Located on the Foreshore of the quiet beach town of Newcastle, just two hours drive north of Sydney, the brand new This That festival made its successful debut on Halloween. Marketed as an event “where music meets culture,” the festival featured an army of food trucks, boutique market-style shops, and plenty of craft beer and other goodies in addition to two stages packed with killer lineups. The “THIS” stage featured mainly indie bands including Sticky Fingers, Birds of Tokyo, and, of course, RUFUS. On “THAT” stage, I got to catch Kilter, Carmada, Slumberjack, and BAAUER.Arriving early to “THIS” stage, I caught Melbourne “rap sanger” Ivan Ooze, who’s the most unlikely rap talent I’ve heard since Macklemore. Yet Ivan has built himself up to local legend status by sheer force of will. His flow and stage presence were adequate, if nasally, and his trappy, bass-heavy beats kept the crowd awake and his gaggle of fans jumping at the front.
Tasmanian singer Asta took the stage next with her band, and sonically transported the crowd back to an 80’s disco club with tracks like “Dynamite,” setting the indie vibe for the stage. Meanwhile, Stephane 1993 turned “THAT” stage into the techno tent with an uncompromising set fit for any underground warehouse. Next up was KILTER, who took the stage behind full drum set and midi board, with a guitarist by his side. KILTER’s live elements definitely made his set fresh and interesting, if slightly limiting, and some of the more bassy tracks towards the end suffered- possibly a combination of technical/levels issues and the small-ish sound system. For the most part, however, KILTER managed to incorporate his percussion and guitarist into his future bass and jazzy/tropical house quite well. His remixes of Hermitude and Duke Dumont were definitely standout moments. Perth power duo Slumberjack had probably the most incredibly eclectic set of the day, tastefully blending their heavy, future-trap originals and remixes with other innovative artists like Mura Masa; this was the first time I’ve heard his delightfully unique house tune “Firefly” played out. Slumberjack recently made waves internationally with their remix of Porter Robinson’s “Fellow Feeling” for his “Worlds, Remixed” album, which greatly enhances the enjoyability of the track while maintaining its gravity and depth. But it was their powerful, distinctly insane remix of What So Not’s iconic “Touched” still had the greatest impact on the audience at This That. Warming the crowd up for Baauer was local Sydney duo Carmada, made up of Yahtzel and LRDU, who have definitely established themselves as major players in the Australian future beats scene. Their set consisted of plenty of heavy trap mixed in with their most popular tracks, including “On Fire” and “Maybe,” which the crowd really came to life for. These two are a great example of the innovation Australian producers are injecting into the global edm scene, and I hope their sound catches on in the States soon. I had to cruise over to “THIS” stage to catch the beginning of Sydney alternative-dance group RUFUS, who’ve been releasing some incredible singles lately. Tracks like “You Were Right” and “Like and Animal” put a delightfully unique spin on the explosion of deep-ish pop house we’ve been hearing hit the mainstream. what’s best about a RUFUS show is that they do it all live. James Hunt is on drums, Tyrone Lindqvist sings on each song and plays guitar, and Jon George rocks the keyboards and midi. It’s basically watching a band perform the best house you wish you heard in every club. The crowd still responds to their older hits like “Desert Night,” the second drop of which has to be experienced live for full effect. Luckily, I caught their show in Sydney the week before, so I didn’t feel bad about ditching the second half for Baauer… Baauer, trap lord, dominated the massive crowd assembled at “THAT” tent with a typically fun set. He didn’t waste the opportunity to play out his new tech-synth trap banger “Gogo!” to wildly successful effect, proving yet again that evolution is the key to success in an already oversaturated genre. Of course he threw in some hip-hop including Kendrick’s “MAAD City,” and plenty of popular trap bangers like RL Grime’s remix of “ACRYLICS” by TNGHT.
He also threw in some Aussie tributes including Flume’s “You and Me” remix and What So Not’s “Jaguar,” both of which are always fun to revisit. The track that brought the most hype, however, was probably “Higher,” his collab with Just Blaze, which isn’t new, but watching the massive drops hit the crowd in Newcastle, Australia was truly an exciting experience.
I was proud and exhilarated to experience This That, Newcastle’s first-year festival on the Foreshore, especially because it was such a success. Hopefully next year sponsors Triple J and Faster Louder put extra money into bigger stages with better sound systems and visuals, but with such incredible sets from the great lineup of artists, everyone was too busy dancing to complain.