Strawberry Fields Launch Party @ Brown Alley, Melbourne (21/09/2012)

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A party was being held for an event that was over two months away, with headliners not even making an appearance at the actual festival. Odd in hindsight, but not in experience. The Strawberry Fields 2012 Launch Party was a a heaving mass of distilled passion, excitement, energy, and organised chaos. It was a collective of party lovers, a hedonistic paradise with that ‘one night only’ feeling.

One of the head promoters, Elliot Rothchild, explained they were ‘replicating what we’re trying to do in the festival’. Many of the artists, designers, and stage crew for the night were also the ones who’re responsible for one of Australia’s best festivals. Their hard work obviously paid off, because it was a sold out event, with well over 1,000 tickets snapped up.

The man of the night, Hernan Cattaneo, began early on to much fanfare. He has a big, big following in Melbourne. Many of the punters have seen him play more than once, twice, some even every time he’s played here. They are veterans, true fans of his work. When he came on, the place switched on instantly. It was on from the first track.

One of Hernan’s strengths is he keeps the set interesting. He doesn’t use many vocals because he doesn’t need them. He began very melodic, sometimes a bit proggy, yet very bass heavy. Hands in the air moments, with soft and tender breaks as well, giving you that awesome floating feeling.

He can be very emotional with his music, but the man himself is always concentrating. He really was a marvel. For a man that doesn’t drink, it was impressive to see he had the intensity going the whole time. It’s hard to mix like he does, but he makes it seem so natural. He is a true master of his craft.

An hour and a half after he began, the second headliner, Fritz Kalkbrenner took to the more intimate surrounds upstairs. The Berliner made his first appearance in Australia last year at the exact same venue, in the exact same room. Much like his brother earlier that year, he tore the place a new one. For his second round down under, he was just as good, if not better.

So many people had packed into Blight’s Bar to have their eardrums blown away by his signature, techno-pop beats. Sweat was almost literally dripping off the walls, alcohol lining every surface, heat filling the air, hands thrown to the ceiling.

This time around, Fritz played a lot of his new work, most likely from his forthcoming second artist album, due to be released in October. Having this sneak preview, you can tell his style hasn’t changed. It still has that same feeling; polished and smooth club beats with those mature pop sensibilities. A similar feel to his brother’s work, yet completely his own style, with a lot of his own vocals.

Back downstairs, after Fritz finished with one of his best, Sky and Sand, Hernan was still chugging away without an ounce of the crowd’s energy spared. Now into his second half of the set, he took the crowd down a slightly more heavier journey. There were still those floating moments, but then there were more breaks as well. Each track was perfect for the next. At times, it felt like one big, harmonious tune. It was true art.

Until the early hours, Hernan did not disappoint. People were saying that he gets better and better every time he plays. He himself was once quoted as saying ‘I know what Australia likes’. That night, he proved that statement is true. No-one wanted him to stop. He nailed it.

In every sense, the whole night was a perfect tribute to what could be the festival of the year. If it is anything like this Friday night, then there are beautiful things to come. Hernan and Fritz were absolutely palpable in energy in their very own distinct ways, but the organisers should receive their accolade as well. Well done. Bring on November!