Review + Snaps: Dillon Francis | Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Written By Zanda Wilson on 04/22/2016

Dillon Francis is living proof that personality is just as vital to a performance as musical ability – which is extra lucky for him because he has both in spades. People connect with Francis’ music infinitely more as a result of the persona that he has built up for himself, inclusive of his alter-egos,  his constant engagement with his fans through snapchat, and general documenting of his surprisingly relatable life-issues through social media.

But I digress. The second of Dillon Francis’ sold out Sydney shows on Wednesday night at the Oxford Art Factory was choc-full of supplementary talent as well, with the likes of Deckhead, Paces and Branchez doing an admirable job of getting a small but passionate crowd in the right state of mind for the majesty that was Dillon ‘Fucking’ Francis.

After Deckhead got things rolling with a funky and up-beat set, we saw an impressive – hardware-heavy set from local dude Paces. The Aussie muso is part of a growing culture of producers creating super sweet and happy tunes, often tinged with tropical electro vibes. The crowd at this point was nothing on what it inevitably would become – but Paces was not phased, taking those who had made the effort to get there early for good spots on a journey through his ever-expanding catalogue, and finding himself standing up on top of his decks with a crowd getting more and more into the party-vibes. Highlights had to be his previously-unheard remix of LDRU’s Keeping Score, and his own banger 1993 (No Chill).

Next came Branchez, who admittedly I’ve had very little to do with up until this point. But boy does Dillon know how to pick his support acts though, because I very much doubt that another soul on this planet could have gotten a capacity crowd as animated as the New York producer managed to. Now let me clarify; Branchez is by no means the most actively engaging producer live. In fact I don’t recall ever seeing someone actually engage so little with his gear on stage. What Branchez did bring to the stage was what can safely be termed as the most insanely ridiculous and fun psych-up set - possibly ever. His song selection was such that there was never a dull moment, never a lull, and he was clearly just having the time of his life – with the climax unquestionably the remix he played of I Remember by Deadmau5 & Kaskade. It was loud, bass-heavy, and had everyone in the crowd panting by the end of it.

Mercifully, the time came when the man of the hour was due – and he didn’t make the crowd wait – launching into his set without introduction. Much like his hand-selected opener Branchez, Dillon Francis starts a set and maintains that level of intensity right to the bitter sweet end of it. The crowd – filled with larger-than-lifesize cardboard cutouts of Dillon’s face, blow-up dolls, and VB can wizard-staffs, were just as ready for the man as they were for his music. Francis is so powerfully likeable that his infectious smile was reflected on every single person’s face – and we were off.

The first half of the set was relatively uneventful – well insofar as there were few surprises. Francis made his way through his extensive catalogue, playing stuff from his studio LP, more recent Moombahton EP, as well as old favourites like Masta Blasta, I.D.G.A.F.O.S and Bootleg Fireworks  (Burning Up). One of the big early highlights was his collab with Skrillex Bun Up The Dance which has become one of the most well-known tracks in his repertoire (so well known that he played it again later on) – meanwhile in between all the party-electro he managed to work in some old school R&B.

Before the back end of the set got underway, Francis stopped to declare “I don’t think I’ve ever sweated this much before, have you guys?”, and he wasn’t wrong, with the intensity of the crowd such that I and everyone in viewing distance were absolutely soaked in sweat. That was when Dillon kicked off the most eccentric part of his set, as he launched his I Want It That Way/Get Low mashup of the Backstreet Boys and his own tune with DJ Snake that has become a staple of his sets for over a year now.

By this point you could have harvested the palpable level of energy in the Oxford Art Factory and used it to run a small city for a couple of months, such was the intensity of the atmosphere - and the number of shoeys completed in the crowd may have outnumbered actual members of the audience. Dillon had, earlier in the day, declared via Snapchat that he was sick of people telling him it was 4/20 day and had instead dubbed April 20th “DaRude20” day. Naturally then, he seamlessly worked Sandstorm into his set - presumably at less than a day’s notice. Following that, he went ‘one deeper’, playing some of the deepest haus as his most-famous alter ego DJ Hanzel - before yelling at a security guard who had confiscated a blow up doll from the state “hey! That’s my girlfriend.” He closed out the set with a slow-dance with the doll accompanied by his collab with Kygo - Coming Over.

After a short-lived and largely unsuccessful attempt at convincing the crowd there would be no encore – he returned to the stage to play a final five minutes or so that included a Dolphin On Wheels/Turkey On Wheels mashup that you had to hear to believe, before premiering some brand new music as his final act. The Moombahton king left us sweaty and rekt, but imbued with a certain happiness that cannot easily be put into words. Dillon Francis was absolutely monumental – with a confident but equally modest set at Oxford Art last night only furthering his ever-penetrating likability among music-lovers.

Photos by Ben Cvoro