Live Review

Future Music Festival, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne

Electro-pop outfit battles the elements at dance-fest.

On a particularly blustery day, the Future Music Festival swings into action once again, despite predictions of imminent cyclonic weather approaching. Indeed, if Glastonbury has its customary, spirited knees-up in galoshes, it would seem unfair for other festivals to miss out on such a time-honoured tradition. On the Pink Flamingo stage, indie comeback kids Operator Please take to the stage amid the buzzing violins and yelping vocals of ‘Just Kiss.’ However, ex keyboardist/back-up vocalist Sarah Gardiner is sorely missed, as the band’s dynamics have drastically changed, leaving them with less of the existential female ‘grrrl’ angst of yore. Nevertheless, singer Amandah Wilkinson treats the dance-fest crowd to a “live mash-up,” ingeniously leading the band in the spectacular syncopated synths of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Lose My Breath,’ and No Doubt’s ‘Hella Good.’ Absolutely masterful. It’s then on to the rumbling drums, rollicking bass-lines and hand claps of ‘Just A Song About Ping Pong,’ followed by the chugging bass-lines of ‘Logic.’

Backed by a live band, MC Spank Rock takes to the stage with a rather ominous warning. “The good news,” says the MC, “We’re gonna rock your brains out, and the better news is, there’s a tornado coming!” Pounding through 2 Live Crew-style libidinous rap, the MC declares, “If you love the old-school hip-hop jam, put your hands up!” to cheers. After the sliding bass lines of Benny Benassi’s ‘Satisfaction,’ it’s time for the obligatory request for some “girls on stage,” to which many fans answer the call. Certainly, as a dancing parade of blonde fans decked out in cut-off denim shorts appear on stage, it’s clear that one of the girls is eager for an MC battle, as she whispers in the MC’s ear, before he swiftly hands her the microphone. Joining the MC in a duet of sorts on ‘Bump,’ she is clearly quite adept at rhyming, eliciting cheers from the crowd. After the MC distributes hugs all around, he says, “I love you. Good night, y’all!”

On the Future Music stage, Franz Ferdinand appear, just as the promised storm clouds gather above, drizzling a fine mist on the heaving crowd, with many punters huddled around in transparent rain-coats. Nevertheless, the crew deliver crunching guitars and warbling vocals on ‘This Fire,’ as fans sing along. Then, as the fire-themed song rings out, as if on some higher command from nature’s firefighter brigade, the heavens open, with pelting rain drenching punters, some of whom scurry around for shelter. However the show must go on, and it does indeed, with the masterpiece ‘Ulysses,’ and the sliding guitar lines of ‘No You Girls.’ Mysteriously, singer Alex Kapranos suddenly exclaims, “Night, everyone!” before an announcement on the PA system declares the stage is “temporarily closed,” due to “bad weather.” After quite a lengthy wait, the Scottish indie kinds re-emerge for a triumphant version of ‘Take Me Out,’ as punters braving the pelting rain sing along to the guitar lines with a “Na-na-na.” A tremendous effort, in trying conditions. In the increasingly muddy festival, many stages are shut down, interrupting the schedule, with many acts simply abandoning their sets. Nevertheless, house-pop producer of the moment, David Guetta takes to the stage with his Kelly Rowland collaboration ‘When Love Takes Over,’ delighting the drenched crowd who sing along madly. “This is the best crowd of the Australian tour!” says an impressed David. After a dance medley, including the thumping beats of the Akon collaboration ‘Sexy Bitch,’ red neon lights light up the words ‘One Love, David Guetta,’ before the man himself says, “Thank you so much! Good night!” to an appreciative crowd.

Next up, the innovative pioneers of Rave, The Prodigy blaze the stage, with MC Maxim Reality’s bellowing rhyming style. “Where is Melbourne?” he exclaims, to a rain-soaked, roaring crowd. Pummelling their way through the buzzing synths and guitar riffs of ‘Breathe,’ the crew send the crowd into a delirious frenzy. Then, the trio launches into the incendiary synths and frantic beats of ‘Omen.’ Certainly, these masters have lost none of their ferocity from the early ‘90s rave mania. However, perhaps in a concession to computer safety, Liam Howlett hunches over his laptop, emblazoned with the words, ‘Take me to the hospital.’ Quite fitting, really, considering the brute force unleashed from it. A bare-chested and dreadlocked MC Maxim Reality prowls the stage in a menacing pose, commanding punters to “Jump!” before the crew delivers the deep bass grooves and slamming beats of ‘Poison.’ Sneering like a cyber-punk sci-fi character, Keith Flint sports black-eyeliner rimmed eyes, a bleach-blond Mohawk and white singlet, as he thrusts about the stage, delighting the crowd with the swirling guitar lines of ‘Firestarter.’ Another giddy climax awaits with the frenetic beats of ‘Voodoo People.’ Then, the MCs cheekily order punters to “get down,” in the interval, before the acid-bleeps of ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ emanate from the stage, causing punters to erupt into a near-riot. With a maniacal grin plastered across his face, Maxim paces the stage before the soaring synths of ‘Out Of Space’ resonate throughout the crowd, as a galaxy of stars appear on the screen. Then, the MCs applaud the fans, before the trio disappears from the stage, amid a haze of smoke.

Empire Of The Sun make a surprise, belated appearance on the Pink Flamingo stage. As dancers in turquoise bodysuits and gold helmets emerge on the stage, the mystical sounds of ‘Standing On The Shore’ envelop the crowd. Then, with a spectacular light show of blue, green and turquoise laser lights, the band launches into ‘We Are The People.’ Visually splendid, dancers march in formations, with full-length gold bodysuits and masks with ‘beaks,’ in a bizarre waddling dance. Sporting bleached hair and a furry shawl, singer Luke Steele also sports an elaborate gold headdress, while playing guitar on ‘Without You,’ as if in some ethereal, trance-like nod to an extraterrestrial entity. However, as if to awaken punters from a marvelous dream, two mysterious people in transparent raincoats emerge and tap Luke on the shoulder, seemingly to inform him that the band is playing past the festival’s curfew. Alas, Luke then says, “Unfortunately, with all this weather and everything, we’ve been told that we have to stop,” much to the chagrin of the booing crowd. However, Luke reassures the crowd of their eagerness to please the fans, despite the organisers’ protestations, gladdening cheering fans. After a rather touching short prayer to “bless” everyone in the crowd, the band leaves the stage with a “Keep safe, amen, and thank you!” Overall, a stunning end to a rain-soaked festival. As umbrellas thrust around in the wind and gumboots slosh about in the mud, artists and punters alike prove they can brave a potentially devastating downpour. And there’s nothing like a tribal-like rain-dance at Future Music Festival to break the drought.

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