When the word got out a few months before the actual event that we, Melbourne, would be hosting HSU’s first-ever outdoor event, in conjunction with Hard Kandy and Finders Keepers, people went absolutely crazy! Not only would it be THE biggest line-up ever held in Australia, but it was also to be here!
With 28 DJ’s playing 4 genres (namely being hardstyle, raw, hardcore and UKHC) across 3 stages, the rave community across the country had well and truly received an early Christmas. The venue was fantastic, and the event date of 10th December meant that it should be (and it was) a perfect day weather-wise, what could be better than this?
As time passed by leading up to the event, teasers were posted every so often, these were pictures of who would be playing, videos of said DJ’s at past events, videos of past HSU, Hard Kandy and Finders Keepers events, just to keep the momentum up. Who cared, though? Tickets were being saved for, signed up for and purchased even before all the information was known. Patrons from outside Melbourne were even booking their flights and hotels as soon as the date was known, well before they had purchased their event tickets!
People started to plan all kinds of weird and wonderful outfits to wear on the day and discussed who they would be sharing hotels with weeks in advance. Yes, even the Melbourne community (including myself!) booked hotels for pre-drinks, getting ready together in and leaving from, arriving at the event in our usual groups. Never have I heard such buzz between so many people over one single event, and yes, that does mean that Knockout attracted more excitement and talk than Defqon.1 Australia ever did!
When the day arrived, I did wonder what the residents of Flemington were thinking when they saw us all, yes, of course, they’re used to big crowds and big events as many are held at the Racecourse and the nearby Showgrounds. Not many crowds do dress QUITE like the rave community however. The main theme of the day, no matter what type of clothing you wore, as usual was COLOUR, COLOUR, COLOUR. Very bright, and lots of! I saw people in standard singlets and shorts, some in barely-there bodysuits, groups of cartoon characters and even I myself went as Minnie Mouse! I had to giggle when I saw random people looking at me strangely!
Rocking up to the event, so much excitement flooded me it was insane. Walking past hundreds of people to the line to get my wristband, then going through the security/bag checks, then FINALLY being in! As usual with me, I grabbed my friends, went straight to the bar, then to merchandise. Sadly, the merchandise line was HUGE, and from what I was told, a 2-hour wait. Figuring I wouldn’t get what I wanted, we decided to go and check everything out, who was where, what the stages looked like and who was playing when we arrived.
The first place I ran to was the Unity stage, as I am a massive fan of UKHC, and in my opinion, we definitely don’t get enough of that here in Melbourne! I’d rocked up in perfect time to see the last half of one of my favourite homegrown DJ’s set, Suae. I pretty much just danced around the front until one of my friends said ‘Come on, we haven’t even checked out anything else yet!’
By this time, it was 5 pm. As we walked over to the mainstage, Code Black was playing and everyone was going crazy! We managed to get our way into the middle of the crowd (being small has its advantages!) and started rocking out along with everyone else. Everyone was either shuffling or hakking, with a little bit of muzz and even jumpstyle is thrown into the mix, but one thing was the same for all no matter what, the looks of absolutely pure, unadulterated happiness.
After staying there for a short while, we decided to wander and see where the rest of our friends were. I, in particular, was keen to catch up with friends from Sydney and Brisbane that I knew were attending but hadn’t found yet. Of course, as usual, I’d got to the event with less than 20% phone battery! But it was a good reason to wander rather than message and wait as we got to see the entire venue and the set-up of it all. The mainstage was magnificent, not just the lighting and lasers, but also the fact that it was a HUGE 50 feet across !!
Moseying along, the music coming from every angle was that good, I seriously wished I could clone myself and run in every direction! Sadly, I couldn’t. However, I did find friends everywhere I went that were equally excited as I was, we had all been waiting for this day and so far, no-one could believe how perfect it had been. The weather, music and crowd all made for one hell of an amazing trifecta. As I sat down on the grass with friends, I took a sip of my drink and thought ‘literally, nothing could be better than this’.
Time goes so quick while you’re chatting, one of our group then realized it had gone 6 pm and everyone ran to the main stage for Brennan Heart. Damn, that man ALWAYS has an awesome set! Pretty sure I shed a tear during one of my favourite tracks, ‘Imaginary’, and I’m pretty sure by looking around that I wasn’t the only one! We stayed there for a bit, then went to check out our own Australian Bioweapon, who came back together especially for this event! Crowd pleasers as usual, everyone was going insane! There’s just so much FEELING in the air, with people singing loudly with their arms around their friends and even strangers hugging strangers, as clichéd as this is about to sound, you really could feel the love in the air tonight !!
Most of my friends moved on after that, but I stayed for Stonebank, whom I love. His lyrics combined with the bounciness of the music make an amazing combination. I’ll confess here, sometimes, I’m all about the lyrics, and the ones in his tracks are perfect.
Then it was on to the (well, my) piece de resistance, DARREN STYLES. I have seen the man perform countless times, and each time seems to me to be even better than the last. As usual, ‘Come Running’ did it for me. The crowd went CRAZY, guess I’m not the only one who’s all-time favourite track that is! Followed up with ‘Us Against The World’, I had definitely gone into my happy place.
Soon as he finished, I ran over to Hixxy, who to be honest, was THE main set I wanted to see, my main reason DJ was for attending. I managed to film ‘In and out of love’, one of my most loved tracks. So many of his tracks have saved or helped me through different points of life, I was NOT going to miss this set! Even to the point where I only ran back to the main stage to see a small part of the ending ceremony, which was where the majority of the crowd was at that time. The fireworks were gorgeous!
To be honest, I really cannot say what I thought was better, the music, crowd or vibe, and I’ve asked others for their thoughts also. Everyone is divided, but mainly said the crowd, as we were (as far as I know) absolutely perfectly behaved. Despite what DJ’s may be playing, or what venue the event is held at, the crowd itself makes all of the difference as to just how perfect of a time it turns out to be. This, I hope will mean that we will be able to host events just like this in the future in Melbourne because this was not only the best day of my year but also one of the best days in my recent rave existence.
Written by Sarah Rugrat - a true veteran since the late '90s
Sarah has written articles and reviews on and off about the Melbourne Hard Dance Scene since 2002. While not a writer by trade, both writing and hard dance are her passions.