From the minimalist branding and monochrome of Pitch Music & Arts festival alone, it was blindingly obvious that what was going down just outside of the tiny town of Mafeking in the shadow of the Grampian ranges this Labour Day weekend was not going to be your usual outdoor Australian festival. The psychedelic swirl and mindmelt of colour you normally associate with a doof was expelled to the psytrance nanosphere along with its musical compatriot, replaced by a palette as monochrome as Berlin, with an austere lineup to match. It seemed like Pitch had decided to migrate urban minimalism to the countryside, where steel and smoke would spring from the dust, baring their teeth at any fluffy notions of technicolour dreamswamps. The city had decamped to the country for a dirty weekend away to create its own kind of no messing festival experience. On paper, Pitch looked like the stuff of non hippy raver dreams.
While art manifests itself in many forms, and there’s a lot to celebrate about muted palettes, to call Pitch a music ‘and arts’ festival may have been a little bold. There were harder edges here, a sense of really enduring the elements, something which the relentless dust storms did nothing to ameliorate. Aesthetically, there were no bells and whistles. But then you don’t go to Berlin for the pretty architecture do you? Rainbows were created almost exclusively by the rare and exotic birds of the dancefloor; the parading peacocks, skittish parrots and wide eyed night owls. Sadly there was also a mild sting of cock-a-doodle-don’t as some got a wee bit too shovey on the dancefloor – c’mon folks, thought we were kind to eachother.
It was a rare treat that many DJs were given the privilege of expansive sets in order for them to really play and tease the crowd and explore the facets of their musical personalities outside the restrictions of a shorter set. Standout moments came from DJ Heidi, whose jacking stompathon aimed right for the booty. The Black Madonna surfed the spectrums of genre, the disco and 30s jazz perhaps more fitting for a Sunday afternoon, the pelting techno towards the end more at home in the shadows of night in which she played. A delicious four hour frenzy from Ben UFO – complete with cheeky George Michael bootleg – took us to another galaxy. Bookashade’s much awaited live set blended stunning dancefloor classics like ‘In White Rooms’ with material from their new album for a cheeky hour. And you can never go wrong with Willaris K on a Sunday afternoon.
For those who whinged there was too much techno, that’s like booking a holiday to Ibiza and saying there are too many clubs. If they were looking for something with a little less rattle perhaps they should have stayed in Melbourne and gone to the Ed Sheeran concert. Or read the menu before they dined. The likes of Figure Nacht’s Len Faki, Adrian Bell and Function came, saw and conquered with earth shattering aplomb.
Granted, there were some definite curveballs thrown in to the mix and not everyone played the kind of set you might expect. Marcel Dettmann dished out some liberal helpings of electro, with a grand Vitalic ‘Le Rock’ finale. Unless the acid was stronger than remembered, pretty sure Sven Vath played a kinda proggy set. There was also a whole lot of disco from all angles on Saturday night, which certainly has its place, but can have the propensity to break your inner BPM when you’re looking for something a bit more nocturnal to lose your mind to.
Sunday afternoon’s trip into UK garage tickled the fancy of some, with Melbourne’s OnePuf crew repping the local bassline as only they know how, injecting a bit of fun into a sunbaked afternoon. Popcorn moments abounded watching chin stroking techno heads pass by in dismay as the carefree skanked out to mic drop classics like DJ Luck and MC Neat circa your school disco in 1998. Then DJ EZ launched into an onslaught of signature lightening fast garage mash ups, with some first-shag-in-Ayia-Napa bangers interspliced with some pretty hairy dubstep, among some back of the crate pearlers. For some it was a bit of very danceable fun. For others it was an onslaught on everything they stood for. For a few it was a fascinating spectator sport.
Perhaps it’s a word of advice to follow your ears and not your friends or the DJ you’ve been told to see to truly pursue what makes your toes wriggle. If you like what you hear, move heaven and earth to go and dance at it. This couldn’t be truer for Stage 3, which kept pulling us back in everytime we tried to walk past. Away from the disco, the humble Electrum stage stole the show as a sure fire continuum, which always seemed to be not-so-quietly outdoing its counterparts with class – that giant speaker as you walked in was just made for humping. One of my favourite sets of the weekend came from Millu, whose acid techno bootybang of a set was just so infinitely danceable – it’s always great to hear tracks like Winx’s ‘Don’t Laugh’ on a big fat fuck off system.
Melbourne’s glittering array of locals did us proud with The Journey playing a Friday set for the early birds peaking with their latest remix of Breky’s ‘Day Dream’, a solid hour and a half of all the yes from Mike Callander and back at stage 3 an eclectic speaker storm from Tornado Wallace. Props as always go to the inimitable Bicep, who took on a DJ set to fill the void of no-show Maceo Plex, before treating the Vanish Point stage to nothing less than perfection in a live show that will leave goosebumps tattooed on arms for nights to come, the pinnacle reached in their dulcet masterpiece ‘Glue’ – the moment everyone had been waiting for.
The seasoned doofer is used to breakbeat acro-yoga sessions or psychedelic belly dance chanting classes to ease their comedown on day two. None of that here. Not sure if it was even missed. What was certainly lacking were cosy chill out spaces or side stages for the hallowed talking of bullshit, lazing on your belly and open season people watching. There was a lot of open space, sometimes mirroring the sparseness of the tunes, other times that could have been used more wisely. Lacking a place to congregate, or some ridiculous activity to further fricassee your brain cells, with feng shui slightly askew, it was either attack the dancefloor or kick on at your campsite. Both were great options, but a few beanbags or a tea tent wouldn’t have gone amiss.
We thank you Pitch for the poster sized, easy to read programmes, and hands down the easiest and smoothest entry to any festival ever attended, with some bloody lovely, hardworking staff. We couldn’t be more grateful for those colossal and unrelenting speakers and impressive programming. We salute you for Boogs and DJ Tennis on the brightest cloudy Monday of the year, and slap you heartily on the back for opening our ears to the likes of Sonja Moonear and Cinthie. In equal measures we wanna wallop the sequinned and the spangled who left so much trash and debris behind at their campsites with the gnarliest doof stick we can find. Bet they were the highly original cats who drew dicks on everyone’s cars in the dust.
As the ravefugees exited planet dust, we pieced together memories of what was always going to be an epic weekend; for some was the weekend of their lives, for others something just a little different.
Photo Credits : Duncographic