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Stereosonic @ 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 Showgrounds and its surrounding suburbs (including a neighbouring Wiggles concert at Flemington Racecourse) didn’t know what hit them – as was aptly explained in cult film Human Traffic, “the bass was so deep you could hear the vibes in Jamaica”.

With so many artists on the bill, it was difficult to know where to start. Upon arrival though, my desire to support local Melbourne talent was strongest and I was lured to Kabuki, where local trance hero MaRLo was rocking the already solid crowd, banging out his well known and signature trance sounds and tunes. MaRLo’s star has been ever-rising lately so it was great to see him doing well so early in the day. Admittedly though, I was disappointed at the sound in the Kabuki arena: it seemed to reverb 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 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.

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 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 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 d n b tunes, including a Prodigy rework, Andy C finished on a frenetic point that the crowd lapped up, just in time for a DJ that Melbourne never gets tired of seeing: Carl Cox.

Banging it out true Carl style, the crowd was lapping up his 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 d n b, 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 accordingly kept it simple being the professional he is.

After hearing the big hype around 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 indiscernible that we couldn’t stay, which was a real shame. 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 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 and rocked out there for a bit, enjoying the warmer environment away from the elements. Deetron and Jon Rundall were also very easily enjoyed in this arena, two DJs that definitely got lots of people who don’t normally listen to techno dancing.

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