Stereosonic Sydney: LIVE review

Wow Stereosonic, is all I can really say. The annual electronic-dance festival is held across Australia, cropping up in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne and is currently Australia’s biggest and fasting growing music festival. This year on Saturday 28th November I was off to check out the famous dance festival I had heard so much about. A lot of it had been positive, but many people I met had warned me of the typical ‘Stereosonic crowd’, stating that the festival was notoriously rowdy, full of groups of muscled guys searching for a fight and over-made-up bikini-clad girls seeking attention.

However with a line-up boasting the likes of trance king Armin Van Burren, Swedish dance duo Axwell ^ Ingrosso and electronic music squad Major Lazer, there was no way a few Chinese whispers would sway me from dancing the night away to some of the world’s most impressive dance acts.

And as we flitted through the entry gates, donning clichéd neon paint and flower headbands, I wasn’t worried at all. Sure, there was a lot of bare skin on show, but isn’t there always at a festival? And besides, it is the start of one of Australia’s (hopefully?) super-scorching summers.

After grabbing an (extremely over-priced) can of cider, we made a beeline for the main stage to catch Swedish electronic music duo Galantis set. It was early on in the day and already the mood was electric, with the crowd dancing along to the beat rampantly. Their catchy 2014 hit single ‘Runaway (U & I) caused the whole mob of fans to sing (or scream) along to the lyrics and we all danced along ridiculously to the tune. The atmospheric was euphoric, and I couldn’t help but feel really, really happy. So far so good!

Dutch brothers Showtek took to the main stage next and they sure managed to carry the crowd along with their thumping rhythms and blinding neon visuals. Their impressive hit single ‘Bad’, produced with EDM legend David Guetta, really hit the crowd running, prompting insane amounts of rapid arm waving and extremely vigorous jumping. The music paired with the enthusiasm of the crowd, the colourful showering confetti and the rather humorous inflatables being chucked around (there was a ‘naked woman’ floating through the crowd at one point) made the scene feel absolutely surreal (no, really). Another fantastic set.

It was soon time for Australian electronic duo Peking Duk, and I was eager to have a listen. They were a pair I had only really heard about since arriving in Australia but their name had risen up a fair few times in conversation. I was quickly impressed – the music was exhilarating, feeling like the beat was running tingling through your body. Their single ‘High’ proved to be very popular, with the crowds clapping and singing along to the catchy vocals and bopping along in time. My favourite part of the set involved an incredibly interesting remix of The Lion King’s ‘Circle of life’. I honestly hadn’t heard anything like it before!

Next up was a big one – the notoriously wild EDM group Major Lazer. Having seen them live before, I mentally prepared myself for a crazy performance that may involve me being hurled through the crowd. We certainly weren’t disappointed and were treated to a concoction of exciting interactions including the likes of lead member Diplo crowd surfing across the masses in a zorb ball (!!), scantily-clad dancers dancing vigorously in time to the music and strict instructions for the men of the crowd to whip off their shirts and chuck them high, high into in the air. Ending their set with everyone’s favourite chart-topper ‘Lean on’, I felt satisfied that once again Major Lazer had proven they are one of the most fun and exciting dance acts out there – their continuous interaction with the crowd really is something else.­­

Utterly hooked into the main stage (who can blame us really with that line up), it was Axwell Λ Ingrosso (Swedish House Mafia reformed without Steve Angelo) up next. In all honestly, I was absolutely captivated from the start and their set proved to be my favourite of the whole festival. ‘Barricade’ engrossed the crowd with a long and tantalizing lead up, along with crowd favourites such as ‘On my way’ and ‘Something’. The atmosphere made me feel completely and utterly encompassed in the music and their feel-good hit single ‘Sun is shining’, teamed with fantastic visuals and sky-high flames was a highlight of the set.

Finally, it was time for trance royalty Armin Van Buuren to take to the stage. As usual he was absolutely phenomenal, treating his dedicated supporters to crowd favourites such as the catchy ‘Another you’ along with hidden gems such as the Dan Stone rework of ‘See the sun’. With eye-blindingly amazing visuals, countless bursts of confetti and insane lighting it was an absolutely amazing show to be part of, and crowds and crowds of fans had gathered to dance away to the dance legend. A suprise appearance from singer/songwriter/producter Mr Probz was also hugely welcomed and he joined Armin to treat the crowd to his massive 2013 hit 'Waves'.

Towards the end of the set we were shaken up with the psychedelic and fast-thudding ‘Vini vici’ by The Tribe, before an emotional W&W remix of ‘This is what it feels like’, arguably Armin’s most commercial and most popular hit. I found the slow and dramatic version of the hit rather mushy and melodramatic but didn’t mind too much at all. The whole crowd was singing along zealously, hands clapping and arms waving and it really did feel like the end of something truly amazing. The song concluded with fantastic flashing lights, thumping drops and a spectacle of colourful fireworks. A fantastic end to an incredibly memorable day and night.

Stereosonic – I am utterly impressed and you exceeded my expectations fully. There will always be some rough crowds at music festivals but personally I didn’t even experience that at all and to me, it seemed all about the music.

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