Amidst the fervor to throw the biggest and best dance festival, Stereosonic made the classic mistake in appealing to as many different tastes as possible. And, in the end, the intimacy of the event was a major casualty. Organizers had quite a task to calibrate the crowds with the music, and it was an admirable effort that fell a little short of the mark. Most irritating, from an organizational standpoint, was the single stall that sold drink cards in a tucked-away corner of the grounds. (Revelers had to make sure to stock up on $20 dollar drink tickets lest you make the epic pilgrimage back to the crowded, but isolated tent.)
The music, however, wasn't bad at all. There was a magnificent clash of artists who finished the festival at the three biggest stages. And it was this clash of titans that split the crowd in three and left almost everyone feeling as though they'd each had an experience better than anyone else. Party animals could see Crookers in the Outrage Grand Pavillion while the open-air Stereosonic Main Stage would have rocked to big-eared and big-mouthed producer, Deadmau5. The Sneakerpeeps AG Hall, which was more airplane hangar than hall, had Laurent Garnier performing live, complete with trumpet, trombone, sax and keys to enhance the experience.
Photo credit: Dean Hammer & Dave Teuma
Through the day, with six stages all providing different music for different people and with no stage for a specific genre, a person could've spent a lot of time wandering, searching for "their" sound. From techno maestro Marco Carola to electro juggernauts The Bloody Beetroots; from Zombie Nation to Tim Sweeney or Axwell to Umek, there were world class DJs and producers from all genres.
The Sneakerpeeps AG Hall played host early on to Zombie Nation, who arrived in a zombie mask as stage crews scrambled up walls to hang black tarps over the hanger's windows (which were likely shaken from their holds with the chants to "Kernkraft 400"). Marco Carola followed and played for what felt like a far greater time than his one-and-a-half hour set. His bald head made for the perfect silhouette against a backdrop of blue lights and the syncopated feel of Paco Osuna's "Cretine," a track that marked the peak of his performance.
After Carola, the crowd thinned considerably despite Umek and Alter Ego's solid electro and were damn near impatient before the last act of the day, the aforementioned Laurent Garnier. It was worth the wait, though, as the DJ and producer conducted a performance that held the disbelieving gazes of those that had come back to fill the hangar.
Photo credit: Dean Hammer & Dave Teuma
Cueing his band with his head, the deep sound of "Crispy Bacon" had people jumping around piles of rubbish on the shed's floor, while "Bourre Pif (Avant Bath Time!)" from Tales of a Kleptomaniac, brought trumpet and diversity to a drum & bass track like only Garnier could. "The Man with the Red Face" ended the show, exceeding the enormous expectation that the track brings. You could tell why Garnier had named it so, as the poor saxophonist's face was purple after expending every last gasp to produce a live solo that deserved every bit of the audience's thunderous approval.
Joining the mass exodus emerging from the other stages, complaints about the festival's PA and the queues for drinks were bandied about. That said, the roof of the Sneakerpeeps stage helped that particular area quite a bit, while the excessive number of water taps meant never having to queue for the most important refreshment.
For me, the biggest problem with Stereosonic and festivals like it, is that people rarely gather for one single, unifying experience. As strangers lay sprawled across the intersections, outside the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, I didn't feel as though I'd shared an experience with them; I felt personal satisfaction. I'd seen the best acts Stereosonic had to offer. And everyone else was likely thinking the exact same thing.