It was supposed to be an end-of-summer day in the sun, but the latest in the popular series of Finely Tuned boat parties turned out a bit darker than expected. The weather conspired to ravage Sydney Harbour with gale force winds and driving rain, sending the party indoors and paring back Dixon's set considerably. Worse luck struck Guy Gerber, whose hard drive was damaged beyond repair, leaving him DJing on his laptop instead of playing live.
Yet not all was lost. The weather filtered out all but the most hardened fans, and from the moment the boat got moving a large section of the crowd had clearly decided not to waste time, throwing itself into Emerson Todd's slightly over-exuberant opening set.
Dixon pushed up the energy not by going harder but deeper, unleashing swirls of organic-sounding synths, aching vocals and melodies that seemed to fill every cubic inch of the boat. He ranged from deep house to tougher, filter-heavy numbers, and from stripped-back beats to disco-flavored techno. Alongside curveballs from the likes of Simian Mobile Disco ("Breaking Time") and Raudive ("Romantic Robot"), he mined his own remixes (most notably the sublime rework of Jimpster's "These Times") and much of the recent Innervisions catalogue. With a deceptively simple mixing style, he delivered highs and lows that never broke an addictive, relentless groove, ending with Carl Finlow's classic "Broken Mirror." With this kind of skill, his consistently high position in "best DJ" lists is beyond debate.
Gerber played a tech house set that supplied maximum entertainment but fell short of the possibilities afforded by a live set-up. There was the loopiness of Dan Curtin's "Microdrama," an update of Romanthony's "Let Me Show You Love" and the subaquatic beats of Mr G's "Consequences." It was great to hear Kenny Jason's "Can U Dance" blast out of the Funktion One system, and Gerber also dropped his recent "The Golden Sun and The Silver Moon." But the pressure to throw down big tracks for a frenetic finale cut against some of the finesse that Dixon had brought to the party.
Despite all the bad luck, the event turned out far brighter than one would have expected. And for those who sensibly made it to the official afterparty, Dixon's exceptional performance in a tiny basement bar wiped away any doubts as to whether the day had been something special.