Stereosonic @ Sydney Showgrounds (27/11/2010)
Wed 15th Dec, 2010 Event Reviews 454 viewsin
Once again the NSW Police were displaying their rather unprogressive approach towards youth culture at the opening leg of the Stereosonic tour, stealthily manning the front entrance in over-the-top numbers, sniffer dogs in tow. A keen pooch fervently inspected our lower regions and to our complete surprise sat down at the feet of my friend, wagged his tail and arched his head towards his master with a clearly pleased look on his face. Questions were asked and he was quickly whisked away out of sight. Five minutes later he returned, regaling me with his tale of being stripped naked, searched, being told to squat…and of course no search is complete without a little inspection under the scrotum. But hey, these misunderstandings are bound to happen when you live in a police state like NSW, right?
A quick scout around the festival to start things off brought back hazy memories of times spent roaming the same grounds during past Big Day Out and Two Tribes events and the familiar surrounds mixed with smiling faces, warm weather and the promise of some quality music instilled the sense of a great day ahead.
The Sneakerpeeps stage for many boasted the best lineup of the festival and was arguably the most aesthetically pleasing too. UK expat Garry Todd was taking full advantage of the recent resurgence in classic sounds, playing some vintage house to an almost non-existent floor – many instead of dancing opting to take part in nearby activities like human ten pin bowling or to have a play on a set of swings.
Following on from Todd’s last track, namely the Manuel Tur remix of Langenburg’s Times, Sydney veteran Simon Caldwell took over the decks and displayed exactly why he is one of the country’s best DJs, playing a set that moved through deep house like Hollywood by Inxec and Matt Tolfrey as well as a dash of acid-inflected pop here and there. So pleasant was it to sit under a tree and knock back a few drinks while Caldwell spun lovely warm tunes that we completely forgot about Canyons playing over at the One Love stage. As Caldwell moved into the back end of his set, Berlin techno don Redshape appeared on stage, and for a guy so determined to remain enigmatic, it was quite amusing to see him set up his laptop and gear sans red mask.
By 3pm the Steresonic Main Stage was already having a Big Day Out moment of sorts, as Israeli psytrancers Infected Mushroom rocked out with a surprisingly un-psytrance sound, complete with thrashing guitars, live drums and a mosh pit. The size and scale that dance festivals have grown to over the past five years or so was also made very visually clear, with a huge wall of colourful blocks lining each side of the stage. Thankfully at that time in the afternoon, moving about to browse over the beefy and colourful characters was relatively hassle-free.
After a quick inspection of the Cream Stage where long standing local DJ Peewee was just beginning his set, we made it over to one of the only inside areas, the Brownwood Stage, where young newcomer Bella Saris looked like she was stuck in the middle of a Coca-Cola advert; a backdrop of neon lights shining behind her and a large industrial fan tousling her hair.
Back at Sneakerpeeps, the industrial techno of Redshape (probably a little unsuited to such a sunny outdoor setting) was coming to a close and it was time for DJ T to take over the reigns. DJ T is renowned for knowing how to wring the funk out of tracks with his super tight mixing and this time was no exception. The Get Physical and Groove Magazine founder blessed the crowd with an irresistibly groove-laden tech house set which consisted of tracks like the Kenny Larkin remix of Radioslave’s I Don’t Need a Cure For This, Discreet Unit’s Shake Your Body Down and an excellent remix of Cassius’ classic 1999. But the biggest crowd response for T was when he dropped the Late Nite Tuff Guy remix of one of the year’s ultimate house anthems, I Get Deep by Le Roif.
Technasia kept up the energy that DJ T had laid down with his own energetic and funky take on Detroit techno, whilst over at the Carl Cox and Friends stage, recent comeback story DJ Sneak was delighting the crowd with some typical jackin’ Chicago house. The big man himself, Mr Carl Cox, who is known for playing vastly differing sets, came on next and from what we heard of the first ten minutes or so, catered to the crowd by playing it pretty safe.
Upon returning to Sneakerpeeps, Detroit legend Jeff Mills was nowhere to be seen and the rather inappropriate sounds of Smack My Bitch Up and Mylo’s In My Arms were ringing out from the speakers. DJ T returned in the interim and dropped Green Velvet’s “La La Land” which went down well, until The Wizard finally materialised. We left Mills early on, though from reports coming from others, there were mixed responses ranging from ‘terrible mixing’ to ‘head-cavingly awesome’.
You really had to feel for Optimo. The Scottish duo are responsible for one of the most revered club nights in Glasgow and have successfully toured their eclectic DJing skills over the world the past few years. Unfortunately the One Love stage during their set was virtually empty, so we tried to cheer them on as best we could with a courtesy boogie and some general dance floor tomfoolery. Though as disheartening as it was to see the duo play to about ten people, hearing them drop Caribou’s Sun was easily a highlight of the day.
The Main Stage was positively rammed by the time night fell and UK popster Calvin Harris was upon it, and punters who were making their way down in preparation for Tiesto were having to wait to gain access. Meanwhile over at Sneakerpeeps, Reboot’s set was delayed due to Mills’ lateness and it appeared that the German techno impresario was having problems controlling his gear, with some ill-timed looping causing him a rather embarrassing moment when he cheered for the bass drop that came in out of synch.
Following Reboot it was finally time for the much-anticipated return of Ricardo Villalobos, who decided to don, of all things on a steamy Spring evening, a hoodie and a scarf. Fashion aside, the Chilean’s skill was masterful, especially considering he was mostly working with vinyl. In his strange and dainty demeanour, Villalobos laid down a classic, stripped back house set that the small but appreciative crowd were lapping up. It would have been interesting to see where else he’d have taken things had he not been playing a typically short festival set. Highlight: the guy dancing on his mate’s shoulders wearing a construction helmet in some kind of weird gesture of respect to the recently trapped Chilean miners.
Taking in all aspects: organisation, sound, performers, crowd, amenities and atmosphere, you’d have to say that all in all Stereosonic Sydney 2010 was a success. With such a broad spectrum of artists on offer, there really was something for everyone across all genres of electronic music. Anyone feeling jaded by the standard of big commercial dance festivals in Australia, take notice: there are some still getting it right.