Festival Review: Listen Out, September 28 @ Centennial Parklands, Sydney
Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on October 9, 2013
The inaugural Listen Out was branded by Fuzzy Events as “Party: redefined” as in, not a festival like Parklife. Opting to frame the event as a boutique event (similar to OutsideIn, perhaps?) with a much smaller crowd, only two stages, a solid and more underground lineup.
There were some great things about this festival (a rose by any other name, etc) and there were some epic fails.
Good stuff about Listen Out:
- The layout. Two stages, easy walking distance from each other, with toilets and the Red Bull bar/stage in between. There was loads of space to lie around in the sun, and just as much shade if you started to burn. While the crowd weren’t exactly boutique, or even particularly hipster (which was surprising considering the lineup) the smaller space created a more intimate feel.
- Food. There was a Grill’d there, which is cool, and they didn’t hike up the prices. It’s so appreciated when even a little effort is put into nourishment at festivals. Minimal yet important, and really makes a difference to the day (and your digestive system.)
- The Red Bull stage. This little bar/stage/bus thing had by far the best sound and music of the day. The lines were super long until around 8pm, but I think I spend more time there than the main stages. Had a great dance to everything from the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ theme, Toto’s ‘Africa,’ Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ And some bangin’ electro and house sets throughout the day. Thanks, Red Bull. You were my favourite part of the day.
- Most of the sets were really good, despite sound issues. I really enjoyed AlunaGeorge, who I’d been pretty excited to see. Their R’n B-infused electropop was great, Aluna owned that stage and the crowd loved it in the late afternoon sun.
Just Blaze and TNGHT were my favourites on the day. These were GREAT back to back sets, my favourites of the day. Just Blaze, known for his production work on Jay-Z’s various Blueprints and The Black Album played a seriously great hip hop set, providing some of the heaviest beats of the day.
Trap lords TNGHT aka Hudson Mohawke and Lunice was the most highly anticipated act for me, and I wasn’t let down. They fucking rocked. Their set wasn’t as heavy as I’d expected (I’m talking about the tracks, not the abysmal sound quality by the way) and very hip hop heavy, and just as awesome. Sadly they had to turn it down halfway (who the fuck makes a noise complaint at a music festival?? This literally makes no sense to me) and the magic was lost after that, but it was great nonetheless.
Disclosure. Full disclosure: I don’t really like Disclosure. I know, I know, they’re super popular and wonderful, it’s just not really my thing. Regardless, their set was great and the crowd went wild. I really liked how the other stages closed in time for the headlining set, so that there were no clashes. Everybody was really into it. Aluna from AluneGeorge came out for their collaboration ‘White Noise,’ which was really great too.
Bad Stuff about Listen Out:
- The sound. The sound was fucking terrible. There was no bass. All day. No bass. None. Someone in their PR team blamed the wind in a Facebook comment, but I struggle to believe that. When you have a very bass and beat-heavy lineup, you need better sound. It’s hardly the first time an event has taken place in Centennial Park, and wind is certainly not a new phenomenon. The tiny Red Bull stage had better sound than both main stages. My phone has better sound than Listen Out. I’m not kidding.
- The crowd. I don’t really know why I expected anything different, to be honest. I guess the ’boutique’ lineup fooled me, but it was just the same ol’ bros that you found at every previous incarnation of this event. Fake tans and are-they-shorts-or-undies-clad girls, shirtless, ‘roided-up guys with stupid tattoos unnecessarily pushing their way through crowds. I’d hoped for an improvement, considering the effort put into redefining Parklife, but it was not to be. Ho hum.
- The queues. Oh god, the queues. The lines at the bars would have been about 45 minutes long for the majority of the day. We didn’t even bother approaching the crowds here for most of the day. Once again, I sing praise for the Red Bull bar – at least they had great music and a dance area to party while you wait!
- I paid $6 for a bottle of water. Sure, there was one free refill station, which is standard, practical and great. But we had to buy it first – they didn’t let us bring in empty bottles. $6. It took nearly an hour to purchase due to the aforementioned queues. The free refill station wasn’t that much better. I just… I just… $6 FOR A SMALL BOTTLE OF WATER.
- Azealia Banks. She plays three songs and storms off stage after a punter threw a tinny at her. She did the same thing at the Melbourne Listen Out, only her set was even shorter there. Sure, it’s not nice for someone to throw things at you. But this is a music festival, and sometimes you just need to deal with it. Beyoncé was full-on pulled off stage by a guy in the crowd at a recent concert in Brazil. Did she storm off in a huff? No. She got up, unphased, and continued to sing. Take a leaf or 70 out of her book if you want anybody to respect you, Ms Banks.
Okay so the thing about this event was that the lineup was brilliant, but the festival itself was not. I’ll be interested in seeing what kinds of improvements or changes they make before next year, or if they’ll even have a Listen Out – maybe it’ll just revert to Parklife again.