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Future Music Festival @ Flemington, Melbourne (13/03/2011)

Future Music Festival have managed to pull off a stellar line-up of DJs and artists this year, so I spent some time poring over the set times to make sure the cream of the crop were covered for this review. As we walked from our car to Flemington Racecourse, dark grey clouds loomed overhead in the sky. The weatherman had indicated “occasional showers”. I however, was not quite so optimistic.

My fears proved to be founded, as walking toward the entrance it proceeded to bucket down. Never mind, I thought to myself, I have a VIP pass and surely I will get through right away. Wrong! The VIP queue was four times longer than the queues for regular entry, which was not particularly nice for the people who had handed over the extra dollars. Eventually I emerged through the gate, looking like a drowned rat, much to the amusement of my friends (who had purchased regular tickets), waiting patiently under shelter.

Heading over to The Likes Of You stage to catch Loco Dice (and get out of the rain!), our spirits lifted as the DJ’s deep, bassy tech-house emanated from the tent. The man has an intuition for the groove, and this time round was no different. The crowd was moving in unison, foolish grins aplenty.

Next on the agenda was indie-electro band Art vs Science, for whom it has to be said, I am not a major fan. My friend assured me that they were “awesome” live, and as I had never caught them before, who was I to judge? I have to say though; I was left scratching my head in confusion as elements of the crowd went wild to their track Bumblebee, a trashy electro-punk number with the inane chant of “Bumblebee, bumblebee, bumblebee…” (loop-times-infinity). Fortunately for most punters this was quickly followed by Parlez Vous Francais, which was, relatively speaking, amazing in comparison.

Unable to take much more of the rain and Art vs Science’s ‘awesomeness’, we headed back for the tent to catch Leftfield. We arrived to the deep, sexy, and pulsating sounds of Song of Life, with Neil Barnes on stage complimented with a live band. Guest singers completed the set-up, taking to the stage for big hits such as Original, and Afro-Left.

Regretfully wrenching myself away from the tent, I headed to the Mazda2Flamingo stage for MGMT. Ben Goldwasser, Andrew VanWyngarden and co. were absolutely on fire, the crowd going crazy to big single Time To Pretend. Unfortunately the people were not reacting so crazily to their newer material. In a wise move, the band inter-spliced the more low-key psychedelic pop-rock of recent album Congratulations with the bigger, anthemic hits of debut album Oracular Spectacular. This kept the crowd with them until the end, where they closed out the set proper with massive hit single Kids.

Next up on the main stage was UK grime master Dizzee Rascal. We were talking about bad cheese earlier, but Dizzee could be likened to being the King Island Dairy of cheese. His flow is so crazy, he could freestyle over Barbie Girl and still have the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Fortunately for us, he opted to rap over Florence + The Machine instead, dropping the hugely popular mash-up You’ve Got The Dirtee Love. He blazed through a greatest hits set, comprised of such weapons as Fix Up, Look Sharp, Holiday and Dance Wiv Me. As we made our way towards the Flamingo stage for Pendulum, we regretfully left to the sound of recent hit Bonkers.

Pendulum was like an assault on the senses. This extended to the crowd, which was bursting at the seams, and all elbows and knees as they pushed about to get a spot at the front. Needing some much deserved breathing space, I may my way back to the Likes Of You tent. Here things were get pretty dark and dirty with Sven Vath at the controls. At this point of his set he was dropping dark and at-times-brutal techno. Sven, as always, looked like he was having the time of his life.

Having seen Sven a few times before, it was Richie Hawtin’s live incarnation as Plastikman I was really looking forward to. Richie took to the stage, obscured behind his now-famous cage. Bizarre psychedelic light patterns were projected onto it, synced perfectly with the equally spacey, minimal beats emanating from the speakers. The crowd smiled knowingly, as the familiar sounds of a 303 drum machine filled the tent.

Closing out the night appropriately on the mainstage was the Chemical Brothers, accompanied by an amazing light show, arranged by none other than the man who does the effects for Doctor Who! Chemical Brothers live is a joy to behold. Boffins that they are, it was heads down and bums up, as they tinkered at the controls.

Tracks were altered until they were almost unrecognisable except for the vocal hook. The Chems ran the gamut of their career, dropping Galvanise, Out of Control and leaving the crowd on a high, closing with the one-two punch of Leave Home and Block Rockin’ Beats. Despite the bad weather, the quality and quantity of acts in 2011 managed to make most of the punters forget about the rain and have a great time all round.