Festival Review: Future Music Festival - Bonython Park, Adelaide (11.03.13)

This year’s Future Music Festival proved one thing to me and that is that I can’t tolerate these type of festivals anymore. I didn’t even make it through the gates at Bonython Park without being accosted by some steroid-loving dickheads who had dropped a number of pills because they were so ‘mad keen for Avicii bruv’ – a somewhat perfect omen for the rest of the day and night to follow.

Let’s get started by commenting on the venue change itself; gone are the days when FMF was held down the East End of the CBD. Last year saw it moved to the parklands on West Tce, but this year, punters were making their annual pilgrimage to the area on Port Road that normally hosts Soundwave and Stereosonic. It’s a hot day today, causing people to seek refuge under what little shade there is around the site or lather up with sunscreen constantly in front of the stages. I decide bite the bullet and face the heat when Ellie Goulding begins her set and notice that everybody is trying to squish themselves in under the pissweak shadow the top of the stage casts.

Goulding looks casual as she skips out in a pair of shorts, black singlet and sunnies. She tells the audience that we’re her ‘heroes’, as she continues to take us through a set of her best indie/synth-pop tunes, mainly off her latest record Halcyon. Indeed, most of her time onstage is spent jumping up and down, banging the shit out of her floor tom and looking effortlessly cool, but Goulding is entertaining to watch in any case. The girl belongs on stages like this – where nobody really cares that she’s clearly singing to a backing track louder than her actual vocals are. It’s about the club-like energy Goulding conjures and for that; I have to give her props.

Fellow Brit Rita Ora, is seemingly having the time of her life over on the massive Future Music Stage. Dressed in a skin-tight pink number, Ora’s blonde locks flow like there’s a wind machine stationed in front of her every movement. I’ve not heard much of Ora’s work apart from the stuff that’s flogged on Nova, but I do enjoy watching her perform. Though she oozes femininity and sexuality, Ora isn’t afraid to scream and yell and tell the already huge crowd in attendance that she wants to see them get properly ‘fucked up’. She’s clearly taking the slot that Jessie J had at last year’s Future Music Festival, but the difference is that Ora actually has a shred of talent and doesn’t seem to rely predominantly on using stage antics to win the crowd over. By this stage in the day, I find myself seeking shelter under the shade of the VIP tent entry, watching in amazement at the festival-goers already running around like the hot messes they are. It’s not fun.

Speaking of fun (great segue, I know), New York’s Fun. are soon to take to the Mazda stage. This is a band who’ve made the transition from indie to commercial incredibly successfully and though initially, I wasn’t sure how they’d go down at this type of event, the amount of people in the crowd dressed in Fun. shirts and who sung along with every song proved me wrong. Whenever I hear Nate Ruess sing, I automatically think of “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas. Every. Damn. Time. The band opens with “Carry On”, which is actually really cool to hear live – they sound as crisp as they do on record and their harmonies are impressive. Of course, their hits including “Some Nights” and “We Are Young” bring the largest crowd responses, highlighting the stadium-potential the band possesses. It’ll definitely be interesting to see where the pop band heads as this year rolls on.

Rudimental are powering through a heavy set of drum, bass and electro on the Future Music Stage, matching the stinking hot temperatures that Adelaide has now reached. I only know about two songs the band has put out, but they have a live trumpeter, which is always worth extra win points. Rudimental have clearly amassed a huge Australian fan base; today’s crowd wouldn’t stop screaming for them, even when they didn’t know the songs they were witnessing being performed. It made me wonder if the Future Music crowd were that enthusiastic about the group specifically, or if it was just a mixture of the heat, alcohol, drugs and throbbing bass that was making them act so loopy. A bit of both, perhaps?

On to Miss Azealia Banks. In “212”, the Harlem rapper spits the line, “What you gon’ do when I appear?” repeatedly. Today, the Adelaide crowd would never know as the 21 year old never actually showed up to play. Banks’ Twitter-beefs with a wide range of people have been more newsworthy than much of her musical career so far, but when the masses were left to wait the entirety of what would have been her set in the sun while she refused to take the stage, a carry-on of her latest confrontation with the crew of The Stone Roses, people became angry. Quick. There was no announcement made by the organisers, no apology issued. The only way we knew Banks definitely was going to be a no-show was when the roadies brought A-Trak’s deck out and the DJ himself emerged and, I don’t know, did what he was being paid to do.

