The loud thunder that rang out over Sydney in the morning, combined with grey skies and drizzle in the morning didn’t really fill those attending Harbourlife with confidence. I’m sure many considered cutting their losses and giving it a miss to stay inside but the weather made a miraculous recovery early in the afternoon. By the time I arrived, it was warm and sunny with a slight breeze, perfect conditions to enjoy a festival in one of the most beautiful settings you’ll find in our city.
Those unfamiliar with Harbourlife should know this is not your average festival. There is one stage, where all of the acts play one after another. There’s no need to move once you’ve staked out your position, and this adds to the relaxed atmosphere and chilled vibe. Of course, the music does this too. Legendary Detroit DJ Carl Craig provided some laidback beats to get everyone in the mood, without ever being too over the top or too hardcore in his set. It was a great way to ease into the festival in the mid afternoon, and he managed to bring the mood and vibe up throughout his set consistently.
David August was next on stage, and he seemed to pick up from where Carl Craig left off. Adding some extra beats and breaks to his set, he managed to get more people dancing as it went on. It was a much more energetic set which built up the crowd for what was left to come. The highlight of the set was when he dropped a sample of ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles. The crowd was more involved in this set than the ones that preceded it, and it showed every time a beat was dropped. The contrast in this set was done well, each time he felt the crowd was slipping he managed to bring them back.
The best part of this festival is the way the sets were organised. It’s refreshing that the organizers (Fuzzy) understand what people want – something chilled out and deep at the start of the day, and heavier beats to dance to later on. It was easy to proclaim “This is my favourite!” at the start of each set, only to have to rethink the decision when the next act took the stage.
Art Department started strong and continued to build up throughout their set. There was no real warm up to their set, they were right in and ready to go as soon as they walked on. The crowd continued to respond throughout their set, a lot more moves were being showcased. The last 15 minutes of the used a lot more bass, which was a great preparation for Jacques Lu Cont.
The deep electro, heavy bass and breaks throughout was just the best way to finish off Harbourlife. The ‘Mr Brightside’ sample they threw in managed to unite the whole crowd as only The Killers really can. A whole lot of yelling, dancing and hands in the air made that moment the standout of the whole festival. The crowd was completely loose and ready to go in this set, there were no inhibitions and nothing was off limits in this set. People were being picked up, spun around and placed on others’ shoulders to show their appreciation for the music.
Harbourlife was lots of fun, and a great way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon with friends. It was refreshing to see some different acts and get away from the David Guetta and Armin Van Buuren + one or two unknowns formula that other festivals often live by.