMMMMYYYY!” The man took one look at me, grabbed my face with one hand, and proceeded to pour some mysterious-tasting alcoholic beverage down my throat. I say mysterious because even now, days later, I can’t pinpoint what exactly it was. All I know is, I suckled at the alcoholic teet of Tommy Lee.
At the end of it all I was imbued with a feeling I hadn’t experienced since the last GOOD Good Vibrations festival in 2006. It’s mostly just an airy euphoric feeling; you’ve had a really good time and are smiling ear-to-ear like a dumb-ass. I’ve missed that over the last couple of years, so it’s nice to have a fresh new festival that not only does the environment and the people a public service, but also provides quality music. It’s good enough to please picky assholes like myself!