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6 things we learnt at Carl Cox’s techno festival

On Saturday the one and only Carl Cox brought his legendary talent on the decks, his famous enthusiasm and his top-notch programming taste to Hordern Pavilion in Sydney for the first of two editions of Pure, his one-day boutique event dedicated to techno and related sounds. inthemix’s JIM POE was there to join in the revelry and to take a few notes about the 30-year-veteran’s vision for uncompromising music and what makes a good party writ large.


#1 Sydney’s not dead

The Sydney music scene’s intense battle with local authorities over the viability and future of nightlife here has been well-documented, of course. Into this mess steps a veteran of Cox’s stature to remind Sydney of how it should be done, and showing there’s no lack of passion or sheer numbers of people who want to get down.

It’s not that a boutique techno festival is the solution to these massive problems; perhaps it was more temporary respite from all the trouble than a hopeful sign of how things could progress. But still it was nice to see it go off without controversy or interference; and to see thousands of punters gathered under one roof in the heart of the city, partying their arses off to Carl Cox and company’s pulsating techno, with the police quietly on the sidelines doing what they should be doing – looking after their safety.

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#2 Techno sells tickets (and keeps punters dancing)

Amidst all the discussion about where electronic music is headed, whether it’s going mainstream or the bubble is bursting, it was interesting to note that several thousand punters in Sydney (and Melbourne) queued up for a night of nothing else but techno.

True, the larger-than-life phenomenon that is Carl Cox had a lot to do with that – the big man is his own highly successful brand and is guaranteed to draw numbers. But that alone wouldn’t account for all of the thousands of heads in attendance.

“The majority of those in attendance were young enough to be grandchildren of the 53-year-old icon”

For one thing it’s not like the Hordern was packed with longtime Cox fans in middle age – the majority of those in attendance were young enough to be grandchildren of the 53-year-old icon. And they were rocking all afternoon and all night to the younger supporting acts, from Manchester’s Eric Powell to Italian heavyweight Joseph Capriati, well before Cox’s late-night set.

A purist might quibble that some of the music was on the tech-house or progressive side instead of proper techno – but all the same it was a night dedicated to relentless 4/4 beats and trippy synthlines instead of more overtly accessible sounds with big drops, and there were a lot of satisfied customers on the night.

#3 You don’t need fireworks or confetti to have a massive party

One of the most striking things about Pure was its almost complete lack of the sort of bells and whistles that are typical at a huge electronic-music gig. There were no explosions, no ego-driven stage performances featuring costumes or outsized gestures, no big screens with sick 3D animation to distract the audience.

A few tasteful lasers and LED displays with the names of the artists were all that broke up the smoky darkness of the packed Hordern. For the most part it was all about the pumping bass, and that seemed fine with the thousands in attendance; it felt like a warehouse rave where the focus is strictly the music – albeit on a grand scale. This is testament to Cox’s back-to-basics vision for Pure, emblematic in the name itself.

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#4 Carl Cox brings the Ibiza vibe with him wherever he goes

This was evident in Coxy’s talent programming, with class internationals like Capriati, Powell and Berlin’s Format:B, bringing to Australian shores a taste of the deep talent and large-scale fun of the Island, where Cox is a resident at Space Ibiza. But interestingly it was also evident in the crowd itself – it seemed that every third punter was a backpacker from Ireland or Italy or Brazil. It gave the event a sense of being a temporary borderless zone of nonstop partying in true Ibizan fashion.

#5 Australia’s got talent

Despite the international feel of the event, Pure also highlighted some outstanding locals, who proved they belong on the stage with Cox and his European contingent. Sydney veteran house jock (and Spice founder) Murat Kilic and rising Sydney house and techno crew Mantra Collective provided excellent support; while Aussie techno godfather HMC (AKA Late Nite Tuff guy) really got things going mid-evening with his anthemic acid and techno.

Cox is a longtime resident of Melbourne himself, and his love for Australia and its music scene is well-documented – this was his reason for founding and hosting the event in the first place. It was great to see that agenda take shape and rattle the bass bins at Hordern.

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#6 Carl Cox really knows how to rock a party

This reporter had never actually heard Cox spin live in all his years of being into the music. It was interesting to see the difference it makes when the big man is in action. His energy is truly infectious, even in a vast venue like Hordern. As soon as he hit the decks the vibe shifted up a gear, and his ace timing and selection made it impossible to avoid grooving along for the entire set.

He dropped some serious heat across the range of techno, from pounding minimalism to the more progressive and melodic. His “Oh yes! Oh yes!” catchphrase was employed with restraint, but it was effective and much appreciated when it came. He even worked in three separate tributes to Prince on the day after the world reeled from his sudden passing, via techno tracks that sampled some of his best-known hits, most memorably When Doves Cry, as the arena was bathed in purple light and partied like it was 1999. A tribute to a beloved music legend from another in his own right; on a night full of highlights it was just another sign of Coxy’s pure class.

Jim Poe is a writer, DJ, and editor based in Sydney. He tweets from @fivegrand1.