Future Music Festival @ Doomben Racecourse, 03.03.2012 – Part 1

Future Music Festival is more than just the vileness of the masses, there’s also some live music taking place and some photos to be taken.

Hanging outside the festival and watching the midday carnage of people being attended to by the medical services, isn’t my idea of fun but, as with the last time I came to Doomben, I have trouble finding the right place to pick up my photo pass and get into the festival. The box office sends me one way, the gate sends me all the way back in the opposite direction, all the way up the road and around the corner, only to find that there’s no sign of the Guest Ticket Office up there. Eventually I find it, just inside the entrance to the VIP gate and just in time as seconds later the heavens open and it starts pouring down. Having found my way into the festival I know find myself in the grandstand hoping that it stops raining so that I can get out and about. However, every time it looks like its subsiding, a few paces out from the shelter of the building makes it start back up again. In the end it’s getting too close to a time when I need to be in a photo pit at the other side of the festival and so I get my rain jacket on and make rare use of the rain cover for my camera. In practice a proper jacket for a camera sounds like a great idea. In practice, and especially in the humidity of a Queensland early autumn, it’s less of a good idea as the plastic keeps steaming up, making it impossible to use. The last time I used it was at last year’s Sunset Sounds, when the humidity in the protective coat was so great that it fogged up the camera’s viewfinder from the inside and didn’t clear for days afterwards. Luckily the humidity isn’t as bad today as it was back then, just days before the January 2011 floods.

Although I’ve seen Jessie J less than two days previously, I’m keen to see and photograph her again and see how she does in a festival environment. I’m a bit surprised that she’s on so early, starting at 1:45pm. She’s looking less like a stripper today, going for an all-in-one body suit rather than having her underwear on show and pretty much takes off from where she left at the Riverstage. She’s bubbly, talkative and entertaining. Amazingly the rain stops during a snippet of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry that’s she segues into in the middle of one of her songs. Michael Franti would kill for that ability.

I’d never heard of Gym Class Heroes before today. With a name like that, and so soon after Soundwave, I’m expecting to be your average pretty boy tattoo mainstream pop bands masquerading as a rock band. There’s lots of tattoos, green hair and pointy guitars on show but instead they’re just your average mainstream rap/hip-hop band. Apparently they’re the Number One single in Australia this week. That would probably explain why there’s such a big crowd here to see them, why everyone knows all the words and why I’ve never heard of the before. The early part of the day is annoying as the live acts all start at the same time. It’s a case of chose one to photograph, miss out on the other. I would have liked to have photographed Chase & Status but there’s no way to do it, although I catch a bit of them as have a walk around the site, now that the rain has stopped and then head back to the Mazda2 Flamingo stage for The Naked & Famous. Over the last year and a bit they’ve been in competition with the likes of Washington, Cloud Control and Kimbra to be the band that plays every festival and they look like a band that’s tired and fed up with playing the same 45 minutes. They play to a much smaller crowd than the one that was here before for Gym Class Heroes. As I’ve seen them plenty of times of this period, I’ve already made my feeling known on the band, so won’t go through it again. I don’t stick around but hear that they have a load of sound and technical problems for much of their set, something I’m sure will make them want to play another 45 minute set with minimal soundcheck at some other festival in a week or two.

The plan is to quickly go to Hercules & Love Affair on the DFA Stage and then come back to the Las Vegas Stage for Skrillex. Coming around the corner into the main arena, it’s clear that it probably just isn’t going to happen as Skrillex has drawn a massive crowd and there just isn’t going to be enough time to get to the DFA Stage and then fight my way through the crowd. So instead I decide I’m going to have to skip Hercules & Love Affair and fight my way through to the photo pit. It would have been a hard task at the best of times but it’s made even harder trying to squeeze through with a camera bag. The nearer to the front, the more packed it is, the worse it is. Even though I’m moving up the very far side, there’s next to no space. It takes over 10 minutes to cover less than 200 metres and Skrillex has already started before I get into the photo pit. From a photographic point of view, it’s the typical DJ problems in that it’s hard to make someone stood behind a big table looking at a laptop screen ever now and then look good. You have such a limited view and it just looks boring in photos; if you’re photographing from the photo pit, how do you make people stood behind a table and looking at a laptop screen look exciting? It would have been great to have photographed from onstage as the real interest and excitement is in the crowd and it’s a sight to behold. It’s an incredible experience and I’m not sure if I’ve seen anything like that (at least at an Australian festival) with such a mass of people, as far as the eye can see, just going mad for it. It’s not just those in the D-ring, it’s everyone on the other side of the outer ring and from the pit it’s even everyone over in the mini-grandstand. People just going completely nuts. I guess everyone is peaking.

There’s no way any of the photographers want to fight their way back through the crowd so after hanging around at the side for a bit and watching the crowd a bit more (after that initial excitement Skrillex has peaked and doesn’t really go anywhere new) we decide en masse that we’re heading out via the access road at the side of the stage whether we’re allowed to or not. It’s strength in numbers and no one challenges us to tell us that we’re off bounds and need to go back and out through the crowd.

Friendly Fires have become one of those bands that Australian festival promoters bring over to play at least once a year. The band were here for last year’s Good Vibrations and the year before’s Splendour. No doubt they’ll be back again next year, if not before. They’re always good value, mainly thanks to singer Ed Macfarlane’s hilarious dance moves. Unfortunately I only get a couple of songs to enjoy his skills, needing to head off for Die Antwoord. Die Antwoord were an interesting band to watch when they played last year’s Big Day Out and good to photograph and they’re the same here again at Future, both Ninja and Yo-landi giving the photographers a lot to work with. At the end of the third song I get ready to move out on when a guy walks on from the side of the stage, sunglasses on, dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt, arms up, giving a double victory sign. There’s a micro-second spent wondering if this is part of the show before Ninja runs over and aggressively starts to push him back to the wings. He walks back onto the stage to the cheers of the crowd before deciding that he hasn’t finished yet and vanishes back off stage again, leaving Yo-landi to carry on by herself. Looking over the fence the stage intruder is being dragged towards the back entrance to the tent stage by three security guards.  I lose sight of them before finding out what his final fate is but guess that it’s not part of the performance.

I had hoped to get across to the Las Venus stage for Tinie Tempah but by the time I finish at Die Antwoord, there’s just not enough time to get all the way around to the main stage. Instead I wonder over to the DFA Stage and see a couple of Holy Ghost’s songs. They’re an obvious DFA band, the trouble is that they sound a bit like a poor man’s LCD Soundsystem.

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