Pitch Music & Arts instantly cemented itself as an Australian festival favourite last year, bringing a line-up of a size and calibre that would rival any of the best events around the world for its perfect debut.
Incredible stage designs, sound systems and standout sets from the biggest acts had us knowing it was going to make a huge impact.
So this year, as our car shuddered up the dirt track between fields beneath the Grampians mountain range – which provides a stunning backdrop for the festival – it felt like we were visiting an old friend, despite having only met and partied together on one other occasion.
You know the type. An immediate connection in the smoker’s area at a rave or a shared moment of dancefloor ecstasy and you feel like you used to skip maths class and hit up Pizza Hut together.
The setting sun beaming through arching gum trees and a heavy cloud of dust set an enchanting scene in the final moments of our three-hour-plus journey west of Melbourne to the stretching plains of the festival site as we struggled to see more than a few metres ahead.
Emerging on the other side, tent pegs banged into the dry landscape as the opening sets worked the crowd into newly oriented stages.
Béton Brut, the largest, kept the brutalist concrete-look aesthetic its name suggests from last year but a rectangular box-style stage and complementing sound booth jutting out of the ground replaced the pyramidal structure.
Moodymann, Booka Shade, The Black Madonna, Seth Troxler, Sven Väth, Marcel Dettmann, Rodriguez Jr, Kim Ann Foxman and Motor City Drum Ensemble were among the artists taking control this year.
Meanwhile, Vanish Point – the second largest, featuring live acts including Kllo, GL, Mount Kimbie and HVOB and sets from Ben UFO, Len Faki, Function, Giorgio Gigli and more, moved to the centre of the site and grew to another level with a rusted triangular design.
The Electrum stage switched positions, moving to where Vanish Point was last year, and was defined by a sleek black shade structure in stylish contrast to the surrounding golden fields and blue sky.
Tom Trago, Kornél Kovács, Call Super, Sonja Moonear, Eelke Kleijn and Tornado Wallace worked the dancefloor across its two-day stint, while Melbourne’s Wax’o Paradiso – in Wax’o Dystopio mode – played a four-hour sunrise session on Sunday morning followed by Prequel from 8am to the most energetic of clubbers going through to tracks including 'Otto's Journey,' 'Money's Too Tight To Mention' and 'House of Dupree.'
The location remained the same but the crowd heaved – almost doubling from about 6000 to about 11,000. This made the wait for the toilets and food trucks longer – but aside from that it was a smooth, albeit incredibly dusty, weekend. A mini tornado-style dust storm wreaked havoc through the campsite on Saturday afternoon, throwing tents and gazebos in its path into the sky but thankfully no one seemed to be injured.
Unfortunately, Maceo Plex wasn’t so lucky moving house, tearing his abdomen and unable to make it to Australia for his much-anticipated set, but organisers dealt with it in their stride with no shortage of other big names to step in or see instead. Mano Le Tough and Marcel Dettmann were handed extra hours on Saturday with Bicep playing an hour-long DJ set prior to playing live. (Get better soon, Maceo x)
As for a new feature this year, the ‘Reinvigoration Centre’ by PSP was an inflatable refuge from the heat with a view out towards the plains. Sun lounges lined the inside of the air-conditioned space as tranquil ambient music soothed and staff sprayed refreshing mists during the day – a welcome retreat for rejuvenation after days of partying.
And, as always, we’ve brought you a selection of the best tracks we heard booming through the top-quality Funktion-One systems across the four days. Check them out below and we’ll catch you next year.
1. Ron Hall & The MuthaFunkaz ft. Marc Evans 'The Way U Love Me (Dim’s T.S.O.P Version)'
Moodymann, Béton Brut, Friday
After rushing to catch Melbourne duo Kllo’s final two tracks at Vanish Point after a long drive, we made our way across to the main stage for guaranteed good times and positive vibes at Moodymann’s two-hour set from 8.30pm. The Detroit don moved through trademark style-spanning selections including everything from Kelis ft. Andre 3000’s ‘Millionaire,’ The Beatles ‘Come Together,’ Outkast’s ‘So Fresh, So Clean,’ and the DJ Koze remix of Moderat’s ‘Bad Kingdom’ before closing with Superlover’s glimmering, blissful burner ‘Heart Drive.’ The feel good vocals and strings of Ron Hall & The MuthaFunkaz ft. Marc Evans funky house cut ‘The Way U Love Me (Dim’s T.S.O.P Version)’ set the scene early as we grooved in the sand to the first full set we caught of the festival, which remained one of our favourites throughout the weekend.
