Cheap perfume, sweat, and fake tan permeate the air at Harbourlife 2014. Festival-goers weave through the path to Sydney’s iconic Fleet Steps, to a single stage by the harbour. The atmosphere is all about the aesthetics: breathtaking, beautiful and boutique. The aesthetic priorities also leading to many poor choices of footwear – platforms confirming the prevalence of 90’s inspired ‘fashion’.
Harbourlife 2014 Pic by Hayley May Casey
Leeds DJ Miguel Campbell may have set the bar a little too high with a 3pm set. His hip-hop background evident in his bouncy vibe, the sun gleaming off his gold chain as he glides along to the beat. There wasn’t one person sitting down as he mixed in Tomcraft’s Loneliness. A sea of bellies, bum cheeks and backs reminds everyone how much they’ve missed the festival season. I meet with Miguel after his set and he tells me he loves Sydney, “The best thing [about Sydney] is the people.. and look at that backdrop man.”
Miguel Campbell Pic by Hayley May Casey
It is a seamless change-over between Miguel Campbell and Mark Farina: both in sound-transition and stage presence, they nod in respect to one-another as the crown of headphones is handed over. This is the third time I’ve seen Mark Farina play, 2008 being the last time, and he really maintains his legacy. He is as chilled as a cucumber – geekishly reminiscent of Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords. He drops a sexy house version of Senorita Bonita and the guy next to me confesses that Farina’s name on the bill had “brought him out of festival retirement.” He indicates with his dirty fingers and toes the amount of times he has seen him. Farina’s entertainment and technical expertise is hard to follow, this was made obvious by the next set from Lee Foss.
Lee Foss Pic by Hayley May Casey
The crowd beg for Foss’s attention but he seems indifferent, casually sipping Grey Goose from the bottle. The music is on a slow incline that feels too minimal, a unanimous response as the crowd self-consciously tether on disjointed beats.
Thomas Jack Pic by Hayley May Casey
20-year-old Thomas Jack takes the decks reeling in his fellow Gen Z’ers by dropping the theme song to 90’s TV show ‘Round the Twist’. Familiar samples weave through deep house bass lines like Missy Elliott’s Pass the Dutch – proving he did his homework to please the crowd. The volume is lower than in previous sets, a decision that captures the detail in the music. He looks confident on the decks, each movement and response giving him pleasure. The crowds attention diverts to a drone camera flying low overhead, so Thomas drops Bob Marley’s Could You Be Loved averting sweat-sheened faces back towards him as the sun goes down. Next up is another young blood: Norwegian based Kygo.
Bubbles blow off the stage and float-out in a cadence in time with the waves. Kygo motions his hands directing the bubbles – and a sea of bikini-clad women on shoulders- to move in time; some holding a home-made sign that they ‘need and want’ Kygo’s ‘sexual healing’. It is a slow start, 25 minutes into his set he assumedly realises his self-indulgent track choices and wins back the crowd dropping Zhu’s Faded, Vance Joy’s Riptide and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. It’s a fairly inconsistent set, but has its moments of redemption.
Duo from London Dusky play 8pm-9pm. It’s a mainstream deep house sound, but it’s flat and not interactive, their presence and sound is repetitive. Lights emanate from the stage mirroring a blue-light disco. It slowly transgresses to dark and dirty beats but with no lyrical overtones, people are only momentarily receptive before it takes a shove into quasi-Trance. A girl from the crowd gets on stage and starts dancing, the security seem as unfased by her as the duo do in sticking to a genre.
Ash and Hayley, Pic by Ashley Ruscoe
Headliners Classixx end the night in a similar manner to their two predecessors. A staggered set, prompting people to leave prematurely in the lull period of the first half. They drop some down tempo floor-fillers, which sound hollow and have more play in the outros than the climatic parts of the track. Nonetheless, 90’s clanger Pump up the Jam prompts platformed feet to dance aerobically. Classixx close out Harbourlife 2014 with a remix of Peking Duk ft. SAFIA’s track Take me Over, so no one can leave with a bitter taste in their mouth.
The sold-out festival tapered off in its second half, with Miguel Campbell and Mark Farina perhaps setting the standard too high, and too early.