Live Review: Electric Gardens Festival

25 January 2016 | 12:26 pm | Tanya Bonnie Rae

"The debut of Electric Gardens proved to be a much-needed breath of fresh air, eccentricity and nostalgia."

Fatboy Slim

Fatboy Slim

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The lush grasslands, hills and wide open space provided the perfect venue for the old school house and techno line-up that was present at Electric Gardens. By 4pm, most of the crowd had arrived and there was still more than enough space to dance and breathe. It felt spacious, easy and comfortable, and the crowd felt very much like a reunion of '90s ravers — eccentric, often oddly dressed characters galore, and most with their very own unique style of intricate dance moves and friendly characteristics.

Mexican/German duo Pachanga Boys played over on the Main Stage in the mid-afternoon, to a small crowd of no more than roughly 50 people. Most were under the Digital Therapy tent watching Hernan Catteneo play back to back with Nick Warren while red and blue lasers blasted into the crowd. Pachanga Boys' set was a slow, dull and a little bit uninteresting and they would have done well had they played their nonsensical classic 2011 track Black Naga. They did however, play a remix of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, which followed through from a super slow version of Daft Punk's Alive. They sounded great live from the Main Stage but the track selections just felt a little bit off and slightly out of touch for the audience.

James Zabiela brought his break beat-inspired style of heavy tech-house to the Main Stage, playing to a much larger and more interested-looking crowd, but about 20 metres back from the stage the sound didn't seem quite loud enough. The weather remained overcast and breezy for the rest of the afternoon and most of the crowd seemed to float through and around each of the three stages.

The existence of a VIP stage felt somewhat awkward and extraordinarily offputting; only those with VIP passes could enter the private, closed-off section (with its own bar and bathrooms) to see some of the acts again. This segregation created a bit of a lack of community within the (very mixed) festival-goers. Over by the Code Arena stage were rows of food trucks ranging from ice cream to Cantina Mobil, Sumo Salad, organic Asian food, Italian pizza and Japanese teriyaki tofu. Unlike most other major festivals, there was an abundance of "chill out zones" for people to eat, sit down and relax while being still very close to the stages and able to hear the music. There was no need to pop in earplugs at any of the dancefloors and the whole vibe of the event felt like an extended outdoor celebration or public backyard house party.

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Very few people were dressed up in stereotypical festival-wear and seemed to opt for more comfortable clothing options. It was a nice change. The now 49-year-old English heavyweight DJ, producer (and actor — who would've guessed) John Digweed played over on the noticeably smaller Code Arena stage with a set that was mostly dreamy progressive house and trance. The crowd that he attracted was also a little older and it felt like they had partied to his music back in the '80s and '90s, and still thought of him as some sort of grandfather of progressive house. The energy among the stages felt grungy, loose and free, and everyone appeared to be having a truly great time.

Iranian house and techno DJ/producer Dubfire followed on from Digweed, with one of the heavier, moodier sets of the day and played more along the lines of tech and deep house. Real name Ali Shirazinia, Dubfire was formerly one half of production duo Deep Dish, who won a Grammy in 2002 for their remix of Dido's Thank You. Shirazinia has since expanded from progressive house and experimented moreso with minimal, underground house and predominantly techno beats, bringing an edgier and slightly darker performance to his set.

The sun began to fall and the full moon was only just visible below the clouds and among the rides, when 52-year-old Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Quentin Cook) popped up on stage with a smiley-face collage displayed on the backdrop behind him. His set kicked off with bangers, bangers and, uh, more bangers. Slim played a couple of familiar, old school late '90s tracks, with Zombie Nation's 1999 Kernkraft 400, a remix of Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat and Friend Within's The Renegade. It was a very high energy, EDM-fueled set. At one point the visuals in the backdrop reflected pieces of the world famous Bill Hicks quote recorded in 1992, "The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are," which was honestly the highlight of his set. It felt less like he was building a journey through his music and more like he was just trying to stay relevant by playing songs that had the ability to instantly gratify its listeners.

All in all though, the debut of Electric Gardens proved to be a much-needed breath of fresh air, eccentricity and nostalgia.