In sunny Queensland, the scorchers have started rolling in marking the start of another summer festival season. Opening the floodgate is Listen Out, a baby of an event in only its second year. Don’t be fooled by its infancy though; the 2014 instalment boasted an all-star cast of electronic music globetrotters and up-and-coming local talent. Artists on Triple J Unearthed were selected to open up the festival in their respective states, and when most of these supposedly underground artists have followings that rival – and even greatly exceed (I’m looking at you, Just A Gent) – many of the names already on the bill, it becomes undeniable that the standard of music making in this country is in its absolute prime.
Listen Out set up shop in a small corner of the RNA Showground for its fourth and final stop in Brisbane. An impressive number of people showed up in time to catch local Unearthed artist UV Boi share his hugely hyped brand of meme-inspired trap. The young talent was not shy to express his gratitude, walking around his stand to the front of the stage to wave and bow with folded hands, much to the delight of his supporters. As UV Boi wrapped up his set, the pocket-sized powerhouse that is Tkay Maidza was kicking things off on the other stage. A quick stroll over the grounds and you arrive at the courtyard that set the scene for shoeys, throwdowns and other frivolities throughout the day and into the night.
Tkay owned the stage, rapping and singing over the hard hitting bass instrumentals her accompanying DJ served up. A jog back to the main stage averted committing the crime of missing Kilter, where the Sydneysider could be caught bashing away at his sampling and percussive apparatus. Unfortunately, most of what he was sampling electronically was barely audible front of house, which meant that his brand new drum ‘n’ bass remix for The Kite String Tangle lacked any of what the genre was named for. I’ll be waiting eagerly for the proper release.
This sort of scurrying back and forth continued throughout the day, what with the ridiculously good line up and all. Young Fathers packed themselves onto the little courtyard stage and could have shaken the whole thing down with the energy they delivered. By the time Golden Features hit the main stage, the crowds were seriously swelling. Clad in that golden mask, he smashed out a set of his signature deep house on the decks. Shlohmo brought his drippy melancholic electronica to the table, toning things down a notch for a while in the courtyard.
The sets of both Shlohmo and Ta-ku, who followed him, were not without hiccups; after fruitlessly gesturing to someone side stage, Shlohmo voiced his frustration over the speakers, announcing “it’d be great if the sound guys could stop having a conversation in my monitors!” While Ta-ku‘s set was absolutely chockers with banging tracks of his own and other future-bass heavyweights, he forgot where he was half of the time, trying to hype “Melbourne!” on more than one occassion. Fortunately, it didn’t do too much to detract from the experience, with guys and girls two-stepping and just generally going HAM all over the courtyard.
The sun soon disappeared and Snakehips stepped up to hose everyone down with their chilled, funky hip-hop vibes.
Clash of the day goes to ZHU and Schoolboy Q, with this guy opting for the former. The curiosity was too overwhelming to ignore, with this string of Australian dates being ZHU‘s first live appearances ever after months of mystery and hype surrounding the project. Hiding behind a veil of mesh which doubled as a projector screen, the anonymous genius could just be seen mixing and playing keyboards throughout the set, singing at times. The experience was entrancing and the atmosphere was dark, with minimal lighting and captivating projections. With an EP full of playful sounds and hooks, his audience was entirely engaged.
With the huge closing of the festival looming, it was time for a main stage camp out to secure a good vantage point. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs spun some lengthy house tunes following ZHU, but he unfortunately only seemed to serve as a precursor to the immense show that was to follow.
The entire festival stretched out in front of the stage awaiting the final performance of the night. Huge LED screens had been erected across the whole platform. A familiar “Prism” sat centre stage, lit internally. To a completely expected roar from the thousands of onlookers, Flume manned his station and commenced doing what he did best. Over an hour, Harley Streten played out hit after hit, from favourites off his debut album, to more recent remixes and What So Not bangers. The most exciting songs of all, however, were those that were entirely new and unreleased, including an intense reinterpretation of RL Grimes‘ ‘Core’. Lights flashed, visual sequences danced across the displays, and all too soon, the show came to a close.
The day passed quickly, but Listen Out was a sweet little showcase. It offered both intimacy and grandeur, and many a punter will reflect at the end of the summer and declare it the best festival of the season.