Empire Of The Sun are one of the richest musical acts I have ever seen, but there was a day's worth of festival before they reached the stage, most of which was a curious musical contrast to the dream-pop icons.
The soundscape of FOMO began with the chilled and melodic Lastlings, but was thereafter rap, hip hop and R&B, dirtied up with dubstep. Feki, who provided some of the smoothest transitions of the day, is labelled ‘future soul’. If I had to name it, however, I would say a whole lot of urban trap, which made for a hard-edged but decidedly down-tempo vibe.
Crowd at FOMO Sydney - image © Justin Baker
Hannah Wants was the only DJ who pushed the BPM above 100, with remixes of some smooth, naughties club anthems.
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The first mosh-pit emerged when international act Desiigner hit the stage; it was a dedicated crew slam-dancing just in front of the stage. Desiigner's trap had a downbeat, reflective edge that sounded like heat and concrete to me.
Desiigner - image © Justin Baker
Perth up-and-comers Slumberjack then continued with the hip hop but segued into a less aggressive, more performative feel with a live vocalist. GoldLink blended trap with classics like ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Metro Boomin' brought out the bass and the 808s: originals mixed with music from his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.
Slumberjack - image © Justin Baker
MC JME was a more studied performance, with beats taking a backseat to his killer rhymes. He seemed to hold the crowd, stalking and enunciating his spits.
JME - image © Justin Baker
Australian summer festivals have that special relationship with endurance and heat and there was a pick-up of energy when the sun finally buggered off and gave us all some relief. And I mean that quite literally: a backflip competition broke out on one of the mounds, as if to celebrate life-force no longer being sucked from all of our pores.
Image © Justin Baker
This was around the time when Aussie duo Peking Duk took to the stage. "They had so much energy” was what a number of punters said afterwards, and they were right. A few visuals and a little bit of crowd interaction goes a long way. They also played some vocal house amid the trap and mixed it well. The crowd were getting ready for the headliners, but they still made an impression: no mean feat at all.
Peking Duk - image © Justin Baker
Which brings me to where I began: one of the richest musical acts I have seen; Empire Of The Sun presented a wonderland of colour along with chords so emotive you could be listening to a film soundtrack. The thing about Empire is, they really don't have any boring songs. For anyone who hasn't seen them live, it is much more four-on-the-floor than their studio work. They do, however, perform with a live drummer, which works to further emphasise the percussion.
Empire Of The Sun - image © Justin Baker
It was definitely a dance set, and the on-stage dancers lent to the other-worldliness. "Luke Steele must know so much about music," I thought to myself, and probably not just popular music. In the short set at FOMO I counted nuances of Prince, Michael Jackson, Sly And The Family Stone, Bee Gees, Boney M, David Bowie; disco, funk, house, ambient, new wave, psychodelia: all this as Steele finished the main set by smashing his guitar like Pete Townsend. These cats make you a proud Australian: sort of like Vegemite, but far from an acquired taste. The only flaw was that ‘Alive’ sounds a little like ‘Lux’ in the chorus: I'm being picky.
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Flosstradamus set had the stadium feel of Empire Of The Sun, but an opposite vibe: instead of feathers, eyeliner and disco dancers, his stage set was smoky, industrial and mechanical, like his music. The park-sized crowd, none the less after Empire, and individually lit up like carollers by what I assume were phone apps, went wild when he asked for "any dubstep fans".
Flosstradamus - image © Justin Baker
His set stuttered and wobbled into the night as punters left FOMO safe and happy.