Words by Will Brewster
Photos by Nick Tamiakis
As idyllic a site for a festival it may be, the Coburg Velodrome hasn’t always proved itself to be the finest designation for a New Year’s party.
With previous events at the Northern suburb’s bike track being marred by sound issues, disappointing ticket sales and the fallout from the infamous Freedom Time toilet debacle of 2018, it was beginning to seem like the Velodrome was cursed, despite the best efforts of festival promoters and staffers.
Returning with a lineup spilling over with some of the finest electronic and hip hop artists from home and abroad, this year’s sold-out inaugural Sun Cycle marked a triumphant return to what punters should expect from a day out at the ‘Drome.
With Interstellar Fugitives, College of Knowledge and Ella Haber on warm-up duties as the crowds sauntered through the gates, it was clear from the get-go that Sun Cycle had taken all measures possible to ensure there’d be no mishaps this year.
The sandy floors of the Body Heat stage made for an optimal environment to stomp about in if you weren’t too worried about clogging up your kicks, while the abundance of bars, water taps and Portaloos a-plenty made sure that managing liquids would be a breeze.
As the midday sun reared down overhead and Andras took to the decks on the Body Heat stage to deliver a dosage of blissed-out future disco, it was hard to think of any other way to spend the day.
Back at the larger Inner Orbit stage, Elle Shimada and her band treated the milling crowd to a delightfully odd mix of wonky jazz and electronica, with Shimada bolstering the set with her formidable stage presence and virtuosity upon violin.
Local R&B homebodies Big Words soon followed on with a smooth 50 minutes full of lush chords and neo-soul grooves, sneaking in a mean cover of D’Angelo’s ‘Spanish Joint’ to get hips shaking in anticipation for the night ahead.
The vast planning of the festival made for migrating between stages stress free, allowing for us to enjoy a slamming final fifteen minutes of house from DJ JNETT before the sensational CC:DISCO! jogged the wheels of steel for a romping set at the Body Heat stage.
With a set chock full of feel-good summer cuts, classic house stompers and a dash of her titular disco, CC:DISCO! was a class act behind the decks, taking the time between breaks to remind the crowds to stay hydrated and maintain the vibe.
Despite DRMNGNOW putting on an impassioned set over at the main stage, it was hard to escape the temptation of letting it loose amidst the throng of moving bodies at the Body Heat zone.
Things soon changed when US rapper Freddie Gibbs took to Inner Orbit to perform. Pulling one of the largest crowds of the day, Gibbs’ ripped through his catalogue at a burning pace, facing a blunt and popping bottles of bubbly as he performed a set full of cuts from his acclaimed Madlib collaborative tapes Piñata and Bandana.
Bouncing between flows with his booming voice and a grin from ear-to-ear, it’s truly a joy to witness an MC as versatile and charming as Gibbs perform to a festival crowd.
While Jayda G tore through a hot mix of funk, soul and percussion-heavy disco on the sands of Body Heat, Sampa The Great graced Inner Orbit with a full live ensemble to reinstate the fact that she’s one of the country’s finest artists.
With her energy matched by the colourful regalia and musicianship of her band, Sampa is truly an artist of her very own, with live renditions of ‘OMG’ and ‘Freedom’ proving to be a major highlight of the day as the sun retreated into the west.
Although it was quite heartbreaking retreating from the stank sounds of Swedish lo-fi don DJ Seinfeld on the Body Heat stage (that first half-hour was sensational though), the prospect of a live set from Floating Points was too good to pass up.
Opening his show with the one-two punch of ‘Ratio’ and ‘Nuits Sonores’, Floating Points singlehandedly commanded a desk full of drum machines and modular synths in impeccable fashion, utilising wild feedback loops and jarring white noise in tandem with a syncopated light show to create a wild multi-sensory experience unlike any other.
The jittery modular drums and soaring synths of newer cuts ‘LesAlpx’ and ‘Coorabell’ proved to be a delight among punters on the dancefloor, while the semi-controlled sonic chaos of ‘Bias’ brought the evening to a dizzyingly good end.
As the ravers rendezvoused for kick-ons and massaged their slackened jaws on the journey out of the ‘Drome, it seemed to be a clear consensus that Sun Cycle had defied all odds to deliver an incredible inaugural event.
With nary a dickhead to be seen and a lineup reflective of inclusivity without compromising on quality, Sun Cycle finally broke the curse of the Coburg Velodrome to ring in the new decade in spectacular fashion.
Highlight: Floating Points’ brilliant closing set. Seriously, the man’s a genius.
Lowlight: Constantly emptying the sand out of your sneakers on the Body Heat stage.
Crowd Favourite: CC:Disco!’s dancefloor obliterating mixing masterclass.