The next band of note is The Temper Trap. I last saw the Melbourne group play the Big Day Out some years ago and I remember being unimpressed. Their latest, self-titled album, has seen The Temper Trap go further than Conditions took them, it seems and with it, the quality of their performance has risen some too. Dougy Mandagi has more control of his distinguishable vocals live, more than when I last saw him perform anyway, and is clearly a more ‘festival-adept’ performer now. The Temper Trap mix their set up with equal parts debut and sophomore album, so there is something for everyone. It’s enjoyable and even takes my mind off the now-familiar stinging sensation of burned skin that courses across my chest even though I’m completely covered.

Future Music veteran Dizzee Rascal was making an impact over on the Future Music stage, throwing down some of his newer tunes in amongst the old favourites. I spent most of my time during his set slumped on a barrier – having seen this guy do “Bassline Junkie” for the past three years, I figured I earned my Rascal stripes. Dizzee acknowledges the fact we’ve all withstood the heat and his appreciation of it, declaring before he starts that he’s going to give us a ‘110%’ – which he does. Admittedly, by this stage of the day, my spirits were dastardly low. I’d seen enough tramp stamps and bared ass cheeks to last me a lifetime, was witness to a few arrests and some god-awful audio quality; watching Dizzee and his crew run about onstage however, brighten me up a bit. Though this could have been because I knew that the bands I’d actually rocked up today for were just around the corner. I leave as Dizzee launches into “Dance Wiv Me”, to get a decent viewing point for The Stone Roses.

As with New Order last year, the crowd for The Stone Roses was full of lovers of the band themselves. The clubheads had made their way to the other stages and with the setting of the sun and the drop in temperature, for the first time today, I felt comfortable, though incredibly weary. Opening with “I Wanna Be Adored”, The Stone Roses effortlessly became the highlight of my time at Future Music this year. Men around me were reduced to teenagers once more, chanting for the ‘Madchester’ leaders, regressing back to the 80s and early 90s when Britpop dominated. Ian Brown is magnificent to watch; the lead vocalist has retained every ounce of rock attitude that he is known for, with added swag now, as he works his way across the stage, tambourines shaking constantly. Having reformed after 15 years in 2011, The Stone Roses have clearly avoided being one of those bands who are back to grab the last of the novelty cheques floating about that are reserved for the ‘pensioners’ of the 80s /90s music era. Going through their hits including “She Bangs the Drums” and “Fools Gold”, The Stone Roses are one of those bands who I will never forget having seen live.

Bloc Party. I can’t describe how I’d anticipated seeing this band. Each time they’ve been in the country I’ve missed them and while seeing Kele do his solo thing was great, there’s something about the whole band I’d really wanted to see for myself. Opening with “Octopus”, the Brits were met with a reasonably enthusiastic crowd. Having Avicii and The Prodigy on at the same time clearly had its effect on Bloc Party and yes, for a lot of it, it did seem like the band was running through the motions. For this first-timer though, I couldn’t have had more fun. The set was full of favourites; “Hunting For Witches”, “Flux” and “One More Chance” were met with new tune “Ratchet” and “Truth”, but it was in “Helicopter” where I truly lost it. I forgot about the crap time I’d had up until a few hours before and for those few minutes, I was in indie, Silent Alarm heaven.

While it was evident that the masses had enjoyed the line-up Future Music had conjured up for 2013, I did not have a good one, overall. The quality of the festival has gone down since my first one about three years ago and save for the last few bands, there were few high points of the festival for me. I’m happy that they’ve pulled the numbers they needed, but unless they pull one of my top five favourite acts to headline in 2014, this is going to be my last Future Music Festival. Even then, I’d be more inclined to fly for a sideshow then do this again.