After last year’s issues that we raised on this very site, the announcement of Major Lazer as one of the headliners brought up some fears that it was going to be even worse this year. Reports from the night before that the average age of attendants at the Kendrick Lamar gig was barely legal didn’t bode well (while post-humour texts and tweets confirmed that the young‘uns have little to no interest in The National), so God knows what to expect from one of the biggest and most popular dance acts working today would bring forth.
The short walk into Marlay Park was already littered with passed out teenagers at barely 2pm, an ambulance already loading up a patient, seemed to confirm those fears. Thankfully, aside from some barely contained dry-humping in the middle of the main arena, things never descended into the borderline anarchy that arose last year.
Arriving to the strains of Bray trio Wyvern Lingo covering a Destiny’s Child track before hearing some of their more upbeat original tracks – with ‘Subside’ being a particular standout, helping the scattered early crowd sway along nicely.
From there, Frances took over the Heineken Tent, filling it with her Adele-esque vocals and heartfelt lyrics. However, this would be the first arrival of a trend that would be felt throughout the rest of the day – a feeling that none of these acts were particularly suited to their surroundings at the time. Frances performed her heart out, but even performing the more upbeat ‘Borrowed Time’, with Major Lazer’s protege MO taking over the main-stage at the same time, it felt out of step with the rest of the day.
Irish DJ Jack Dunne was up next in the Red Bull tent, and he was almost impossible to fault… except for the fact that it felt like he was playing his set about 12 hours too early. The perfect mix of down-tempo trance and (relatively) low BPM euphoric dance would be perfectly suited to a come-down after-party, not gearing everyone up to lose their minds to Major Lazer later that night. He’s definitely a talent to watch, regardless.
Back to the Heineken Tent for Thomas Wesley Pentz’s first performance of the day, up under the guise of Diplo. Trying to differentiate his music here from what he’d play later wasn’t an easy job, as Diplo and Major Lazer and Jack U’s can almost blur into one, long, moombathon banger, but one thing Diplo can do remarkably well is keep the vibe consistent, and keep the party going without the want for a breather. The mix of his well-known productions and his lesser-known remixes worked out a regular wave and trough through his set, but considering how similar the vibe would be to his set later on (with a completely different playlist), it might have been cool to see him play out some of his more laid-back tracks – Beyonce’s ‘All Night’ or MO’s ‘Kamikaze’ come to mind – in order to properly create some deviation between his pseudonym’s output.
Killer Mike and El-P were up next on the main-stage at 8pm with the sun still pounding down on the crowd, and unlike Kendrick Lamar who was able to fill out the main stage at the prime time, Run The Jewels seemed to feed off the barely there crowd. Whether everyone was making the most of the pre-Major Lazer downtime, or if one of the other stages was distracting from the modern day rap geniuses – although between Daithi, The 2 Bears or the District 8 DJs, it’s hard to guess if that’s the case – or maybe RTJ simply haven’t had the breakthrough that the likes of Kendrick has, but even as they knock out ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)’, neither they nor the crowd seemed all that into.
Then, finally, it was on to Major Lazer. The main stage arena was packed out (but not as full as it appeared last year for Chemical Brothers, so obviously The Coronas had their fair share too), and when he finally kicked off, he never let up during his 80 minute set. Again, as earlier, it was sometimes difficult to pinpoint where Major Lazer’s productions finished and his remixing / DJ-ing began, and he sometimes got too into the habit of playing the good 45 seconds of a song before moving on to the next one like Spotify with ADHD, but in terms of keeping the party atmosphere going, it was perfect, and it makes absolute and total sense as to why he’s one of the most sought after musicians in the world.
Major Lazer photographed for State by Leah Carroll