Pitch Music & Arts Festival 2019 was a world class festival experience

Lying directly at the foot of the picturesque Grampians Mountain Range stretches a vast, dusty expanse. This is the home of Pitch Music and Arts Festival. Bringing together some the world’s finest artists in techno, house and electronica, the 2019 edition saw international heavyweights like Ame, Dixon, Sven Väth, Roman Flugel and Four Tet join home grown legends like Mall Grab, Fantastic Man and Andy Garvey in taking on the great Australian outdoors.

Pitch seems to set itself aside from most other Australian camping festivals. You won’t find any rainbow doof decor or a mention of triple j here. It’s all about the techno. Colossal, dark, futuristic stage structures jutted out from the dystopian backdrop that seemed to stretch on forever, and it was here that our concept of home for the weekend was born.

Friday night saw them jump straight into it. Optimo brought the goods, getting experimental with some ska and even dropping AC/DC to finish off the set. Next, Daniel Avery took the controls for a flawless three hour set. The man is a genius. David August delivered moments of brilliance, filling the gaps in with bouts of settling ambience.

Back at the main stage, crowd favourite Charlotte De Witte closed it out with her signature relentless onslaught of dance heavy music. It’s precisely what everyone came to see and served as an exceptional curatorial moment for the festival.

The Saturday night saw the ladies on the lineup continuing to step it up. Performing on the Resident Advisor stage, Roza Terenzi delivered a highlight set. Off the back of a stint in Europe playing Berghain’s Säule and Concrete Paris, Terenzi proved to a home crowd why she’s one of Melbourne’s most exciting breakthrough acts.

Next up, German Dasha Rush played a hard set of punchy rhythmic techno while pioneer and dance music legend Sven Väth closed the main stage. For those kicking on late over at the Boiler Room stage, Wax’o Paradiso spun tunes until 7.30am for the very committed.

Sunday was set to be a big day on the Pitch front, showcasing the likes of DJ Harvey, Mall Grab and a massive 6-hour back-to-back set by Ame & Dixon. At 1:30, I headed over to Ross from Friends. Not surrounded by as much hype as the more seasoned acts, the young producer, alongside a saxophonist and guitarist, made up for it in the enthusiasm that stemmed from the triplets on-stage collaboration. They transformed the small stage and sizeable crowd into a lo-fi house beat oasis with an unparalleled positivity. A great live set from a fresh-faced artist.

Job Jobse gave another standout performance, his whacking basslines, intergalactic techno and ambient underlayers transforming the Pitch One stage into a spaced-out, otherworldly terrain. Oliver Huntemann came next, his grungy tech house pulsing alongside red flashing lights and bubbling visuals, absorbing one of the largest crowds of the festival. The stragglers of the crowds headed over to Mall Grab, to catch the last of his set.

Monday, the final day of Pitch. The last hurrah for all those not quite ready to let go. After a slow-paced wake-up call from Boogs, and a masterful warming of the floor by Four Tet, the hungover crowds slowly staggered in. One of the highlights came from Denis Sulta. Rising through the electronic music ranks, the young Glaswegian has been described by Resident Advisor as ‘house musics next best thing’. They’re not wrong. With high energy, Sulta’s antics on-stage proved infectious, holding the crowds attention with his upbeat, percussive tracks and his don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. Sulta sent us off with the best goodbye we could have been given.

In only it’s third year, Pitch seems to have ironed out some of the logistical growing pains it faced in earlier years. Despite being quite remote, the site is easily accessible by train with a connecting shuttle bus. Getting home is a breeze and seriously makes you reconsider the risks of driving home from a festival. The police presence was refreshingly laid back, over the whole weekend with only one arrest made for a minor drug possession. Not bad for a festival with over 8000 in attendance.

Pitch’s approach of education over persecution for drug use was commendable and officials need a pat on the back for how quickly they responded to potentially dire situations.

Pitch this year saw its art game stepped up after a lacking attempt at the Arts portion of the festival last year. With spectacular light shows, stages and a more apparent introduction of interactive, large-scale art, feeding off the natural environment, Pitch did a standout job.

Additionally, collaborations with international dance music staples Resident Advisor and Boiler Room shows Pitch’s growth and maturity as a festival. It shows the festival’s capacity to be recognised on an international level, and how it could easily join the ranks of European festivals like Dekmantel or Dimensions. With its stellar lineup and impressive production quality, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t.

Words by SONNY THOMAS & JULIE FENWICK

Photos by DUNCOGRAPHIC

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Just doing her best to survive in the Melbourne jungle