Future Music Festival, we meet again. Although this year, it is on different turf, as I headed over from Adelaide to Perth to spend a hot summer day at Joondalup Arena due to scheduling conflicts I have with the Adelaide Festival, and my determination not to miss seeing both Bloc Party and The Stone Roses.
Being an alternative music fan, I find my relationship with the Future Music Festival to be an interesting one. I usually spend most of my day located around their “rock” oriented stage, which in recent years has had a strong line up of acts. I wander around the rest of the festival, curious as I discover new musicians and observe scantily-dressed fans enjoying their day and trying not to get abysmally sunburned.
This year there were a couple of scratchings before the day even began. Two of the big names acts had cancelled, with Avicii ruled out with stomach troubles a few days prior, while Rita Ora pulled out on the day needing to rest her throat due to illness. Even without Ora, the girls were chewing up the scenery this year. The cool and confident Ellie Goulding delivering a lively set of dance anthems, and the impossibly gorgeous, albeit a little controversial New York rapper Azealia Banks tore it up with her feisty hip hop. Banks brought along some amazing dancers, and her set was fantastic to watch.
Wedged in between Goulding and Banks on the Mariachi stage were Fun. Fun. are a band that have been getting a hell of a lot of commercial radio play of late. Slotted in at 3:00pm, they played a (dare we say) fun set, which kicked off with “Some Nights”. Fun. bring their own special flavour of pop with some sort of Phil Collins/Elton John mash with a sprinkle of Freddie Mercury. This isn’t a flavor I particularly dislike, however I feel like I have had my fill recently.
It seemed like everyone in the place was swarming towards the Future Music stage to see K-Pop superstar Psy, who was an absolute treat. Flanked by a dozen hot Korean dancers, and dressed like a comical international spy caricature, the charmingly silly rapper played a number of songs (which I will admit I cannot name) before giving the Aussie punters what they came for – twice. “Gangnam Style” might be getting old for some, but for this girl once was just not enough!
As that blazing sun was growing lower, The Temper Trap took to the Mariachi stage. The love and loyalty of their fans seems to have only grown, as was evident by the massive crowd which they drew. During their performance of “Trembling Hands” I was reminded of a mid-nineties U2; their powerful and emotional sound was made to be played at festivals.
Two of the three acts I was most interested in seeing were on the same stage, so it was with some sadness that I decided to forego The Prodigy in favour of seeing The Stone Roses and Bloc Party. Post gig, I can tell you that I can die knowing I made the right decision. For I would bare witness to what I am now certain is one of the best bands making music today, performing in the shadow of one of the best bands of the late eighties and early nineties.
Singer Ian Brown wore the expression of a man constantly spoiling for a fight. However, this did not seem in anyway illustrative of his mood (I think it is just his swagger). In fact, the band appeared to be having a brilliant time on stage, drinking in the eager and open reception. The crowd: a cocktail of older fans, ex-pats sporting Man United shirts and kids checking out what the fuss was about and then wandering off again. Yet, from my vantage point, the sea of punters stretched further back than I could see. Whether you lived through their heyday, or just stumbled cluelessly in, there was no way anyone who was witness to the Stone Roses set would have been disappointed. Guitarist John Squire put every solo in its place, flogging it with such intensity that I was sure we must have somehow been transported back to ’91.
After playing a best-of set that included “Waterfall”, “Fool’s Gold” and “Love Spreads,” the band came together for a nice, big cuddle. They left the crowd sweaty and cheering, waving as they departed with genuine smiles. Brown even pulled up all the set lists from the stage, to hand out to fans, along with bits of his clothing. He even made sure he quickly got his sweat on some towels and scarves before casting them out to some lucky punters.
The Future Music stage had been running late all day, and sadly I knew that by the time The Stone Roses took their leave, we were left with not much spare change for the last act of the evening. However, after such a memorable performance I wasn’t sulking.
After a short delay in getting their lights and lasers in order, four strapping lads ran onto the stage, and were greeted by an overwhelmingly excited bunch of Perthians – many of whom had been clearly waiting all day for this one moment. Bloc Party lead singer, Kele Okereke is a gentleman, and despite the muscles and commanding stage presence, I am pretty sure he is a big pussy cat. He greets the crowd with a cheeky smile. It is a combination of Okereke’s natural showmanship, and the bands ability to take their audience with them on a unique journey; touring through guitar-rock to electronic, and all those other bits thrown in which serve to make them just a surprising band. We were treated to a sparkling gem of a setlist which began with a new favorite in “Octopus” and finished with an old favorite, “Helicopter.”
Then, after just about an hour, it was over. Bloc Party said their goodbyes and departed the stage, and we were left standing there still amazed by what we had just witnessed. The long, sweltering, humid Perth day spent amongst the throngs of shirtless and sometimes pant-less was more than worth it for the wonderful opportunity to see some truly outstanding acts.