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With this year’s Future crowd shrewdly split between Avicii, Drake and The Prodigy, musical battle lines were drawn and the festival was exactly what you made it.
Back at its longtime home at the Doomben Racecourse after one year at the RNA Showgrounds, Future Music Festival’s Brisbane leg delivered the expected mix of sunshine, skin and (soon-to-be) sore heads but what was most impressive was the festival’s continued diversity of musical genres beyond its EDM bread-and-butter and the sheer variety of talent on offer to revellers.
Superstar headliner Avicii made a triumphant debut on Future’s Brisbane decks after cancelling at the last minute due to illness in 2013. His closing set of euphoric bass drops, mesmerising visuals and the requisite pyrotechnics at the Supernova stage capped off a back-to-back roster of sets from Knife Party, Martin Garrix and the versatile Afrojack, all at the top of their game.
But ask all those who were front row centre at the Future Live stage next door and they’ll tell you the night belonged to the charismatic and engaging Drake, on tour in Australia for the very first time in a major coup for Future.
Opening with Trophies, the Canadian rapper kept the crowd in the palm of his hand as he gave individual festivalgoers personalised shout outs in between a blend of motivational speaking, autobiographical storytelling (“My acting days are over!” he spits during Energy) and rapid-fire medleys of material from all of his albums. Drake made the show feel effortlessly intimate. For All Me, Drake was joined on stage by 2 Chainz, fresh from his own set that had the entire crowd chanting along to tracks like I Luv Dem Strippers.
The tug-of-war between the Future Live and the Supernova stages reached a pinnacle during the many subdued interludes of Drake’s set: the sound bleed between the two very close stages hadn’t been a problem until then. Some hanging back from Drake drifted into Avicii’s gravitational pull when they heard the familiar melodies of The Days or Wake Me Up.
It didn’t bother Future veterans The Prodigy, though, who delivered their frenetic, aggressive electronic rock show undisturbed to a crowd seeking something harder at the separate Futuredome tent. The group delivered new tunes from their upcoming album The Day Is My Enemy in a set list which also included signature tracks Firestarter and Smack My Bitch Up.
South African rap-rave powerhouses Die Antwoord gave a truly original performance that was compelling yet mystifying and complemented by visuals oscillating between disturbing and alluring. Yolandi Visser and Ninja’s energy levels never wavered; the group’s relentless performance was an aural Red Bull to perk up fans in the early evening. Yolandi led a chant of “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” during the set that included I Fink U Freeky, Fok Julle Naaiers, Cookie Thumper, Ugly Boy and their latest single Pitbull Terrier.
The Hilltop Hoods took to the Future Live stage in the early evening for a blistering set of lightning-fast rhymes that they made look absolutely effortless. With the assistance of a horns section, Pressure and Suffa opened with Chase That Feeling and delivered hit after hit before finishing with Cosby Sweater.
There were plenty of early afternoon acts to warm up revellers who were in it for the long haul: Canadian musician Kiesza showed off fancy footwork as she belted out her 2014 breakthrough Hideaway, and got down on the stage to do the worm when she’d finished her vocal duties on Jack Ü’s Take Ü There.
Drum and bass fans would have found much to like in UK duo Sigma, the architects behind Changing and the Kanye West-derived Nobody to Love.
Finnish producer Darude, booked on the strength of his recent unexpected Internet resurgence, seemed ecstatic to be there and the chatty DJ showed an infectious enthusiasm for his early afternoon trance set, culminating in him finally playing his signature track Sandstorm to the nostalgic crowd.
Future Music Festival wraps up in Adelaide today.
Photo: Rebecca Reid