March in Adelaide is truly a magical time. Unicorns? Perhaps not, but there are a number of amazing, back-to-back festivals. The Fringe Festival is still a warm corpse in the ground, and we are about to dance upon its grave. The “Garden” has transformed, with six stages having sprouted up overnight, across Rymill Park. The Future Music Fesitval has arrived: the highlight of the festival calendar for fans of pop, drum and base and electronic music.
There are only about thirty or forty people lurking around the Flamingo Stage at 1:30pm, when I finally made my way through the crush of half-naked punters and into the festival grounds. It is a very hot afternoon and the concerned citizen in me hopes that while everyone seems to have forgotten their shirts, they at least remembered their sunscreen.
I head over and situate myself in a shady spot along the barrier. There is the low rumble of bass, the pounding of the kick drum and I realise Zowie has taken the stage. Zowie (Zoe Fleury) has a grindy, bass-heavy pop sound. Her recent single “Bite Back” has been getting a fair amount of radio play, and landing a spot on the Future Music line-up is a perfect chance for her to show Australia what she is about. New Zealand’s diminutive electro-pop pixie definitely eats up the scenery as she rampages across the stage in her shiny-black outfit, professing her love for drums. She’s kinda like a Veronica with teeth.
Soon enough it’s 2:15pm, and the crowd is beginning to thicken like cream that has been left out in the hot sun, which is now well overhead. Melbourne lads Gypsy and the Cat look very tidy in white shirts, black jeans and sunglasses. They warmly greet the fans who are moving in eagerly to condense along the barrier. The band get into “Time to Wander,” flashing smiles at each other, and are clearly having a fantastic time. “We released our debut album, do any of you have it?” they ask the crowd. From the reaction, it is clear there are more than a few fans out there.
I didn’t have to go far for the next act. Tame Impala were a must-see, and were up next on the Flamingo stage. Another Aussie act, the Perth four-piece have always been blessed with rave reviews, so I am looking forward to their live set. Their particular brand of psychedelic, spaced-out, rock is as laid-back and relaxed as the band appear to be; bare-foot and beaming. This being the last show of the Future Music tour, it seems like every act is ready to let their hair down. ‘Solitude Is Bliss’ is pure magic, as soft rays of light flash over the crowd while the sun moves behind the trees.
One of the best elements to the Future Music festival is that the event really rides on the backs of so many great Australian acts. Sydney’s Art vs. Science are a perfect example of the popularity of local acts. They are beginning their set on the Future Music stage, and I wander over only to find that I can’t even get close to the D barrier. I stick around long enough to bear witness to the craziness of “Flippers” and “Magic Fountain,” but have to move along to Mark Ronson and the Business International who are about to begin their set.
Ronson is clearly very popular, judging by the turn out. His stage show consists of a collection of four or so keyboards, mics and electric drums. The prominent and popular producer and DJ has worked with some major artist in his time. His live show consists of some of the songs he has put out with the likes of Lily Allen. Yet is was the song “California” that had the biggest reaction for the crowd.
I caught a little of The Presets from a distance, but had to sacrifice sticking around for what I was sure would have been an amazing set in order to catch New Yorkers, MGMT. I had been looking forward to catching this band, who had made such big waves when they first started out a few years ago. The live show is relatively understated at first, as the gentlemen begin their set with “Weekend Wars.” It is the earlier numbers that get the biggest reaction from the crowd. The newer material is perfectly suited to a warm day like today, however, with the relaxed surfer-sixties sound that many of the new songs have. They play “It’s Working,” and “The Handshake,” yet also crowd pleasers such as “Electric Feel.” The band are joined on stage at one point by the whole of Tame Impala as well as Mark Ronson and company.
After this dazzling display of happy musical camaraderie, I decided to head over to catch British rapper Dizzee Rascal. This is definitely a change of pace from the day’s line up thus far. Dizzee is over thirty minutes late, however. When he eventually makes it onto the stage, he advises he is not going to get into why he was late, but being that Adelaide is the last show of the tour, he implores the crowd to get involved. The rapper bounces around the stage proclaiming he is “Bonkers.” Quite possibly, but he is also very entertaining. Other numbers included “Dirty Disco’” and the duet “You”ve Got The Love” (which isn’t really a duet when it is performed with only a recording of Florence Welch).
Most of the crowd abandon Dizzee at 7:45pm, in order to catch Pendulum, however I am sticking around for the Chemical Brothers. No Matter how magic any of the preceding acts were likely to be this Future Music festival, none could compete with the sheer monumental wizardry of the 90’s British electronica duo. As the roadies were setting up the stage, they wheeled out a giant rig that resembled the inside of the Tardis. As first earth-tremors began, that came with the steady beat, a large, cylindrical cage of lights descended from above the stage. The sky was purple with the approaching dusk, and the lights seemed to be hovering, a giant equalizer in the sky.
Now, I should admit that the exact set listing is a little hazy for me. I, along with everyone else that was around me, was pretty much in the moment. Realistically, with such a long and industrious career as theirs, the Chemical Brothers could have performed damn near anything and had a perfect set. Tracks such as ‘Setting Sun,’ ‘Block Rockin Beats’ and ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’ were cause to dance like a crazy dancing thing. The night drew to a close, and the lyric to ‘ Galvanize’ rang out over the park commanding us: “don’t hold back.” It seemed every sweaty and exhausted body present took those words as a command, expelling what was left of their energy into the ethers with hands in the air and feet off the ground.
The Future Music festival definitely didn’t hold anything back this year either, and presented an incredible array of local and international acts. Like any good festival, the headliners should always prove to be the best of the day and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t all about the Chemical Brothers in the end.