Review: smalltown with Ben Klock, Jennifer Cardini + Mind Against
This is my first time seeing Ben Klock. This is my first time at a smalltown event. This was the first time writing a review on the back of a cardboard box covered in chip oil.
Novel brand smalltown has thrown some of Melbourne’s craziest parties lately and has collected three of the biggest acts in techno to produce chaos at an unknown location.
After hearing about the success of previous events, I eagerly anticipated the next few hours as I Ubered to the venue. We drove through a quiet industrial area until we could see a mass of people swarming around a slightly out of place precinct. A tall wire fence backed by an opaque straw fence obstructed any possibility of getting a sneak peek.
“Why are so many young people turning up to Bocce?” says my uber driver. “Bocce?” I replied. This was all new to me, information leading up to the event was deliberately vague. “It’s like lawn bowls” answered the uber driver.
Upon entering it was immediately clear that the area was split into two distinct areas. The smaller outside tropical jungle stage and an indoor bocce court converted into a concrete warehouse.
The outdoor stage featured a lovely green lawn centred around a Vietnam War Statue. Palm trees surrounded the garden, giving a tropical jungle atmosphere. Subsequently, the outside stage was styled around this. Gold lucky cats sat on top of the speakers and pink lighting was placed under the plants. The choice of flamingos was an odd choice, as there are no Flamingos in Vietnam but I’m digressing.
Dividing the two stages was a large raised roller shutter door, which radiated a mysterious purple glow. Like a portal, it dared me to enter.
I stood at the outside stage listening to the house sounds from the Edgeworks which left me feeling groovy and relaxed and the pink light emanating from the outside stage assured me everything would be ok. Leaving the outside stage, I took my first step into the indoor stage, then everything changed. A murky and dark atmosphere emerged; the only source of light came from three giant glowing purple squares at the front of the stage. The temperature shot up, the humidity doubled, the decibel level tripled. “Why did I bring a fur jacket?” I lamented
Inside this behemoth of a stage, Jennifer Cardini used her garage post-punk inspired set to get a sleepy crowd into a hypnotic state of mind. There was a mixed crowd, a few Gasometer and Nightcat regulars in faux fur jackets, a few couples in their 30s and a few ravers in Gucci and black Adidas trackies. A few oddities worth mentioning, a group dressed completely in flamingo pink and a man walked around with a giant 2m giraffe puppet attached to this arm.
The floor was covered in sand, the high ceiling gave the stage an airy, almost outdoor festival atmosphere. The lighting and sound design were incredible. John Fish, an innovative studio which had created the stage design at previous smalltown events had done an amazing job. The lighting had tremendous variation and seemed to have a mind of its own at times. The Funktion-One sound system provided by Full Throttle Entertainment delivered a brilliantly loud but crisp sound. I eagerly typed my thoughts on my phone until it decided to die. Using a $2 tip as a bargaining chip, I begged a bartender to find a ballpoint pen or any object that could leave an impression on a hot chip cardboard box that I had found. “I swear I’ll return the pen when I’m finished,” I said as I gratefully accepted a no brand blue pen with my two outstretched hands.
Eventually, I made it back into the inside stage where Italian brothers, Mind Against, who rewarded patient listeners with a contemplative set. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to indulge in the lingering worldly melodies and slow marinating build-ups.
The moody lighting during Mind Against contrasted between long periods of dimly wavering light to sudden dazzling bright flashes. Like a gift from the heavens, I used these bright flashes to hurriedly jot down notes. “Remember to return the pen,” I told myself.
As I desperately tried to get my dry pen to start flowing on the oily cardboard box, a passer-by pitied at my endeavours. She told me that the inside-outside, echo-chambered, repurposed feel of the area reminded her of Printworks, a converted printing factory turned nightclub in the UK.
Needing fresh air, I wandered towards the outside stage. There was hardly any space to move around in the outside stage and ideally could have been bigger. Stefanos Mac from Bay Radio came on and conjured a curious and eclectic set, mixing all types of sounds from hip-hop to Kraftwerk. The crowd danced away and enjoyed every surprising change in direction from The Bay Radio head honcho. I would have loved to stare at some artwork at this point and felt the event lacked enough visual elements. Running out of space on my cardboard box I went back to the bartender for another piece, “Don’t forget my pen!” Said the bartender cheekily.
I along with many others ventured inside, excited to see the main act of the night, possibly the biggest name in Techno right now, Berghain resident, Ben Klock.
Like a meticulous mural painter, Ben Klock ensured he coated, every single brick, every grain of sand and every single soul, with his brand of immense and powerful techno. Ben Klock was at his pulsating best and the crowd absolutely loved it. Some danced their legs off, others just stood there, stunned and motionless.
The pace was relentless, the intensity came in waves, pounding and withering you into submission, like a stranded ship during a storm, the breaks in the waves only gave a moment of respite, never enough time to catch your breath before the next wave. I could even feel the pen I had yet to return in my back-pocket vibrating.
After a breakneck couple of hours, Ben Klock played Subzero as he winded down the end of his set. Over-heating, I went to the bar and asked for some ice to place inside my hat. “Remember to return the pen,” I told myself as I saw the bartender for the last time.
The lights suddenly turned on as Ben Klock finished his set. The whole floor was a dusty mist filled with the sand that had been kicked off the ground. “Am I still at Inner Varnika?” I questioned myself. You can often tell how much people enjoyed a rave by the state of them at the very end; people slipped over cans and walked aimlessly into each other trying to leave the bocce court. Some even walked into the repurposed squash courts at the back to the stage thinking it was an exit. After finishing writing my notes, I placed the faithful pen into my back pocket.
My first ever smalltown was incredible and my mind was still buzzing and my body still trembling as I crashed on a friend’s couch that night. Next morning, I woke up with blue ink and pieces of broken clear plastic smeared all over my pants.
Words: Thinh Thanh