Pitch Music & Arts 2023: Review

Jan 11, 2024
Pitch Music & Arts 2023: Review
People of Pitch 2023

 As the dust settles across Djab Wurrung country, and that very same dust pours by the barrow load out of the bodily crevices of Melbourne’s dance music community, it is time I try to take stock of what on God’s green earth happened over the 2023 Labour Day weekend. 

Pitch Music & Arts whirred into life for its sixth edition, having had the good fortune of only losing one edition to the coronavirus pandemic in 2021. By now the operation is a well-oiled machine that requires very little tinkering or reorganisation. Set in the breath-taking scrublands just shy of the Grampians National Park, Pitch welcomes some of the best line-ups Australia will ever see paired with Funktion-One sound systems that are barbarically tuned to blow the wind out of your chest at 100 paces.

With a capacity of roughly 7500, Pitch is neither an intimate, boutique affair, nor is it a sprawling and immersive temporary city in the style of Boomtown or Glastonbury in the UK. This makes the rather modest offering of official stages – just three – feel far more satisfying than they might otherwise, since you can easily come across groups of friends again and again whilst still feeling blissfully lost in the crowd as you always should at a proper rave. 

People of Pitch 2023

So, what to make of the music? Regardless of who is behind the CDJs, we currently appear (as many more eloquent journalists than me have identified) to be a little stuck in a never-ending cycle of nostalgia, pastiche and post-ironic referentialism. DJ after DJ wheel out tired and utterly uninspiring edits and re-edits of 90s rave bangers; school disco-level chart-toppers; Eurodance tropes; and lazily repitched pop acapellas. This is an issue with 21st century culture more broadly, but it is worth pointing out so we can shine a spotlight on those who avoid this trap and manage to keep dance music where it should be: at the cutting edge of futurism and imagination.

On that note: Dax J. The formidably talented and laser-focused Londoner treated the Resident Advisor stage to an absolutely devastating array of his signature thundering four-to-the-floor, which stayed true and steady for the duration of his two-hour slot and came accompanied by some truly gobsmacking visuals. Whoever was behind the video control desk is deserving of a governmental award.

One delightful and criminally under attended highlight of the weekend was Major League DJz, who brought some much-needed South African flavour to Saturday afternoon. Their set was nothing short of a masterclass in the art of DJing as they gradually introduced and removed layer upon layer of infectious amapiano rhythms, sometimes even managing to completely hold a groove whilst neither a kick nor snare appeared for 6 or 7 beats at a time. It is profoundly gripping to watch South African club music pioneers in action (see also: DJ Lag and the rest of the gqom scene from which amapiano descended) and booking Major League DJz for Pitch was an inspired decision.

Welcome to Country Pitch 2023

Once again returning to the Resident Advisor stage, DJ Stingray 313 demonstrated, as always, why he is the best in the game, frantically mixing razor-sharp electro heaters and squelchy industrial weaponry to disorientate and delight the crowd in equal measure. Broken beats were few and far between on this techno-fixated lineup, and I’m certain that a good measure of younger techno fans left with an appreciation for what happens when you let the kick drums roll in a more syncopated fashion.

Now, this review would not be complete without mentioning the most cringeworthy aspect of Australian rave culture: doof sticks. Look, I get it – they’re novel, they can help you find your mates in the crowd, and some of them are genuinely funny. The problem is they give the impression that we treat dance music as one big joke; parading mindless in-real-life memes for a quick laugh in between bumps. I don’t know about you, but I go to festivals to avoid the constant firehose of dumb internet content. When LSDXOXO is melting brains with some of the most jaw-dropping audio hardware on the planet, do we really want to be thinking about 100 different ‘ket’ puns instead? Let’s just let the doof sticks go, please.

Having said that, there is very little to criticise about Pitch as an operation in and of itself. Sure, the crowd is a little young, occasionally boorish and, perhaps, more concerned with getting mashed than appreciating the subtleties of the dance music spectrum, but who am I to judge? After a hellish global pandemic and with the world edging further towards irreversible climate disaster every day, it seems a little ridiculous to condemn young people for having the wrong kind of fun. From the line-up to the stage design, the logistical operation, and the systems in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all attendees, Pitch 2023 was a resounding success. I can’t wait until next year.

Words by Jack Rayner. Photos by Antidote World Radio.

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