Future Music Festival Sydney 2014 Review

Published on Beatsmedia 10/03/2014:
http://beatsmedia.com/future-music-festival-sydney-2014-review/

It was my second Future Music Festival experience, and upon walking into the underground passage where all people with general admission tickets went to get in, I sensed a wind of change. For starters, I was one of the first groups of people to enter that tunnel passage last year, which meant that although I could feel the wind on my face, the place smelled like horses. It was a passage for horses at the racecourse after all. During the second trip, I actually decided to have a grand, late entrance. Initially, I thought of arriving at around 4pm, but overestimated the time it took to travel and arrived at 2.30pm. It didn’t stink at all. Perhaps the previous crowd had breathed it all in?

Entrances were divided and classified so that the Future Music Festival team could scan for tickets from various outlets. I was a bit confused as to where I should be scanning my ticket, but by the time I realised I was supposed to scan it in the industry area, I was already at the Moshtix express lane. Fortunately, they scanned my ticket regardless, and I managed to get in. However, just like last year, my little bag was not searched. I’m not sure if the regulations were less strict just because this wasn’t a Hard Dance festival, or just because I wasn’t wearing a mask or huge poncho. Also, I did not see a lot of sniffer dogs. However, I read from someone on Twitter that the police actually allocated the dog squad at Central station and managed to arrest people who were carrying drugs from there. I would really love to hear or witness more successful, efficient and consistent regulation in areas both inside and outside the festival.

I arrived earlier than I planned to, so I wandered around the festival and decided to experience acts that I did not plan to see. I had heard Will Sparks’ SoundCloud tunes before, and it made a great first impression. His live performance at the Safari stage also met my great expectations.

Adventure Club played a series of chilled Dubstep tunes at the Haunted House stage, which was unexpected for a festival for Future Music Festival. Their decisions to make a transition between an electro house tune like Showtek’s ‘Booyah’ and something light as an ‘Eyes On Fire’ remix or ‘I Crave You’ remix was quite unconventional and slightly uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I give them credit for trying and adding variety to the series of genres contained in Future Music Festival.

I heard of Dada Life while I was monitoring the tweets made about Future Music Festival in the morning with the hashtag #FMF14, so I decided to check out his performance at the Future Music stage. It allowed me to witness the improvements that the Future Music Group had made to enhance the festival experience. There were three huge LCD screens on each side of the stage, and instead of switching from crowd to DJ as well as the name of the DJ excessively like last year, the LCD screens actually managed to constantly show either the crowd or DJ on at least one screen.

The screens even played original 2D animations, designed based on different themes for each DJ, and responded to each song played. I especially loved the yellow bean or drop of paint that was animated for Dada Life’s performance. It was a happy little prancing fellow before the drop, but after the drop and during kicks, it turned into a devilish little thing! In songs where there were lyrics. The little droplet pranced around onto different words so that everyone could sing along and have a massive karaoke session. Halfway through the set, the crew brought out a giant banana balloon that had the length of around three decks! It definitely made me wish I could be in the central pit, since I was in the outer circle at the time.

I decided to stay put while waiting for Kaskade, which meant that I managed to witness the last minute addition to the Future Music Festival line-up – Pharrell Williams. Williams didn’t really sing a lot in the beginning, when he played ‘Ain’t No Hollaback Girl’ and ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’. In fact, the microphone volume was so low in the beginning, I could barely hear him. The DJ kept doing this annoying thing where he rewinds the decks after every song, and Pharrell had a very limited time on stage. That meant he had to rush through songs, including ‘Get Lucky’. Despite having security warn him that there were too many people on stage, Pharrell got a lot of girls to stand beside him. That would have been very nice for anyone who was a fan. He also made an effort to walk towards the outer circle and sing to his fans there, while security kept a hand on his pants to keep him from falling or being dragged. Pharrell Williams was obviously very excited to play in Sydney, and his enthusiasm made me feel like I was in the USA.

Kaskade only played around one or two melodic tracks such as ‘Last Chance’, before he moved on to tracks that had really long kick and bass segments. Since I wanted to hear more melodic tunes, I decided to head towards the Future Sound System stage. The stage was more isolated compared to the locations of other stages. Unlike the close proximity between Safari and Future Music stage where Safari had an overpowering bass, there were no sound clashes to be heard at the Future Sound System stage. In fact, compared to the other stages, Future Sound System did actually have better sound. There were seats upstairs beside the circular pit, which meant that anyone could take a break and enjoy the view of the crowd below them. VIPs and the production crew could get into the grandstands via escalator access for a greater top-down view. I will reveal more details about the building interior later in this review.

Then, the highlight of my day began. Chuckie’s set was introduced with vocals modified to sound very deep. It’s what the Hard Dance fans would call the ‘Defqon sound’. Magnificent electro trance tunes were played one after the other so quickly. I just couldn’t stop dancing the whole way through.

