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LISTEN OUT 2014

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ozone Reserve

“Boutique” is probably the wrong label to apply to a festival hosted in grimy foreshore parkland, dripping with mud, and featuring a (coincidental) playground and barbecue complex in the middle of it. Although not exactly glamorous, Listen Out was absolutely top-shelf as far as the line-up went – a cleverly curated mix of dance acts for elitists and the cream of current crowd-pleasers. The appreciation was deeply felt – right from 2.00, Perth bass darlings Slumberjack had already garnered a keen early crowd, dropping feel-good favourites like their Cuban Brothers remix and dirty-playful trap hit Felon.

Maybe it’s a little too obvious to compare Adelaide rap wunderkind Tkay Maidza to Azalia Banks, but the comparison’s begging to be made. They’re both diminutive, party-focused, have a kind of goofy-nervous stage presence, and use the kind of jackin’ backing tracks antithetical to skip hop. Maidza, in all her awkward-hand-movement grinning glory, absolutely rocked the earlybirds – throwing out loveheart hand signals to the front row and getting four festival goers to party in brontosaurus suits. Her DJ was clearly having a great time, too – using the repeated gag of a Bound 2 “Uh-huh, Honey” sample to ring in Triple J hit Uh Huh.

Maidza made it over for the tail end of Kilter’s set, joining him for They Say. Kilter, trapped in skinny jeans and a tight collared shirt, delivered an incredibly energetic set. Although his pre-recorded tracks involved very little knob twiddling – a little disconcerting in a DJ set – Kilter worked harder on the cymbals and electric drums than any producer really ought to. He even pumped out an incredible analogue accompaniment to his DnB rework of a Kite String Tangle track (apologetically prefaced with a “I don’t usually do this one. How do you guys feel about breaks?”).

Back at the hip hop-dominated 909 stage, Young Fathers performed with an unMaidza anti-giggle intensity. Accompanied by a (fairly inaudible and ineffectual) drummer and a relatively untouched sound system, Young Fathers’ three singer-rappers performed with practically paramillitary focus – staring down the front row, spitting out fierce raps, clambering and crouching menacingly on the speakers, occasionally collapsing into Paul Dano-esque church choral breaks. Party jam Get Up was beyond heart-on-sleeve.

Sporting the incredible Kanye-esque mask promised in his promo pics, Golden Features delivered a workable but slightly lukewarm 3.00 set, culminating in a modest rework of Feel Good Inc. Later, Yahtzel – maskless, sporting uber-casual Ulladulla attire – represented the best of Aussie bass music: unpretentious, meticulously crafted trap bangers interspersed with the odd “I love Perth!”. He rounded off the set with his recent track with L D R U (Maybe).

Bondax worked the stage and delivered a powerful pop-RnB set – as far as we could tell. During their set, one of your intrepid reporters was stuck in line for the venue’s single EFTPOS machine for half an hour. Ta-Ku, meanwhile, absolutely killed it at the 909 – hard-hitting trap tunes with incredibly rich percussion and the odd gun sound effects (and, as GMCFosho once observed, when the gunshots are the beats, there ain’t nothing harder than that).

Chet Faker, sporting beanie and beard, and bobbing with the intense sensitivity you’d expect from the classic Melbourne hipster, oozed James Blake fragility (and pitch-perfect vocals). Surprisingly, though, given Flume’s appearance at the festival and Chet’s usual concert habits, he performed without full band and with no duets. That said, his starkly solo performance leant a sense of intimacy to his quavery songs.

Snakehips delivered a hip hop/RnB set over at the 909 stage as bucket-hatted revellers crammed in for Schoolboy Q. Filling in for YG, the UK duo did an impressive job working the crowd – a solid mix of the lush, summery synths Snakehips are known for with the gritty trap a seething Perth crowd demands. By the time Schoolboy Q’s absurdly relaxed (bored?) hype man took the stage – dropping the Harlem Shake as a crowd warm-up and inserting very hammy airhorns and “Mad Dog Entertainment” promos between Q performances – the crowd was moving with a seismic intensity. A few times during the set, several rows of people would overbalance and struggle through the light mud. Q performed with aggressively self-aggrandizing swagger (“Last time I played in Perth, that shit sold out!”) and stormed through Collard Greens, Hands On The Wheel, and a version of Kendrick Lamar’s M.A.A.D City. Fourtet was as powerful as usual, and although his 40-minute set left some wanting, a solid close (finishing with Parallel Jalebi) made his performance particularly worthwhile.

Zhu – who, if you’re close enough to the enormous screen obscuring him from the crowd, is very clearly Stephen Zhu – has a stage pseudonymity that feels less mysterious than innocent. There’s something a little Kate Bush about his uncanny vocoder falsetto, his shyness, and how unnecessary his self-effacement is.

In an enormous theatrical gesture, Zhu opened with an audio-visual announcement: the Roswell aliens left a message, and that message was “LOVE”. “If you came here with people you love, make some noise,” he said, in a subdued monotone. “And if you came here because you love Zhu, make some noise.” His set included recent CHVRCHS remix (complete with jangly guitars), his Outkast recut Moves Like Ms. Jackson, and an impressive rework of Faded.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (there’s only one of them, and he’s delivering a DJ set) opened with a slightly tacky touch – the Blue Danube, which I last heard dropped by a DJ at a Coldplay concert. Immediately afterwards, he launched into an incredibly powerful and playful set, pulling tricks like double-drops and dropping the entire bottom end unexpectedly to give way to a Punjab vocal line.

Playing his sole live show of 2014, Flume brought the entire festival to a singularity, with particular care given to his remix of Lorde’s Tennis Court. His wobbly synths, given all the audio room they deserved, capped off a particularly rich and satisfying new festival.

ZOE KILBOURN

Photos – Alfred Gorman.