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Review: Stereosonic @ Sydney Olympic Park (30/11/13)

Previous to 2013, Stereosonic was already the Godzilla of Australian festivals. But this year, it went full-blown Super Saiyan and evolved into the biggest dance lineup that has ever graced the nation. Expanding to two days for the very first time, Stereosonic descended on Sydney last weekend with a point to prove.

Heading into the festival on Day One, Mother Nature was being real indecisive but pulled through with a glorious sack of sunshine for most of the afternoon. Just by standing at the entrance and people watching, Stereosonic was a great place to check out all the hottest farshun trends for the upcoming festival season. Leather hot pants/short shorts, bucket hats and being shredded were undeniably dominant on the day. Onesies are still a thing for some reason. Also, I made sure to jot down some of the inspirational slogans we saw splashed across shirts, singlets and various other garments, including:

  • “I’M HERE TO DRINK AND FUCK BITCHES”
  • “I’M FAT LET’S PARTY”
  • “I’M 21… FEED ME DRUGS”
  • “FUCK MILEY”
  • “FUCK OFF”

Shout out to anyone who was wearing one of the above, we might e-mail you a high-five. Anyway, since Stereosonic was such an epic affair, I’m going to run through a handful of the highlight acts that we managed to catch over the two days. In no particular order:

ABOVE & BEYOND

I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I’m the only Asian person in existence who doesn’t enjoy trance. At Stereosonic, I decided to broaden my horizons and join my Oriental colleagues for Above & Beyond. Maybe it was the overwhelming sense of racial unity, but I found Above & Beyond’s set to be refreshingly uplifting, and much more enjoyable than my usual weekends spent listening to depresso-emo anthems alone in my basement. This was like the audio equivalent of hang-gliding into Heaven over the serene waters of the Pacific Ocean. These dudes even managed to squeeze in a remix of ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order, and euphoria levels became hazardously high when ‘A Thing Called Love’ and ‘Sun & Moon’ took over. Listen to Above & Beyond and hug someone.

RL GRIME

We headed over to the HARD stage to watch RL Grime, and given the hype behind the dance/trap fusion sound over the past year, we knew this was going to get real rambunctious and involve yelling lots of obnoxious ad-libs. He delivered a belting set that featured plenty of Kanye West, which is never a bad thing in my books. Thankfully, he kept the Yeezus material to a minimum, only dropping ‘New Slaves’ and ‘Bound 2′, but also delivered classics like ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’. The set came to a brooding peak when he delivered his own remix of Chief Keef’s gutter anthem ‘Love Sosa’ into Zombie Nation’s ‘Kernkraft 4000′. Shit yeah. Later, RL Grime returned as Clockwork, dropped ‘Bugatti’ by Ace Hood and it was possibly definitely one of the Top 3 moments of my life.

ZEDD

It was a pleasure seeing young lord Zedd on the colossal main stage. Besides having a knack for crafting stadium sing-a-longs, this dude also produced a couple of joints on Lady Gaga’s last record. Such crossover appeal was evident when he dropped singles like ‘Spectrum’ and ‘Stay The Night’, but the set came to a shudderingly awkward halt when sound issues hushed the stadium into complete silence. Zedd then picked up a microphone and bravely led the audience into an acapella rendition of ‘Clarity’, kind of like that time Lindsay Lohan started singing ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ in Mean Girls. Before long, the crowd was united in the track’s infectious hook. Props to Zedd for his phenomenal banter, and props to Lindsay Lohan for being a Queen on the upper echelon of humanity.

BOYS NOIZE

We entered a world of the demonic and distorted when Boys Noize closed off the Sonic stage on Day One. Mixing older favourites like ‘Ich R U’ with new singles like ‘Go Hard’, it was a well-rounded and intense set from the German tech fiend. With his Dog Blood partner Skrillex pulling out just days before the tour, he teased the screwed vocals of his ASAP Rocky collabo ‘Wild For The Night’ while occult imagery and flames flashed on the screens above. Shit, this stuff just makes me want to listen to Slayer, buy a ouija board and headbutt a window. He finished with a long-ass rendition of one of my favourite club anthems ever, his own immortal ‘Yeah’.

CALVIN HARRIS

Calvin Harris dates Rita Ora. That should be enough to tell you that he is absolutely murdering life at the moment. Furthermore, his 18 Months album is breaking records for it’s seemingly endless stream of singles, and we heard plenty of them in this set. Dude has bangers on bangers, and it’s pretty amazing hearing a whole stadium sing ‘Sweet Nothing’ or ‘We’ll Be Coming Back’ with a simultaneous fist pump. Although a little predictable, the Scotsman did keep it balanced with some other material from Basement Jaxx, Justice and Fatboy Slim.

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All in all, Stereosonic succeeded in its first expansion into an entire weekend. It’s an epic affair, and there’s literally something here for everyone – house, electro, trance, bass and techno are all here in some form or another, with huge production quality and stage set-ups. A lot of people look at the lineup for Stereosonic, see a commercial kingpin like David Guetta at the top of the bill, and immediately dismiss the entire event. Stupid. Even if you do get weirdly over-protective about dance music and came out of the womb clutching a DJ Sneak record, there’s stacks of stuff to enjoy from older eras and the underground.

2013 alone saw DJ Falcon, Destructo, Cajmere, Claude VonStroke, Justin Martin, UZ and a stack of locals grace the smaller stages, and the diversity in the crowd only emphasised how healthy the electronic scene is in Australia. My only complaint would be hearing Martin Garrix’s ‘Animals’ about 74 fucking times. No disrespect to Garrix, but I’ve heard this song enough for the next seven lifetimes, at the very least. Stereosonic set a new benchmark with this weekend shindig, and we can only see the festival snatching even greater milestones in 2014.

Big thanks to Annika for giving us a place to crash over the weekend. Also, shout out to the guy who was talking to me at the bar because he thought I was part of an organised crime gang. And last but not least, much love to the lady in the media room who let me eat a spinach and cheese pastry.

Client: Pagesdigital

Date: December 2nd 2013

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© 2014 Christopher Kevin Au