29 Nov Strawberry Fields 2016 – Top Acts and Recap
Speak to any veterans of Australia’s music festival game and one name will tend to crop up every time – Strawberry Fields. The festival has now been running for close to a decade, and has some of the heaviest clout when it comes to booking power. The lineup this year is testament to that fact, supplying some of the biggest names from Detroit to Hamburg to Hokkaido.
In a constantly growing local festival scene, Strawberry is a perpetual standout. Each year the meticulously curated line-up provides an unforgettable soundtrack to an annual escape, which is as rich visually as it is audibly. With many artists, multiple stages, camping and of course the punters themselves, it is no small task to pull off a festival of this size – especially when catering to the wide array of musical tastes that Strawberry attracts.
Here at Ripe we have narrowed down our favourite performances from the bevy of local and international artists gracing the stages this year – with a couple of honourable mentions as well.
THE RIPE’S TOP PICKS AT STRAWBERRY FIELDS 2016
Few people garner as much anticipation as Kenny Dixon Jr. on a line up. With a legacy stretching over a couple of decades, and a few more to come I’m sure, this Detroit staple was exciting to watch. Rocking a solid slot on main stage across the afternoon, Moodymann played plenty of classics and of course Liem’s ‘If Only (Lehult)’ got a feature.
Others highlights included ‘Eating Glue’ by Paranoid London and the cowbell mania of Fango’s ‘Rectum’. The unexpected drop of ‘I Wanna Go Bang’ by Bjarki was on the heavier side of Moodymann’s repertoire, but in that setting made complete sense. Minimal techno never goes amiss at a party like Strawberry.
While the rain caused wipe spread mayhem and confusion to the various stages and set times it did present the festival with one of the most organically special moments; the last minute inclusion of Rhythm Section to the main stage.
Due to the downpour the turntables Move D was set to play on were washed out, putting a halt to his vinyl only set. But from this hitch came a highlight of the entire festival. International collective and record label Rhythm Section took to the stage, lead by Chaos & Bradley Zero. As the rain cleared and the crowd waited eagerly to start dancing once more, they tactfully opened up with the Ruf Kutz classic ‘Sun After The Rain‘ by Rüf Dug.
This set the tone of the next hour or so to come. As the weather seemed to clear within minutes, hundreds of drenched punters found their pace again in a set filled with afro beat, disco and lighter techno. The energy and obvious enjoyment the collective brought to the stage helped create a truly special scene. Turning things around so quickly was no mean feat, but being veterans of the UK club scene and The Boiler Room circuit the crowd was in safe hands and this last minute soundtrack could not have been more fitting or enjoyable.
Hamburg selector and producer Move D has been on the circuit some years now, but as Kenny proved before him, time honed musical knowledge and mixing ability trumps all else. After Rhythm Section had saved the day in the gap before he played, Move D peppered his set with feel good edits – a rendition of ‘Oye Como Va’ was a classic sing along. Codie Currie’s ‘Asteroid Belt’ was another silky feel good number and his own track ‘I Gave My Love’ all gave punters a relaxed Sunday dance. Even with overwhelming amounts of dust and rain, Move D was one of the few selectors who actually persevered with his records (don’t worry CC:Disco – I saw your records under that tarp!).
When coming to Australia Patrick Topping expressed his excitement at playing his first ever ‘Bush Doof’. Having been a longstanding champion of the Australian nightlife, it was the opportunity to play at something as large and unique as Strawberry that prompted his third return visit in just two years.
As the crowd grew for his Saturday afternoon set no doubt the atmosphere on the main stage exceeded his high expectations. Opening with Thick Dick’s ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ he set a hard, heavier pace from early on. Though it was one of the hardest hitting sets of the day, there was enough time to work through a spectrum of different techno and house. While he largely stayed within the familiar territory of his own productions this still granted some memorable highlights including crowd favourite ‘Taking Libz’ and his own recent remix of Raumakustik’s ‘Dem A Pree’
Patrick Topping leading into Supeflu was something that stood out to many when the set times were released in September. The two acts are a wonderful aural pairing, that fit perfectly within the already stacked Saturday line up. Superflu’s brand of techno has allowed them to play at hundreds of varied and at times less-conventional dance gathering around the world, so it was interesting to see how they interpreted and catered for the Australian crowd at Strawberry Fields.
The hour and a half set started off maintaining the current tempo but gradually managed to bring things down to a more understated brand of house with tracks like ‘Freaks Come Out’ by Max Chapman and ‘Valentines Groove’ by Kink. This pacing gave the set a lot of room to cover tracks that might have been missed had Superflu stuck more steadfastly to their tech-house roots. Inevitably the set climaxed once more towards the end with the ever popular Bicep remix of ‘Loveee Dae’ by Blaze before bringing the house down with ‘Volkwein’. While some complained much of the set wasn’t inline with what one might expect based off Superflu’s own productions, this variation in fact gave the Strawberry crowd a unique listening experience tailored to the vibe of the festival.
Skatebård’s monster four hour set with Ben Fester and Donald as part of Sunshine People was always sure to give other contenders a run for their money. In the relative cosiness of the Saloon stage the Norwegian DJ/Producer brought something a little left of centre to the table. Skatebard was spinning housey numbers like Bring Down The Walls (Leo Zero Edit) by Robert Owens and verging on his signature quirky Italo with Zombies In Miami’s ‘Turqoise’. Acider cuts like ‘Galactic Ectasy’ got a spin too from local Melbourliner Fantastic Man (I give full credit to Kitjen for that term Melbournliner). In a lineup that was overwhelmingly dominated by hard-hitting techno and swinging basslines, the funky Italo-disco/house of Skatebård is a breath of fresh air.
As much as we try to keep our list short and sweet there are a few local acts that deserve a tip of the hat. First up on the honourable mentions would be Strawberry veterans Sleep D. Having played at Strawberry for a few years now, DJing the opening ceremony last year, they were back on the bill for a live set as well. Their DJ set at the steam-punk oddity that was the Uki Art Car was note-worthy, but their live set at the main stage right after was a standout performance. Corey and Maryos worked tirelessly off each other, feeding loops to each other, methodically building up every brick in their wall of sound.
Main stage opener Planète brought his beautifully crafted soundscapes to a steadily growing crowd. The local beat maker has gone from strength to strength in 2016 and used the opportunity to show just why he as been one to watch. A set of old tunes were broken up with new unreleased material, all artfully played out live to create one of the festivals unique listening experiences.
As always the local artists proved how strong the Australian scene is at the moment and just how in tune they are with the crowds at these events. This could best be seen at Retza’s 3pm Sunday set on the Organic Audio Stage. His thoughtful set of rolling, forward thinking techno was cut off by the downpour in the afternoon but resumed again an hour later, only to build even more of crowd.
The stage design as well, whilst quite different from the laser-precise work of last year was very impressive – channelling that classic Aussie bush doof vibe. Kudos to Dylan Blackstone, Matt Schultz & The Pier Group, Monash University Art Design & Architecture Studio and any other artists I might have missed.
The sound at strawberry was beyond superb this year, Full Throttle Entertainment back at it again. Whilst Funktion-Ones might seem to just be a name bandied around to prove to your cooked mate you might know a bit about sound, they really do bang and even more so than last year. On the production note, the lighting as well was spectacular (acid green lasers swirling around during Leftfield isn’t a memory I will forget soon)
Strawberry Fields is a unique experience – equal parts pounding bass, morning yoga and little fat lamb. If you’re in Australia and you’re after big – big DJs and artists, big production and a big festival experience – then you’re after Strawberry Fields.