Live Review: Listen Out Festival

listen out

The inaugural Listen Out came to Centennial Park on one of those picture-perfect Sydney spring days, 28 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. Despite this, the festival’s Facebook page still urged revellers to bring something warm to wear during Disclosure’s set, like the thoughtful rave Mum you never had.

Unlike its predecessor, Listen Out is small and perfectly formed. You could easily dance between the two major stages – Atari and 909 – in 10 minutes without breaking a sweat, and still fit in a pit-stop at the Grill’d stand, who deserve a special mention for not hiking their listen out festival 1prices up. This joyous stand against festival profiteering specifically, and rampant capitalism more generally, meant I could have justified two burgers. Almost.

With a capacity of 15,000 and rumours of tickets left, the site felt spacious and also, crucially, had few of the tensions and attitudes which can plague Sydney day festivals – aside from the Azealia Banks ‘incident’, more of which later. As a general rule, people smiled more, the tans were less orange, and the short shorts a bit, well, longer.

The Red Bull Crate Diggers stage, announced not long before the event, was inspired. In a nutshell, the concept is this: select excellent DJs; give each a theme, from 80’s deep house to UK garage; ask them to delve into their record collections for some old-school gems; let the good times roll. Basically, whether it’s perfectly curated dance music or skydiving from space, Red Bull are your people. Trust them. The overall effect was akin to a euphoric house party, if your house parties involve a DJ atop a truck. In the middle of a park. This analogy’s not really working, is it?

AlunaGeorgeAlunaGeorge on the 909 stage was a highlight. Riding high on the release of their first album Body Music, Aluna Francis and George Reid were flawlessly rehearsed and note perfect. The crowd fell in love en masse with the duo’s perfect intersections of 90’s R&B and garage as they ran through tunes which already sound like classics. Attracting Flies and Lost and Found went down especially well, and if there’s something better for the ears than a cover of Montell Jordan’s This is How We Do It, performed as the sun sets, I’m yet to find it. So much so, that when they followed this up with White Noise, the Disclosure collaboration which first brought them to public attention, the crowd was already sold. In a level of stalking not seen in my behaviour since SBTRKT last graced these fair shores, I have already secured tickets to their sideshow so I can see them again. In the same week. Because I clearly don’t get out very much.

Azealia Banks‘ set was cut short when she walked off stage after some mannerless festivalgoers (sadly, a couple still made it in) started throwing things at her. This meant her publicised 50 minute set was more like 20 – not really on for a headliner. Emerging after entreaties by her ‘people’ to the audience to ‘promise to be polite’, she finished with 212 and then seemed relieved to beat a permanent departure from the stage.

Luckily, the sour note struck by Azealia’s disappointment was usurped by the fact that Duke Dumont is a legend. Toting a bottle of Smirnoff by his decks, he casually mixed Red Bull and vodka while delivering the best DJ set of the day, which incorporated everything from his own (impeccable) singles to a cheeky R Kelly sample.

listen out festivalUnlike many Sydney day festivals, line-up clashes had intentionally been avoided by scheduling only one act for the end of the day; Disclosure. As the whole festival surged towards the Atari stage, it was clear that Listen Out had succeeded in its goal of attracting a smaller and more discerning crowd. Throughout their whole set, there was no aggression, no bottle throwing, and generally no loutish behaviour of any kind. This might have been because Disclosure were simply brilliant, running through all of our favourites from Settle – and before – in a very tight set. A highlight was the Jessie Ware collaboration Confess to Me, as well as Aluna Francis coming on to perform White Noise live. We all had one final euphoric sing-song to Latch and then happily exited Centennial Park, Listen Out-endorsed jumpers in tow.

Top day out.



Words and pictures by Sonia Clarke