When you're critiquing day festivals, it's easy to overthink a good time.
For The Love was exactly what it said on the box; palm trees, grassy fields and highly palatable electro-pop, for the love of the party vibes. If you can throw in a brand activation without hurting anyone, all the better for your strobe budget.
FTL has been around the block a few times, throwing events across Australia and popping up at stunning locations in Bali and California with a tried and true methodology that ticks a lot of boxes. As far as mainstream electronic festivals go, this is a mature, even distinguished event.
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There’s no mindless EDM or cringy carnivales, just one stage and good music – Ebony Boadu, Telenova, George Maple, Boo Seeka, Allday, Running Touch, Mallrat, Crooked Colours, and Dom Dolla, in that order – and a lot of bloody people.
Mallrat and Allday provided the pure songwriting nous, but the focus of the festival was the vocal electronica, a kind of gateway genre from EDM to techno, or teenagehood to your 20s.
St Kilda is a favourite of FTL’s organisers, who have held multiple previous events at The Riva, but stepped it up a notch in 2022 by taking over the expansive Cantini Gardens; Melbourne answer to Sunset Boulevard.
If it weren’t for the blistering gale and it’s disortive effect on speakers directed at the beach, you’d hold every festival there, but unfortunately it blew away a lot of the softer vocalists. The inclement weather couldn’t be helped, but it did create a temidity to the first half of the day – a sense of caution superimposed by the impending storms – that was broadly reflected in the artists’ performances. Once the sun came out, the vibe shifted, and even pouring rain couldn’t change it back.
The weather shined an interesting light on the reliance on backing tracks throughout most sets. Some acts could make it work – I was sitting next to Running Touch’s mother during his set, and I can guarantee while he was jumping off scaffolding and playing guitar solos in the crowd, nobody was worrying about the fact his songs’ vocals sounded the same without him at the mic. For other acts, it was offputting. Boo Seeka seemed a little bat-shit, coming out and screaming into the mics, then singing the softest vocal refrains, while all the while, only half of the music was coming from the duo’s instruments.
For the most part, however, For The Love provided plentiful evidence that Australia is a master at producing indie-electronica, thanks in no small part to the in-vogue Triple J generation. Crooked Colours thoroughly deserve their spot on the pedestal alongside the likes of Flume and RÜFÜS, and Running Touch likely isn’t far behind. Then, as the rain poured, Dom Dolla switched gears with an effortlessly explosive set to end the night. It was immediately evident why he’s experiencing such notable success abroad, and the pyrotechnics and light show were incredible, no mean feat considering the entire set up was only for Dolla’s set.
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There’s always been a natural unease between dance music’s innate festival suitability, and the dissatisfaction of seeing 15,000 people dance to a producer twiddling knobs on a deck. This isn’t to suggest that producers are any less talented, just that the artform hasn’t fully grasped its potential to provide a gripping live show. For The Love displayed the best and worst of this tension. Yet ultimately, despite challenges largely out of its control, it succeeded in spades.
Of course, there are festivals with more substance. The 20-minute DJ sets between each act, spinning the likes of Justin Bieber and Fatman Scoop, did little to render authenticity or atmosphere.
Nevertheless, For The Love was a compelling display of Australia’s proficiency in creating mature electronica for the masses. Its focus on varied and dynamic live performances in stunning locations provided an alluring peek into the optimal outlay for an electronic music festival.
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