- Dutch promoters Dekmantel chose Melbourne's iconic Caulfield Racecourse as the venue for their first festival outside Europe. The ten-hour event was welcome relief from the bloated production, endless queuing and irritating timetable clashes that seems to characterize the rest of Australia's festival circuit. Instead, Dekmantel brought thoughtful curation, smart programming and creative use of a spacious outdoor venue. Working with local outfit Novel, their tight organization and simple venue design gave the music space to breathe. The sound crackled with clarity, there were plenty of sofas and grassy areas to stretch out on, and you never had to wait for more than a couple of minutes for amenities.
San Proper was getting started on the main stage when I arrived, playing a mix of wonky disco, techno and house. He was soon throwing caution to the wind, tearing off his shirt and warbling into the mic, while shamelessly chopping and scratching for dramatic effect. He lived up to his wild man reputation—at one point he started giving the audience the finger, casually telling them: "If you want to take a photo, be my fucking guest."
At the other stage, a cosier, sunnier spot next to some stables, Vakula was laying down a more cohesive set, rising from disco and boogie sounds through funky, breakbeat-laden house and acid. In contrast to San Proper's energy and antics, the Ukrainian was all about constructing a groove to hook the swelling crowd. Next up on the main stage were Dekmantel Soundsystem, who excelled in their ability to switch from off-kilter techno (Roman Flügel's "Sliced Africa") to summery disco (Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band's "Days Gone By.") It was a model uplifting mid-afternoon set, lapped up by the now-heaving floor.
Down by the stables, Anthony Naples had other ideas. The New York DJ moved between classic and cutting edge house in mature fashion, airing a long-forgotten Liz Torres dub, some of the disco edit magic of the Secret Mixes Fixes label, and Rasoul's heart-melting deep house cut "Let Me Love You" alongside fresher material. Without doubt, his was the performance of the day.
Mike Servito followed Naples, closing the second stage with a selection that balanced trippy deep house and tough, rolling dubs—including Masters At Work's dissonant rework of Shanice's "I Like"—with the odd freestyle classic. Omar-S played a straighter set than I'd expected, dropping MK's almost-cheesy Nightcrawlers rerub beside banging hip-house and Detroit classics from the likes of Terrence Parker. While Servito's set recalled sweaty club basements, Omar-S brought the sunny vibes of Ibiza's DC-10 terrace, bathing the dancers in a warm glow just as the sun began to set.
The day's programming was spot-on right until headliners Tale Of Us took to the main stage. With Matteo Milleri out ill, it was left to Carmine Conte to usher in the sharp change in mood, pushing Traktor's loop function to the brink. Layers of hi-hats piled on top of each other, while the breakdowns stretched out for what felt like an eternity. As it was, their populist sound wasn't a natural fit for what had come before. It didn't matter, though—everyone had already had their fill of fun by that point.