Festival Review: Listen Out - Centennial Park, Sydney (28.09.13)

Fuzzy’s annual Parklife festival seems to be no more; this year it has been replaced by a new brand and new image – Listen Out. The most striking difference is that the new national tour has down-sized and went for a more contained festival rather than an all-out international star-studded event. The market is over-flooded, and Fuzzy have recognised this; they have given us a simple, straight-forward day of trendy tunes and everything we’ve come to love (or hate) about dance festivals.

A well-advised 2pm start saw the expected punters rush through gates, spreading throughout the gorgeous Centennial Park, with the majority crowding the 909 stage for most of the day.

The set up was well spread out, with only around 20 acts divided between three stages. The 909 stage housed most of the trendy sounds that drew the younger crowd in; the Atari stage shared the commercial duties; and the neat little red bull set up begged the lovers of less watered-down styles of underground disco, 90’s R&B, deep house and electronica.

Of particular note is Fuzzy’s recycling policy, which allows you to trade in cans and plastic cups for a dollar-token each, which then can be either traded at the bar, or traded at a stand for cash. There were people making hundreds of dollars simply by going around and cleaning the park, which is an effective idea in itself. However, the fact that they didn’t allow people to use bags seemed to defeat the purpose. Their rationale was that people would just raid the bins, despite them being perfectly able to with or without a bag anyway. Due to this ‘no bags’ policy, those determined to make some cash just went around focusing on red bull cups (which you can stack) and completely ignoring cans; leaving the park riddled with crushed plastic.

Rufus was an early hit, bringing their textured dance style and showing off their unquestionable talent with gems like ‘Paris Colides’ and ‘We Left.’

Miguel Campbell and Touch Sensitive kept punters busy with choice cuts from their respective catalogues – the former being one of the highlights - but the late-afternoon belonged to Slow Blow at the red bull tent with an excellent set of 80’s deep house.

English duo Alunageorge mashed R&B with down-tempo electronica, proving to be a popular choice for most. An uninspired cover of Montell Jordan’s ‘This Is How We Do It’ scared me away to the controversial Azealia Banks. Banks’ live presence was undeniable - her energy unmatched by most throughout the day - but her set was insipid and did nothing to back up her infamous opinions of her artistry. Sticking around to see how ‘212’ translated live proved an effort, but the atmosphere was something a hater like me cannot fault.

Reliable hip-hop producer Just Blaze brought late 90’s/early 2000’s New York rap and gave it to us in a flurry of well-mixed snippets. Everything from his buddy Jay-Z to The Diplomats was heard; the man even went all the way back to DMX’s early days with ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ and Jay-Z’s ‘Jigga My Ni**a.’ Things started leaning towards commercial dubstep towards the end as Blaze’s ‘Higher’ crept into the set two times, sending punters into body-slamming mayhem; he even slipped in ‘Harlem Shake’ which evidently, everyone is now sick of.

TNGHT continued the craziness with a monstrous dubstep-based mix, with some 808-heavy hip-hop thrown in for good measure. Their live show was flashy, and Hudson Mohawke was obviously as excited as the crowd; giving us the likes of Kanye West and Rick Ross among their own productions. An excellent tease of ‘Higher Ground’ was laced throughout before the thunderous track finally dropped, at which point the front few rows unsurprisingly turned into a risky pit of slam-dancing tweens.

The hype around Disclosure paid off, with a very satisfying dose of heavily textured house, tinged with everything from UK Garage to synth pop. The incredibly catchy rhythms they threw at us was the pinnacle of Listen Out and essential for anyone heading to the tour this year.

With some truly great sets from the headliners, all the way to surprises from mid-card acts like Miguel Campbell and Slow Blow, Listen Out succeeded on the back of great music and good organisation.