Pitch Music & Arts Festival 2020

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Returning for its fourth year, Pitch Music & Arts Festival has well and truly carved out its niche in the crowded Labour Day festival scene. With the backing of international publication Resident Advisor, it provides a dedicated line up for lovers of dance and electronic music by platforming both international and local legends. Alongside unique stage settings, art installations, and (most importantly) Funktion-One sound systems, it all comes together out on a large property just past Ararat.

It’s become obvious that the festival has now eked out its own certain look and feel. The double storey Pitch Black stage returned for its second incarnation, albeit without the fanfare of hosting a Boiler Room livestream on the first night. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing however – it meant that the stage for the decks didn’t need to be restructured from Boiler Room’s iconic middle-of-the-dancefloor set up to a space in the scaffolding for the following days’ sets. This year it was more conceptualised, featuring a pseudo decking area for the stage which allowed for more room for dancers both on the floor and back of house.

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From an outside perspective it might seem strange that music that developed in built-up landscapes like Detroit and Berlin would find a home out in the bush, but the sprawling backdrop means that the best kinds of DJs can show their ability to play to the space. Australian artists particularly have a knack for playing in these kinds of environments, exemplified by Melbourne duo Sleep D on the Friday night mixing in native bird calls with the opening track of their set.

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The leafy setting is also indicative of Pitch’s commitment to waste management. It’s widely recognised that festivals, particularly large, multi-day ones, are massive culprits for unnecessary waste and great at showcasing people’s unfortunate habit of creating one-use items. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to simultaneously convince 10,000 people to bring all their rubbish home with them, but the consistent messaging and importance placed on waste reduction by festivals is going to play an important part in normalising good behaviours in wider society.

Among other incentives, at the bar you could exchange empty cans for money, and my favourite thing was this year’s clean-up song done by the Earth Warriors, who MC’d over a minimal house track saying “we love minimal…minimal waste…” Sound of the summer!

 

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Subjectively of course, here are a few of the standout performances from the weekend:

Cooper Saver

Based in Los Angeles, Cooper Saver is primarily known for his radio credentials, having been involved with stations like Dublab, Beats in Space, and NTS. I was so keen for his three-hour set and if anything it surpassed expectations. Particular highlights included hearing Dark And Long – Dark Train by Underworld, and Austrian producer Wolfram’s Automatic Dub, a take on the space disco track Automatic Lover by Dee D. Jackson. If you didn’t get to hear the set the first time around or just want to hear it again, Cooper Saver has graciously uploaded it to Soundcloud.

Whiskey Houston

Adored across the city, Whiskey Houston really has the chops to play the main stage of a large festival and at Pitch she proved it with an intensely fun set. Playing the 3pm slot on the third day is challenging, but she was able to keep the energy up and the crowd engaged throughout the arvo with thumping percussive house. Sadly her last track and big finale was cut off just as it began — but it was for the incredible clean up song, so what can you do?

Papa Smurf

Truly a king amongst people. Closing out the Pitch Black stage on the Sunday night, old school DJ Papa Smurf played a trance set the likes of which the 20-25yo demographic had never seen. We were treated to Tiësto, Meet Her at the Love Parade, and of course, a remix of Darude’s Sandstorm, all expertly crafted together. People were hanging off the scaffolding, and everyone was so into it that he ended up playing an extra half an hour than scheduled. It was literally incredible.

 

All photos provided by Duncographic