Future Music Festival Melbourne 2015
It’s 31 degrees and on board the 12:16 train to Flemington racecourse the recycled air is throbbing with youthful anticipation. Groups of young lads and ladies are running up and down the aisles screaming, there’s a sing–song going in the next carriage and someone is shooting liquor into randomer’s mouths with a plastic water pistol. The palpable exuberance amongst the passengers is, on the most part, from early morning drinking sessions, and the sight of a few pairs of pin-prick pupils are evidence of a more chemical presence. Largely the antics are good-natured and harmless but some revellers have peaked before the party has even started.
The young Welshman sitting opposite introduces both himself and his disinterested German girlfriend and offers me some unappealing piss-coloured liquid from a 2 litre Fanta bottle. I feel like my ‘getting pished before noon’ days are behind me and politely decline, but strike up a bit of a conversation with him. Rhys has been drinking all across the east coast of Australia for three months now with Future Music being a clear highlight in his busy schedule. Apparently I am the spitting image of this young man’s drug dealer back in Wales and it takes a ludicrous amount of time to convince him my name is not Warren and I’ve never set foot west of the Pennines. Eventually he convinces me to take a swig from the suspect Fanta bottle. Eurgghh, Vodka and Red Bull! That takes me back! Rhys assures me it’s 50/50 booze to juice and I have no reason to doubt him.
Having mingled with the plebs it was now time to do my journalistic duty and investigate the Directors Club Lounge. The V.I.P. section is a calm oasis in this desert of drug-fuelled insanity, tastefully furnished with designer chairs and providing ample shade from the now powerful sun. The music from the early acts on the nearby main stage drifts over and it is too easy to lay back and indulge in some classic people-watching.
Unfortunately there is no sign of Avicii or Drake in the exclusive lounge but there is a strong chance that Darude may have been mingling at the bar, alone, both perplexed and frustrated by his own anonymity. Sipping on my third Bulleit Bourbon and Coke from the free bar I lay back and cast a thought to my friend Rhys. A part of me longs for that organic festival experience, when thousands of individuals become one thronging mass, moving as one under the flag of the the beautiful enigma that unites us all; music. Reclining in my lounger I accept another tomato and asparagus tart canapé from the delightful waitress and reminisce wistfully.
At 4 o’clock the free bar dries up and it becomes abundantly clear that it’s time to get out there and enjoy some of today’s finest dance acts. First up is British drum and bass duo Sigma. By the standards of the genre, Sigma sound clean and poppy, with a crowd pleasing mix of head-banging breaks and catchy pop hooks. It’s an intoxicating blend and packed with tonnes of melodies that you didn’t know you knew until you find yourself singing along. You feel Sigma have taken their sound from its natural habitat of the dingy cellar club, dusted it off and re-packaged it for the large outdoor stadium events. Unfortunately by trying to apply pop structure to drum and bass, Sigma lose a bit of the grimy essence that makes it so appealing. My main complaint from the performance is one that I feel is common in modern dance music. After a prolonged build up and a potentially ‘epic’ drop the intensity peters out and leaves tens of thousands of people swaying awkwardly in a field, frustrated that the magical trance they were under has been so easily dispelled.
Next up is Nero. I’ve seen this London-based trio several times in the past and was interested to see how the locals would respond to their violent brand of air-shaking bass wobblery. Nero arrive on the stage behind what I can only describe as a gargantum, angular spaceship which beams impossibly white light and moving images befitting their future theme. The opening track ‘Guilt’ sums up the groups style, simultaneously assaulting the senses with its pounding bass lines and soothing with it’s piercing vocals, delivered with consummate delicacy by singer Alana Watson. Afterwards the crowd is left shaken to the core but wholly satisfied.
Die Antwoord are an entity previously unknown to me. As far as I can tell the South African dance/hip-hop trio consist of a man with a crew cut and tattoos who wouldn’t look lost in a rural TAB, a tiny blonde nymph with a voice is so piercing she can speak to dogs and a huge muscle bound bloke with a terrifying mask. I approached this set with a degree of scepticism but ended up being blown away by Die Antwoord and their sheer energy, verve and utter weirdness. The DJ in the mask belts out synth driven bangers that a 14-year-old would be proud of, hair-man raps with incredible rapidity in that intangible Afrikaans dialect and the nymph has the audience in the palm of her hand utilising that ear splitting voice, cutting through the wonderful cacophony. During the set they touch on violence, sexual fetish, drug abuse and much, much more. If it’s socially frowned upon, Die Antwoord will sing about it and that irreverent approach to music is increasingly rare in the modern day musical climate. No-one knows whether to take this group seriously but to be honest when you’re having this much fun, who cares?
What to say about The Prodigy that hasn’t been said before? All the classic tunes you know and love delivered with the ruthless aggression that we have come to expect. As well as turning in a stellar set of all the nineties/noughties anthems they manage to sneak in a few lesser known tracks that are equally well received. The real stars of the set however are the members of the large mosh pit. In all my years I have never been in the midst of such a group of gracious, courteous individuals who were simultaneously trying to do as much damage to one anothers bodies as legally possible. When someone fell down, the whole rabble stopped as one, picked that person up, checked their vital signs and sent them on their way in the most civilised form of organised brutality I have ever witnessed. Bravo to you chaps! One and all.
Words and photos by Eugene Price and Sophie Metcalfe.