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

After hearing the big hype surrounding the Sydney performance of 17 year old French DJ, Madeon, we headed over to Innercity to check him out. Very disappointingly, the sound was so low and undiscernible that we couldn’t stay, which was a real shame as I was really keen to see him play. An avid fan of BT, we headed over to see him play live with his drummer, but again the sound was just not clear enough in the Kabuki – things had not improved in here and disappointedly again, we had to leave. That said though, several fans told me that although it wasn’t his usual sound, his new direction still worked and could be appreciated if you gave it the chance. Thankfully, we were treated to some cool sounds by Yousef back in the Technotent, enjoying the warmer environment away from the elements. Deetron and Jon Rundall were also well suited to this arena, getting lots of people who don’t normally listen to techno dancing.

With the reputation of Annie Mac calling, we headed over to Outrage to see how she delivered. UK DJ Annie Mac started off quite well and had a really cool tribal housey edge, but then it went off in a direction that lost us so it was off to the Red Bull Stage. Upon reaching the Pie, local DJ Rachel Andrews was on the decks and was a ray of sunshine! I had thought she was more mainstream/commercial than this, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear she was playing some really great house music with lovely builds and solid beat for all to rock out to.

Unfortunately this moment came to an end when the next DJ followed her with complete disregard for the sound Andrews was playing, and it was a massive jolt to the system. I find that this is a worrying trend, with DJs only focused on their own sound rather than putting on a cohesively-sounding day, listening to the DJ on before them and picking their first few tracks appropriately to continue a journey.

LMFAO were due to hit the main stage by this point, and the crowd was initially patiently waiting, even with no music playing. But then the wait turned into 10mins, then 15mins. By now, the crowd was getting restless and with absolutely no music playing, the silence was deafening. Finally LMFAO hit the stage, in all their shock tactic glory. Once some adventurous punters climbed the scaffolding for a better view and people started throwing cans at them – that’s when I decided to leave.

And then it got cold – mega Melbourne cold. All those kids who came in shorts and singlets (despite the weather being predicted to be a top of 20 all day) were either freezing by now, or suitably wasted. And it only got colder as the night progressed.

Luckily I had Guy Gerber playing good quality tech sounds back in the Technotent to keep me warm. Finally, a proper moment was had: we were able to dance with a good sound, great friendly faces in a comfortable environment. Bliss!

To close the Planet Hardware stage, Claude Von Stroke hit the decks, putting in a performance before his after party later that night at Brown Alley. Although his sound wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, he built his set up slowly to reach an interesting destination that kept us dancing to his techy, minimal, dirty glitch beats.

Popping out to the cold for a moment, I headed over at just the perfect time to see Empire of the Sun perform We are the People – it was a great show, great stage manner and beautiful sound.

But the DJ that everyone wanted to see was on the main stage, and he needs no introduction – Armin Van Buuren. The main stage was heaving with trance fans, doing heart signs and losing themselves to the dominant sound of trance right now. The ‘e’ might have been deflated on the Stereosonic sign, but everyone here was on a serious music high. Playing tracks from Jochen Miller, Cosmic Gate and Emma Hewitt (among others), the kids were clearly absolutely loving it. Armin’s encore was his own production – This Light Between Us (Great Strings Remix), which left the crowd on a serious high, bouncing out of the festival, despite the miserable weather that had set in. Armin Van Buuren was the highlight of the day for many, and throw in fireworks for the finale and you have one massive ending to one helluva huge festival.

With a line-up this huge, it was impossible to see everyone, so I still had the post-festival regrets of DJs I wished I had seen as well – but man, with this kind of mega line-up, you can’t do everything. Stereosonic have definitely set the bar high for the summer festival season. The question is though, can any others top it?

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