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Let Them Eat Cake 2014 – Werribee Park, Melbourne 01/01/14

Written by James Arnold-Garvey on January 3, 2014

After an auspicious launch on New Year’s Day 2013, boutique electronic festival Let Them Eat Cake’s sophomore outing saw the festival cater to a sold-out crowd which had doubled in size for 2014, settling once again amongst the manicured greenery of the criminally under utilised Werribee Park.

Early on the darkening skies had heads tilting nervously skyward, and sure enough the first spattering of rain came soon after gates opened. By the time Griff took to his cozy-looking booth on the Castle stage, it was showering steadily. The ill-prepared took shelter under one of the numerous trees, with the more resourceful chasing down rubbish collectors to fashion makeshift ponchos out of garbage bags.

The effect of the weather on the crowd was visible – far from the clichéd “dampened spirits”, the weather cemented their resolve to make the most of the long trek west. If there was moaning to be heard, it must have been downwind – makeshift dance floors in copses, cash loans for dry merch and a general air of “fuck it, it’s 2014!” were the order of the day.

A welcome mid-afternoon surprise came by way of NZ’s Estére and her MPC, affectionately dubbed ‘Lola’. Serving up a tasty set of future soul, R’n’B beats and silky vocals at the barely protected Palace of Versailles stage, it was just the encouragement the growing crowd needed to find their groove and shake off the raindrops.

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The day slipped by. Julio Bashmore seemed determined to fend off the drizzle, the thundering bass of his well-positioned mid-arvo set shaking people from under the marquees. The festival’s most impressive display of fortitude, though, was back at Versailles, as Tokimonsta’s fans amassed, dug their heels into the muddy ground, and faced the now-sideways rain with grins and unwavering rhythm.

She wrapped a lean and ferocious hour-long set and handed the reins over to Floating Points, who may or may not be some sort of weather god — the precise moment he stepped up to the plate the deluge magically evaporated. It cleared the air for a solid two-hour journey through his vast and impressive collection of 70s soul — and the occasional Brazilian samba – as he deftly weaved in his own techno treats mid-set.

The pockets that had formed around stages dispersed and merged, the gorgeous and expansive grounds revealing hidden gems in every grove. Grabbing a pulled pork roll from the Food Rave? Hey, look, it’s Soul Clap playing under mounds of tulle and chiffon! Wandering over to the Isle of Tortuga for a ridiculously strong cocktail? You’ll get pulled onto a makeshift stage to flaunt your stuff amongst the bedazzled, fluoro spandex drag antics while you wait.

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James Holden was a name on everyone’s lips in the lead up to the show, but it seemed his more progressive leanings confused a few punters looking to keep the energy up at the Bastille. Despite Holden’s compelling and technically excellent set, many could not resist Cyril Hahn’s more dance floor friendly tracks, and when Hahn dropped his celebrated Say My Name remix, a large stream of punters were quickly, and literally, pulled his way.

Holden’s remaining audience were receptive, though, bathing in wave upon wave of aural pleasures, all rickety synths and rolling bass lines; the man himself seemed content to do his own thing. His take on Atoms For Peace’s Before Your Very Eyes punctuated some ambient output, and lit up more than a few faces in the approaching twilight. If there was any doubt, he proved once again that he knows how to work a crowd, finally bringing the energy back up for a generous handover to the day’s main attraction, DJ Koze.

As jets of flame pierced the sky from across the field, illuminating Kode 9‘s stage, Koze shouldered the responsibility of a headlining slot on the main stage admirably. Launching with marked restraint, for the most part he eschewed the chilled intricacy and melodious melancholy of his 2013-winning album Amygdala, favouring instead a blend of summery, soul-stirring house. The seeming simplicity of his first hour or so was kept afloat by his masterful manipulation, bringing the crowd to the brink over and over again before finally unleashing to a massive roar and a sea of hands aloft in the near dark.

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Let Them Eat Cake proves that “boutique” doesn’t necessarily mean “small-scale” – the venue and production was suitably grand, facilities were more than adequate and organisers pinned down an impressive line-up with a timetable that kept most happy.

It’s also nice to be reminded that electronic music festivals in major centres aren’t always full of dipshits – the crowd was as diverse and interesting as the line-up, people treated each other with respect and, despite the absence of a Summadayze this year, the Peacock Brigade were scarcely apparent.

A successful festival is more than the sum of its parts, and it’s a rare treat when all elements coalesce in the near-perfect way they did for LTEC. Perhaps it was the setting, perhaps the atmosphere was carefully cultivated by organisers, or perhaps the wooly weather just put everyone in the same boat.

Regardless of how it came together, a festival where you can put in as much or as little effort as you please and still experience the best of everything there is to offer is something to be applauded. We’ll be back next year, rain, hail or shine.

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