I love the excitement of waking up and heading to a music festival. You wake up with a buzz, eager for the adventure of the coming days. Our destination was a campsite just on the eastern fringe of the Grampians National Park in Victoria. There lay the highly anticipated Pitch Music & Arts Festival where an unprecedented international lineup was primed to play across four days. This is my account of what happened.
Driving into Pitch festival was rather a lovely experience. The Grampians mountain range burst into view as we crested a hill on approach to the festival. Having never clapped my eyes upon the national park before, it was quite the spectacle. As our convoy cruised on dirt roads past the golden grass and centuries old gum trees, the mountains loomed even larger in the distance. What a beautiful natural setting to stage a doof.
After a stress free entry into the festival site, my group and I set up our camp site with great haste as the mercury was pushing into the 30’s (degrees celsius). I get the feeling that we’ve been to a few of these festivals now as our tents and marquees were erected with ruthless efficiency, spurred on by the need for a cold beverage.
I always find it interesting walking around the festival site and seeing the stages for what they are before a crowd starts to form. Each stage has its own unique setting and vibe, but one stage was more equal than the others. Stage 1 was a giant brutalist inspired design that looked like a concrete sculpture plucked right out from the soviet era. It was like nothing I’ve seen before when it comes to stage design. Needless to say when the stage turned on at night, it was something special to behold. But we’ll come to the later. I made my way back to the campsite for some more cool, refreshing beverages.
Friday night, and stage 2 is was my destination that evening. The act on my radar was Voices From The Lake (VFTL), an Italian techno project made up of Donato Dozzy and Neel. Both producers are exciting in their own right, but when they come together, they generate some serious sonic pleasure.They have full control over their live and chaotic looking live setup, which took us from impacting and forceful sections through to odd and strange electronic sounds. One thing remained constant, driving bass. It was a pleasure to hear some thumping techno on night one of a festival. What a treat. Having expended all of my energy after serious boogie at VFTL, I decided to rest my weary bones, for tomorrow was a bigger day.
Now before I go on about how good Saturday evening was, let me state this. I’m a full disciple to techno, so much so that I’m dedicating my life to producing music and becoming a great DJ, so the prospect of seeing three of the most exciting artists of the genre playing across 8 hours on the one stage is an appealing one to say the least. I simply couldn’t imagine what I was in for.
Stage 3, aka Electrum, was the setting for the evening’s entertainment. It looked like something out of Mad Max, with its construction festooned with various metallic and wooden objects, and a similar fashioned obelisk standing tall in the centre of the dance floor. The attention to detail of the stage was a amazing. It was positioned in a pocket of gum trees which lit up at night to the lights show. It was my favourite stage of the festival because it had a real nice vibe. People were there because they wanted to listen to techno so the crowd vibe was on. The booth was surrounded by two light panels, ensuring that visual stimulation was as far away from boring as possible. The party piece of the stage was it’s sound system. God it was good.
I headed into see the house sounds of Mike Severto before things got heated up later that evening. He played a lovely afternoon set of breaks and the various sounds of Detroit. As the sun started to go down, 8pm drew closer. I kept checking my watch as the minute hand slowly closed off the hour. My anticipation for seeing Donato Dozzy had been slowing brewing for well over a year, and now it was finally time to witness one of his DJ sets for myself.
I see Dozzy and his trademark glasses walk onto the stage. A buzz of excitement washes over me. I’m the kid in a candy store. He began his set as the sun started to set over the landscape. I’ve heard a lot of stories of those who have seen the Italian perform a DJ set. Most found it hard to describe what exactly it was about his mixes that made them so memorable, but what they have all said in common was that it was “heavy”. Donato proceeded to soothe our souls for a good 45 minutes or so, playing soft, ambient pads and bleeping-blooping analog sounds, whilst a groovy, unorthodox and weighty low end rhythm kept the crowding moving. However contrasting, the pace was on from the get go, with the tempo hovering around 128-130 beats per minute. I want to mention the low end again. You could say the bass was hard from the beginning of the set.
