Live Review: Listen Out

5 October 2015 | 6:23 pm | Tanya Bonnie Rae

"The sound was great at the front of the mosh pit but, when you wandered a couple of metres back, the volume became a mere whisper."

As we walked into the festival grounds in the early afternoon with several thousand other punters on a cloudless day in the parklands, we knew it was the beginning of a day filled with great music, breezy sunshine and a little dash of magic.

Triple j personality Tom Tilley took over the Red Bull Crate Diggers Stage for the 'History of Australian Dance', kicking off with a bit of disco and evoking some serious nostalgia with Cut Copy's Hearts On Fire. The DJ set was slightly bordering on the side of cheesy until Tilley yelled, "All Australian pride!... In a good way!" loosening up the crowd with some signature Tilley charm and that damn voice.

Over on the 909 Stage, metres in front of the wave of people sitting down at the back of the grasslands, was English electronic producer George Fitzgerald. He played a dreamy, uplifting, spacious set, throwing in classics Beginning At The End and Full Circle (if you haven't yet heard it, you haven't lived; it's absolutely magnetic). Fitzgerald managed to create the ideal Saturday afternoon sunset vibe, with ambient, enchanting tracks for the entire length of his set.

Crowd favourite Sydney producer Hayden James waltzed on stage, kicking off with Permission To Love and throwing in a couple of new, unreleased tracks. He was the perfect choice to follow on from FitzGerald and kept everyone in the crowd in high spirits, ending with that infectious, feel-good summer track Something About You. It had almost everyone in the audience singing along and dancing ecstatically in that beautiful eyes-closed-and-smiling kind of way. 

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American duo Odesza played over on the main Atari Stage with a set that was slow, mellow and honestly a little underwhelming. Back over on the 909, Canadian DJ/producer Ryan Hemsworth sprung a really playful, organic set, with music that could really only be described as future trap and/or tropical house. It had a very Majestic Casual feel to it, and he rounded it out with Mura Masa's delectably catchy 2015 track Lovesick Fuck.

The overwhelming crowd managed to thin out a little just in time for English electronic duo Dusky, who gradually built up the energy in their set, creating a really mature, developed kind of sound. It was flawless. Every track they played crawled under the skin and they effortlessly shifted from eerie, gorgeous, deep-house tunes to tracks more on the side of spacious, atmospheric moody techno. They deliberately avoided playing their best-known tracks Nobody Else and Careless, focusing more on their slightly unconventional and diverse style of DJing and this worked exceptionally well. The duo could've easily played a later time slot or even headlined the festival.  

Aaron Jerome aka SBTRKT stepped out in his signature modern interpretation of a native society ceremonial mask, worn in support of this ongoing concept of anonymity — subtracting himself from the equation and allowing his music to speak for itself. Jerome played heavy electronica for the first half of his set. It was very diverse and a little too random; he threw in a bit too much hip hop, building up tracks bordering on deep/tech house then switching back to hip hop. It was all a little frustrating until he brought out Jamie xx's classic 2015 tune Gosh, and revived the energy in the crowd with the ultimate 'moment' song combining old-school garage feels with blissful, euphoric, soaring ambience. Jerome followed through with his iconic 2011 track Wildfire, and everyone in the audience breathed a tremendous sigh of recognition and relief.

Australia's favourite mystery producer Golden Features, 24-year-old Tom Stell, headlined the festival over on 909 Stage, spinning crowd favourite Tell Me, and throwing in some hip hop vibes. Hip hop seemed to be an underlining genre in most live and DJ sets of the day. He dabbled in some tech house with The Renegade by Friend Within and swerved back to that signature, almost deep-house, electronic-banger kind of sound with Guillotine. The sound was great at the front of the mosh pit but, when you wandered a couple of metres back, the volume became a mere whisper. It was quiet enough to engage in conversations with people around you and it felt like the bass and energy just dissipated further out of the main stage area. Definitely something that should be noted for next year.

One of the great things about Listen Out this time around was the short amount of waiting time in between sets; this assured consistently positive energy flowing throughout the day. The festival, now in its third year, has changed somewhat from its initial 2013 indie-electronica vibe, with the likes of Disclosure, RÜFÜS and Touch Sensitive replaced with hip hop heavyweights Joey Bada$$, Childish Gambino and Rae Sremmurd, bringing with it a unique mix of music and probably a few thousand punters too many.