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Saturday, June 28, 2014
The last few years have seen the demise of many a festival, giving rise to smaller, boutique events, catering for a more niche crowd. It’s time for a changing of the guard, the next generation of festivals, and Circo is proving to be just that.
Following a successful debut last year at Ascot, Circo moved to the Claremont Showgrounds, specifically two of the big pavilions and a couple outside stages. Local promoters Metric and I.C.S.S.C handpicked another fine selection of local and international talent, from live rock bands to dark, glitchy club beats. With a few big names like Kele, Nina Las Vegas and Violent Soho, the line-up featured a lot of underground, cutting edge, up-and-coming artists. It’s an exclusive WA festival that has the Eastern States jealous, for a change.
A lot of effort went into the production, creating a real old school, warehouse party vibe. Custom designed stage sets, props and cutting edge lighting and visual projections combined with solid audio to conjure a real sensory experience.
Opening up the Circo festivities on the Carousel stage was Sydney’s DMAs. It was a shame they were on so early, with only a small crowd in the vast warehouse, but that didn’t stop the band playing a brilliant set. The core trio are joined by three more onstage and have a big sound. It’s ’90s Britpop influenced, guitar- based, melodic rock with Stone Roses shoegaze swagger, while singer Tommy O’s voice has the soaring quality of Liam Gallagher. Plus, they write great songs: Your Low was a highlight and their big ballad, Delete, had the crowd erupt into dancing as it reached its spectacular crescendo. A great way to kickstart the day. Meanwhile, part of the UK garage, two-step revival, DJ Q and Sully were getting busy in the Cannonball room with their special brand of bassline boogie.
Perth producer Sable brought his A-game to the Carousel stage. Harnessing remixes of popular songs My Love and Niggas In Paris along with his own hit single Feels So Good; Sable provided a non-stop, dance experience, generating the first rave pit of the day as festival-goers took full advantage of his penetrating bass drops.
Soon enough it was 4.20, and Australian rising stars Violent Soho were being met by thunderous crowd roars. After James Tidswell and Luke Henery come down for a quick meet-and-great, the Brisbane boys quickly got under way with Dope Calypso. Circle pits, head banging and crowd surfing (including a wheelchair surfer) ensued. The madness extended when a fan jumped the barricade, sang along with Henery and then attempted a poorly planned stage dive. Soon enough the infamous opening riff of Covered In Chrome rang through the pavilion as the ever-growing crowd sang every lyric topped off with a deafening ‘Fuck yeah!’. Soho once again exceeded expectations, proving themselves as one of Australia’s best live acts.
Uber-cool Parisian producer Onra laid down a smooth set of cut up global beats, before hot Seattle duo Odesza took over as night fell and lifted things to another level. A definite highlight, it was a huge set of emotional, sweeping, synth music, accentuated with live percussion. Perched atop a futuristic pyramid shape, the DJ booth was illuminated by mind-warping 3D projection mapping and strobes. Even the corridor connecting the two main rooms was decked out in smoke and darkness, with piercing beams of white light scanning around. It was this attention to detail that made all the difference – like having the set times printed on the wristbands. Genius!
With the band sets done for the day, bass-wielding Touch Sensitive hit the stage with his owning groovy synth and atmospheric tunes. Whilst the set felt a tad uneventful alongside other DJs, the crowd took the opportunity hands on to experiment their own unique dance moves. TC’s booming live bass performance added some spectacle as the crowd continued to build for the night’s headliners.
Over on the Small Top stage, Golden Features was bringing the nightclub atmosphere to the showgrounds; drawing a respectable crowd of ravers and fist-pumpers. Unfortunately for the yellow masked producer, council requests had resulted in a diminished sound leading to un-impactful bass drops after minutes of mellow, techno builds.
One of the big drawcards was Kele of Bloc Party fame. While he toured his solo album with a band before, this time he was touring on the back of his recent EP of deep house music, and tonight was just DJing. This left some people who were expecting a live set disappointed, and this probably could have been made clearer by promoters, but Kele made up for it with a cranking, peak-time house set including big tunes such as Duke Dumont’s The Giver, Julio Bashmore’s Battle For Middle You and a remix of Bloc Party’s One More Chance. Meanwhile DJ Earl tore up the Cannonball stage with some Chicago footwork.
Another headliner people were anticipating to put on a big show was flamboyant NYC transgender rapper Mykki Blanco, but unfortunately Mykki went M.I.A. and didn’t show up, forcing Golden Features to fill in.
Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth brought his youthful, unique blend of digital sounds into the packed Carousel stage, sending it into a frenzy. With solid tempo and time scale flows; Hemsworth’s ability to move between dreamy atmospheric beats and thumping hip-hop remixes kept the crowd active and engaged with rave pits forming in all corners of the pavilion.
Wrapping things up on the Cannonball stage was prodigal LA producer Nosaj Thing, who’s created tracks for Kendrick Lamar and Kid Cudi. His glitchy, post-dubstep tunes feature polished production – lush, deep, complex, atmospheric music – but just not that suited to headlining. It was too minimal for most who wanted to finish with a bang, and wandered off to the main room.
To close off the hugely successful Circo festival, Nina Las Vegas took centre stage, Vodka & Coke in hand, bringing her lively and energetic presence to life immediately. As circus performers hung from the ceiling, Nina’s incredible techno breakdowns melded perfectly with her bass drops, providing an hour of progressive club sounds with roaring builds. Keeping engaged with her audience, Nina was chatty and spirited; dancing along to the contagious beats. Incorporating some Chet Faker and Alison Wonderland, Nina would end up bringing her fellow producers onstage for a huge celebration to close both the night and an outstanding festival.
AARON BRYANS & ALFRED GORMAN
Yahtzel & LDRU – Photography by Aaron Corkill