"Bright lights hit the disco ball spinning overhead and we're bathed in yellow, bathed in mellow."
#fightthefear. We know we have to. This line-up is too frickin' class to ignore, and the good times start instantly on arrival with Adelaide dynamo Tkay Maidza. Straight off the bat she has our feet stomping like a brontosaurus. Accompanied by a lone DJ, Tkay's rhymes operate in synch with the beats — neither overpowering yet equally as punchy. She isn't afraid to take fire at the big game, going after Jay Z and Kanye's Watch The Throne classic Niggas In Paris, but it's her own major tracks like Switch Lanes and MOB — where she throws sharp lyrical darts at warp speed — that generate real heat.
It's very cool to have some festival action back at Riverstage, however, it's Queensland summertime, mid-afternoon, and the lack of shade is a real concern. It means dripping sunscreen is burning into your eyes continually. It sees packs of gurners holed up next to the main toilet block, dealing with the relentless foot traffic just to find solace in some shelter. Heat exhaustion sends a few people horizontal. Sad emoji faces for old mate getting hauled out by the undercover cops; the faux bum bag got you, brah.
Mr Carmack is unaware of all these goings on. The American producer, by way of California and Hawaii, is tasked with a bridging set between today's two top-billing MCs, and his amalgamation of modern and legacy sounds is well designed — even if the mixes are hit and miss. Overall, it's a fun 45 minutes though, with a late helping of trap to get the blood pumping. Skepta is up next and turns hipsters gangster with rapid-fire grime and an insatiable hunger to entertain and be entertained. The swelling crowd is eating from his palm and mass shout-backs to key lyrics make it clear he's loved. Former Roll Deep member DJ Maximum keeps things grinding as Skepta's Boy Better Know crew back him up at every opportunity. Too Many Man (We Need More Girls In Here) strikes a chord late, but Shutdown is the tune of choice — with anticipation turning into revelation, the pit going into a frenzy for that chunky sample and hook.
Boys Noize stands out proudly on this bill, and for good reason — he's a veteran name playing an old man's game in the form of brutal-as-fuck techno. Frequent shifts of pace and pitch chop up the journey, while flames, chains, electrocuted skeletons and other intimidating iconography further drive home the intensity. A casual day on the lawn has quickly turned into an afternoon riot, but that's not to say the set is without its accessible moments. During the final 30 minutes, Alexander Ridha manages to work in tracks from The Prodigy, Basement Jaxx and a pair from The Chemical Brothers, not to mention New Order's Confusion bloodbath remix from Blade. By the end of it all our minds are smouldering.
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Arguably the most hyped man in electronic music of the now, Jamie xx steps on stage to a rousing reception. Decked out in all black, eyes geared to his rig — you get a feeling he probably wouldn't hang with us if he had to, but fortunately we're not here for chitchat so he immediately goes to work, letting the deep groove do the talking. The first half of the set is an absolute tease — giving us hope of big things but making us question if the experience will ever reach a peak — but once the sun sets we are led into a new world, and it's indescribably breathtaking. The xx cover of Florence's You've Got The Love is coy and timid; Gosh, meanwhile snaps like elastic, with that bass coming in waves. In Colour's lead track ushers in a dark and dense period that takes us higher and higher, until the Romy-featured Loud Places acts as the pin that bursts the balloon. Bright lights hit the disco ball spinning overhead and we're bathed in yellow, bathed in mellow. The whole set makes complete sense now.
The euphoria continues with Flight Facilities — the Sydneysiders giving us straight-up Sunshine as we peacefully look out the passenger window of their simulated jet plane. Seeing the duo perform tonight is to watch a vision fully formed. Flight Facilities now have the budget to really flesh out their ideas — unifying them in a way that removes the cliches, creating character instead — and are given upper-echelon billing, meaning all eyes and ears are focused on them. As Hugo and Jimmy man the main controllers in the raised cockpit, additional musicians feature on the stage below, most notably Brooke 'Owl Eyes' Addamo, who is tasked with ethereal vocal duties on Stand Still, Two Bodies, Crave You and more. Light rain begins to fall and thousands of illuminated droplets land on outstretched arms as the insatiable house groove of Down To Earth takes us to outer space. Clair De Lune finally caps off the transformation, and it's caterpillar to butterfly-type shit, people.
And then... DAAAAAAHHHH. DA DA DA DA. DAAAAAAHHHH. And such and such. RL Grime is topping the bill tonight, ensuring a dramatic end to FOMO proceedings. Mad snare, so trap. Scattered female vocals provide small periods of solace. The 24-year-old LA native is an absolute master of bass music, but after the two hours of beat-driven beauty we've just enjoyed this all feels like an exclamation point we don't need. Cue flame cannons. Overall though — a class day at a classic location. The 'festival season' as we once knew it is dead, but hopefully more events like this arrive to keep things honest.