Listen Out Festival took over the sunny Catani Gardens for one jam-packed Saturday last week, and with the help of Red Bull Australia and my Jufl counterparts I had the pleasure of donning my speed dealers and going undercover to see what all the fuss is about. Here is Jufl’s report card for Listen Out 2015.
Ryan Hemsworth – My big winner for the day. I’ve been waiting to see him live for a while now and he did not disappoint, playing a wide ranging set that moved from his recent hits to older produced classics and some killer remixes of Kanye West and Lorde in between. If you’re looking for someone to get downtempo-ish to while singing along and you know none of the lyrics then this is your guy, a super talent and a real pleasure.
Childish Gambino – He’s been growing on Australian stages since taking Splendour In The Grass in 2014 and it’s no secret how he does it – anyone who can play the piano and sing like that deserves a girlfriend or twelve. I’ve always got a soft spot for soul music but he really did play phenomenally and showcased his jaw-dropping creativity at Listen Out. With slower jams that swayed and some of his more upbeat tracks woven in with great charisma too it was a set that captivated the crowd for the full hour, which is no mean feat given he too was battling the sound engineers for volume.
Honourable mentions – Client Liaison, Golden Features, Hayden James
Odesza – These two Aussie renegades are busy making a name for themselves on the electronic scene, but for a live show it was a bit disappointing to see them both resort to playing the same drum in unison and for the most part letting the rest of their tracks play through. They still of course drew a large crowd but it did drop as people (like me) lost interest, and it really lacked variety and oomph which is what you need with dance music to keep a whole crowd hooked. I’ve heard their DJ sets and they certainly pack a punch, so maybe this was just an experiment.
I really don’t have any other thumbs down for the day because all of the acts I heard really excelled, however I will give a thumbs down to every act that didn’t play George Benson’s ‘Give Me The Night’ because that’s my favourite song by a country mile and that’s also the best attempt I’ve got at being overly negative towards a great day of music.
There were two stages that ran simultaneously and somewhat split between like-minded genres, which means you’re either conveniently camped out at one or the other for the duration of the day, or if you’re working for Jufl you’re running between both and power-punching darts while restocking your pockets with drinks in the process. On a side note, the groovy pop-up Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) Crate Diggers Stage was by far the best spot I found for a boogie, with a great relaxed vibe and solid acts keeping things going all through the night. Featuring hand-picked RBMA artists (shouts out to dizz1 for crushing it) there was room to move and photographers doing the rounds, so you could show off your party shirt before it got destroyed. I even spotted a bloke drinking a shoey with a newly opened Carlton Draught. Well done sir, well done.
VIP Passes being on sale and affordable to the general public. A day long festival can easily turn messy and can also tire you out bigtime if you’re stuck as a part of the swelling crowd for the majority. I’ve been there before and after a while all you really want is some respite from guys with sleeve tattoos asking for cigarettes. But for only $40 (ish) extra than the standard ticket price you can gain admission to the VIP section of the grounds, which offers a bar and food trucks that aren’t overcrowded as shit, a heap of tables and chairs to get your breath back on, shade (which when you’re sunburnt and sweaty is very much appreciated), free water, a handful of free drinks and beer pong tables. It truly is a great place for a DNM and you definitely don’t need to be wearing boat shoes to fit in.
Free drinks and shade might sound like by-passable luxuries, but if you’re going to spend 10 hours having a non-refundable boogie it goes a long way to have some home comforts. PLUS you get to wear a red VIP lanyard, so when you’re walking around the festival grounds with your mates people get out of your way and think you’re a big dog (this legit works). One guy even thought I was Ryan Hemsworth and asked for a high five, mind you he wasn’t looking too closely and was also covered in beer.
The music’s volume on both stages. For me one of the great catches of the live music experience wherever I am is the power of the raw sound surrounding you like nothing else, yet for some reason artists were mostly kept at a medium hum for duration of the day. Having to strain from more than a few rows back to hear what an act is partying to is pretty frustrating regardless of whether you’re sober or very well sauced, and it visibly brought the crowd down a couple of notches.
The Atari Stage in particular was the biggest and sat front and centre in the venue grounds, however big acts like Client Liaison and Alison Wonderland were contained below a level that would have had the crowd jumping, which is a shame given how much I appreciate both of their live shows.
I’m not sure whether it’s because of the new location of the festival directly opposite the St. Kilda residential area (Listen Out was previously held at the Botanical Gardens) or because the sound engineers had a stroke and forgot that everyone likes to turn music up when they’re enjoying it, but this is a big issue that needs to be fixed if they want fans to come along and have a cracking day.
The lack of gender diversity in the lineup. Admittedly I wasn’t aware of this until I asked a friend of mine why he wasn’t attending the festival and he pointed out to me that Alison Wonderland was the only female act who played as a part of the nationwide Listen Out lineup (not including the Red Bull RBMA Stage).
Coincidence? I thoroughly hope so, because it is alarming to think that at such a great festival in 2015 that the organisers couldn’t happen to find more female acts to perform. I can think of at least five that would have done a great job, so this is something I will very much have my eye on when next year’s Listen Out rolls around.
P.S. Nobody enjoys a sausage-fest as much as they might pretend to, you organisers should know better.
Listen Out stands alone on the festival calendar and offers a potential cure for fans’ thirst for live music following the typically dry post-Splendour In The Grass months. However I can’t give it two thumbs up so long as organisers make simple mistakes that bring down the experience for everyone involved.
If you came for a good time with your friends and didn’t get stopped by the sniffer dogs you still would’ve had a ripper day / night / kick-ons followed by a godawful write off of a Sunday like I did. I missed a 6 AM flight just to prove this point (that part’s actually true, my thirsty AF bank account can back me up). But if you took time to reflect it might have made you second guess whether you’d fork out again for a ticket or wait till Laneway Festival in January to do a dozen acts in a day. But let’s wait until next year and cross our fingers.
A big thank you again to Red Bull for helping out the Jufl #squad with tickets and a great day, and to Joey Bada$$ for giving me the liquid courage to throw away my beer and sunnies before considering the consequences. RIP Speedies, you served me well.