Review: Xe54 at The Wool Store
Walking along the train tracks in West Footscray the name of the day’s venue, ‘The Wool Store’, is inscribed on the apex of the 4 story brick building. We hurry through security and enter through a nondescript, oversized door, the internal vastness is immediately apparent.
Contrasting to this dark threshold, the opposing end of the building is bathed in light. The ceiling is panelled with slanted skylights while the 4 story walls are tessellated with numerous small, square windows in varying states of clarity. To our left is the aptly named Xe54 stage. The intimate space brings back hazy memories of times spent at its namesake. But the allure of the main stage is what captures our attention.
At the far end of the venue, a giant fluorescent pink ring, suspended from the building’s industrial rafters, floats high above the main stage. This impressive structure cleverly creates a room within the expanse, entrancing the crowd with Perspex. Behind the ring, Cassettes for Kids is championed atop a tower, overlooking the crowd as they eagerly enter the venue.
Slowly the crowd gathers under the ring, as Cassettes for Kids keeps the mood light, playing a set mainly consisting of disco edits and house. Then like a magician’s slight of hand, John Talabot assumes mantle of The Ring stage as he seamlessly complements the last half hour of Cassettes for Kids. John Talabot constructs sets that are subtle. Each selection is a jigsaw piece to a larger picture that is only seen upon reflection. Because of this mastery, his sets often take hours to get into full swing, but reward those who persist. Today is no exception. The transition from the Cassettes for Kids’ energetic set to minimal techno is subtle, and it’s not until the last half hour that a more energetic tech-house appears. Upon reflection, John Talabot’s set mirrored the transition from day to night and so too did the light projections. As the light dwindled - the tempo increased, and the pink ring glowed as lights raced around its rim.
Like being snapped out of a trance with a freshly cracked vial of ammonia, John Talabot exits the tower as Park Hye Jin surprises many with her absence of K-House and abundance of Drum and Bass. The abrupt change in music was matched with an onslaught of technicolour lasers. Light bathes the crowd as a perplexed stranger in front of me asks, “What is this, do you even like this? Oh I get it, she’s just here to introduce the lasers.” Not quite ready for 4/4 bangers, many take the opportunity to further explore the festival and miss what, I’m told, was an excellent set.
Adjacent to the Xe54 stage are visual artists in residence: Bec_Grenfell, Jimmy Crickets, and Mitch Kelly. They were all invited friends of Untitled and were painting throughout the event. Bec, a visual artist, but also a scientist, physiotherapist and DJ, summarised the experience with, “As the night progresses – so too does the art”.
It’s outside, at the third and final stage, where the most fun of the day is had. Hiding in a shipping container beside an industrial water tank are Wax’O Paridiso, hued red with floodlights. Like everything the Wax’O team do, nothing is off the cards and crate-digging is deep. As the moniker suggests, Wax’O Dystopio is a post apocalyptic new-wave industrial deviation. Their closing set at Pitch is prescribed listening.
Fearful of the impending mass exodus we have another cursory look into the Xe54 stage. The space glowed red, thumped with bass, and was packed like a womb with warm, sweaty bodies. Disappointed with the stages’ sounds we hurry to the ride-share. Having learnt lessons from fellow FF field reporter, Thinh Thanh, I uncap the trusty pen I’ve carried all day and write the days first notes;
John Talabot, Wax’O and firepits – Yeh
The blue slip’n’slide of disappointment, courtesy of the overflowing Portoloos – Nah