Red Bull Weekender Festival, Domain, September 10
In one of those lists masquerading as advice columns recently, this time on parenting, one line stuck out: not everything is a lesson. You don’t have to use all adventures or misadventures as part of your homily on “this is how the world works/this is why you must live in this way”: just let the moment be Dad.
Yep, here’s one father guilty as charged. And the lesson about non-lesson extends beyond the front door.
Let’s acknowledge then that sometimes a gig is just a gig. People play, people dance or sing, people go home happy, and then move on.
Some 15,000 people did just that at this culmination of the somewhat misnamed Weekender festival (which had in fact been running since mid-week, but now is not the time to quibble or draw out a lesson on accuracy is it?), which was a reasonably successful brand event but an even more successful reminder of how key electronic and dance music is to more than just the freaks and geeks end of the industry. This audience was urban and suburban, barely legal and hiding the wrinkles/paunch, tripping out blissfully and dad-dancing about. And they all were having an excellent time.
But let’s also say that sometimes a gig, this gig for example, might also be a lesson. Two, in this case.
The easiest lesson to discern, if clearly not always easiest to put into practice, is how much reward there is in intelligent and sensitive live mixing. Flight Facilities, at their base two men behind equipment, didn’t just augment their sound with live guitar, bass and saxophone, and the usual roster of quality vocalists, but brought in a decent size orchestra.
So often – too often – orchestral augmentation of popular music is either token (arrangements serving no purpose but to repeat existing parts) or inappropriately used (too loud and overwhelming; too soft and underwhelming), and no one wins except the orchestra’s coffers.
Here though was a brilliantly realised balance between the organic and the electronic: the sounds in combination bringing grandeur without grandiosity, allowing the rhythms to flow without excessive weight, giving openings to guitars and strings, and highlighting a genuine bass element. They’ve been touring this combination for some time now so you’d hope they have it right, but still, it was a thing of small wonder they got it right for the outdoors.
Not 100 per cent right though. The pity of it was that the vocalists in the first half, a half which also was not the best structured in terms of song selection, got lost a bit in the package, emerging better in the second half with clearer presence.
The second lesson, as articulated by critic, copywriter and activist Jonno Seidler ahead of the show, is more difficult and arguable, but not necessarily wrong.
While Flight Facilities finished by 10pm and everyone could have been home before lockout laws kicked in, the reason Flight Facilities, and Flume or Alison Wonderland or the Preatures for that matter, exist at all – having learnt their trade, developed relationships with vocalists and built their fan base locally – are the Sydney nightclubs and inner city venues not dependent on casino money, which used not to be forced to close doors when the “good” people of the town have gone home to cocoa and Rage on the telly.
As Seidler said in his Facebook post: “What that really means is that if Flight Facilities had started in 2015, they’d never be able to get to the point where they sold out a 15,000 capacity venue with a live orchestra, because the only place they could train under Mike Baird’s cultural policy is in their bedrooms.”
Lesson learned? We’ll see.