It’s not a festival, it’s a party. And that’s exactly what Listen Out delivered on their final date of the touring event in Brisbane. Over the last couple of years, Listen Out has proudly made themselves Australia’s leading dance event and their 2018 line up boasted some of the biggest names in dance, hip-hop and homegrown pop. With rain and moody storms filling the morning skies, the Brisbane date was looking a little bleak. But as the gates opened, the rain stopped and whilst the clouds hung around they didn’t bring down the mood from the very eager and excited crowd.
Kicking off the afternoons proceedings was one of Australia’s most exciting newcomers, Kira Puru. The singer-songwriter is no stranger from the touring circuit, nor is she afraid to give the crowd her all in her live set. Opening with the mid tempo ‘Alone’ from her debut self-titled EP she turned up the volume and got groovy with ‘Hung up’, ‘Electric’ and ‘Body Talk’. With the crowd coming in thick and fast during her set she was notably really gracious and excited by the fact people were dancing and singing along. “I thought it would just be rolling around in the puddles” she joked. ‘Say Something’ and ‘Tension’ continued the afternoon vibes before she confessed “This song is about blow jobs on planes” while introducing ‘Fly’. Closing her set with recent single ‘Molotov’, she really delivered high energy and fed off her funky band. Kira Puru is a natural born live performer. She is one of the best Australian live acts in the pop game right now and really finds a way to elevate her tracks sonically in such an engaging way.
Keeping the high energy going, Haiku Hands exploded onto the Atari Stage with the unreleased ‘Bang The Drum’. Dressed all in matching blue jumpsuits, the four piece ran around the stage bouncing and screaming the lyrics to ‘Squat’, ‘Dare To Dance’ and ‘Man Bitch’. With only two songs officially released the majority of this set was filled with unreleased material which is always a bit of a gamble during a festival set. But luckily for them all of these songs are super catchy, easy to sing along to and had such high energy that the crowd couldn’t help but bounce along. Their stage presence is also so captivating and unique that you were instantly captivated by their quirky choreography and banter. Singles ‘Jupiter’ and ‘Not About You’ created some fun singalong’s whilst they threw streamers out into the crowd before ‘Fuck This Shit’ which saw one of them jumping onto the barrier for a perfect closer. Their debut EP needs to be released ASAP because they have a lot of summer ready anthems that you need in your life.
Over on the 909 Stage, Sydney three piece Glades kicked off their pop infused set with the slick synth stylings of ‘Speechless’. Drawing a pretty big afternoon crowd they delighted the excited crowd early on with their singles ‘Not About You’ and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. The thing about this band which was immediately so impressive was how tight they are sonically. Everything about them was so polished and not only did they deliver high energy but they also delivered strong sonical elements. They are very much a pop band but they push those boundaries in their live set with rock and electronic influences. They continued their set with ‘Electric Touch’, ‘Her’, ‘Drive’ and ‘Love You Better’ before closing with the mega hit ‘Do Right’.
Listen Out reminded me that the future of Australian pop/dance is in really good hands. The early afternoon was filled with some of Australia’s most exciting upcoming pop-infused-dance acts and with a strong female presence I couldn’t help but be really excited. This is a massive step in the right direction for Australia as an industry and country and I can’t wait to see all of those acts continue to kill their live shows over the next year.
With the afternoon sun finally out, the hip-hop vibes took over. Chicago rapper Noname brought her groovy hip-hop meets live poetry delivery to the Atari Stage. What is so unique and special about Noname is that she’s not like most rappers. Her live show is very experimental and sees her ad-libbing and interacting with her live band a lot. Which is also a rare thing for rappers to have in a festival setting. But she owns it and offers a very similar vibe to the likes of SZA. Following the release of her debut album ‘Room 25’ she floated between tracks from that and her high acclaimed mixtape ‘Telefone’. Crowd favourites ‘Blaxploitation’, ’Diddy Bop’ and ‘Self’ had the crowd vibing but it was a completely different vibe to everyone else before and after her. She would’ve suited a Laneway crowd more with her DIY sound as the majority of the crowd didn’t seem to appreciate her vulnerable and honest storytelling which was a major shame. After all, she is Chance The Rapper’s protege for a reason, the girl is TALENTED.
