Duke Street Block Party: Review
The new kid on the block always attracts a significant amount of raised eyebrows, and when it’s the scale of a full day party curious chatter invariably arises. The Duke Street Block Party project is a collaborative endeavour, a trident of Untitled, Crown Ruler and denizens of Duke Street itself - Moondog Brewery. I had harboured worries that it may be a little crowded upstairs, but I gladly found on the day all pistons seemed to be firing smoothly. More than the three promoting figures, there was also collaborative contributions in the form of CC:DISCO’s curation of her own Club Coco stage and record store, Plug Seven, hosting a dance floor. Rather than come across as overcrowded, Duke St was instead a demonstration on how positively intertwined the music community is in Melbourne.
The curiosity surrounding Duke St is well founded, certainly there is real estate to be claimed for Summer day parties in Melbourne. They often serve to be good sport and with our collective dalliance with Sugar Mountain over for at least the time being, there is a gaping hole waiting to be filled so naturally comparisons with Sugar Mountain were constantly made on the day, and in retrospect. The similarities are definitely there. Like Sugar Mountain, Duke St promises a day of drinking and dancing under the sun and the setting too encourages you to explore the various nooks and crannies on offer, if we’re to treat it as a replacement, it’s doing a lot right, but it’s far from a reboot.
The street itself, as a setting, had it’s pro’s and cons. The stages were delightfully tucked away along the street, the Club Coco stage gave shade enough to ensure people’s boogies weren’t inhibited too greatly by the sun beating down on what can only be described as a stinker of a day. The main stage, at the far end of the street, thankfully received shade from the height of the building next to it and too made the heat very manageable. The con’s of holding a street party are that you are constrained to the width of a street, and that in turn resulted in periods of argy bargy, with punters sticking out elbows to gain enough space to enjoy the music. This was at it’s most evident during one of the day’s prize catches, Floating Points’ set.
One of the finest acts for an afternoon slot. He’s a selector with the requisite sensibility to bring a crowd into top gear, he does it all with an unbridled enthusiasm - his love of music is felt in each selection. There are several DJ’s who endeavour to educate with their sets and a few hours in the sun with Floating Points certainly is an education. Never did his set slip into a display of homogenised four-by-four’s, he constantly varied his choices from the booth and took the crowd on an excursion through crates of jazz, afrobeat and the like. After being forced to retreat to the back end of the crowd, I was pleased to hear Redd Holt Unlimited’s ‘Gimmie Some More’ blare out from the stage’s soundsystem. Our choice to backtrack was ratified and his set became immensely more enjoyable without the push and shove from closer to the stage. For me though, the moment the day truly reached blast-off was when Floating Points dropped the needle on Julie Driscoll’s ‘Indian Rope Man’, a very satisfying showing from one of the day’s biggest draw cards.
For the second time John Gomez has found himself soundtracking a Club Coco crowd. It should come as no surprise then that after an impressive first bout a second effort had been commissioned. Delving into bags of sunshine inspired sonics, the journey was predictably eclectic. Despite scheduling clashes, Gomez filled the Coco stage early, a status which endured throughout the day.
Club Coco still managed to retain it’s reputation as the most gregarious dance floors nationwide. It has a rare earnest quality which is rarely found at dance events where contrived peacocking is often favoured. It’s very ‘real’ at Club Coco, where stage corners makeshift podiums and people aren’t afraid of getting uncontrollably sweaty. She may be about to leave our shores from a full time post, but CC has definitely left us with something, her mantra of ‘less chin stroking, more dancing’ has been fully realised - she can go to Portugal with the satisfaction of a job well done.
After a day full of disco, it was a nice change of pace and scenery, venturing deep into the Club no 9 stage positioned ironically on the bottom floor of an ‘adult services’ centre. Walking onto the sweaty dance floor almost felt satisfyingly dirty, greeted by a wall of heat, heaviness and neon decor strongly influenced by one of the festivals curators - Xe54. The Club No.9 stage created a feeling within the room that was unparalleled by any of the other dance floors. Manning the decks at this particular instance was an artist Figaro holds in incredibly high regard, Casettes For Kids, as a producer and DJ, the young local’s stock continues to rise amongst local and international audiences and as a music website that prides itself on making big (often outlandish) calls, we’re tipping him for Australia’s electronic breakthrough artist of 2019. Playing tough and energetic thumpers, CFK stripped down to his singlet and commanded the audiences attention, there were no private conversations on the d-floor, only those who had stuck around to really duke it out.
Juggling a few stages at the end of the festival was quite a task especially when both Club no.9 and the Club Coco stage were extremely impressive and difficult dances to leave. But to attend the festival without seeing the headliner, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King would have been incredibly poor on our behalf. Cruising in at about half way through the performance, we were drawn to the vocals of a professional who sounded like she was nearing 30 rather than 60. Strong, powerful and refined, it was not only the vocals which stood out but also her supporting cast of musicians and instrumentalists. An audacious booking by the festival, one that should be applauded, in this instance Duke street have prioritised educating its young festivals attendee’s on the history of a genre, rather than playing it safe and quite possibly selling more tickets. One of the many admirable reasons we hope this isn’t the last we see of the festival.
The Club Coco ‘mood’ was most poignantly felt at the close of the evening. Having entrusted ourselves in the ‘Club Coco DJ’s’ of Rhapsodise and CC we were paid dividends, moments of hands reaching towards the heavens and music induced grins came frequently, stopped only by the unwelcome strike of 10 PM, an unfortunate circumstance which comes with the ‘day party’ territory, one which was met with pleas for “one more song” - a sure sign that the day was a good one.