Who stole the show in the shadows of Australia's Grampian Mountains? Xiaoran Shi tells all.
In a time of escalating panic about the global COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary virtues of social distancing, there was something delirious, nay illicit, about 10,000 people descending on a remote plot of land in the Victorian bush—far from any internet connection, running water or basic plumbing—to party. But instead of mass hostility or hysteria, the festival's fourth edition galvanised a crowd memorable for its generosity and warmth.
I went to Pitch Music & Arts anticipating four days of pumping beats in the shadows of the Grampian Mountains. Yes, the stacked lineup offered sets that were often exhilarating and occasionally dull, but what struck me most in the aftermath of the festival was the thought that kindness is possible, even as we approach what feels like the end of the world.
Here are five key performances from Pitch Music & Arts 2020.
On the opening night, the Pitch One stage was treated to a blistering techno welcome that lasted until 4 AM, so it came as no surprise when, 12 hours later, the audience for Shubostar was a little sparse. The South Korean DJ persevered regardless, confidently guiding ravers on an orbit of electro and synth-pop, beginning with "Auto Express" by Jensen Interceptor, a rising star in the Australian electro scene.
Shubostar cruised along comfortably at 100-115 BPM for the first half of her set, before ramping things up a notch for the remaining hour. It was the first time I'd seen a festival DJ not succumb to the crowd-pleasing impulse to jack the tempo. Perhaps even more refreshing was the set's levity. As the afternoon sun hugged the horizon, and the corny Alan Watts sample from "Emptyhead" by The Soviet Union pontificated about "the void," it was impossible to take much of anything seriously. All I wanted to do was laugh and dance and dream of space.
The floor was busy by the time Tijana T took the stage at Pitch One on Saturday evening. She began in a way similar to many of her mixes, carefully building a world before inviting us in. She eased into the twilight slot with warm kicks and soaring ambient textures, before finally settling into a flow with "If You Can't Do It Good, Do It Hard," a track from Nicolas Jaar's recent Against All Logic LP. A conveyor belt of certified bangers followed, from the minimal grooves of "Islamatronics" by Credit 00 to Eris Drew's "So Much Love To Give."
Tijana T really hit her stride around the midway mark with a triumphant airing of "Am I Wrong" by Etienne De Crecy. This wasn't to be her only hit of rave nostalgia. In the home stretch, she revealed another trick up her sleeve: the Stanton Warriors remix of Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At." People sprinted from their seats to the dance floor.
After two days of house and techno, John Stanley and David Micalizzi, AKA Melbourne's Handle Soundsystem, delivered exactly what the doctor ordered: a palate-cleansing mix of funk, disco and deep house gems. Attendance at their Sunday morning slot was predictably low, but those present were visibly enthralled. One girl in particular cut a striking silhouette, dancing barefoot and alone, the breeze rippling through her flowing clothes.
According to their Facebook page, Handle Soundsystem have been in the scene for less than two years. You wouldn't have known. Their bold and irreverent selections, which ranged from François K's "Hypnodelic" to the one-hit wonder "Shattered Dreams" by Johnny Hates Jazz, conveyed the intuition and finesse of seasoned pros.
Moopie, founder of the A Colourful Storm label, pulled out all the stops at the Pitch Black stage on Sunday evening. He shifted nimbly from melodic techno and pensive house to neck-snapping acid, maintaining an ecstatic mood throughout. Although he stayed above 130 BPM for most of the set, that didn't deter him from rinsing festival favourite "Joey's Riot" by Joey Beltram, albeit at 15 BPM faster than usual. This lent both the track and the night a frenzied, feverish urgency that would soon find its release in Objekt.
Taking over from Moopie, Objekt had the crowd onside from the get go. He began at 11 PM, by which time I'd been dancing for close to eight hours straight. I wasn't about to stop, and neither was anyone else.
Objekt's set veered from the giddy euphoria of Chicago juke and house belters like DJ Godfather's "Time To Jit" to heart-stopping industrial techno and deconstructed club tracks that resembled field recordings of a particle accelerator. At one point, as the smell of incense melded with the dry ice enveloping the stage, I closed my eyes and listened closely, wondering why the moment felt so bittersweet. The track was "Inter-Lergen-Ten-Ko II" by The Sabres Of Paradise. I imagined Andrew Weatherall smiling down on the scene, giving it his blessing.
We've compiled a YouTube playlist with some of our favourite tracks from Pitch Music & Arts 2020.
Resident Advisor hosted a three-day stage at Pitch Music & Arts 2020.
Photo credits /
Jackson Grant - Handle Soundsystem, Moopie, Objekt, Mountains
DUNCOGRAPHIC - All others