2. Inner City - 'Buena Vida/Good Life (Carl Craig mix)'
Len Faki, Vanish Point, Friday/Saturday
Rodriguez Jr and Booka Shade played standout immersive live sets at Béton Brut on Friday night and after some exploring we landed at Len Faki for the final stretch of his three-hour closing set till 4am. A red glow emanated from the stage as lasers shot out across the crowd to heaving techno and a reflective centerpiece above the decks resembled a tribal mask bearing down. The accompanying male vocal of Carl Craig’s distinctive mix of Inner City’s iconic track shone out of the system with the original vocal and chords, as the German artist seemed to take it to another level by adding his own flair with extra kick drums and claps to a dancefloor in awe to close. Call Super also dropped this later in the weekend bringing memories flooding back.
3. Transform 'Transformation (club mix)'
Kim Ann Foxman, Béton Brut, Saturday
Saturday afternoon was the hottest point of Pitch 2018 with temperatures around the mid-30s in the afternoon heat and Kim Ann Foxman on the back end of the peak of it from 5pm. Moving through raw 90s-style house, tribal and acid sounds, we sat beneath one of the ancient red gums that dot the festival site as others lay back on hay bails closer to the stage and those unfazed moved in the sand. Transform’s ‘Transformation’ club mix was a highlight with its hypnotic vocal and driving bass earlier on before Richard Sen’s haunting 2014 release ‘Ghost Train’ chugged out to close the three-hour set as the sun lowered behind the mountains.
4. Yothu Yindi 'Djapana/Sunset Dreaming) (Gapirri Mix)'
CC:DISCO!, Béton Brut, Saturday
Melbourne good times purveyor, PBS radio host and new compilation maker CC:DISCO! was in control of transitioning festival-goers into the night, dishing out funky disco cuts after starting out with melodic house and breaks soundscapes. Pussycat's 'Le Chat,’ Gary Low’s ‘I Want You’ and the Classic Disco Vocal Mix of Los Charly Orchestra’s ‘Feeling High’ carried the vibe before Australian indigenous outfit Yothu Yindi’s ‘Djapana (Sunset Dreaming)’ provided a profound high point with uplifting keys, didgeridoo and vocals beaming across the native bushland. ‘First Light’ compilation track ‘Dream Sequence’ from London-based New Zealand duo Manuel Darquart and Ghanaian artist Kojo Antwi’s ‘Hini Me’ also featured in the globe-trekking set.
5. Granary 12 'MancMania'
The Black Madonna, Béton Brut, Saturday
The Black Madonna’s Saturday night peak time set was talked about as the best of the festival by plenty after the dust settled on Pitch 2018. It was the busiest we saw the main stage as we weaved through the crowd to a preferred perch in front of the sound booth. Freshly-released music came in the form of Groove Assassin’s sun-drenched remix of Crackazat’s ‘Sundial,’ Ryan Blyth’s funky ‘You Can’t Hide’ and Granary 12’s Moodymann-sampling acid belter ‘MancMania,’ a set highlight, in the three-hour-long techno, house and disco spanning journey. Reworked classics included the Slam remix of Richie Hawtin alias Jack Master’s ‘Bang The Box’ and an edit of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love,’ with Mark Broom’s ‘LX’ and Alan Fitzpatrick’s 2015 release ‘Love Siren’ other big tracks in a set packed full to the brim, with Phutek’s remix of Ace Alvarez ‘Checkmate’ ramping up the energy on the verge of midnight.