The reaction to the inclusion of Brockhampton on the 2018 line up has been overwhelmingly positive. I don’t think anyone realised just how much of an impact this self proclaimed hip-hop boyband has made on current social media culture. But with dozens of people dressed up in their signature orange jumpsuits and painted blue face, I think it’s safe to say who everyone was mostly excited to see. As the 6 piece took to the stage one by one to the opening lines of ‘New Orleans’ the crowd surged and passionately screamed every word back to them. Covering all bases, they performed songs from all four of their studio albums including the recently released ‘Iridescence’ which has just debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Chart. Fan favourites ‘Zipper’, ‘Queer’, Weight’, ‘Sweet’ and ‘J’ouvert’ followed and kept the crowd at hype capacity the whole time. One of the most exciting things about this band is that they are fronted by Kevin Abstract who is openly gay. It is highly noted that there aren’t many/any openly gay rappers in the mainstream media and to now have a number one album in America and conduct a sold out world tour is unheard of. It also shows a massive growth in society as one of the most notably homophobic genre communities have absolutely embraced him and the band. And the Brisbane crowd couldn’t get enough of them either. Closing their set with ‘Bleach’, ‘Fabric’ and ‘Boogie’ they ran off stage with the biggest smiles on their face as they crowd kept on screaming for more. Their onstage energy is very bold, fun and takes classic hip hop elements and intertwines them with boyband references which is really cool.
Exploding the stage with pyrotechnics and CO’2 bursts, A$AP Rocky kept the hip-hop vibes going as the night kicked in. Opening with ‘Distorted Records’ he walked out to the stage with his entourage and went straight into ‘A$AP Forever’, ‘Praise The Lord’ and ‘Buck Shots’. With two giant cars joining him on stage he just walked around and gave the crowd what they wanted which was their favourite hip-hop tracks. “I’d like to dedicate this next song to all the hooligans out there tonight” he yelled out to the hyped crowd. ‘L$D’, ‘Everyday, ‘Angels’ and ‘Fuckin Problems’ followed however his own energy levels seemed a little off. Whilst the crowd were enjoying it, he seemed to only rap half the song and leave the rest to backing tracks or handed it over to the crowd to sing which was a little disappointing.
As the night continued, the vibes turned into full electronic mode with Snakehips kicking it all off. Their DJ set on the 909 Stage was a little small due to the significant timetable clashes but that didn’t stop them from turning up the volume and giving the crowd big dance moments. With a set surrounding a lot of hip-hop tracks they didn’t really touch any of their own original material. But the crowd didn’t seem to mind as they were singing very loudly to all the remixes. But when they did play ‘Don’t Leave’ you could tell they were quite impressed with just how passionately the crowd sung along to their track.
Adding some nostalgia to the line up, your favourite producer from your teen years made a massive comeback. Skrillex served a set of old school favourites mixed in with some new remixes that the crowd seemed to love including his epic ‘Humble’ mix. ‘Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites’ and ‘Bangarang’ were thrown in for good measure and had the whole crowd living in a dreamy state of nostalgia. He has really perfected his experimental electronic sound and created a visually cool live show with big strobe lights and consistent CO’2 bursts.
Closing the 909 Stage were quirky local favourites Confidence Man who were there just to have a good time, and they succeeded in doing just that. After a long instrumental opening, lead vocalists Janet Planet and Sugar Bones finally appeared for the pop opener ‘Bubblegum’. Embodying so much confidence they paraded around in their costumes and had the crowd singing along to ‘Fascination’ and ‘C.O.O.L Party’. Their choreography was wacky and unique but you couldn’t stop watching them. They have this really captivating stage presence that reminds me of old school Scissor Sisters. As they continued through their set of instrumental breaks and costume changes they also gave you the hits ‘Better Sit Down Boy’, ‘Try Your Luck’ and ‘Boyfriend (Repeat)’.
As Listen Out came to an end for 2018, the crowd left feeling excited, happy and maybe a little bit drained from dancing. But the slick line up showcased some of the best acts in dance, hip-hop and homegrown pop that everyone walked away being introduced to a cool new act and enjoying someone they loved.