My first experience in Sydney was in the height of a Vodka Cruiser–fuelled Schoolies trip. My friend actually got robbed whilst wearing a pink sombrero and since then I’ve haughtily been glad of my decision to move to Melbourne. We have alleyway gigs and milk-crate-seated bars after all. Lately though, through the promotion of Astral People, the diverse acts signed to Yes Please! Records and after catching the odd FBI radio show it’s clear that Sydney has it’s own immensely passionate and jealousy inducing music scene. Cemented by the unbelievable afternoon I spent at OutsideIN – I’ve decided I’m migrating north – and I’ll be moving to The Factory Theatre for summer.
In August the power-couple of Astral People and Yes Please! announced a Serengeti of diverse and different artists to play at OutsideIN. The first boutique festival of it’s kind to take place at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville, Sydney. With a line up of only twelve artists, the festival promised an entire food chain of the experimental and underground – from the hazy hip-hop of Smoke DZA to local dreamboat Oliver Tank to Brooklyn producer MeLo-X, his ZuluGuru partner in crime, soulful Jesse Boykins III and the party-favour Flume. With the alluring ‘more to be announced’ written underneath the first line-up, the festival quickly grew to cult like status amongst underground music listeners, general beat-maker fanciers, audio/visual nerds and… Thom Yorke.
Fresh off my kindly donated flights from ACCLAIM I caught a tour-guide-style taxi ride in time to catch Fishing. Mixing Gameboy sounds with yearning vocals and high-school crush charm, their earliest EP OOOO has never dated and watching them play their latest single Choy Lin is a musical additive – you can’t get enough. The Melbourne-born and now London-dwelling noise-rock outfit HTRK whose rolling 808 drum machine and synth grooves flooded the main dance-floor and showed an expert command of stage presence that lived up to their 2008 Pop Crimes reputation.
After catching designer/producer protégée Thrupence’s first ever EP launch, watching him play in the murky rave-cave Factory Floor room only emphasised his ability to turn everything lush and ambient, and accompanied by a guitar the opening strains of Voyages were heartfelt enough to smooth even delayed flight gitters. Evenings took a moment after starting his set to give the Melbourne artist a shout-out. Playing a bass alongside his own hip-hop-vibing sound the LA beat-maker demanded the lasers ‘do something crazy’ at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
In the outside world of OutsideIN the Astral People DJs played smooth disco and funk to the bar area. Decorated with inflated animals, lilos, lanterns and selling strangely reasonably priced drinks the Factory Theatre had a feel that if you had older brothers that were well-connected with a remarkably cool taste in music this would be the type of party they’d throw while you’re parents were out of town. Festivals with a sense of community and Hawaiian shirts are far more relaxed and interesting that getting elbowed in the face by a goonbag-welding dude at the likes of Stereovibes or whatever it’s called. I’m sure there are many more people that would agree with me and avoid those Southern Cross decorated crowds in favour of a festival where the most demented things happening were guys in double-denim having a hopping competition (this happened) with a healthy absence of port-a-loos.
Oliver Tank’s Last Night I Heard Everything in Slow Motion was the soothing pre-antidote to the next artist heading the main stage. While his EP Dreams is still the perfect accompaniment to a first-kiss or lonely bus ride, his sound seemed to mature alongside his curls as he finished his set playing his Snoop Dog cover to an adoring crowd.
The lighting suddenly glowed red and with three beer bottles lined up across the decks Flume hit the stage. Thanking the audience and hyping his One Direction topping album, at seven thirty, the crowd was ready to rave. Dropping the upcoming single with Chet Faker Left Alone, an insane amount of girls suddenly jumped up on long-suffering boyfriend’s shoulders and the chilled-out vibe was replaced by a sweating, bass-loving, bouncing mass. Followed by his wound-up remixes of Onra and Hermitude it was clear that Australia’s latest dance demi-god was not disappointing his crowd. While every artist probably suffers some backlash when they are instantly popular (including one girl yelling into the ladies’ toilets what jerk he was) the type of crowd-spinning magic Flume has arguably doesn’t come without a lot of practice and flair.
While the evening started spinning with beer and dusk, OutsideIN continued as Dro Carey’s warped house music echoed through the Factory Floor. His seminal Journey With The Heavy was a dark contrast to the fairy lights glowing outside. With mixes being playing on UK radio stations and gathering a worldwide audience, the artist’s twisted R&B is sadly underrated in Australia and deserves as much praise as his main-stage counterpart.
Jesse Boykins III enthrallingly rapped over a Gold Panda track that I watched bizarrely from behind the stage as the night darkened. Watching the enthusiasm of a musician was truly an experience, polite and smiling to the press and photographers he suddenly launched into full hypeman mode and danced laps around the stage. Composer/producer Shigeto was up next; insanely drumming over his vibrant and melodic electronic tracks, or as one friend put it – ‘he sat down and drummed like a bastard’ – and then the rumours began. Thom Yorke had been spotted, sinking scotch by himself at the bar. Appearing after his first Sydney show with Radiohead, the audience was suddenly star struck. Including me of course, when I awkwardly held a door open for him and forgot momentarily, how to talk.
The combination of dubstep and dancehall announced the arrival of Africa Hitech. The duo consists of Harmonic 313’s Mark Pritchard and the effortlessly-cool looking Steve Spacek, whose lifetime of musical knowledge was emphasised by his wearing RayBans in near pitch black dance-floor. MeLo-X (who, I have to mention, grinded on a stage diving fan), LV and Smoke DZA finished off the night with headliner fashion. Swag, North London bass and warehouse rave hip-hop respectively.
The rest of my evening in Sydney descends into blurry post-festival madness and I’m fairly sure I tried to get in the boot of MeLo-X’s car to get to the after party at one point. But on a final and now sober note OutsideIN was a massive accomplishment for everyone involved. The artists from across the world that stunned audiences and played instruments with such raw talent that they threw out the idea that electronic music is just ‘dudes-behind-a-laptop’, the organisers that made it the least pretentious and generously affordable festival happening this year, and of course, the crowds that sold out an underground festival. Until next year, OutsideIN.
Artist Portraits by Cormack O’Connor Photography