Pitch 2019: Review
As the sun rose over the Grampians on the Friday of Labour Day weekend, it was time for the 2019 edition of Pitch Music & Arts festival to get underway. In it’s third year the festival was set to host a broad range of local and international talent spanning from the meditative techno of Recondite to the debaucherous disco anthems of DJ Harvey, as well as an all-star lineup of locals including Merve, Roza Terenzi and Fantastic Man. Previous iterations of the festival have no doubt had their ups and downs, with a variety of factors testing the loyalties of some punters. In the weeks leading up to this year’s edition of Pitch news that the festival would boast the involvement of international brands like Resident Advisor and Boiler Room, as well as a totally overhauled Arts Programme – made it very clear that this was set to be the most ambitious instalment yet.
It was immediately clear upon entry to the grounds how much the Pitch team had taken on board the feedback from previous years of their event, logistically the site had been overhauled for the better in almost every aspect. The three stages across the festival were completely redesigned, and were now known as: Pitch One, which was the mecca of the weekend for fans of the techno persuasion – housing most of the headline acts. During the daytime it was a gigantic brutalist monument in line with previous designs, but when the sun set its gaping facades served as a surface for some impressive projections; Pitch Black, which functioned as site of the Boiler Room broadcast on the Friday evening and hosted some of the more niche names across the rest of the festival. Reminiscent of something out of Mad Max, it boasted a mezzanine around the entire thing, making it the most immersive stage design in the festival’s three-year history; and finally nestled in between the trees was the big red Resident Advisor curated stage, where more disco and house leaning acts were programmed. The stages were located at a good distance from each other and the campsite to reduce noise pollution, while other attractions like the Pitch Pavilion, food court, bars and
art installations were tastefully scattered in-between. Everything was within a comfortable walking distance whatever the destination was, without feeling cramped.
The music at Pitch has always been incredible, but this year’s instalment was an absolute cut above not just in terms of the quality of the acts – but also the diversity. The headline performers of previous incarnations of Pitch have traditionally been very geared towards the biggest names on the global techno stage, but this year a diverse lineup included plenty of more house and disco oriented deejays provided a more varied palette of sonic pleasures: making the festival much more inviting for those who aren’t as drawn to the progressive sounds that have become associated with the festival’s previous incarnations. The obvious musical highlight on day one of the festival was the Boiler Room broadcast headlined by Optimo and Roman Flügel, with the stream’s earlier slots being tackled by local lords Merve, Toni Yotzi and Andy Garvey. The vibe in the Pitch Black thunder dome was completely palpable from beginning to end during the broadcast, providing just enough space to comfortably house the majority of festival attendees on the night. Despite the stigma around artists playing it safe during Boiler Room performances, the atmosphere at the broadcast from Pitch felt more like an elaborate house party than anything.
In the following three days the music got successively more and more outstanding, with far too many highlights to name. Crowds were treated to lush daytime performances from international heavyweights like Marvin & Guy, Ross From Friends, Baba Stiltz, Horse Meat Disco, Four Tet, Andrés, and Éclair Fifi. Which were perfectly complimented in the evenings by spectacular sets from the likes of Palms Trax, Job Jobse, Avalon Emerson, Charlotte De Witte, DJ Harvey and Dr. Rubenstein. A very honourable mention goes out to Edd Fisher and
Simon TK of Wax’o Paradiso for curating the most spectacular sunrise hoon the Grampians have ever seen.
Over the course of the festival the musical offerings were absolutely insane, granting Australian crowds access to a calibre of performance they would usually only experience on social media through a short and shaky phone recording from somewhere in Europe, accompanied by “track id pls”.
Aside from the impressive sonic offerings of Pitch 2019, there was also plenty of attractions away from the stages. The rejuvenated Arts Programme encompassed a variety of installations from international artists, visual accompaniments at the stages as well as around the grounds, the infamous Pitch roller derby, a market tent, and the returning Pitch Pavilion programme, which fired up on the second day of the festival. Inside it hosted yoga and guided meditation sessions accompanied by a utopian offering of ambient music curated by an impressive list of local names like River Yarra and Alex Albrecht. This functioned as a welcome opportunity for some respite from the heat of the day and thumping four to the floor. While it was very clear that a welcome effort had been put in to providing a more varied festival experience, the Arts Programme was easily outshone by the musical attractions of the weekend. It was difficult to find a moment to tear yourself away from the stages for fear of missing too much of one of the incredible performances across the festival weekend.
Ultimately, 2019 was a return to form for the team behind Pitch, after going from a strong first offering to a bit of a stumble in their second year. Easily their most jaw-dropping weekend of music yet, and a nice array of visual stimuli being complimented by a tighter grasp of the site’s logistics made for what was by far one of the most incredible Victorian festivals in memory.
A fair comparison to make would be between the first three editions of Pitch Music & Arts and Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of the epic Lord of the Rings series: a strong beginning that establishes a fantastical world and begins to weave a web of intrigue; followed by a second episode that doesn’t really seem to progress as much, and appears to get a bit lost in it’s own fiction; before making way for a triumphant thrill ride in the third instalment, that captivates the audience with incredible set pieces and leaves them wanting more.
That being said, there is still room for the festival to grow and improve, and this year’s instalment of Pitch is a solid indication that the team behind it intends to continue to shape and change the festival to provide the best experience they possibly can. Across the four days of the 2019 Labour Day weekend the team behind Pitch Music & Arts delivered a truly fantastic festival, absolutely demonstrating why the event has rapidly risen to the top of the Australian underground music scene.
Words: Brenton and Curtis