Live Review: Future Music Festival - Sydney

16 March 2012 | 3:06 pm | Staff Writer

Royal Randwick Racecourse

Future Music Festival showcased some of the heaviest beats and the most upbeat dance tunes of our time, all of which were furiously enjoyed by tens of thousands of committed festivalgoers. The Randwick Racecourse was transformed into a thriving arena filled to capacity by excited punters who would allow absolutely nothing to stand in the way of their steadfast commitment to dancing all day and all night. Thankfully, they were not disappointed.

The Future Classic DJs were among the first to grace the DFA Records stage. Obviously very comfortable in their craft, the Future Classic DJs played a combination of upbeat dance tunes and the superior sound quality of this stage meant that every layer of the DJs' complex tracks transferred very successfully to the audience. Next, Murat Kilic impressed a significantly larger number of punters at The Likes Of You stage. The techno DJ entertained his crowd with bass-heavy techno remixes as well as some classic dance tunes, with his remix of Foster The People's Pumped Up Kicks being particularly well received.

At the Flamingo stage, the festival's atmosphere was invigorated once again by Professor Green, whose energetic performance, which was as full of wit and charm as ever, proved immensely crowd-pleasing. The rapper finished his set with Read All About It, which certainly stood out as the highlight of the performance. Its flawless, soulful female vocals on the hook and affective vocal verses from Professor Green fell together perfectly and the crowd was very obviously impressed.

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Jessie J then performed to a vast outdoor stage that was packed full of punters and had a very energetic vibe. However, unfortunately, the energy of the performance did not quite equate. While the musical sound was full-bodied and kept the audience engaged, the vocals themselves came across as particularly weak and many of the singer's lyrics were lost on the audience as a result.

Gym Class Heroes then graced the Flamingo stage. The group opened their set with Cookie Jar, which was particularly well received and the set then went from strength to strength. The highlight set came when the group played their hit, Cupid's Chokehold, and followed it with the track that earned them the number one spot on the Australian charts, Ass Back Home.

Next, British producers Chase & Status performed on the main stage, the highlight of the set being their heartfelt rendition of Pieces, which saw the crowd singing along with great enthusiasm. Indoors at The Likes of You stage, Azari & III performed an exceptionally fierce set as the group's bass-heavy tunes went down a treat in the smaller, enclosed space where the sound quality was superior to any other stage in the arena.

Electronic legend Skrillex performed to an enormous crowd on the Las Venus stage later in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the vastness of the stage area meant that the speakers and sound system could not quite do the bass-heavy tunes – such as Promises – justice and often some of the layers of his complex tracks were lost towards the back of the crowd. At the Evolution stage, Gareth Emery played a satisfying trance-techno set to a very engaged audience. While a fuller audience would have improved the vibe of the set somewhat, there remained a very positive energy throughout his performance.

Next came the standout set of the day – Die Antwoord. The musical prowess and incredible energy of the controversial group resulted in a truly amazing set. The group seemed somewhat misplaced in terms of venue, however, as the indoor stage could not hope to accommodate the huge numbers of punters that came to witness their set. British rapper Tinie Tempah then impressed the crowd back at the Las Venus stage with his charming disposition and catchy British hip hop tracks. By combining his own rap songs with some harder dance and electronic tunes, Tinie Tempah managed to connect with all genres of fans represented in his audience.

The Ear Storm Records stage was overflowing with enthusiastic dance fans as DJ Zane Lowe took to the stage. This set, as well as the following Knife Party performance, were two of the most popular of the afternoon. Zane Lowe's incredibly heavy techno remixes earned him a huge amount of support from the crowd, whose excitement continued to grow as the set progressed.

Next, the moment we'd all been waiting for – Fatboy Slim appeared on the main stage and performed crowd-pleasing remixes of popular tracks such as California Love. While his mix of various fast, heavy, exciting beats was very satisfying to watch, it was slightly disappointing that he did not perform many of his own original, older tracks. The high expectations held by many of the audience members were perhaps not quite met for this reason, but the set was enjoyable nonetheless.

Another unexpected highlight of the day came when British rockers The Wombats performed on the Flamingo stage. The musical cohesion was flawless and each song seemed to fall together perfectly. Highlights of the set were hit tracks such as Kill The Director and Girls/Fast Cars. Closer to the end of the set, the band performed Techno Fan, which went down particularly well with the large audience.

