Dance festival, warzone, rain-soaked chaos are many things that can be attributed to Listen Out 2017. That one time in the year where the City of Joondalup is thrown into a scene of alcohol-induced mayhem, with enough discarded plastic ponchos to kill a third of all sea life on the planet – the festival was destructively tragic as it was beautiful.
The festival was off to a good start when a fellow punter in the procession towards the entrance complimented my raincoat as being ‘lit’, being self-deprecating I told him my fashion sense merely amounted to being ‘disgusting normie’. The lead-up to the festival was a scene akin to Saving Private Ryan with some punters barely making the first checkpoint for security to show their I.D’s. With some laying on the floor immobilised – going too hard, too fast, their sobriety was sacrificed to the festival gods, a distant memory on an epitaph for festival drunkards.
After passing more checkpoints than the Gaza strip (two), it was time to check out some of the action. Three stages were laid out for everyone to check out; Atari, 909 and 3rd Base. Triple J Unearthed Winner Feels was the first act to throw some beats down, with the festival yet to kick into full swing—the small crowds were getting nicely warmed up.
Mallrat laid out some pleasant rhymes on the Atari stage, showing Australian hip-hop clearly wasn’t just a thing ‘for the boys’. Local electronic maestro Kucka also filled the parklands with her distinctly unique vocals and off-world instrumental samples. New York producer Jai Wolf followed Mallrat, giving off tantalising electronica that bathed the crowd in palatable audio and kicking off the international flair that came from international acts whilst at festivals.
Touch Sensitive propagated some dreamy vibes, guiding the crowd into hypnotically driven rhythms derived from the keys. If there was a concept for a modern day Shaman, Touch Sensitive may have earned that title. When it came around to checking out Vallis Alp’s set afterwards, it was hard to imagine the duo had initially collaborated over the internet a year or so ago.
With an onslaught of pre-drinkers flooding into the venue, Vallis Alps drew in a pretty heavy crowd. Shaking off their wispy indie-pop beginnings with a sound more interlaced with contemporary electronic music, the dreamy vocals of Parissa Tosif combined with the production elements of David Ansari definitely sold who they were as an act. They were awesome to see live and it infectious to get lost into their music.
Donning a balaclava and setting up behind the decks, Malaa followed Vallis Alps. Cheekily concealing his identity, the DJ looked as if he had just robbed a bank (potential day job?). Distinctly showing electronic music had moved into an area where the importance and personification of the artist was now on par, if not superseding the importance of the music production itself, he was clearly a physical demonstration of that notion. Who knows, maybe a huge stack of bills was hidden underneath the decks.
Heading back over to the Atari stage to catch a glimpse of SAFIA felt like a brief shot of nostalgia. Having seen them first as a newly minted music writer and watching the band grow made it nearly biased to review the group. With lead singer Ben Woolner ripping out soulful vocals, their set reached emotional levels when they punched out an impressive play of Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues, to which everyone sang in unison. It was spin-tingling brilliance at its best.
The rain immediately started to pour when SAFIA wrapped up. With thousands of punters getting soaked and clutching tightly to their ponchos – the festival grounds turned that just a bit more gloomier and muddy. Checking out Getter in the rain felt like a weird acid fest. With his music giving off an acidic tone in general, coupled with the kaleidoscopic visuals of a weird cartoon caricature of him shooting a gun, it was an odd sight. Still, punters were getting all ‘danked up’ and the rain wasn’t stopping that.
Bryson Tiller provided some hip-hop beats; it was hard to actually find a spot as a momentous amount of people had rushed to see him. Getting down and juicy, Tiller owned the stage as any proficient hip-hop artist should. Rapping with a tenacious anger and energy that filled the space of festival grounds, the performance was certainly memorable. What So Not then followed as the ATARI stage transitioned from an angry rap den to a rapidly energised rave.
The night was topped off with an explosive deliverance from Pnau. With the hype mounting amongst punters awaiting an appearance from Nick Littlemore, Sam Littlemore and Peter Mayes – it amounted to a frenetic lightshow. Including an appearance from Chameleon vocalist Kira Divine, who donned a neon-green coat absolutely killed it on stage with her dance moves. With a final set from Duke Dumont to finish the night with some smooth house music, it ended up not being a bad festival.
At times Listen Out was a crazed circus, others it felt like airport security clearance. But it was all a part of the festival experience, in some ways it’s the quirks that make the memories.