Kraftwerk, The Orb, The Legion Of Trance Snoozers
Hordern Pavilion, RHI, a car park
The GFC Is Affecting Australian Festivals, Part II of XXVIII
This was an attempt to launch the decade-plus old Global Gathering festibrand as an instant local summer fixture, with a completely fucking mindboggling advertising spend: double-page colour spreads in multiple street press for MONTHS running, display ads in mainstream papers and commuter giveaways… and WEEKS AND WEEKS of Saturday morning Top 40 Video Countdown telly ads! For results they probably could have achieved with one weekend’s postering and two message-board threads: the promoters ended up giving away hundreds of industry freebies the week before, and dropping two entire stages on the morning of the show (some local DJs got repurposed to a VIP area – well, when you’ve got so many VIPs…)
For our crew it was essentially a double-header with two half-interesting support acts, though. Happy to sit around with beers, bratwursts, gozleme and chat on a sunny afternoon rather than rave it up for Sasha on a tarmac carpark, this was a Kraftwerk show with the thrilling bonus of The Orb, maybe live in Australia for the first time ever? I’d seen Dr Alex DJ to about nine payers a few years before in the most monstrous case of promoterfail imaginable, but don’t know if any live incarnation ever made it out here in the 90s…
In the event, shit almost fell over on two fronts. Booked to play twice in the afternoon, one slot might have been just another DJ set, but we never got the chance to find out, as it was in one of the “arenas” summarily cancelled with no notice. Arriving literally in time to walk into the enormous RHI to the twinkling opening strains of A Huge Evergrowing Brain..., we saw the four-piece steadily lose the already-skimpy crowd as a surly Paterson grew more and more disgusted with the stage techs being apparently unable to get some important aspect of actual sound happening. In the end he gave up and threw on a CD-R of A Bloke Off The Internet’s mash-up of Eminem and Toxygene to try and hold the crowd attention while using the one working bit of equipment. By the time this ended, the sound was fixed and the decks/drums/Big Wodge Of Electronics/'dancing stoned maraca geezer who sang twice or so' unit were able to get into a proper set, which was happily heavy on early-90s Perpetual Dawn-era classics, but still took 40 minutes to get the visuals synced and run the Star Trek-stylee Live Orb (no evilbro) credits. The sound was so much better 50 meters back in the cavernous hall that we felt a bit bad that LX and crew might have felt they were playing to no-one appreciative, but at least we weren’t the only 30 (and up!) somethings skanking cheerily back there. A long way from a letdown, but I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have sold out a Gaelic sideshow to even older, fatter nostalgic stoners with better sound and an audience you can see. No sideshows at all on this tour, taking dollars away from the paucity actually arriving in promoters’ pockets.
Okay, we did actually let Sasha distantly soundtrack the sunshine rather than actually heading inside for hands-in-the-air trance from ATB or Above & Beyond. The only curious venture back into one of the three indoor spaces was to check the heavily-advertised “360° visuals” of the ‘Gorillaz Sound System.’ This fucking hideous travesty turned out to be two slide—projections near the back of the room in addition to the eight or so screens onstage, slowly revolving computer animations of 2-D (no pun intended) silhouettes of Hewll designs, while a drummer played tinnily onstage along with the unnamed DJs indie-club fixtures of 50 Cent and Song 2. Was Cass Browne part of this shit? I would have lost it happily to The Rock or C’Mon Cincinatti, but one mate scarpered outside before I’d even had a piss and said to everyone else “shall we cut our losses?” Place was fucking rammed though, the kids either need to get some fractional standards or bung me their dealers’ number.
Five years on from Ooh Wee, a venture to check Mark Ronson and the Version Players on the tarmac was similarly tinged with a readiness to bail at the earliest hint of shitness. A hopeful heart won out though, as in the event his over-stuffed showband of 8 or so horn players, three micro-minimally choregraphed Pipettes rejects and approx 300 guest vocalists brought the revue-style party vibe like a truckful of motherfuckers, and could have been playing the Basement for about a year… consecutively. Seriously, the outlay just on his singers could probably have funded another entire festival, with another one coming out at least every second song. Hey I met Phrase when I came here years ago and he’s my mate Daniel’s mate, so lets have him do two of his tracks! Blerk from Phantom Planet flew across the planet to do one track off my album so we’ll do California as well and OH YOU KIDS will sing your fannyhair off to it! None of my own past guest rappers actually came on the trip so what the fuck, here’s ten minutes of Plastic Little climbing over all the amps, doing covers of Ante Up and their own shit. An actual tour from this mob could have done two circuits of the country, selling out larger venues on word-of-mouth the second time and shifting a plaque’s worth of Version CDs on the way out.
For us it was just a sunset diversion though, something to kill time before heading into the Hordern to grab spots… oh, there’s hundreds of empty seats? We can work with that… for Kraftwerk. This required sitting through 15 minutes of aural waterboarding from what was billed as Fischerspooner, but was actually some unrelated female DJ playing electro-house while Casey Spooner nasalled into the mic thrilling exhortations like “COME ON PEOPLE…. IT’S ALL GOING TO HAPPEN… THIS IS OUR LAST CHANCE… IT’S ALL GOING TO HAPPEN…. NOW! ….NOW! …………….NOW!!! …..NAAOOOOOOW!!!” And so on.
The prancing cockend was predictably wrong, though: for most of the slimmed crowd now in the 5,000 capacity hall, it wasn’t going to happen for five or ten minutes. The Hordern has had an impressive refit in the last year, going from the tin-box vibe of the 1999-rebuild to a slightly comfortably-shaped live room wider than it is deep, with speakers aimed slightly out to try and encompass this comfortably-dispersed audience. The sound still usually sounds KIND of like a big concrete shell, though – this year I’d seen an all-rock Devo lose their thrash a bit in the big ceiling, a mostly-on-tape Pnau turn shrill against the hard floor and plastic side seats, and only a who-would-have-thought !!! find a spacious, welcoming sound at the end of a dance party.
Well, the Teutonic heart-attack-victims of just days before must have had a team of engineers working on soundchecking for a week or so in advance and locking their presets down with barbed wire, because Kraftwerk had the best live sound I have ever heard. There’s not much to say about the songs, or the visuals, or the not-recently deceased members, but it’s impossible to convey how amazing, clear and wonderful the pure digital shed-filling sound was. I’m a fool for not seeing them in a theatre in 2003.