Stereosonic @ Melbourne Showgrounds, Melbourne (03/12/2011)

From the moment the line-up was announced, the hype surrounding this year’s Stereosonic was massive. Completely sold out and packed to the rafters, the Melbourne Showgrounds – and its surrounding suburbs (including a neighbouring Wiggles concert at Flemington Racecourse) – didn’t know what hit them on Saturday 3 December. As it was aptly put in the cult film Human Traffic, “the bass was so deep you could hear the vibes in Jamaica”.

With a line-up spanning trance, techno and more mainstream dance, it was difficult to know what artists to catch on the day. But upon arrival, my desire to support local Melbourne talent was overpowering and I was lured to the Kabuki stage, where local trance hero MaRLo was rocking the already solid crowd, banging out his well known and signature trance sounds and tunes – though a bit early for me in the schedule at 1pm. MaRLo’s star has been continually ascending lately, so it was great to see him doing well so early in the day. Though admittedly, I was disappointed at the sound in the Kabuki arena, which seemed to reverberate off everything and lack clarity.

Heading to the darkest arena of the event, the Planet Hardware stage, we caught the end of the Haul Music guys, with Mike Callander and Craig McWhinney, playing some suitably cool tech beats to ease you into the day. A small but loyal group were watching them as the baton was passed over to another underrated star of the underground scene, Christian Vance. If you haven’t checked this guy out, you should – he plays all his own productions and never seems to disappoint. Admittedly, I hadn’t seen him perform in a while and his sound has evolved from a predominantly Detroit techno sound into a more minimal techy tribal-esque direction. But it’s still very interesting and high quality, it’s just a shame more punters weren’t there to appreciate his sound.

Right next door, Ferry Corsten jumped onto the decks with a very early set time of 3pm at the Carl Cox and Friends stage, a fantastic outdoor stage with ample grandstand seating for optimum viewing. Ferry was on early to allow him to jet to Adelaide in time for the evening, but the plus side for Melbourne was that trance fans could see both Ferry and Armin without clashes. Ferry hit the decks initially serving up a mixture of old trance classics with his today’s remix – tracks such as System F’s Out of the Blue, Adagio for Strings, Digital Punk, Brainbox (MaRLo remix) and more. Throw in a Coldplay remix as well and the crowd were loving it.

Drum n bass fans must have been excited to see Andy C and MC GQ on the line-up. Thanks to the new direction of Carl Cox’s sound, drum n bass and dubstep made a feature on Cox’s stage with this well-known UK team. Finishing on a finale of big drum n bass tunes, including a Prodigy rework, Andy C finished on a frenetic high that the crowd lapped up just in time for a DJ that Melbs never gets tired of seeing: Carl Cox.

Banging it out true Carl style, the crowd was lapping up his driving squeaky, tribal and grimy beats before he took some different directions with a rework of Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name Of, moving into drum n bass, dubstep and some very mainstream vocal numbers. It sure was eclectic and not one of my favourite sets I’ve seen him play – but all you had to do was look around you and see that this crowd wasn’t going for anything “challenging”, so Carl kept it simple to fit the crowd as the professional he is.

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