This is the first in a new 3-part serialization on the Manifesto of the Elite Force Tour Diaries dating back to a particularly intense 13-day trip to Australia, earlier this year (2008). Hope you enjoy the ride ....
For a number of months I'd been eying my growing itinerary with a mixture of shock & awe - with each successive week the portfolio of shows grew & grew, gently pulsating with the promise of the unfathomable. When I know I have a major overseas trip coming up, I tend to go into a low-key kind of denial bourne out of a reluctance to face the reality of what's to come, and it's only in the day or two before I actually leave, when I have a paper copy of the itinerary in my hand, that the truth starts to bite. I'm also a late packer. I like to hold out on assembling any kind of luggage or clothing until there's only an hour or two to go, and then I go in hard, but this also contributes to the sense of denial that takes the edge off being away from home until the eleventh hour.
My agents in Australia invited me to join the touring Future Music Festival this March, and I had no reservations in accepting; after all, the line-up included legends like the Chemical Brothers, John Digweed & Sven Vath, and whilst I knew I'd be low down in the food chain as far as set times & stages went, these opportunities don't come around very often & I do genuinely cherish the opportunity to absorb the music from other people's worlds. In the past when I've headed down under, it's been for a series of club shows at relatively underground venues, and whilst I've enjoyed those in the past, this did present a different kind of challenge - what I hadn't expected was that I would end up effectively doing the festival _and_ the club tour over a 10 day period.
Towards the end of the trip I would rush through a hotel lobby, eyes glazed, dragging my heels, shoulders hunched, and in the background I was conscious of the constant hushed babble from people who'd heard about 'that guy with the crazy schedule'. In fact, I began to feel like a benchmark against which others were judging their own capacity to 'crack on' (if that guy's still standing ... etc .... ), but then I would argue "there's always Sven Vath".
The first weekend. Having arrived on the Friday in Brisbane after the long haul from London to Hong Kong and to Sydney, I didn't have a show, and it gave me the one opportunity of the whole trip to meet some of the other performers. A fine evening in the company of Aesop Rock, Chicks on Speed, Marcus Schultz, Datarock & all, quickly reached bucolic heights, added & abetted by the unlimited flow of local reds & whites, but everyone had converged on Brisbane from an assortment of global locations & early nights were the order of the day.
The 36-hour smackdown began the next day as we were ferried out to the racecourse where the Festival was sited. First impressions were that it was an odd layout - the main arenas were within the central core of the track, whilst the remaining stages were scattered around the outside of the track, and in our case, most bizarrely, at the very top of the grandstand inside a room that invited comparisons to a village hall or function room for a wedding.
The festival spirit seemed way distant up there, and the spirit of disenfranchisement from the rest of the event was beyond question. I was due on after local heroes 'Vinyl Slingers' who were cooking up a storm with their noise-strewn live breakbeat 'orchestra', and for me it meant a good clean changeover would be essential to hold onto at least a core of the people gathered in the room. Unfortunately for me the sound engineer was not entirely clear on the concept of the continuum of music that club culture thrives on, and rather than focus on the incoming set being up & running first, he elects instead to start packing away drum kits & microphones, and even more bizarrely, it transpires he's put a CD of his own music on through the PA.
A bout of shouting & gesticulating follows, but it's a good 5 minutes before anything resembling a decent sound is flowing from the speakers again, by which time everyone has left the building. After a hard fought 2 hours I do manage to win over a healthy throng of random passers-by, and no sooner have I handed over to my good friend Tom from Evil 9 that I'm spirited away to do a second set at Area 21, a vodka bar who actually have a really decent soundsystem and situate their DJs up in a precipitous crow's nest above the bar. I take the music down a notch for this one and enjoy playing a fidget-laced house set, which bumps rather than grinds.
Minutes after I leave the stage I'm rather surreally thrown into a car with Roger Sanchez & his management en route to the airport for a flight to Sydney. He's had a good mainstage set in the setting sun, and the mood is distinctly upbeat as the warm glow of suburbia whistles past the blackened windows and we make our flight with time to spare.
[ .... to be continued .... ]