For a boutique event, Listen Out does a pretty damn good job of presenting a large festival atmosphere but without all the chaos and clashes. With the majority of the acts being seen on two stages, Listen Out presents the opportunity for punters to be able to see a decent amount of the lineup, jam packed into eight hours. This year’s bill incorporated a diverse range of genres, spanning from dance and electronic to rap, and was curated to highlight an impressive amount of Australian talent.
Listen Out 2015 is back for round three and it was a knockout. With an impressive lineup, it’s the little festival with the big festival feel minus the shitty stuff.
First up was rising star Basenji, whose last minute addition to the Listen Out crew did not go unnoticed. Punters flocked into the festival grounds mid-afternoon and became captivated by the bright and incredibly playful sounds coming from the 909 stage, lapping up every inch of his colourful beats. Grounded with a flow of seamless transitioning, the DJ worked his way through old favourites like Dawn and new material from his debut EP Trackpad to a hyped group of festival-goers.
The highlight of the day came early from Client ‘international in flavour, cosmopolitan in style’ Liaison, who treated fans to a comical yet deadly professional show on the Atari stage. Despite the blistering heat, the 80’s inspired duo were dressed to the nines in retro suits and still gave their all as frontman Monte Morgan paraded around the stage with three Retrosweat girls in high cut leotards. Novelty aside, Client Liaison were not only captivating and engaged with their audience but sounded near perfect live.
A short intermission between Client Liaison and ILoveMakonnen saw Halfway Crooks play an odd ten minute set, which could’ve easily been stretched to a longer timeframe. Back over at the 909 stage, George Fitzgerald was serving up hypnotic tunes with a thumping bass that begged for ladies to hop up on the shoulders of an unsuspecting man and dance like no one was watching.
I’m not sure I was fully prepared for the madness that is Rae Sremmurd. The American hip-hop duo were by far one of the most hyped acts of the day, in the sense that a) they were highly anticipated by pretty much everyone and b) it took their hype man 5-10 minute to rev up the crowd before they actually came out. Rae Sremmurd were like no other act at Listen Out; for a set just shy of an hour, the duo packed in song after song, threw rolls of toilet paper into the crowd, popped bottles of champagne and encouraged everyone to go wild with, um, slight drug use. Fan favourites No Flex Zone and No Type were obvious standouts but overall the show was dynamic and lived up to everything I hoped it would be.
Meanwhile Hayden James brought a much needed breath of fresh air away from the madness on the Atari stage, sticking to his distinct style of sultry, slow jam dance music. The DJ was composed and acted like the seasoned pro he is, although it would’ve been nice to see a little more involvement from him – a smile, a quick dance or some kind of improvised track. James’ set was light and fresh but his stage presence felt a little disconnected to the crowd.
By the time the sun was falling down, Listen Out was in full party mode! ODESZA played the perfect sundown set, drawing punters in with a hazy dreaminess and strong drums. Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight performed together with an incredibly synergy, playing off each other in a show that was clearly well prepared. ODESZA was also one of a handful of acts at Listen Out who placed a lot of emphasis on presenting a show that was equally about visual effects as it was about the sound. Songs such as Sun Models, Memories That You Call and even a remix of Hayden James’ Something About You went down oh so smoothly, and I would be surprised if the duo were anything less than ecstatic with how their set panned out.
Unsurprisingly, Australia’s latest dance export Alison Wonderland executed yet another killer show that had many punters claiming it was their highlight of the day. Riding off a string of international shows, the DJ proclaimed how excited she was to be back in her hometown before launching into a set that included heavy bass drops, hip-hop, tacky but lovable pop songs and everything in between. Having seen her a few times now, I feel like it is safe to say this was one of Alison Wonderland’s strongest performances yet as she looked and sounded comfortable on stage, had a set that varied substantially from previous ones and genuinely seemed grateful and undeniably happy to be playing Listen Out.
Aside from a few annoying (but expected) long lines for food trucks, the festival had been running effortlessly. The layout of Listen Out Sydney allowed for easy access to any of the two stages plus plenty of room to dance if you wanted to, or take a seat and relax if that was more your style. Despite the controversy surrounding poor sound at the Melbourne leg of the tour, Sydney was in full-force.
Peering through a cloud of smoke at the 909 stage, English DJ SBTRKT showcased a series of scattered beats, strong rhythms and underground pulses. His signature thick layers of sound were seen in crowd pleasers Wildlife and New Dorp, New York, along with remixes like Tame Impala’s Eventually. By the end of his set, and judging by the mass of sweaty messes standing before him, it was evident SBTRKT had done more than just warm up the crowd for the final act of the night.
Clashing with Childish Gambino is a hard feat to deal with, (almost as bad as clashing with Tame Impala at Splendour in the Grass ’15) however, Golden Features gave it a solid effort with his festival-setting-club-vibe show. The Australian DJ has been riding on a wave of momentum for the past year to get to this point in his career, which has seen him play slots at respected festivals all over the country, collaborate with the likes of Nicole Millar and Thelma Plum, and drop his XXIV EP earlier this year. New material such as Telescope and No One paired seamlessly with oldies but goodies Guillotine and Tell Me, and ensured no body was left standing still. Donning his moniker gold mask (which still deeply confuses me how he sees through it), Golden Features proved to himself and everyone at Listen Out that he is a force to be reckoned with.
Listen Out provides an easy-going boutique festival experience that is much more unified than one would expect from an event only in its third year, which is a credit to the intricate work the organisers put into every aspect of the day. Between the carefully crafted lineup, beautiful location, and hordes of happy punters leaving at the end of the night, Listen Out proved itself to be one of the leading dance festivals in Australia right now – and it can only grow from here.