Listen Out blessed the foreshore of Saint Kilda in Melbourne this past weekend under forecast-defying skies. If you weren’t able to get a ticket to one of the first and best festivals this season, or if you couldn’t make it past drug dogs, scrutinous security guards, ID checks, and chain linked fences to join the over 20,000 festival goers last Saturday, read on for a vicarious trip through Catani Gardens and 2018’s Listen Out.
Making its debut as an IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) festival in 2013 with acts like TNGHT, Disclosure, Duke Dumont, and Touch Sensitive, Listen Out has grown into a nationally touring festival as beloved as its predecessor, Parklife, which was retired by Fuzzy just short of its fourteenth year. While still drafting a diverse array of electronic acts, Listen Out has since ditched its presumptuous label in favour of austere branding, with hip-hop taking over the main stage. Consider the pivot a resounding success; scoring huge with Mac Miller, Future, and Bryson Tiller in 2017, 2018 marks the second consecutive year that tickets have sold out for the fest… and without a media campaign at that.
Melbourne local and Triple J favourite Kira Piru started the main stage party at 1PM. Following suite, Haiku Hands, Poloshirt, and Manu Crooks (in lieu of last minute drop-out, Lil Skies) kept the energy flowing, and after some sound issues, Noname finally performed an abbreviated set. Technical issues inspired an awesome performance as front woman Fatimah Warner and her band (including a notably energetic drummer) held nothing back; don’t be sad it’s over, be happy it happened.
After the moment Noname took leave, BROCKHAMPTON fans incited a frenetic rush to the stage. In an instant, the crowd transitioned from a collective of individuals to something more like a sea anemone subjected to the merciless undulations of the ocean.
Of course, the self proclaimed “greatest boyband in the motherfucking world” made even greater waves. The arrival of BROCKHAMPTON on stage marked the group’s first ever appearance in Australia, made even more significant in light of their 5th studio album ‘iridescence’, released just the day before. ‘NEW ORLEANS’ prompted an enduring mosh lasting through the hour long set, which, to the ultimate pleasure of a gurning garden, included performances of ‘BLEACH’, ‘BOOGIE’, and ‘GOLD’. Those who braved the pit for the entire show were imparted souvenirs of sore feet, tinnitus, and soiled clothes begotten by the bloody nose of an unlucky rager.
Frenzied energy all but diminished after the group of 6 left the stage. More shoving for front row continued until bodily autonomy seemed more like an illusion than a right. Any centre of gravity dissolved as Skepta appeared and resurged a mosh of writhing bodies. Crowd intensity waned amid the smooth flow of ‘Energy (Stay far Away)’ only to resume, frenetic as ever, when the UK MC closed with ‘Shutdown’.
Skepta’s composure was superseded by a comparatively hyperactive A$AP Rocky who, making runs in between two compact cars that now flanked the stage, put on a show that felt more like a personal catharsis than a performance for fans. The MC took his time between songs and beckoned the audience to open the pit multiple times, yelling his lines as if overcome with road rage when he did perform. While infidelitous to his cool delivery in the studio, Rocky’s act only fueled an ecstatic crowd mentality. Riding on the his latest release, ‘TESTING’, the Harlem rapper opened with ‘Distorted Records’ and invited Skepta back on stage for ‘Praise The Lord (Da Shine)’, eliciting a massive reaction that paled in comparison to that brought about by closer ‘Wild for the Night’ with Skrillex.
The crowd around Atari Stage, however dense it felt, was mitigated by goings on at the 909 Stage. Here, an environment for punters to dance their cares away was facilitated by Petit Biscuit, Enschway, Fisher and Snakehips. Confidence Man punctuated the party with an exclamation mark; composed of members from Moses Gunn Collective, The Belligerents, and The Jungle Giants, the eclectic group of four laid down indie-bop dance tunes in outrageous costume (think LED bikinis) with psychedelic visuals towering behind them, eliminating any mystery as to why their act blew up so quickly. Confidence Man quickly landed a record deal with Heavenly Recordings with their single ‘Boyfriend (Repeat)’ in 2016, and 2018 saw the release of their debut album, ‘Confident Music for Confident People’ as well as a national tour and a slot at Groovin in the Moo. The record is a fantastic listen, but dancing to it half naked while alone at home is no substitute for the fearlessly fun dance party that Confidence Man delivers live.
To no one’s surprise, Listen Out 2018 finished with a bang… erang. Skrillex sent festival goers home doused in sweat and nostalgia and with memories (or lack thereof) that will make the wait until Listen Out 2019 all the more difficult to bear. Until next year…