Another standout performance was delivered by, naturally, headliners Swedish House Mafia. Unsurprisingly, the audience was unimaginably large and every member of it danced furiously throughout the set. You could feel the energy from the heavy beats flowing through each and every crowd member, a vibe that was enhanced even further by the group's mixing of popular tracks such as Calvin Harris' Feel So Close. The intensity of the atmosphere during the set was almost indescribable.

Conversely, the audience at the neighbouring stage where New Order were performing was relatively small and the band's full sound seemed to be somewhat lost during this set. There were, however, some noted performances of classic tracks that were thoroughly enjoyed by members of the audience.

The final and possibly the most intense set of the evening was performed by Aphex Twin in The Likes Of You arena. Packed full of excited punters, the incredibly heavy bass and synthetic sounds were almost overwhelming as they blasted through the indoor sound system. All the energy and excitement of Aphex Twin proved to be the perfect way to end a thoroughly exciting day.

Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Although there were no standout purist music fans amidst the crowd of festival folk, Future Music Festival tendered a huge array of brilliant dubstep and electronic artists from across the globe. The Likes Of You rave cave was a host to grimey trance artists who spun cyclical records, pacifying gurning, face-chewing audiences. Progressive Iranian House DJ Dubfire regurgitated generic minimalist remixes whilst swaying over his tables and hyping violently convulsing crowd members. German Techno music veteran Sven Vath invited us into his dark world of ambient trance, converting The Likes Of You stage into a Ibiza-style disco dungeon. The Ear Storm stage was home to the more dramatic bass drops and purist dubstep beats, hosting talented electronic samplers Knife Party and 19 year old dub-pop pioneer Porter Robinson.

Iconic big beat producer Fatboy Slim presented his faultlessly trippy mixes to the electrified audience at the Las Venus stage, complimented by hypnotising and menacing memes and graphics and comedic, staged technical difficulties. Spinning classics such as The Rockafeller Skank, Fatboy Slim demonstrated his incomparable abilities as a DJ and live musician, wowing the crowd with his quirkiness and enthusiasm.

Offering our ritual indie festival fix, The Wombats brought a sense of warmth and likeability to the Flamingo stage with a mixture of heavily synthesised bass lines and gritty guitar breakdowns. Although this act did not quite adhere to the heavy electronic and dub theme running through the day, the charming British trio captivated the crowd with their signature brand of infectious indie-pop singalong tunes. Opening with Our Perfect Disease, The Wombats ignited dancing feet as well as simultaneously showcasing their tight live instrumentalism. As well as performing obvious hits such as Tokyo (Vampires And Wolves), the boys rewound to their earlier releases, appeasing old fans with an animated rendition of Kill The Director, where vocalist Matthew Murphy bounced around the stage energetically whilst comically exaggerating his kitschy British vocals.

Progressive house DJ trio Swedish House Mafia drew a preposterously large crowd of festival munters, fist pumpers and general non-musically inclined punters to the Las Venus stage. Scatting along to the electronic melodies, the crowd exploded with sub-par remixes of Tinie Tempah's Miami To Ibiza and Avicii's Levels, being further stimulated by elaborate static lasers and pyrotechnics that unfortunately could not compensate for Swedish House Party's indelible live mediocrity.

Legendary Joy Division re-work legends New Order delivered an effervescent set that captured sentiments of the 1980s new wave scene flawlessly whilst still managing to bring a contemporary electronic spin to classic anthems. Considering the New Order/Swedish House Mafia timetable clash, the band drew a limited crowd, but the fans who demonstrated dedication built a lively atmosphere. Vibrant lighting and psychedelic graphics heightened the spectacular nature of the performance and further highlighted how displaced New Order were in the dubstep-driven lineup. Performing synth-pop hits Bizarre Love Triangle and a delicate cover of Joy Division's Ceremony, New Order sparked nostalgia, swaying the mature crowd and offering a break from hordes of 2-steppers and group gabba sessions.

Although the inebriated and impaired crowd was not tough to impress, the artists showcased at this year's event provided a mixed bag of both repetitive and poorly executed electronic trash as well as amusing, aesthetically pleasing trancey tunes.

Ava Nirui