Review: Pitch Music & Arts 2018

As Labour Day weekend ended, so too did the sun set on an immensely successful second edition of Pitch Music and Arts. As I’m sure you could have guessed, the tunes were superb. Though rather than intricately describe every subtlety of every set, here is our best and not-so-best.

The best

Unfortunately, I only caught the last hour-and-a-half of the Black Madonna’s set, but even in that short space of time she brought so much heat that I eventually found myself lodged somewhere between Dante’s Inferno and the Garden of Eden. Not traditionally known for her techno performances, she seamlessly blended slammer after slammer with a precision and energy I’ve rarely seen.

Function’s abrasive, invigorating brand of techno became more and more immersive as his set progressed. For the most part, the atmosphere remained expectedly dark and foreboding, though his ability to sporadically throw in more melodic tracks was masterful and well received by the crowd. The extension of his set by almost an hour was unsurprising, particularly given he has played anywhere from four to twelve hour sets as a resident at Berghain. Less expected, perhaps, was the glee with which he played it- hugging people at the front of the crowd, before returning to the decks and continuing to melt minds.

Rapidly establishing himself as one of the best DJs in the world, Ben UFO effortlessly moved between strains of house and techno, mixing like a wizard. I’d never seen the Hessle Audio label head prior to Pitch, but he certainly lived up to his reputation as a legit selector and supremely skilled DJ. Though he could perhaps have sustained energy levels a tad better at times, the way he captivatingly transitioned between heavier and softer vibes was breathtaking.

Honorable mentions also go to out to Heidi, Nite Fleit and DJ Tennis.

The not-so-best

Without singling anyone out, some bookings are, unfortunately, a safe bet for a festival striving to sell tickets. It’s a necessity that brings me to my only criticism of the festival- the crowd. The majority of 10,000 chargrilled individuals that attended the festival behaved in a positive and fun-loving manner throughout the entirety of the weekend. That said, I heard of a little obnoxious behavior, and I witnessed a few too many dickheads to say it was without fault. Pitch is a festival setting up shop at the apex of the Australian underground music scene, and it perhaps could have done more to ensure greater cohesion in the crowd. That said, it’s tough when the promoters have to walk the difficult tightrope of quantity versus quality when it comes to those in attendance.

Logistically, the weekend ran very well. Despite the massive crowd, there was plenty of space to camp. The camping area wrapped conveniently around the perimeter of the festival in such a way that ensured nobody was too far from the stages, and the food options were vast. Extracurricular activities such as roller skating and yoga gave attendees some respite from partying. There was even a play area for kids… a spot for mum and dad to ditch the kids, get a bit of peace of mind, then hoon the day away.

Honestly, there are few greater pleasures in life than heading down to the stage at any given festival and parking it with a posse. As most Victorian festivals are BYO, we have the luxury of being able to do this with an esky full of whatever our heart desires. A fun-loving attitude generally dominates the collective daytime demeanor, allowing anyone to float around the floor, navigating mischief and engage in just the right amount of shit talk.

Couple all these factors with Pitch’s awe inspiring Beton Brut stage you’re on. It gave the impression that it had been built with one enormous, brutalist, monolithic, piece of concrete. The epic structure was genuinely awe inspiring, and it was particularly refreshing to see a stage design team do something completely different from most other Victorian festivals.

Another thing that stood out was that almost all of the DJs were given long set times. Thankfully, every juggernaut that played at the main stage was given three hours, which for the techno DJs especially, allowed a true showcase of each artist’s sound. It deserves acknowledgment that Novel was able to book a plethora of these tycoons and still give them the time to explore.

The festival wasn’t organized absolutely perfectly- the ice store was troublesome at times, and perhaps the Vanishing Point and Beton Brut stages could have been set up better to avoid aural clashes when walking between the two. Regardless, these are minor problems for a festival that has run only twice so far.

As expected, the festival wasn’t short of antics. Crew costumes ranged from Saudi Princes to Ghostbusters. Pitch’s constabulary force – the ‘rave police’ – were in particularly obscene form on Monday morning at a renegade stage. I watched the company of policeman dance atop their early ‘00s Ford Falcon (complete with shoddily spray painted chequered blue police pattern’s on the cars sides) until they smashed the roof in, before jumping in the vehicle, driving around the stage, and fishtailing off down the periphery of the camping area.

As our scene grows and develops we will face a multitude of problems. Operating a festival on such a scale, Novel will bear the brunt of many of these problems. Ultimately, however, the festival rocked. It was one of the best parties I’ve experienced, ticking just about all boxes in logistics, design, and sound. After a second soirée even better than the first, Pitch is now the head-honcho of Australia’s underground music scene.