By the time the sun had set, Donato had entranced people with his music. The crowd was fully under his control. He was now ready to take us into the main body of his set. Whilst out there, I was trying to dissect what he does behind the decks. Dozzy’s track selection is intrinsic to his art. He takes you through waves of emotional peaks and troughs, building the tension in the crowd over periods of 15-20 minutes. He would create energetic moments with screeching acid synths and music that could almost be considered psytrance. What did it for me was his contrasting selections, as he moved from some of the hardest music I’ve heard and mix it into lighter, more “spacy” tracks. What remained constant was hypnotic bass. Heavy, heavy hypnotic bass that throbbed through your body. I was simply in awe and could proceed to talk on and on about his set, but I shan’t bore you like that. To sum things up, Donato Dozzy played one of the best set I’d ever seen.
Having said “wow” a thousand times after Dozzy finished, Answer Code Request (ACR), real name Patrick Gräser took control. By this stage, rain had been falling for most of Donato’s set, so the most prudent move I decided was to adorn some pants. Having done that, I hastily got back to the stomping grounds for ACR. I didn’t know what to expect from the Berghain resident, only that ACR had to perform well to follow up on the breathtaking set prior to his. No one was let down.
I had a moment in 2015. I was at Rainbow Serpent for the first time, listening to Marcel Dettmann. Prior to his set, I didn’t really know who he was and the music he represented. After it, I worshiped him . He turned my world around and showed me techno. I get the feeling that many of my friends had a similar experience with ACR. That night, his set changed some people’s perception of hard music.
Patrick was looking sleek in the booth as he donned a black sports jacket and high neck shirt. From the get go, you could hear a distinct difference between Dozzy’s set and what we were currently experiencing. ACR’s selections took on a less hypnotic form and more focused on raw energy and Berghain style rhythms. Similar to Dozzy, Patrick took us through waves of peak and highs, but focusing less on spacey bleeps-and-bloops and more so on sheer force.
As ACR’s set time came to an end, he showed no signs of slowing down. As Rødhåd’s set was delayed, so ACR continued to play. You got the sense that he went through his set as he intended, and then upon being told to keep playing until the redhead arrived, decided it would be a good idea to turn things up to 11. It’s not exactly the worst situation to find yourself, have a world class DJ fill in whilst you wait for the other to rock up.
One noteworthy song that ACR played was a screeching track by Planetary Assault Systems called Surface Noise. As Patrick mixed the track in, I recognised it and thought to myself “some people won’t be ready for this”. I look around at my mate’s faces as the main lead synths takes control of the PA system. Their jaws were dropped, eyes wide open. Listen to the track and picture yourself hearing the track at a stage and i’m sure you’ll know what I mean by sheer force.
Let me set a scene for you. Its 2am and the rain is falling over the land. I see a bearded man with a cap walk onto the stage. Is it him? It is. He’s finally here. Another wave of excitement washed over me. I had been antsy when Rødhåd hadn’t appeared in time for his set, but now that the man was finally here, I couldn’t care less. No DJ has been able to get my so excited as the redheaded man from Berlin, and that night was no exception. Within the first 15 minutes, Rødhåd had me whooping, laughing and stomping about in a fit of excitement.
I haven’t heard another DJ that can combine elements of hypnosis, groove and energy quite like Rødhåd, real name Mike Bierbach. His distinct sound had me fully under some form of spell. I stared at Mike as he made love with the mixer, bopping to the groove, twisting and turning the set in the most unexpected ways. Just when you think you can tell what’s going to happen next, he does the exact opposite. He was fully immersed in the set, and the quality of what he played highlights this. In a similar fashion to Dozzy and ACR, Mike took us through peaks and troughs, but in my humble opinion, he brought more energy than the previous sets before his. Put simply, Rødhåd’s set was the best I have ever seen and capped off what was a perfect night of music.
To summarise what happened on Saturday night is hard to describe if weren’t there. But it was beyond special. For some, it changed their perspective on techno. For me, it was a lesson on how things should be done. It shows there is a progressive push for grade A techno in Victoria which is exciting too. By the end of the evening, I had been at the stage for a total of 11 hours. My legs no longer worked and my body was aching, but I didn’t care. I walked back to my tent and went to bed with a large grin on my face.
