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Future Music Festival @ Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne (10/03/2013)

Perilously situated in the middle of one of Melbourne’s longest heatwaves in recent memory, the weather Gods kindly smiled, winked and nodded at the festival organisers and ticketholders, granting Future Music Festival-goers a pleasantly mild day to enjoy the national festival’s mighty 2013 lineup. Whether it be the trance heroes dictating play on the Wake Your Mind stage to the indie pop anthems on high rotation on the Mazda 2 Mariachi Stage, chances are there was more than one act on your “must see” list for this year’s Future Music Festival.

Upon entry, I’m greeted by the sounds of the wonderful Ellie Goulding, showcasing songs from her most recent album Halcyon as well as cuts from her debut Lights. Being the blonde bombshell that she is, all eyes are on the British songstress as she parades the stage, impassionedly working through My Blood, Figure 8, and Only You which are all greeted with generous applause. It was back-to-back hits towards the end of the set with Anything Could Happen and Lights generating considerable movement in front of stage. When set closer Starry Eyed began and Goulding removed her top to perform only in skin tight black leggings and designer bra, temperatures got even higher.

Over at the Warriors Dance tent, New York producer Jake Stanczak AKA Kill The Noise ripped out some banging anthems in his highly energetic set. Keeping the locals happy will always get your far in the festival scene, and dropping anthems like Knife Party’s Internet Friends certainly kept the Australian representation up there.

Following straight after, Feed Me brought his new stage show to town and with giant teeth made of giant triangular LED screens, the visual spectacular certainly disappoint. But there was a definite lack of kick with the sound. When you can hear uninterrupted conversations with your neighbours when you’re standing midway between the sound desk and the stage, you need to raise the volume a few notches. Notwithstanding this, Feed Me certainly entertained, but lacked the thump to the chest that I was expecting.

TyDi was over at the Wake Your Mind stage repping the Aussie trance scene, and whilst young in age, he is no stranger to handling the decks at some of the biggest dance festivals worldwide. Question marks ought to be raised by this stage wasn’t allocated a tent of some description, as the outdoor elements didn’t do him too many favours.

The Strongbow Foam Party was well and truly kicking in the afternoon sun, with many choosing to leave their valuables with friends who would rather watch on in hysterics than be submerged in foam that was either pouring out from under the DJ’s decks, or sprayed over everyone using a giant foam cannon. Regardless of where your position was, the smiles on the faces of people exiting the perimeter summed up the fun being had.

Over at the Future Music stage, Steve Aoki was pumping out banger after banger. Not to be dwarfed by the huge stage, Aoki instead goes to the people, entering a rubber dinghy and paddling his way across the crowd. An interesting take on getting closer to your audience and Aoki makes it look easy.

Meanwhile over at the Mazda 2 Mariachi stage, A-Trak’s new stage show ‘A’ is up and running, with his giant woodgrain styled A being one of the many new live shows frequenting festival stages. Whilst the crowd is nowhere near as sizable as Aoki’s next door, A-Trak has no trouble in whipping the audience into a frenzy. With bombs such as Barbara Streisand from his Duck Sauce project and his remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Heads Will Roll getting dropped, it’s a steady stream of party classics that could go on for hours on end.

Back at the Warriors Dance Arena, Boys Noize is another premiering his live show, with his ‘The Skull’ set up on its first Australian trip. Whilst the definition of “live” seems to be somewhat lost on most DJ acts (the only aspect that appears to be live on the set are the red eyes in the skull that may/may not move with the music), that shouldn’t take away from the set a great deal. Cuts from his latest album Out Of The Black were lapped up, including the obligatory drops of XTC and Ich R U. Older material is also worked in too, with &Down and Oh! getting the crowd worked up.

Making my back to the main stage, Dizzee Rascal is whipping the crowd into a frenzy with his party anthems. Intermingling songs from his forthcoming album with mega hits like Dance Wiv Me, Holiday and Bonkers, Dizzee achieves the perfect mix of new and old, while at the same time getting to know how the songs work in the live setting for the first time. Always a crowd pleaser, Dizzee does not disappoint.

