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FOMO may be one of the latest additions to Australia’s musical landscape, but with so many established festivals having imploded in 2016, the Brisbane festival is continuing to make strides. Having expanded into Sydney and Adelaide in its second year, it may even be on the verge of entering an imperious phase. Curating a mix of hip-hop, trap and forward-looking electronic pop, this fest is readymade for revelry and abandon. But there’s an understated savvy to its selection of artists. It’s a summer festival sure of its own identity.
Jamie Adenuga (JME) navigates the stage with chaotic charisma. The crowd reacts in kind, unwearied from the revelry of the days earlier. His brother Skepta may have made an appearance at the festival’s 2016 iteration, but the younger sibling proves a formidable MC in his own right. Amidst there air horns and bounce, Adenuga’s stage persona is far from a caricature of performance cliché. The Hackney native’s concise, yet fevered word-flow is delivered as if every word were imperative. Grime may be well into its lifespan as an overground genre, but here, authenticity remains the dominant currency.
“Hard work pays off” he declares, reciting the lyrics of Work from aptly titled 2015 LP Integrity. Sinister bass wobble and aggressively asymmetric yet danceable beats add intoxicating intensity. Work is a cynical soliloquy, a vitriolic riposte to the party hardy euphoria of the opening set. It may not even characterise the set, bit it leaves a powerful impression. “I haven’t touched alcohol in a while,” he chimes. Swagger and bravado is qualified. “To get there you’ve got to put in the work,” Jamie implores
Yet the soliloquy of modesty and hard-working sobriety seems lost in transmission amidst a wall of bodies entranced in sound. Yet all the while Jamie spits and seethes on stage. His lyrics aren’t woven from pop fantasia, but catharsis. At times urging the audience to sing along and throw their arms in the air, at others, Jamie’s lyrics are hyper-real, earnest and informed by the murky underworld of reality. He delivers visceral salvos of truth. Yet despite the furore, there’s the alluring abandon of the festival environs. Grime is born of dance music after all. Whether the listener was grooving obliviously to skipping percussion or dancing out their catharsis in solidarity, JME’s performance is compelling spectacle.
Canberran duo Adam Hyde and Reuben Styles materialise without missing a beat. As Peking Duk they deliver music unequivocally built for pleasure. The camp of a pre-recorded introduction from David Hasselhoff can do little to displace the duo’s hair-razing arrival. A dance eruption descended upon the festival haze, felt well past the immediate front of stage. Seminal single High evokes the most powerful response. It proved something between a cigarette lighter waving jump on shoulders moment and dance frenzy. Special guest Ivan Ooze indulged in pyromania. “I bring the fire,” he gleefully chanted, before improvising lyricisms at breakneck pace. Bursts of stage pyrotechnics placed further emphasis on the fiery thematic. The set’s intensity built into air punching euphoria and collective ecstasy. Thousands danced in unison unperturbed. Well acclimatised to their festival environment, Peking Duk instilled the summer festival with party vibrations.
Injected with plenty of gut punching low end, a turbo charged rendition of Eric Prydz’ Call On Me provided a moment of guiltily pop pleasure. The focused energy and wavering synth washes of Take Me Over emanated with blasting force. The bounce of Mufasa preceded Strange, as the pair’s latest single proved a climatic moment. Explosions of streamers cascaded over the clear sky and diming daylight.
Androgynous or perhaps utterly alien, Empire of the Sun arrive heralded by a neon processional. The escapist dance pop of Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore has been a notable absence from the Australian festival scene since 2014. Fresh off from appearances in Switzerland and France, the group’s FOMO appearances placed the duo upon an Australian festival stage for the first time in two years. At times a melodic dreamscape and at others an ostentatiously cosmic discothèque, their performance was an audiovisual intoxicant. A flurry of ever-shifting costume changes and synchronised movements, their back-up dances were a visual feast, broaching the surreal as they strummed double-headed neon guitars. While the group still inhabit the heyday of the dance-informed synth pop of the previous decade, their sound still evokes a thriving pulse.
Their set celebrates their glimmering signature sound, replete with everything from pumping anthems, pounding electro-funk struts and stygian melodic passages. Arpeggiated single Alive courses with wistful longing. Walking On A Dream and We Are the People are instantly recognisable, both sent surges through the crowd. The harder electronic edge of a reworking of Queen’s We Will Rock You sets the crowd alight. The blinding flicker of stage lights refracted upon confetti explosions and sprinkles of rain. Yet even the unwelcome discomfort of evening drizzle couldn’t displace the energetic throng of the crowd. The duo acquitted themselves on an energetic high.
While his Aussie precedents may have stolen the evening, international heavies Flosstradamus proved a formidable closer. With co-founder Josh Young officially announced his departure from the DJ/production duo in December, the Brisbane performance marked one of Flosstradamus’s last appearances. Reinforcing the militantly viral aesthetic their beat-driven sound, the trap forerunner’s set-piece transformed the stage into a fortified bunker. Assembled by a small army of roadies as the crowd sat expectantly, it cast an ominous sight as a cool night’s breeze swelled in.
Heralded onstage by a prerecording of anti-establishment rhetoric and a heavy-building instrumental, Curt Cameruci and Young climbed onto their newly constructed pulpit. Accompanying this arrival was a larger-than-life Australian flag. Naturally, the Union Jack was absent, the Flosstradamus logo imposed in its place.
“Brisbane make some fucking noise!” Curt yells. “Are you ready? Let’s get fucked up!” A caffeinated BPM kicks off the set, paving the way for an unrelenting cascade of incandescent sound. Heart pounding rhythms and sinister throbs skitter into the night as FOMO surged closer to its inevitable conclusion. Flosstradamus seemed judiciously placed, their builds and drops suitably purposed to incite dance and extract every inch of remaining energy before drawing the festival a close.
Image: FOMO 2017 Crowd – Photographer: Rebecca Reid