Rave Tornado. You heard that right. At Pitch Music and Arts Festival this year, an actual tornado tore through the campsite at about 3pm on Saturday, lifting an entire tent 20 metres in the air and demolishing several marquees.
The dead flat, arid festival site at the foot of the Grampians created an ideal plain for the creation of dusty twisters, whether they were the product of mother nature or a breakdancing man. The dust itself was oppressive: bring a face-mask to this festival if you care about your lungs. After dark, giant water tankers cruised the site, headlights illuminating the water spray being feebly dispersed to tame the dust.
Still, the deep fog of dirt particles created some magical sights on a windless Saturday dusk when costumed dancers moved in and out of its murk and a pink halo seemed to hover above the entire festival grounds, stretching from one end of the Grampians, round behind the stages and camp site to meet the other end of the mountain range. And, later on, the dust failed to obscure a sensational view of the Milky Way.
Some attendees fully embraced the grime, such as the surfer in a full wet suit paddling belly down on a short board in the middle of the dance floor. Or the gladiators marching ahead of a Roman chariot filled with toga wearers in a Ben-Hur-style victory lap. An entire kitchen brigade in chefs whites tended to a mixing bowl of pudding, though it’s hard to say if chocolate or dirt contributed to its brown colour. Ten points go to the two blokes decked out in Bunnings uniforms and gardening gloves who erected a picket fence, letterbox, saplings and garden gnomes in the sand on the edge of the main stage.
Not everyone was dressing for laughs, though. The beautiful flaunted it at Pitch. Toned bodies wrapped in fluoro fishnets were everywhere. As were G-string leotards and large sweaty chests, both male and female. One couple even cruised around butt naked on Saturday night.
Music was the real reason everyone was there. Legendary UK garage spinner DJ EZ delivered the most joyfully corny set of the weekend with an hour of lightning-fast two-minute mixes. Alongside some garage and two-step classics including 21 Seconds, he went so far as to play Florence + the Machine and Children by Robert Miles. He took it a step too far for this attendee though when at the end he played an appalling mix of the Seven Nation Army bass line leading into Hypest Hype, a shocker of a drum and bass tune from Chase and Status that samples the Doors. Still, the mosh pit at the front of the stage suggested the crowd appreciated some respite from the unrelenting bass kick of many of the acts – a problem at this year’s Pitch on Saturday and Sunday nights (Broadsheet did not attend Pitch on Friday and Monday).
If heavy techno and house isn’t your thing you’re in the wilderness here. The point of multiple stages felt irrelevant at times when each act seemed intent on pounding you into the dirt. Many festival attendees I spoke to suggested there was a lighter touch to many of the acts last year and, as a result, a lighter atmosphere, too. There was an undeniable number of pushy, frenzied blokes on the dance floor.
A set completely devoid of emotion by Seth Troxler – Mano Le Tough was not much better – epitomised this. His set of personality-free, joyless tech-house kept wide eyes staring straight ahead and feet frantically tapping. But the moment the kick drum dropped out to make way for ambient noise, the crowd abandoned dancing. When other acts pulled a similar trick the crowd was held in rapturous bliss, but not during Troxler’s set.
But heaviness can also be a good thing. The last 45 minutes of German techno originator Sven Vath’s set was a masterful execution of weight and atmosphere. The heaviness was matched by the magnificent Brutalist angles in the stage design.
Successes on the music front came from CC:DISCO!, the Black Madonna, and Heidi, making a mockery of the heavily male festival line-ups seen around the country year after year. The last two of those DJs vied for set of the weekend, with Heidi just taking the cake. Although there were few excursions outside of house and techno, Heidi played an endlessly entertaining set, with bass lines popping off all over the place before the 1988 classic Good Life dropped in an exultant encore.
Beside Heidi, the best DJs played exploratory sets, jumping between eras and genres – Tornado Wallace was a prime example. The Berlin-based Melburnian moved from dubbed-out techno through Italo disco, Madonna’s Into the Groove and underground boogie from Class Action. His set was a demonstration of the adventurous spirit of the best of Melbourne’s current DJ crop. (Bicep also deserve a nod for their live set of start-to-finish euphoria.)
If non-stop dance music is your thing, then Pitch is definitely for you. Just remember that unlined sequined crop tops can lead to raw nipples and chaffed armpits. And don’t forget your inhalers, antihistamines and respirators. That dust is unforgiving. Finally a note to the organisers: don’t use silver thread in your wristbands. Very itchy.
This article was updated on March 14, 2018.