Back in 2013, promoters Fuzzy introduced us to their new, fresh-faced baby: Listen Out. The event was intended to be smaller and more tasteful (i.e. hipster) than other dance-focused events on the festival circuit, and following a successful debut, it came back for a sophomore swing in 2014.
While Listen Out steers clear of its “doof-doof” cousins and their big-name set lists, the event is by no means underground. For the most part, it’s a collection of niche acts that have nestled in a corner of mainstream attention, but still retain their subcultural clout. Sydney’s crowd reflected this, as the Tumblr-friendly, Instagram-famous demographic of dance fans flocked to Centennial Park.
We arrived as producer Shlohmo spilled his codeine-covered, woozy tracks over a modest audience. Thick bass hummed menacingly – and impressively – from the speakers, but Shlohmo’s bleak catalogue felt disconnected in the mid-afternoon timeslot. Things got heated at the set’s conclusion when a barrage of gatecrashers sliced through the swaying crowd, with security following close behind.
After a well-received intermission from local party-starters Halfway Crooks, Perth’s Ta-ku took the stage. He opened with the pensive I Miss You, before diving into R&B heaven with remixes and originals from Pharrell, Ludacris and 112. The set was both nostalgic and progressive, and the highlight of our day.
At sundown, Chet Faker’s weathered crooning echoed throughout the venue – but it was his instrumental jam Cigarettes and Chocolate that we loved most. Still, his recent single Talk Is Cheap and famed cover of No Diggity were recited back by the crowd.
West Coast rapper ScHoolBoy Q then arrived for his second Australian tour of 2014. His DJ opened by spinning Chicago drill anthems from Chief Keef, setting the tone for a visceral performance; highlights included ScHoolBoy’s nasal bark on Break the Bank and a performance of his guest verse on French Montana’s brutal Work (Remix). Also, bucket hats. So many bucket hats.
Super producer Flume closed the day and was greeted by a ravenous home crowd. The hyperactive On Top sent us into a frenzy, while the ghostly Insane also thrilled. And for the first time, local audiences were treated to his colossal remix of Lorde’s Tennis Court – a track that has further cemented him as a key player in Australia’s electronic renaissance.
Listen Out is still finding its feet, but in its second year, organisers managed to curate an all-day show that was diverse, but never overwhelming. The bar’s now been set for festival season – let’s see how the others compare to the new kid on the block.