FTS SUPERKLUB Melbourne: An experiment in stage design

In 2010, Blaise Bellville, Thristian Richards and Femi Adeyemi launched a music project with the primary focus of placing the spotlight on what they perceived to be the sole attraction at a rave: the artist.

The concept of a boiler room is simple. By placing the DJ directly in the centre of a venue, three lads from London created something that would revolutionise contemporary stage design. With an archive spanning over 8000 performances across 200 cities, the Boiler Room concept is one that has reached every corner of the world. What started with a webcam taped to a wall of a disused boiler room evolved into a worldwide phenomenon, with the words “Boiler Room” coming to be synonymous with techno and electronic music in general. In recent times, it has expanded beyond the confines of their own brand, with many other production companies taking cues from their vision to create their own events.

Hence, with HSU’s latest rendition of the boiler room, it’s fair to say the merging of hardstyle music and techno staging was more of a when, not an if.

Many at the event would have been used to a simple formula for Hardstyle raves: DJ at the front, crowd standing facing them, and lasers penetrating the sky above the crowd. It’s a combination that has remained the status quo for much of Hardstyle’s history, because it’s a combination that works. Yet with the announcement of HSU’s FTS SUPERKLUB, it was clear that with Knockout around the corner, HSU wanted to do something different.

The event’s venue, The Timber Yard, is one that would not be unfamiliar to long term members of the Melbourne Hardstyle scene. Playing host to Asteria in 2021, the smaller, warehouse-style venue made sense on paper for a boiler room style event, but it was still yet to be seen whether HSU would be able to do the concept justice.

The night started for me with a typically energetic set from Hardik. The enigmatic local DJ from Melbourne gained online traction with his TikTok persona, but, playing at his first HSU event, Hardik did not disappoint. As with most events, most of the production in terms of lasers and stage effects were saved for the later sets. Yet, Hardik’s track selection meant that his infectious enthusiasm spread throughout the crowd, with an even spread of contemporary classics like “We Come 1” by Ben Nicky and “FIND YOU” by Sickmode and Rooler, sandwiched in between a lighter remix of “Seven” by Jungkook and other remixes of pop songs. Whilst an unexpected note at a rave like this, the tracks were maybe reflective of Hardik’s unorthodox and innovative approach, to both his music and his branding.

But whilst Hardik’s set was certainly eye-catching, the main topic of conversation amongst crowd members was understandably the set-up of the stage. The DJ deck was moved forward, and elevated slightly above the crowd, with a long stage allowing for various members of Hardik’s team and the promotional team for HSU to be up on the stage with him. Boiler Room influences were clear, with the smaller capacity providing a more intimate setting and closer proximity to the performing DJ. The atmosphere was unquestionably unique.

However, to call the staging truly authentic to the origins of a boiler room would be slightly disingenuous. Lasers and strobe lights still extended out from the central stage, providing visual stimuli for those standing far from the stage. To be too close to the DJ deck would be to miss out on this aspect of the performance, meaning many were content with maintaining distance between themselves and the stage. One could view this as straying from the original vision of a Boiler Room placing the spotlight on the DJ and the DJ only, however one could equally say that it expands upon the core concept, allowing the expectations of the normal Hardstyle crowd to still be met. Many go to a rave expecting lasers; to omit this entirely would be to disappoint, perhaps an experiment that would be considered too far from the norm. It must have been a hard act to balance for HSU, one which I believe was still done tastefully with respect for the boiler room concept whilst still giving Hardstyle loyalists a rave to enjoy.

The event also suffered from a few technical difficulties. From where we were standing, the audio seemed unusually low, meaning some kicks didn’t carry that aggression that they needed to wow the crowd. There was even ironically an extended moment of silence during DNA’s set, perhaps fitting for a boiler room, seeing as one of the most iconic Boiler Room moments ever was when house superstar Fred Again… brought his set back from the dead in his Boiler Room set a little under a year ago. Here, “The Realm” by TNT was played, which turned an unfortunate moment into an unforgettable one. DNA also played “Forever young” by Ben Nicky, a moment reminiscent of Ben Nicky’s set at Dreamstate only a few months prior.

Of course, the two main headliners of Wildstylez and Malice were the main attraction for many in attendance. Wildstylez opened with “WKND!”, setting the tone for the rest of his set. “Lose My Mind” soon followed, with Wildstylez even repeating the iconic introduction 3 times. Yet, each time was sung by the crowd louder than the last, emblematic of the song’s status as an anthem for the Hardstyle community in recent years. Wildstylez continued with his renditions of “Legends Never Die” and “Great Spirit”, both generating excitement within the crowd. Whilst it has only been a few months since the Dutch DJ last appeared in Melbourne for Shadows of Wonderlands, he still did not disappoint.

Malice was next, and many who were familiar with his work knew that there would be a shift from the more melodic, euphoric hardstyle of Wildstylez to the more raw and grittier sound of the Italian DJ. Hardstyle has moved more towards this sound in recent years, creating a divide between the original pioneers of the sound and the contemporary favourites. Personally, as an enjoyer of both, Malice was the perfect change of pace to end the night. In particular, “Payback” by the late Delete and Tha Watcher was a highlight, and my personal favourite track of the night. By this point, the lasers were out in full force, providing a lightshow fitting for a rave much grander in scale.

As at the Sydney event, the KO’ 23 Anthem by DBSTF and Wildstylez was played, a teaser for a song that is sure to become unanimous and likely overplayed in the coming months. The song is set to be released on September 8th. The event as a whole felt almost like a warm-up for KO, a sign of grander and greater things to come for HSU in the coming months. And whilst perhaps not the most memorable rave you’ll ever go to, the experimentation in stage setting may foreshadow things to come for Hardstyle and other genres of electronic music, with HSU’s innovation paving the way for others to follow.


Written by Josh Lopez – an enthusiast of all things live music, regardless of genre

Whilst he is currently an Engineering student, Josh has a passion for writing and music, originally growing up with influences in Hip-Hop and R&B before falling into the rabbit holes of Hardstyle, Trance and Techno music. Josh is a part of @raa.rmit, a university social club which hosts events for young adults where popular DJs like Coone, Anderex and Colin Hennerz have previously played.

  • Sep 13, 2023
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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