6. Matthias Meyer 'Infinity'
Kornél Kovács, Electrum, Sunday
We spent Sunday afternoon at the smallest stage, Electrum, at the back of the festival site, with Kornél Kovács followed by Call Super for five-and-a-half hours. The Swedish producer had us feeling it immediately, dropping Butch’s ‘Aerobic’ straight up and laid back house cuts including his ever-cruisy ‘Szirka’ as festival-goers clambered on top of stacked up hay bails in the sun at the back of the stage. Matthias Meyer’s slow-burning ‘Infinity’ got us up from where we were lounging and dancing about midway through the set – the perfect sun-soaked afternoon track - with the building keys of fellow countryman Axel Bowman’s ‘ABBA 02’ providing a dreamy close.
7. Shed 'Well Done My Son (033472 edit)'
Call Super, Electrum, Sunday
Fresh deep releases and old school house jams blended together perfectly in one of our favourite sets courtesy of Call Super. The raucous energy of ‘Move Your Body’ – Expansions and Digital Domain’s ‘I Feel Relief’ accentuated a seamless set to a relatively small afternoon dancefloor as the wind picked up and rolled through. Sophisticated deep tracks included a set highlight in the 033472 edit of Shed’s ‘Well Done My Son,’ as well as Maurice Fulton’s ‘Outside’ and Deetron’s new ‘Untitled,’ with Joe Smooth’s soulful ‘Promised Land’ and Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ adding familiar vocals, and Carl Craig’s mix of ‘Good Life’ getting another run in a different context after Len Faki’s big closer on Friday night.
8. Daniel Bedingfield - 'Gotta Get Thru This (D’n’D edit)'
DJ EZ, Vanish Point, Sunday
DJ EZ doesn’t mess around. The Vanish Point stage was packed with energy at 6.30pm on Sunday after Melbourne garage crew ONE PUF set the scene and the UKG don went all guns blazing for one powerful hour, dropping the Sunship Edit of Sweet Female Attitude’s ‘Flowers,’ Artful Dodger’s remix of Sisqo’s Thong Song,’ some Craig David and Daniel Bedingfield’s ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ (D’n’D edit) in the first 10 minutes. As the final rays beamed down on a hands in the air crowd, the rest of his high energy set was littered with Dizzee Rascal ‘Old Skool,’ ‘DJ EZ’ and ‘Deep Inside’ samples with smiles all ‘round at such a different set to anything else that had taken place all weekend.
9. FOLD 'Untitled 4'
Ben UFO, Vanish Point, Sunday
Ben UFO and Sven Väth provided a tough choice on Sunday night but we went with the revered London selector for his three-hour set, which reeled us in front and centre by the end. Tuff City Kids ft. Shan’s ‘Highlights’ and a stylish untitled edit of George Michael’s Fastlove from London producer FOLD, upcoming on Shall Not Fade White 004, were lighter house shades in a set that spanned heavy-hitting techno and more melodic sounds as naturally as breathing. The sophisticated GM edit was a definite set highlight about midway through as the crowd cruised, purple and blue glowed from the stage and lasers cut above. The 10 Ton Mix of Tessela’s ‘Hackney Parrot’ was a percussive vocal belter that pierced through the night as the set drew towards its climax before UFO brought the tempo down to an emotive close.
10. Robert Hood 'Transform'
Marcel Dettmann, Béton Brut, Sunday/Monday
After catching the first hour of Eelke Kleijn’s set at Electrum before Bicep’s live show, we had plans to head back to see the rest but decided to swing past Marcel Dettmann on the main stage. The force of the tracks slugging out of the system gripped and held us there as it packed out with the post-Bicep crowd. Thomas Schumacher’s frenzied ‘When I Rock’ lured us to the front before Robert Hood’s latest on Dekmantel ‘Transform’ provided an absolutely huge moment before fellow techno royalty Jeff Mill’s UFO also got a nod as the festival’s final night finished with frenetic energy ahead of one last day session featuring Boogs, DJ Tennis and Motor City Drum Ensemble.
Scott Carbines is Mixmag's Australian Digital Content Editor, follow him on Twitter