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Damian Gelle and Anton Marmot met in London in the ’90s over a mutual love of music and enjoying the hedonistic spoils the capital has to offer. They decided to go into business dabbling in event promotion and all things electronic until 2004 when they had their “eureka” moment. What London needed was an electronic music festival in the heart of the city and the location they chose was right on their back-door step – Clapham Common.
Over the next ten years SW4 became the “largest electronic festival” in London, and continues to this day playing host to 70,000 people across 2 days featuring the crème de la crème of the electronic world providing the soundtrack. Fast forward to 2014 and leave the ole world, Mary Poppins, and bad weather behind: The pair decided to return to their motherland Australia and the festival bug has proven hard to shake for both. Hence, Electric Gardens was born.
The 2016 large scale, multi-stage Down Under incarnation of the event took place in the lush surroundings of a subtropical botanical garden in the heart of Sydney: Centennial Park on lands that were traditionally in the custody of the Gadigal clan. After strolling past a variety of wildlife that has its home in Centennial Park including pelicans, black swans, mallard and white ducks, and purple swamp and common moorhens, one was welcomed by another species: The common drug sniffer dog and their uniformed Herrchen. Beer gardens and well maintained, ample chill out zones for people to eat, sit down, and relax while being still able to pursue the proceeding on the stages was a nice touch and something that is rarely found and executed in this manner at other festivals. Rows of food trucks offered fare ranging from ice cream to Mexican via organic Asian food to the staples of pizza and burger. ‘Twas nice to see that Electric Gardens was providing healthier nutrient-dense options and that with Sea Shepherd Australia, Electric Gardens has found a support-worthy charity partner.
Headliners included Bedrock Records founder John Digweed, cue Trainspotting soundtrack, playing a set of upbeat progressive house and trance. His punchy distinctiveness and earthy rhythms also dominated one of the aftershow parties.50% of the Grammy Award winning duo Deep Dish in the form of the Iranian born DJ Dubfire followed with a set of jet-black polished chrome techno, which was a nice change of pace and mood – starting off techy and evolving into a brooding, heavy yet minimal techno extravaganza.
Finally, Norman Cook in his EDM alter ego Fatboy Slim. The ex-Housemartins smiley aficionado had the masses congregate in front of the main stage itching for a good stomp and the vibe instantly went up. It was what the day was building towards and the anticipation was palpable. Not unlike a dance music conductor with a Hawaiian shirt fetish, he proved to be an MC in its purest form, signaling the crowd to the meter and pauses of the dropping big beats. Fatboy Slim juggled his signature big beat with more contemporary fare, throwing in crowd pleasers for good measure. In unison with the visual aesthetics and oversized glow-sticks that were handed out, his set created a pulsing mélange of sound and spectacle. Teasers and allusions to his hits peppered with a sheer endless stream of classics from all genres formed the foundation of his set, including an homage to the Thin White Duke – right here, queen bitch, Rebel Rebel, right now, rockafella skanking into the night.
In many ways, Fatboy Slim’s set signified the essence of Sydney’s Electric Garden Festival: An enjoyable, well-orchestrated event with the right amount of well-trusted elements, engaging and uplifting.
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