Festival Review: Future Music Festival - Royal Adelaide Showgrounds (10.03.14)

Donning my shortest shorts this past Monday for the notoriously trashy Future Music Festival, I approached the gates of The Royal Adelaide Showgrounds with scepticism, not sure what to expect as a complete “Futurez” rookie.

After generic but fun performances from the likes of Dada Life and R3hab, my day truly picked up with a half-an-hour set by Pharrell and his ridiculous giant hat. It was basically a mash-up of verses he’s contributed to various songs, a couple of N.E.R.D songs plus “Happy” (which, let’s face it, is just one verse repeated over and over), his set was an interesting one.

Considering he has been in the industry for so long, has been involved with a number of popular albums and singles, and has four studio albums with N.E.R.D to his name, headlining a festival with only a half an hour set was a pretty odd move. Still, it was an entertaining performance by the hip-hop heavyweight, highlights including “Get Lucky”, “Hollaback Girl” and club classic “Drop it like it’s Hot”, triggering what looked like the Future Music booty-drop competition.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hit the stage next for a charismatic performance. Captivating the crowd’s attention with fluid audience banter, the duo launched into their set with incredible enthusiasm. Tracks like touching equal rights ode “Same Love”, the upbeat “Can’t Hold Us” and of course 2012 anthem “Thrift Shop” were performed flawlessly, but as a pretty fair-weather fan I left after hearing the 'big three' to catch the second half of Rudimental’s set.

Rudimental were by far the most impressive act of the day. Much to my surprise, the set was completely, 100% live. Each song was constructed on stage from the instruments to the vocals, performed by blonde bombshell Anne Marie and backup vocalists in replacement of the various musical guests present on their album.

A sprawling set rife with intense energy, a party mentality and feel-good vibes, Rudimental have such an incredible ability to instantly lift the spirits of any audience. Nailing it with hits “Feel the Love”, “Waiting All Night” and “Free”, it was definitely a performance to remember.

Long-time pioneers of alternative electro-rock Cut Copy were up next, playing to a dismal crowd of about forty. It was heartbreaking to see such a small crowd fronting the talented Melbourne band that has been so influential for Australian music since their formation in 2001. However, they weren’t as demanding as they could have been, falling a little flat at times and lacking audience interaction. A lot of this had to do with the fact that they were so quiet; I’m talking quiet enough that I could have a conversation at a normal volume in the front row; a huge contrast to the enormous in-your-face DJ sets on the stages surrounding them. Still, that was only a reflection of their mis-placement in the line-up. Highlights of their set included “Free Your Mind”, “Lights and Music”, “Out There on the Ice” and “Where I’m Going”.

Phoenix ended the night for me. Again, with a disappointingly small crowd. According to front man Thomas Mars, the smallest crowd they’d ever performed to. The French indie-rock big shots did their best to compete with the cosmic sounds of Paul van Dyke, performing wildly popular tracks from their 2009 release Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix including hipster anthem “Lisztomania”. Hits from their back catalogue “Too Young”, “If I Ever Feel Better” and “1901” were performed well, however, the highlights were definitely the poppier numbers from their latest album, namely “Entertainment” and “Trying to be Cool”, which were performed with enormous energy and a sense of carefree fun had by the band.

Despite a lacklustre audience, it was an impressive set by Phoenix, who this year fell under the “random ill-fitting headliner” category, a famous characteristic of Future Music Festival which has previously hosted massive alternative bands like The Stone Roses and New Order alongside a myriad of DJs. This is what makes Future Music such a unique festival, giving it an edge against other electronic music festivals and pulling a fairly eclectic crowd.

Complaints about the festival by fellow punters mainly surrounded the food (or lack thereof). I admit, I’m definitely used to festivals with multiple gourmet food trucks lining the outskirts of the grounds, but I was pretty content with my sauce-drenched-slightly-stale hotdog, so I don’t support the complaints. That said, the bars running out of bottled water by 10pm is a little poor in my books.

Aside from my intense thirst by the end of the day, I thoroughly enjoyed Future Music Festival 2014, topless douchebags and all.