Future Music Festival @ Ellis Park, Adelaide (12/03/2012)

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I’m usually overjoyed to arrive to a music festival – getting hit by what’s spilling out of the speakers among a crowd of music-loving attendees usually feels like childhood revived. Instead, the culture shock of returning from the UK only two days before Future Music Festival meant that seeing over 25,000 people packed into the newly situated dustbowl that is Ellis Park left me feeling somewhat nervous.

But it wasn’t all bad; and in fact I did end up having a good time. Yes, the lineup was rather epic, but I was nonetheless surprised by which acts and stages actually impressed me – and not all surprises were bad. However, it seemed like the stage very much determined whether or not the acts were worth the trouble to get to through the jumble of people.

Sadly, The DFA stage was quiet all day. Even when the main vocalist was stripped off down to her underwear near to the end of her set about 9pm, the numbers weren’t there. No surprise really – all the kiddies were at Swedish House Mafia, who were playing a very typical set that one DJ could play alone most Saturdays at HQ, bar perhaps the synched lighting display and pyrotechnics. I think a few of the good sorts were at The Likes of You Arena; another undercover stage that hosted a majority of tech-style DJs whom gathered a more mature audience. From what I did see, Azari & III were a great pair programming live and progressive with sultry samples to boot.

Those with some true rave spirit were dancing to the classic trance delivered by a very humble, but inspiring, artists. Even though I never used to understand the hype behind trance, today, I would almost make an exception. Firstly because the artists were all those who stood the test of time, as much as the music they played. John O Callaghan dropping Big Sky even got me out of my disco nap style apathy and earlier in the day, Orjan Nilsen was a pleasant surprise and the DJ who made me want to return to the Evolution Arena. Although I must say, due to the Evolution set up being undercover – and the genre it was hosting – this was the stage with the best sound, which is probably why it had possibly the best atmosphere. Paul van Dyk was a true star, creating such a dynamic movement to a more intimate crowd as he delivered classics like For an Angel, amongst other quality track choices both old and new.

Much like trance, the foam parties made famous in the 90’s made their comeback this year with the Foamarama area. I can’t say I bubbled up much myself, but I did often see the occasional laughing person with suds on their hair, shoulders, and turning their dust-clad arms, now covered in dust-wash fake tan.

At one point in the Mazda tent there was a ratio of about ten males to every female; probably because the ladies were lining up for free photos outside, and the men for massages. Seriously, this tent was the best surprise of the festival – more VIP than the VIP section, that’s for sure. So how did the VIP section fair? It was essentially a few steps you could sit on with no shade overlooking the main stage, but situated where there was no good sound, so I doubt the privilege would have been worth the extra ticket money. Compared to my neck and shoulder rub sitting on high chairs next to tropical plants, why would I need VIP?

Knife Party, leaders of the Ear Storm Records stage, were probably the act most socially relevant to the event with their song Internet Friends easily being the track of the day. Although one of my friends reported that one punter was fist pumping so hard they hit someone in the face, nearly creating a brawl between fellow drunkards. If you missed it the first time, Porter Robinson also unleashed this viral track again an hour later.

The main stage was home to everything big, including Jessie J who was quite the powerhouse vocalist live. Tinie Tempah (whom I must admit I have a bit of a soft spot for) unleashed that typical UK party vibe upon the audience – you can’t not enjoy tracks like Miami to Ibiza. Thinking I’d rather throw myself against a wall than listen to Skrillex, I was surprised to actually really enjoyed the rhythm. Skrillex also managed to get better sound that some of the other acts. But then again, screeching synths and heavy bass doesn’t rely so heavily on the midrange that this stage couldn’t supply unless you were right in the middle of the stage. However, I have to say my main stage highlight was watching Timmy Trumpet play race day theme songs.

I wouldn’t want to sound like a cranky old person, but I felt like one for the first half of the day. What let Future down was poor organization at the entry gates, predictably long toilet lines, high drink prices and expensive meals like burger combos from Red Rooster costing a mere $18… say what!? Luckily, acts like Knife Party, PvD, Tinie Tempah and Fatboy Slim reminded me why I originally was in love with Australian music festivals. And while I’m not sure New Order are the ‘Future’ of music, they certainly were a welcome dose of nostalgia.


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