Everyone I had spoken with at the festival was raving about french alt. rock band Phoenix so I was left with little choice not to check them out! I was familiar with a few of their songs which have been on high rotation on Triple J in Australia. I got down thirty minutes early so I could be as close to the stage as possible. Even at this time the closest I could get was actually 100 meters off (just to the right of the sound mixing booth) but I was happy enough with this. Steadily but surely the crowd filled up with young indy kids who were generally nice, albeit a little hectic with excitement.
Apparently Phoenix were very lucky to have made it to the festival, however unfortunately the same couldn't be said about their lighting crew so the stage show was very stripped back. This didn't worry most people and it was nice to just focus on the music. Their tunes were very upbeat and most people were bouncing around singing along. I'd obviously heard their classic tunes Lisztomania and 1901 but most of the set was pretty new to my ears. I was certainly impressed with their composition and appreciated the electronic rock pop fusion that they were playing.
Towards the later part of their set things in the crowd started to feel a little tightly squeezed. In search of fresh air I took a look behind me and was absolutely gob smacked by the size of the audience behind me. Throughout the festival their was usually a fair amount of space between the various stages, but on this occasion the entire festival looked like it was circled around the "Outdoor Theater" stage which Phoenix were playing on. I decided I'd had enough and started squeezing my way out of the audience. It took a good fifteen minutes to escape and I estimate it must have been a good 600- 800 meters to the back! CRAZY!
Next stop was a mystery tent which I think was called "Dolab" looking back at the festival map. There was some heavy dub step bass lines, break beat and Electro getting people down and dirty and it was a nice change in music genre. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and not taking things to seriously. The tent had a nice open feel to it without feeling too boxed in. People were wandering in and out quite freely and if you wanted to dance there were plenty of other ravers to join in with. Around the tent there was also some interesting objects and structures which are pictured below.
I was on my way back to the beer tent when I realized one of my favorite artists was playing soon... LITTLE BOOTS! While I had plenty of time until her set I wanted to get a good vantage spot and headed back toward the "Gobi" tent. I caught the tail of Sly Stone's performance which was interesting but didn't really give me much of a chance to form an impression. After the crowd dissipated I headed towards the sound desk so I could have a peak of their equipment and watch them setup. I did feel a little sorry for the temporary sound engineer who had to replace the band engineer who had been stranded in the UK. They were using no less then 40 input sources with all of the sound toys and synthesizes on stage! They had a right old geek fest with instruments ranging from Stylephones, Moogs, Casios, Tenori-ON and all sorts of other sound boxes and instruments.
Right from the start the audience was electrified by the dazzling lasers, smoke machines, and blazing sound system! The instruments on stage could certainly produce sub frequencies that would make your intestines resonate with excitement. I've not seen Little Boots for a little while now so it was nice to see things developing for her so quickly. Because of her outfit I've nick named her "Little boots, BIG PANTS!" :)
All her great tracks were played and the crowd went off for "New in Town" which I think is probably her best track. I'm not sure how much of the act was performed live and what was backing tape but regardless Little Boots managed to put on a great show. At one stage it appeared she had setup some kind of infrared control or proximity sensor which was attached to the lazer system. She stood above the beams of light and moved her hands up and down which appeared to control a filter effect (see bottom left photo below). It may have just been for show though but regardless the crowd loved it!
So I hung round for most of her set but towards the end it was definitely time for a quick break to the toilet and to refuel on beer! Maybe this is a little too much information... BUT probably my favorite invention at the festival was the 'side-pee' attachment in the toilets. Thank heavens I didn't have to gaze into the bog of stench just to relieve myself! I was going to do a little side by side comparison here but that's a bit gross :)
By this time at night everyone seemed to be getting excited about the main act of the night Gorillaz! I've always enjoyed their music and sound production wise have drawn a lot of influences from their sound. I think the whole concept of a virtual band is such a wonderful opportunity for people to work together to create an interesting product/artwork. It's a bit of a statement of the obvious, but visually I thought the multi-media elements of the Gorillaz's stage show were amazing! They certainly have managed to create a very striking design and I was impressed in their ability to bring it into the live performance domain. I'm very much taking notes and looking at how I might implement my own ideas in this field sometime in the future.
...and so ended a very interesting day. Just to top it off some rather odd fellow (see bottom left picture below) walked up to me and said he was psychic. I was a little bemused by this but thought I might entertain his notion for just a brief moment by asking him to prove it. He then said "You're from Brisbane" which was accurate (or at least I went to school there) and to clarify he wasn't confused with the American town by the same name I asked which one, to which he replied "in Queensland." I was very entertained by his observation but I was pretty sure that I hadn't actually mentioned it to anyone. Cue errie music...
All that was left to do now was to find the car. I had directions, took a photo of the map as I walked past and started my search. After an hour of wandering around and harassing security staff to point me in the right direction I thought of a new tactic to help get me home. I walked up to a gentleman driving a golf buggie and explained my plight and previous night experiences. It took some convincing but eventually he agreed to help find my car. After another half hour and a number of red herrings we finally found the car and I gratefully gave the driver US$30 for his troubles. My phone was still playing up and god knows what I would have done if I hadn't found it.
Finally I was back on the road again and I couldn't have felt happier to have some normality, if you can call driving on US highways normality :)
[END OF PART THREE: Words and picture by Daniel "StereoDan" Taylor]