After Chuckie’s set, I decided to take a break. Surprisingly, the grandstand’s ground floor was actually open to all visitors, and it was so clean! I saw a cleaner standing by with tissues in her bag when I went to the toilets, but I wasn’t sure if she was supposed to watch the toilets and keep them clean all day. She could be waiting for the toilet to be less busy so she could do more stuff. It would have been quite difficult for them to keep the place clean, but I do hope that Randwick Racecourse will allow access to that building again next year’s Future Music Festival.

Anyway, I got out of the building from the other side, and was briefly lost in the dark of the night, but the lights from the other stages managed to remind me of my location. I moved quickly towards the Haunted House stage for Porter Robinson’s set, and unsurprisingly, it was packed. Not as crowded as it was when the Prodigy came last year and there were fewer stages, but packed nonetheless. Fortunately, I managed to spot two ninja turtles cutting their way towards the front, and managed to form a train with them. Another guy realised what I was doing and placed his hands on my shoulders as we formed a train. Unfortunately, by the time I had gotten to the front, Porter Robinson ended his set with ‘Language’, and people started chanting for Knife Party. Perhaps I chose the wrong time to take my break.

I had the privilege of forming a train with strangers last year for Knife Party and The Prodigy, and I’ve seen Knife Party live twice. However I wanted to change things up a bit for my Future Music Festival experience this year. So, despite having a view that was close to the front of the stage for Knife Party, I decided to head over to The Likes Of You stage and watch a new producer who’s tearing his way through the scene. I decided to watch Gesaffelstein’s live performance.

The Future Music crew took an unusually long time to set up white panels for Gesaffelstein and tried to make sure that it would be in the centre of the stage. They could have placed some tape in the centre so that it would be less time-consuming. Anyway, when it was finally complete, Gesaffelstein walked onto the stage in formal and black attire. Although he had brown, curly hair and hadn’t shaved for weeks, his piercing eagle eyes and long chin gave him an extremely cool demeanour. In terms of crowd interaction, he did nothing more than tell his audience to clap louder with an upward flick of his hand. Everybody loves a silent rebel, and naturally, I could hear one of the girls behind me say how hot he was and how she would do anything for him. His head moved rigorously during build-ups with every beat, and although I couldn’t see what was on the table, I was sure that he was playing with a grid controller. You can have a look at a recording of one of Gesaffelstein’s live performances below and see for yourself. It’s not from Future Music Festival, but the lighting and panel arrangement is exactly the same. It seems as if Gesaffelstein’s team had very specific requirements about how the performance should look like. Those panels were probably imported!

Gesaffelstein’s engaging performance made me lose track of the time, which meant that I could only hear Markus Schulz play one track. Yet, after listening to Paul Van Dyk for a while, I decided to leave early for reasons I find hard to articulate. To give you an idea of how debatable it can be, read the comments from some of our local DJs here.

I was hoping that I could arrive home early to write this review, but while I managed to avoid the end rush, I had to wait for a painstakingly long time to catch my bus. Both High Street and Alison Road were blocked off this year instead of just High Street since the festival area had expanded after constructions or renovations, and a lot of people who weren’t making their way to the city with Central station shuttle buses had to walk along Anzac Parade. I was at the corner of Alison Road and Anzac Parade at first. About two or three groups managed to catch taxis at the time. As I waited, I got a bit concerned about the detour signs, because I wasn’t sure if that meant the buses were going to take a detour and not stop on Anzac Parade at all. So, I started walking down towards the next bus stop. Unfortunately, when my 90% full bus came, I missed it by a second. I watched as a determined man and his sleepy girlfriend waited for taxis. They tried to stop around four to five taxis, and none would pick them up because they were full.

I got impatient again and started walking down, hoping that I didn’t miss around two to three buses. I watched as cars got towed away because Anzac Parade had become a clearway for the event. When I went to the front of Doncaster Hotel and saw the 393, I realised why the bus was taking so long. Anzac Parade had so many people that the bus drivers had to take on more than they were allowed to that night. People begged the bus driver to take on more people. Other people who got out of the hotel bar approached taxi drivers and asked the passengers where they were going, hoping that they would go in the same direction and share a cab. Imagine how worried I was when I almost missed my bus by a second again. I ran and yelled: “Please don’t! Stop the bus!” Read that quickly without the exclamation mark in the middle and you can imagine how stupid I sounded. In the end, I got home two hours later than the amount of time I took to go home from last year’s Future Music Festival.

Overall, my experience of Future Music Festival was decent, but the sound production team, Sydney’s transport system and police force dragged things down a bit.

Awesome parts:

  • Expanded venue
  • Dramatic production themes
  • Great lighting
  • Clean and sufficient facilities (including lots of water stations)
  • DJ Chuckie
  • I went alone but two people talked to me and said hi – Most of Sydney’s punters and pedestrians are really nice and friendly!

Bad moments:

  • Inconsistent bag check regulation and insufficient allocation of sniffer dogs around or inside the venue – Why are the police stricter at Hard Dance festivals and less strict at festivals like Future Music Festival?
  • Some stages were too close together and sound levels were inconsistent
  • Sydney’s horrible traffic and public transport management skills
  • Timetable clashes
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