Words: Samantha Howard
On a speed boat off the coast of Croatia, during the European Summer of 2016, I travelled to Italian techno festival, Movement, with a group of talented music journalists from Thump, Ransom Note, XLR8R Magazine and DJ Mag. As we conversed, I found that all of the writers wanted to know the same thing: what was the electronic music scene like in Melbourne?
That was unbelievably surprising to me. How could they be so unaware of the incredible talent of our city? Unfortunately, due to the small population of our little hub, and the extraordinary distance that DJs are required to travel to come down under, we are not as blessed as the US, the UK or Europe when it comes to hosting regular events with huge international acts.
Our underground world also receives very little airtime, meaning we lack the coverage we need to draw attention to the happenings down under.
What we don’t lack, however, is talent. Melbourne is an electronic city that has been burgeoning over the last few decades, and the rest of the world is finally beginning to recognise that.
Pitch Music & Arts Festival has been a championing flag of Australia, and has planted the country on the international map of quality dance music, on a global scale. The music has always been here, but now the world can join in on our party, too.
The line-up of Pitch Music & Arts is akin to that of Dekmantel in Amsterdam, or Dimensions in Croatia. Featuring a smorgasbord of the most talented and appreciated individuals in the industry, Pitch has provided Australians with the opportunity of seeing our beloved favourite artists on our own dusty turf down under, while also being treated to a plethora of international acts.
Pitch’s second crack started off with Melbourne’s favourite locals, Otologic at the Beton Brut stage. The pair provided a perfect beginning to the festival, before handing the reins over to
Burn City Disco’s Dan Bentley, who played some soul-lifting bangers over at the Vanish Point stage.
Melbourne duo, Kllo, who have shot to national fame in the last year, performed a dynamic set filled with electro-pop beats and satisfying vocals for their budding fans, who have been following their quick growth to stardom.
Moodymann, who is just as familiar with the dusty Aussie festival earth as a white-haired, elderly doofer, played a set that blended his own tracks with a wide variety of classics, including The Beatles and Outkast.
Rodriguez Jr and HOSH followed as the Beton Brut stage filled up ever so quickly with avid music lovers, before techno icon Len Faki took to the podium at the Vanish Point stage for an epic three hour set.
Over at the main stage, Booka Shade returned to the dust again to delight listeners with their signature melodic bass notes that had the whole crowd pumping. Len Faki closed out the evening with Carl Cox’s remix of ‘Good Life’, a mesmerising way to end the first evening of what would be a long and eventful weekend.
Saturday morning, attendees were already beginning to feel the effects of what many argued to be the ‘dustiest festival of all time’. The morning featured some of Melbourne’s very best local acts including Jennifer Loveless, Kate Miller, Walter Juan and Salvador Darling. Fortunes returned to the Victorian festival circuit again as they brought deeply soulful tracks to the stage, with their soft guitar riffs and smooth vocals to spoil us.
At the Electrum stage, which opened on day two, Tom Trago, the man renowned for having a good time, ensured that all those who were listening had a grand time too. CC:DISCO! brought her selection of flavourful fun at the main stage, and Fantastic Man was a highlight for many over the weekend, particularly when he dropped Moby’s Next Is The E (Synthe Mix).
Black Madonna played more bangers than your old So Fresh Hits of Summer 2000 album, but 100 times better, and had people longing for more when she finished. Next up was her good buddy Seth Troxler, who, as always, played a great set, with a very special surprise appearance from Tom Trago, and a delightful drop of Jet Black by Mr G between the two of them before the main two stages were closed out for the Saturday night.
The sun rising between Wax’O Paradiso’s legendary four hour set and Prequel was unforgettable. The sun rose from the horizon beyond the campsite and reflected upon the beautiful mountainous grampian ranges. The intricate details of the rock faces could be seen right from the Electrum Stage, giving the impression of a canyon. Nothing could start the Sunday off better than when Kylie Minogue was dropped, before we freshened up quickly back at campsite to get ready again for the day to see Mitchell Gee and Paul Lynch play.
Louis McCoy followed the boys, in what appeared to be a stylish bicyclists outfit, before our own personal favourite, Kornél Kovács modestly took to the stage. The Electrum dance floor filled up quickly as dancers grooved along to ultimate classics including a favourite of his fellow colleague of Studio Barnhus, Axel Boman, ABBA 002.