Sunday was a sign that I’m getting older. It’s a funny thing for a 23 year old to say, but reality bit me hard in the arse. I’d like to say that I got up and about for the day beat feast at main stage, but I found myself ruined at the campsite. My body couldn’t keep up with what the festival was serving. Having seen Âme and Dixon several times before, I knew what to expect so I wasn’t shattered that I missed out. However, I needed to bring myself back to life as there was still one more act to see. Ben Klock.
I now know how to fight your way back from the brink. If there is an act you need to see but you don’t have the energy, follow these simple steps. Take a nap, you need it. Then proceed to buy a vegetable plate, a hot coffee, some lentil soup and a pizza. Sharing with a friend is highly advised. After having done this, I felt life flood back into my body. I was reading for a final serving of music.
I stroll up the Béton Brut stage during Mind Against’s set. The mood was dark and heavy, so slow thudding beats provided an almost tribal attitude. They play some good tracks with fairly interesting sounds, but it’s hard to get energised to slower techno when you’re used to the sort of raw brutality that was the previous evening’s entertainment.
As midnight rolled around, Ben Klock laid his hands upon the mixer. Ben’s set was when I got to experience the full power of the main stage and its Funktion-One Vero line array speakers. The sonic energy that the systems puts out needs to be experienced to believe. The sound was thick and heavy as it shot right through your body, but you could still hear all the nuances and softer sounds just as clearly. What a masterful piece of engineering. Anyway, I digress. Klock was nothing but class, working the crowd into a techno frenzy. The lights at main stage where truly something else, as lasers cut their way into the unique shape of the Béton Brut.
I feel like Klock could have gone deeper into some odder and more challenging tracks, but that’s my personal opinion. I wouldn’t expect him to play some of the stranger, harder music that I know he posses given that he was playing main stage to a main stage crowd, so with that in mind I think he played a wonderful, wonderful set and demonstrated why he’s in such high demand. Like all class DJ’s he took as in waves of peaks and troughs and created those “arms in the air” moments. He was truly in control of the crowd. Special note to Ben’s closing song called Dark and Long (Dark Train) by Underworld. The track is 23 years old and still sounded as relevant today as I’m sure it was in 1994.
I’ve never slept in a car or on a plane. I can’t do it. But I was out like a light on the drive home from Pitch. The festival had taken me in, chewed me up and spat me out a humble, broken man.
So what are my overall thoughts on this new festival? Some other reviews I’ve read rant on about the author being upset over a lack of green grass, getting dust in the mouth and the showers not being up-to-scratch amongst various other things. Does any of this actually matter? No, not in the slightest. You go to a festival like Pitch to escape the bullshit of life outside the festival boundaries, to get dirty, to be with your mates and to dance to quality music. In my eyes, Pitch Music & Arts Festival was a total success. The only improvement in mind my would be some more food options.
So how was it a success? I think the festival zone where all the action happened was thoughtfully organised. The camping setup was great as it was all too quick and easy to get to the stages. The food options were also really nice, special mention to the wood fire pizzas as they brought me back to life more times than one. I didn’t spend much time at the market area, or the castle stage, but these aspects of the festival have been covered in other reviews so I won’t comment on them.
Do I need to go on about how good the music was? No. It was just amazing, and for those who went will know the same. I’ll put my hand on my heart and say that it was the best weekend of music I’ve ever heard. The most impressive thing overall though was the attention to detail. It’s a combination of things like the stage design, site location, camping setup and music that just gave Pitch fantastic energy. The crowd was also in great form. I can base this call on the fact that whenever I bumped into someone on the dance floor, you always said sorry with a smile, they would respond in kind and then you would get on with your evening, no troubles.
I wasn’t sure what to expect heading into the festival. It felt nothing new to what I’ve previously experienced from these types of festivals, and I say this in a positive way. It felt quality. What it felt like was a good old fashioned bush doof, and for that, I must take my hat off to the organisers. Well done, truly. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is already highly anticipating what the next installment of the festival will bring.
By Fergus Sweetland.