If there was one act that was definitely classed as one of the must-sees, it was surely the pioneers of the Madchester movement, The Stone Roses. Masterfully splitting the crowd between the more established festival goers and the younger crowd particularly prevalent on the Future Music Stage next door, The Stone Roses took to the stage under the cover of darkness backed by a giant LED screen. Despite persistent rumours of Ian Brown’s vocals being particularly susceptible live, fears were allayed quite quickly, as the seminal outfit delivered a near perfect set that reignited the hearts of those waiting patiently for the best part of two decades to see the reunited band on what will surely be their swan song to the world. Despite a modest beginning with I Wanna Be Adored and Sally Cinnamon, the tide quickly turns as Fools Gold enters the fray, and with John Squire’s seemingly endless guitar solo to bring it to a close, many punters dreams were realised there and then.

Then begun some epic crowd sing-along moments that had not been witness for many years, as Made Of Stone and This Is The One garner huge crowd participation rates. Closing out with I Am The Resurrection, it was one of the more perfect festival sets heard in a long, long while, and with Future’s penchant for attracting nostalgia inducing acts such as New Order last year and The Stone Roses this year, let’s hope it’s a tradition that continues for some time.

Making the swift transition from one end of the festival grounds to the other is always a difficult task, made even more so by the sizable crowd in adulation of Dutch house DJ Hardwell doing his thing on the main stage. And while the youngster is certainly making waves across the scene, I’ve got bigger fish to fry over at the Warriors Dance Arena.

Having been festival headliners for the best part of two decades, The Prodigy ought to surprise no one with the quality of show they put on. You don’t maintain your position as festival headliners for so long without doing a lot of things right, and in the live setting, The Prodigy rarely put a foot wrong. Opening with the familiar intro to Voodoo People, Liam Howlett occupies his position behind the production set up, while Keith Flint and Maxim Reality prowl across the stage menacingly. Flint, perhaps one of the most recognisable front men in electronic music, with his double Mohawk ever prolific lurches and lunges at the crowd, constantly egging them on. Prodigy classics were never far away at any stage, with Breathe given an early running and subsequent early show for moment of the day, while Firestarter bulldozes its way through the audience with more than its fair share of intimidation.

The Prodigy lack nothing and pack everything. Never resting on their laurels, the group are one of the few acts to gain respect from musicians and artists from all walks of live. From metal to punk, house to trance, the affection shown towards The Prodigy is a product of the old saying “Respect needs to be earned”. Earned it they have, and continue to earn it they do. If Breathe wasn’t song of the day, the dance song of a generation (as much as Smells Like Teen Spirit was for the grunge movement) of Smack My Bitch Up tore the Warriors Dance Arena up like there was no tomorrow. The idea of getting the audience to get down on their haunches during the breakdown has been done by everyone from Slipknot to The Streets, but none inflict the rapture that is seen once the chorus reignites and you can almost feel the ground shake in what was the quintessential festival moment none will forget in a hurry.

A brief break between sets enables the audience to catch their breath slightly, before Take Me To The Hospital continues to pulsate throughout the crowd, and as the masterful closer of Out Of Space rains out across the audience, the decision to choose The Prodigy over the other headline acts was as much of a rewarding experience as it was brilliant, and the perfect closer to a day that promised a lot and delivered just that.

And so comes the end of the summer festival season that has seen an abundance of acts grace our shores, some for the first time, some no doubt for the last. The only regret is not getting across to the Cocoon Heroes at all or the latter end of Cosmic Gate’s Wake Your Mind stage. But with the sheer number of quality acts on the bill, it’s a delicate act trying to fit as much in as you can, without stage hopping before truly getting immersed in the music. Looking towards next year’s festival season, surely there is room on a line up to fit a couple of French robots on, yes? We can only hope.