It’s always easy to get excited about a gig at Brisbane’s Riverstage. The grassed, natural amphitheatre means even shorties like me don’t have to worry too much about staking out a good vantage spot, and let’s face it, it’s basically hallowed ground. The stage has previously played host to everyone from Midnight Oils to Florence + the Machine, from Beastie Boys and The Chemical Brothers to The Prodigy. Such company should not intimidate Harley Streten, aka Flume, though. The insanely popular Australian artist has previously toured festivals the world-over including Coachella and Lollapalooza, and has amassed countless awards both here and abroad. For the all-ages Brisbane leg of his Palaces tour, Flume brings with him Channel Tres, Toro y Moi and MAY-A. Such a great line-up sees Brisbanites flock to the city as the sun goes down in what feels like a return to post COVID attendance figures.
When we arrive the roadies are busy moving an ‘arc-de-Triomphe’ frame of sorts, part of Flume’s otherwise minimalist stage set from the far left to the centre, then back again. Is it broken we wonder? Why is it not staying centre stage behind Flume’s two stations? Later we learn it is indeed working and even pulls apart and lights up, all with a little help from the roadies (don’t forget our all-important roadies btw. See SupportAct). Suddenly the crowd goes insane with a sound that would make any think Flume himself had come on early, but nope. It’s Channel Tres looking extra, complete with sequined tank, elbow length gloves, sneakers and shades. The artist clearly has a very healthy following here in Brisbane, perhaps a testament not only to his talent but to Triple J’s major radio play starting in 2018. If the crowd needed any other reason to boogie – they didn’t – Channel Tres is accompanied by three energetic street dancers. Their choreographed moves complement the deep vocals and otherwise understated fat beats well. We’re treated to tracks including Top Down, Sexy Black Timberlake, 6am and Jet Black while something about the beats in Controller take me back to Beverly Hill Cop soundtrack days and Axel-F – ha ha weird! There is standing room only at the base of the Riverstage now and people are clearly ready to party. Further up the hill you can see that Flume maintains a varied fanbase with punters aged everywhere from their teens (well 6 months really- there was a baby with BIG earphones next to us) to their 50s.
Perhaps Flume was as excited as his fans. He comes on a little early wearing full Motocross gear, the jacket of which comes off just one song in. If any of his decade-long fans were worried about Flume only playing new works, their fears were abased immediately by first choice Holdin on. It’s hard to believe this track IS ten years old now; it stands the test of time very well. Other historical tracks we’re treated to include Never be like you, Insane, Hyperreal and Smoke & Retribution among others. Special guest, Kučka, joins Flume for the last two in this list plus some more. Her pig tails and all black attire are understated but fortunately, her voice is anything but. Despite an enviable back catalogue, Flume continues to respectfully sample others too on the night including Disclosure and WILDKATS! Meanwhile, his backing visuals continue to titillate the audience. Displays include everything from his (now infamous) fox-glove flowers from the Skin album cover to a psychedelic morphing motorcycle tire and down-right scary, if not hypnotic, satanic looking dog. During Insane, the ‘arc-de-Triomphe’ frame lights up and divides, making me wonder how on earth they travel with that thing. Flume’s equipment is divided between two benches on either side of him, making for some terrific scenes and demanding that he switch frequently between the two.
While Sydney is once again home to the DJ / record-producer having returned from a stint in Los Angeles, he makes the Brisbane crowd feel special explaining that all his family are locals, many of them joining us here tonight. Flume is indeed multi-talented, as are his sound crew who have to navigate the journey with him between crisp soprano piano notes (think Sleepless) and gritty distortion (think Get U off the latest album). Indeed, his set is quite the contradiction in some ways. Whilst no one could ever accuse the Grammy Award winning musician of failing to evolve, the moods embodied by some of his new experimental tracks are a bit confronting and a far cry from up-beat bangers like his remix of Hermitude’s HyperParadise. Just try not to dance during that one team! The crowd don’t disperse though, irrespective of the pace clearly shifting here and then there. Flume doesn’t talk much during the set but takes the time to share a moment that triggered him only earlier backstage. He pays tribute to friend, Sophie, who Flume explains was transitioning during the last Brisbane show and is now no longer with us.
Ok, so the one downside about the Riverstage is the strict (and I mean strict) lock down at 10pm. On the plus side, this means I can predict Flume’s plan to play several encores having ‘pretended’ to leave at 9:45pm. He certainly wasn’t interested in short-changing anyone and perhaps that’s why he came on early. Indeed, the set is a really decent length with Flume managing to play close to 25 tracks. This also means he gets to share the stage with other vocalists too including Toro y Moi for The Difference and May-A for Say Nothing and Never be like you. In this last one I feared for May-A actually who clearly stacks it down some stairs, but, in true professional form doesn’t miss a beat and continues to energetically dance around, all the while getting the crowd to sing along too. For a ‘school night’, people are pumped and Flume expresses his gratitude, even mentioning that it’s Wednesday several times. It feels as though he is in part applauding us and in part enticing us to continue in that spirit of revelry. Two of his three encores are courtesy of Streten having recently discovered an old laptop housing several unreleased songs, but he ends the night with Aria-Award winning Rushing Back featuring Vera Blue. Having now collaborated with everyone from Lorde to Arcade Fire and even Gorillaz front-man Damon Albarn, it is safe to say Flume is not going anywhere anytime soon. Exactly where this journey will take him and his avid fans, however, feels far less certain.
Flume plays Melbourne 24th November, Adelaide 30th and Hobart 2nd December. Get tickets HERE