LIVE REVIEW: LISTEN OUT FESTIVAL

Photo: Jake Wilton

RNA Showgrounds, 5/10/2014

To walk into a festival before the punters make their way in is equally frightening and electrifying. The first stranglers bounce in, with some hitting the booze a little earlier forcing them to dawdle in, through the gates. A nuance of pride and smugness emits from the crowd’s elitist fashion sensibilities. Guys found it difficult to find a shirt to wear, girls found any reason to put plastic henna-like jewellery all over their faces, and both genders excelled in cringe-worthy tattoos. Now in its second year, the Listen Out travelling boutique dance and electronic music festival strides a lineup boasting of upcoming international talent and some legendary homegrown acts.

An interesting ratio divides the crowd almost instantaneously. Easily 60:40 of the Listen Out punters were there purely for the music while the former represents the typical crowd of ‘vibe hunters’. Whatever that means. Though say what you will about dance music festivals, Listen Out stands in a unique position of attracting some real music fans – and with this year’s edition featuring some real underground stars, it goes to show that the dedicated are still present despite frail numbers. Tkay Maidza was able to get the bass pounding early – unfortunately for me this was the moment I realised I forgot my earplugs. Bursting with personality, this young powerhouse of pop-dub-house princess hoisted too many hits for such an early set. She controlled the audience as she did the stage; fielding the left and right parameters ready to take on anything. She concluded by bringing up four lucky audience members to dress up in dinosaur outfits and were employed to be brontosauruses for a brief yet incredibly memorable experience. Proving to be the new music find of the day, Scotland’s Young Fathers readies some insane noise techniques into their cleverly crafted alternative hip hop regimes. The trio battled the early spring temperatures of the Brisbane heat to exude a physically, and mentally, draining set filled with the new-wave hip hop sweeping the scene currently.

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Hitting the Atari Stage for a one-two punch were the drop-heavy set of Golden Features followed by Yahtzel. The former, famously hidden behind his golden emblazed mask, was quick to the mark by dropping some of his well known singles such as Tell Me and Guillotine, but made some time to plug in some of his own favourite tunes flying around at the moment. The latter took advantage of the dying sun by spinning some more intense bass tunes, getting the crowd heavily psyched for the big night that was to follow. Taking a much needed break from the ear-splitting bass drops of the main stage, I warp to the 909 area of the Showgrounds to groove to some more soul induced dance channels. Ta-ku was first to provided said grooves and being his first ever Brisbane show – although name dropped Melbourne more than a few times – the young lad had a lot to live up to. Though he quickly familiarised himself with the eager bunch of onlookers with his more than memorable When I Met You. Quick to round out his own original material, Ta-ku treated the Brisbane Listen Out punters to Childish Gambino’s 3005 – singalongs included, of course.

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Drawing the biggest crowd of the day, thus far, Chet Faker was greeted with a roaring cheer – yet another reminder that I forgot my earplugs. While the man is greatly known for his soul dripped, minimal electro, Chet Faker, instead, fused a setlist of his more dancier tracks – a tactile move for the Sydney resident who was knowledgeable to the festival’s encompassing flow. Tracks like 1998, Cigarrettes and Chocolate and his smash collaboration with fellow Listen Out bill buddy Flume, Drop the Game. He made the crowd boogie, for sure, but still found time to croon and make us, especially me, fall in love with him more so. Although a little static with microphone in hand and not behind a keyboard, Blush andhis cover of No Diggity hit home runs and made an everlasting remark on all of us.

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The Faded star ignored proposed set times and launched on stage with… Faded. ZHU is arguably the biggest name in the game at the moment so for me to be turned away from the pit to take photos was quite insulting. The anonymous producer, playing his (?) first ever shows for the Listen Out festival is an honour for Australian’s, but did little to interact. A veiled projection screen closed off ZHU from the audience, covering his face and creating a barrier of disconnection from the very exciting punters. It was like watching that scene from A Clockwork Orange where I’m being forced to watch propaganda footage behind some music. War images and prospects of glory and human achievement fly across the screen with glimpses of triangles infiltrating our minds. If I didn’t know any better, I think ZHU was trying to brainwash Australia with Illuminati garbage – seriously, something was going on. Schoolboy Q announced that he’s taking some time off from touring and said this could be his last visit to the country for some time. So he wasted no time in whipping out Collard Greens and tearing the festival a new one. Four Tet and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs were well equipped for getting folks on their dancing shoes. Both producers were sensational in progressing new, intriguing sounds to the formula – much needed for this time of night.

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Australian’s own export hero Flume rounded out the night, bringing with him some new jams to boot. Kicking off with a fast-paced, percussive spiral of a new tune, Flume followed it on with his psychic trance spin on Arcade Fire’s Afterlife – most fitting. Pumping out old favourites first off, he did well to rev up the crowd and spool them in. The infamous infinity prism which he lugs around the world for his tour is basically the second star of the show. Kaleidoscopic patterns and dazzling light performances from the illusional 3D projector added real colour to Flume’s already spellbinding set. Churning out a string of recent remixes, it gave Flume the chance to bring those bass drops to the table and reel that exhausted audience in ever further. The Sydney producer’s only 2014 Australian shows felt right at home at Listen Out. Acting as a solemn goodbye for his self-titled debut album – which has him to astonimical levels of fame, globally – Flume showed how his rule over the EDM world is really only beginning. Any number of those acts who receded him could have easily headlined, yet Flume proved too worthy and too astonishing as a live performer to be any less deserving of that headliner position.

Photos and words by Jake Wilton

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