Review + Snaps: Curve Ball | Carriageworks, Sydney

Written By Zanda Wilson on 06/13/2016

As we reach the tail end of Vivid Sydney, it starts to become obvious that it’s a festival of music and lights that hits new highs every single year. This year has been no exception, and yesterday the debut of a new music festival at Carriageworks; Curve Ball, proved to be one of the highlights of Vivid as a whole.

Carriageworks is a really cool venue. I could sugar coat it and describe with many different adjectives, but the one word that came to mind as we wondered around the enormous warehouse that was previously a trainyard and workshop – is cool. Hosting an event like Curve Ball at Carriageworks was a stroke of genius, as it gave some of Australia’s hottest young electro musicians, and ZHU – a rare opportunity to show their wares in a huge warehouse space.

There was an incredible amount of energy around the main stage for almost the whole day and night, in what was probably Sydney’s most exciting warehouse party since Alison Wonderland’s string of shows in 2015. It’s possible that some of this was directly affected by bloody cold it ended up being outside, but to say the vibe was electric wouldn’t be an overstatement.

Nicole Millar proved an early highlight – and although it took her a while to warm up into her set and figure out how best to project her voice in such a huge space – it was well worth the wait. She played a heap of songs by other artists that she features on, with Peking Duk’s High an early climax. Inevitably, surrounded by her team on various instruments and synths - she closed her set with her monumental 2016 hit Tremble.

As the sun began to set on the iconic Carriageworks, we were treated to a taste of up-and-coming Melbourne producer/songwriter Cleopold. Having just released his new EP Altitude & Oxygen two days ago, Cleopold played a set that built slowly, starting off incredibly chiller – and really showcasing his incredible voice. He peaked with his hit Down In Flames, which had the crowd bathing in warm vibes. He was followed by JOY. who was easily the most personable and engaging performer on the day – bar perhaps ZHU. She spoke to the crowd between songs, amped up her band – and showcased that incredible voice of hers that producers around the world are dying to have feature on their music.

We were well into the headliners by now – and the bulk of the early evening was taken up by back to back sets from Sydney boys Basenji and Cosmo’s Midnight. Cosmo & Pat were up first, and were in their element straight away. In such an intense atmosphere and such a huge space, it’s vital that producers go hard, and go loud – and Cosmo’s Midnight stepped up their live show with a fast-paced mix that features their old favourites, their killer Porter Robinson remix and of course the obligatory Destiny’s Child remix, as well as their new remix of Gold Link.

This set was probably the most energetic set that they’ve played in quite some time – with no pressure of backing up for multiple tour shows as this was a one-off show. The venue simply suited their style of mixing so well. By the time they’d whipped the crowd into a frenzy with Snare and Walk With Me – they were sweating as much as the crowd was – with many in the audience practically gasping for air once the boys wrapped up their time on stage.

Next came Basenji – and unfortunately with him; the only disappointment of the whole day. Not for his mixing, and not even for his song selection. Basenji’s sound dropped out twice during the first 5 minutes of his set, and the amount of time that it took to get it back up and running again left him running behind schedule by at least ten minutes (something that would come back to haunt the young Sydney lad). It also made for very slow going, as he kept trying to play his track Chroma from where it had cut out – and therefore we were listening to his most chiller track for at least 15 minutes.

Perhaps if he’d had his time again Basenji would have then jump-started into something a little more upbeat, but nonetheless he proceeded to crush the rest of his set, mixing loud and hard bangers in with his own originals like Heirloom and Dawn. The unfortunate thing was that for some reason – after his technical difficulties, he was forced to re-set up on one far side of the stage – a challenging place to engage a crowd. He was also rushed off stage just as he was about to launch into his final song, a blight on the organisers of the festival – but something that Basenji will learn from.

Then the moment we had been waiting for; the enigmatic American producer ZHU took to the stage with his own personal deck in the shape of his Z logo. He wore a hood, as did his bandmates, and there was enough smoke on stage at any given point in time such that it wasn’t ever possible to get a good look at his face. After getting the crowd amped up with his track Superfriends – he brought out a live saxophonist who proceeded to absolutely shred a solo – and who remained on stage for most of the set.

Obvious highlights were In The Morning, Faded and Working For It – and it was also clear that he was simply stoked just to be in Australia. He closed out what was an epic day with a hugely engaging set – but the whole day owed so much of its success to the venue. Not even the whole of Carriageworks was open to punters, but the huge amount of space made for a festival where one could choose to get up in the mosh, or stage 20 feet away and have plenty of personal space while still being fully engaged with the music.

Photos by Ben Cvoro