Hard Kandy pres. Dark By Design & Shock:Force @ Billboard, Melbourne (25/02/2011)

Image for Hard Kandy pres. Dark By Design & Shock:Force @ Billboard, Melbourne (25/02/2011)

I’ve been to a lot of gigs lately. I’ve been to every festival this season plus numerous special event club nights. These past months I’ve seen world class acts from TyDi to Tiesto, Gareth Emery to Groove Armada, Armin van Buuren to Aly & Fila, David Guetta to Davide Squillace, but nothing has smacked me in the face and made me pay attention like Hard Kandy presents Dark by Design & Shock:Force.

Stepping off the plane in Melbourne and straight into Shock:Force’s headlining set at Billboard, I was immediately enveloped in their infectious, unique take on European hard trance. Although only one half of the Welsh duo was present, Matt Thomas packed out the dancefloor with banging tracks including Coming On Strong and the Dutch master’s anthem 5am.

For 90 minutes, Matt worked the Hard Kandy crowd like putty in his hands. Not content with that, he brought them to a resounding peak with the last track of his set. No other act could have unified the crowd more than when he brought his singer Rebecca to the stage to perform Shine live. In that moment, with the audience singing along to the massive anthem, Billboard was one.

What I love most about Shock:Force is that in this era of hardstyle and hardcore domination, they stay true to who they are and continue to push the hard trance genre. This is Matt and Sully’s message to their fans: ‘This is the beginning of our disconnect from the uninspiring hard dance of today. We’re not interested in falling in line and intend to push all the boundaries and hope to bring the European sound back to its best days. It will be something different for sure but we hope you will all come along for the ride.”

Continuing the momentum, Sydney’s best loved female DJ Xdream took the stage and let loose with her own personal brand of hard dance. Hot to look at and even hotter on the decks, Xdream, aka Jamielee Howe, showed everyone that women can work the CDJs just as hard as any man. It was obvious that Jamielee is a very technical DJ and her set rocked because of it.

By 2.30 in the morning, the crowd was well up for Dark by Design, who launched a full frontal assault with his showcase. His dark, hard-edged beats coupled with driving basslines threw the crowd into a frenzy. His set was designed to entertain with Gaz throwing in a Black Betty remix and a cheeky sample of Tim Deluxe’s Just Won’t Do that transitioned interestingly into a hard dance remix of Love the Way You Lie. The Dark by Design set really showed just how talented and thoughtful a DJ Gaz is. He slowed the tempo from time to time, bringing light and shade to his set, which meant that when the tracks peaked the crowd really responded. It was a world-class performance that was truly multi-dimensional.

The energy dropped a little when Josh Lang and The Pred took over but the crowd was pretty spent after Dark by Design so it was only to be expected. People seemed to be taking a bit of a breather and saving themselves for the final assault by Dr Willis who was due to go back-to-back with Mr Hard Kandy himself, Scott Alert.

Now, I love Scott Alert, we all love Scott Alert, but I have to be honest, neither he nor Dr Willis was on point. I’ve seen both of them play many a time and been completely blown away with the technicality of their mixing, their tricks and track selection, but tonight was not one of those nights. In saying that, it was a birthday celebration and having fun on birthdays is sometimes more important than being perfect.

It was obvious they were having a good time and their laughter and sense of fun was infectious, so we can forgive them the few tricks that didn’t quite come off. Also, the way they interacted with the audience really made the night and ended it with a real sense of togetherness. Good job boys.

It was absolutely joyful to be in Melbourne for Hard Kandy but quite sad in a way because it reminded me that Perth is missing out on this vibe and atmosphere. Clubs need to be brought back to this state of being – where PLUR is an action and not just an acronym. Don’t miss the next Hard Kandy event, Kiddfectious 2011, on Easter Monday.