It’s peak summer vibes and Sydney is getting loose at Electric Gardens Festival.
Words Alexandra Longstaff
It's Australia Day 2019, the height of summer, and I'm about to descend into a lair of much-anticipated electronic hectic-ness.
Given it's hotter than hell, today starts with a trip to the two dollar shop to grab a trusty fan. With temperatures set to reach between 33-38 degrees, I sure wasn't going to head into a hot field unarmed.
Fan acquired, and I'm starting to feel tickled by the promise of Electric Gardens' lineup. Eats Everything, Sigma and Erick Morillo are northern hemisphere heavyweights I'm excited for. And I love seeing the Set Mo guys representing the south.
I arrive at the festival at around 3.30pm. Shuffle through the queues with a bag check and an ID sweep. Fairly easy, and less intimidating police presence than I was expecting. There are a few coppers with dogs, but nothing too aggressive. Tick.
I trickle towards the the main stage to catch the last few Set Mo moments. These guys know how to lift a crowd. I start to shake off the heat of the midday sun and the memory of police dogs is slipping away.
A glance around gives me my bearings. A few large stages dot around. Drinks tents, loos and food stalls are peppered between them.
For the first time in my festival-attending life though, two things really catch my eye. Lush, lush grass beneath my feet. Thank you Centennial Park, bye bye shoes. And secondly, fairground rides. You know where to find me later, guys.
I meander from Set Mo to the Quantum Arena. This small stage is nestled in the treeline, which seems like a solid option for a shady spot. My fan has been getting a good workout so far, and frankly, my arm could do with a break.
Scottish Dj Grum is here massaging us into some smooth, euphoric melodies. The 'The Gift' by Way Out West slips into my ears, gently coaxing me into feeling like today is going to be a bit special. I glance around at the dappled trees and flickering sunlight. And choose to ignore the guy chewing his face off in the corner.
Before I know it, it's time to journey to the third stage of the day: Amnesia. Eats Everything beckons me in with some cheeky musical treats. Here comes 'Dancing' featuring Tiga, Audion & Ron Costa. And I'm stomping. But hold up! Is that a jazzy little number from St Germain creeping in? Yes, yes it is. Thank you Eats Everything. This is what we came for.
The clouds are moving overhead. The temperature drops and there's some sweet relief from the sun. I pick this moment to voyage back to the main stage to catch Colombian/American DJ and producer Erick Morillo. Erick starts with a slow intro. I record it so I can tell you it was long. I can see friends around me itching a little. Some feel it's dragging. Murmurs of ‘it’s too long’ float into the air.
I disagree. It feels like the eye of the storm. A moment of calm in a whirlwind of excitement. I imagine Erick wryly smiling while he toys with us. It turns out to be a beautiful slow build up that drops elegantly minutes later. I love a good musical journey, and can safely tell you Erick was the king of the journey today.
It’s during Erick's set that I take a moment to take in the production of the festival properly for the first time. As the clouds move lower, Erick drops 'Twisted' by Mercer & ATFC. The track holds us enraptured, and so does the lighting and jets of smoke firing up from the front of the stage.
For me, the lighting and effects were up there with some of the best I've seen recently. Erick winds in Eve's 'Let me blow your mind' solidifying him in my mind as one of the best acts of the day.
Patrick Topping carries me into the night with some solid techno bangers. It gets me in the mood to get on one of those fairground rides. It's time. $10 a ticket seems reasonable. And at around 9pm, I only have to wait about 20 minutes. Hopping on the Hammer is a no brainer right now and turns out to be an excellent decision.
I wobble off the ride and over to the final headline act: Sigma. Underworld was originally headlining, but pulled out last minute, thrusting the UK Drum n Bass duo to headline position. It was a matter of seconds before I was sold. Underworld? Who?
Sigma's set is flawless. Live acts join the Djs bringing a sense of ‘gig’ to the table. The production is also tip top. Lasers and streams of smoke reach out into the crowd marrying perfectly with the rise and fall of the tracks. Huge inflatable balls bounce on the heads of the crowd. And huge paper streamers shoot over us, creating a moment of euphoria to end on a high.
I had slight trepidation about whether I would enjoy Electric Gardens. The heat, the crowd and the lack of Underworld crept into the depths of my psyche in the lead up — perhaps this placed my expectations low. But the ease of the festival shoved it firmly back up there. I’d say this is the best day festival I've been to in Sydney in the last 8 years. Short queues, normal strength drinks, clean toilets — and lots of them — made this a fluid experience. There were lots of water taps, and shady options dotted about. I find myself putting this festival on a pedestal for good planning. This ain’t no Fyre Festival my friends, and in my opinion, the infrastructure can make or break a day.
The stages were well-spaced and production was excellent. And, of course there’s no festival without a killer lineup. This did it for me. My loyalty has been won.
Me and my fan are excited for next year already.