Stereosonic @ Hordern Pavillion, RHI & surrounds, Sydney (28/11/09)
Thu 3rd Dec, 2009 Event Reviews 2664 viewsin
I have to admit, when I see the kind line-up that combines the hard-as-nails aesthetic of The Bloody Beetroots with the mass appeal of Crookers and Deadmau5, I tend to paint a fairly unpleasant picture of the associated crowd in my head. But having said that, this was also the year of the highly-publicised and unprecedented “no shirtless punters” rule, which I’d kind of hoped would soften the blow a little. It’s always going to be rough, overcrowded and uncomfortably hot, it’s a festival after all, but if there’s no danger of being pinned unwittingly between one sweaty stranger’s back and another sweaty stranger’s chest, things really aren’t so bad. Perhaps I was being overly optimistic thinking that the rule would be enforced, but I did go to a high school with uniform police, so to imagine a crack team of festival staff patrolling the grounds for shirtless reprobates, a bundle of spare t-shirts balled-up under each arm just in case, wasn’t such a stretch for me. At least at the gates they made sure everyone was fully-dressed. Unfortunately it didn’t last long, but them’s the breaks of a summer festival.
If you wanted to pass through said gates fairly quickly, your best bet was to arrive well after midday when the attempted organisation that had slowed everything down earlier had more or less been abandoned. We headed straight into the already ominously steamy Royal Hall of Industries to see Finnish duo, Renaissance Man, deliver their percussion-heavy and brilliantly fresh approach to tech-house. Ville and Martti’s loosely-layered staccato beats and stuttering vocals sounded truly expansive through the festival-sized sound system as they roped the room in with the sparse clips and wails of Spraycan and their now notorious Hare Krishna interlude mid-_What Is Guru_.
We ventured back into the sunlight for Tim Sweeny, who was unfortunate enough to be playing on the Rocket stage, the surrounding area seeming little more than a thoroughfare between the RHI and the food court to a mass of preoccupied passers-by at that point. It also didn’t help that people were doggedly camping out in the RHI for the upcoming Bloody Beetroots set, leaving Sweeny to kick out his seamless set of piano-driven disco vinyls to a bunch of mildly-interested onlookers. But crowd favourites like The Knife and the B52’s Love Shack eventually drew everyone in to watch the unusual-looking DFA darling serve up one of the most melodic sets of the day.
Bang Gang’s Jaime Doom followed, wearing some kind of pseudo-Hawaiian shirt monstrosity and after Duck Sauce’s aNYway we headed off to the main stage to see British powerhouse, Nicholas Bracegirdle aka Chicane. Chicane marked his first trip to Australian shores in almost eight years with bombast, bringing his full live band along for the ride. Things looked promising as the familiar strings of Saltwater opened the set, but us old school soldiers hoping for a nostalgic trip were probably all bit peeved when the live vocalist launched into I Bruise Easily. A shame, since the original song is pretty much perfection. Don’t Give Up unfortunately didn’t feature Bryan Adams on live vocals, but the now shirtless masses didn’t seem to mind. Chicane hasn’t lost his touch, plonking along throughout from within his daunting fortress of hardware.
Passing by local boys, The Bag Raiders, who are ever the crowd-pleasers and who always seem to have more fun behind the decks than anyone else on the line-up, we headed for the air-conditioned cool of the Hordern. In terms of sound and crowd, the Sneakerpeeps stage was definitely a highlight. Following a bizarrely abrupt ending from Ben Korbell (the roadies literally walked on stage and wheeled his decks off mid-track) was Italian tech-house veteran Marco Carola. Commanding a strong crowd of tech enthusiasts and annoyed Bloody Beetroots fans barred from the at-capacity RHI, Marco ploughed his way through a relentless set of big-room techno while the luminous bowling pin-shaped penguins lining the stage stared blankly into the crowd. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of people waiting at the bar, until I realised they were out of Vodka Redbulls and were only serving mid-strength Smirnoffs. “Mid-strength” of course Smirnoff’s sneaky code for “We just watered it down and took a couple of bucks off the price. Enjoy.”
In typical and over-the-top fashion, super-producer Deadmau5 (don’t call him a DJ…) took to the stage accompanied by an Australian-themed animated featurette. His infamous mask was also given the local treatment, one ear sporting a southern cross, the other a union jack. The tradies next to us were very pleased about this. He launched straight into the hits – Hi Friend, Ghosts ‘N’ Stuff (the one featuring that Pendulum bro) and I Remember. His bootleg of Harder Better Faster Stronger also got a welcome dust-off before we dashed off for the end of Crookers. Unfortunately we were simply too far away from stage, and the Mau5’s proggy beats were sounding a bit lost by the time they reached us. Evening sound restrictions in Moore Park were probably the culprit, but judging by the modest crowd at Crookers and Laurent Garnier, there were a lot of people between us and the speaker stacks.
I hear the free shuttle bus system cleared everyone super-efficiently from the grounds and on to their various after-parties, so my only really complaint was missing the ever-classy Surkin who was holed-up in the RHI. And the over-ambitious anti-shirtless campaign, that for all its good intentions, still needs a lot of work.