Kovács’s own Szikra was a highlight for many and the international Facebook group ‘The Identification of Music Group’ was going off after the weekend with punters desperately seeking answers to find the track ID of each song Kovács dropped.
As the night set in, Floating Points kept the crowd on their toes, with a set that included everything from floaty jazz tones to space rock and a periphery of silence. The unfortunate inability for Maceo Plex to attend due to health reasons was a dampen on the spirits of many, but Bicep stepped up to the plate and did not disappoint.
The duo offered a euphoric live set at the Vanish Point stage, drawing a huge crowd that gathered so quickly you barely had time to find your feet and crack open a new beer. They captured their fans’ attention early with a mix of techno and house, and a hint of psychedelica that showed both in their sound and light show. The one-hour set finished with the wildly successful track Glue, which turned the crowd into a stirring rave, with intense colourful lasers that, combined with a wave of fairy lights and doof sticks, lit up the whole sky.
Marcel Dettman finished the night off with an absolute bang; playing an impressive and powerful set that took a strong gasp of all the senses. The three-hour set ended with Vitalic’s mind-bending and incredibly ecstatic track ‘La Rock 01’, and an intense lazer and light show, which saw punters dancing into the face of the strong Grampian winds as the lights flashed out for the night.
The last day kicked off with Boogs’ four hour set, which started with a battered, yet enthusiastic looking crowd that only continued to grow as the local favourite spun a plethora of tunes. DJ Tennis followed Boogs, and Pitch’s troops came out in true Aussie style, dressed in a range of sporting gear including rugby, footy and fittingly, tennis.
However, at the end of the day, it was Motor City Drum Ensemble who reigned supreme as the final act of the magical weekend, with an incredible selection of tunes and more jingles, jangles and tribal sounds than a Christmas jack-in-the-box found in a tropical jungle.
Alongside the festival’s sublime line-up was the installation designs, which were equally as impressive as the main stage set up the year before. Great alternating stone frames protruded the main stage with impressive lightwork that travelled down the frames in different directions depending on the VJ’s choice of light selection.
The natural backdrop is impeccable, with the rolling hills of the National Grampians in the background of the festivities creating a picture-perfect-postcard location, and one that is hard to compare to in Victoria for events.
And while hectic weather conditions can often make or break a festival, the strong winds and persistent dust (which at one stage created a mini tornado that demolished a whole campsite) did nothing to dampen the spirits of the crowd, who soldiered on until the fourth and last day wearing bandanas, dust masks, and for one dude, a pair of child’s swimming goggles.
The costumes and get-ups were a highlight alongside the music, and were everything you would expect and more from an electronic music festival set in the bushlands. Multiple doof sticks appeared at every stage, at every hour floating above heads like UFOs. Revellers could been seen going to extreme efforts that included a trailer equipped with a couch and eskies; and a front-yard set up next to the main stage, armed with everything from a letter box to garden gnomes and a watering can.
Minor recommendations include having a walkway that cuts directly from the stage to the camp, a better rubbish policy and the direction of stage location. The impressive natural backdrop falls in the direction of the DJ’s view, rather than the punters. If festival goers could view the impressive stages with the picturesque backdrop behind, they’d all be living the dream.
The hike from the stage to even the closest campsite around the food stalls was quite far and a shortcut may have helped save the lactic legs of dedicated dancers.
The “leave no trace policy”, which was advertised in the lead up to the event, seemed to have fallen on some deaf ears; with day-four seeing rubbish strewn across the ground both at and between camping areas and stages, and some of the toilet facilities remaining seemingly uncleaned for most of the festival.
Providing access to more bins around the campsite and having volunteers regularly cleaning throughout the festival can help ensure attendees don’t become lazy and leave their rubbish behind “because everyone else is”. While only a small criticism, the lack of cleanliness does not override the general positivity of the event and falls on the responsibility of both the event organisers and festival goers.
Pitch Music & Arts Festival is only in it’s second year and has so far absolutely killed it. The event has showcased everything that Australia’s electronic music industry has to offer, both in terms of talent and our very own style of festival-ing that is incomparable to any other location in the world.
Additions: Jessica Howard.