Live at Coachella: Flume

Flume live at CoachellaIn music, Flume is poised, confident and even has a touch of swagger.  When his music plays, these qualities transfer to this listener.  Whether on headphones or blasting from a car, it’s hard not to feel like you know better, or like you’re in on some kind of secret when Flume is playing.

If Flume indeed is meant to be a secret, it is one of the worst kept.  For reasons beyond my understanding, Goldenvoice scheduled Flume’s Friday night show at Coachella in the smallest outdoor tent.  The Gobi tent got a makeover this year, adding sides and as a result, cutting off sight-lines from outside the tent, unless you were directly in back.  The crowd Flume drew could have easily filled out the larger, open Mojave tent, maybe even the larger area of the Outdoor stage.

Flume’s real name is Harley, and it was funny to see the producer of such big, confident sounds taking the stage  turning out to be an overwhelmed-looking kid with a little table set up on this large stage.  Even his kaleidoscopic light box looked comically small, like it was a miniature toy version of the lighting set-ups other performers were using.  Maybe that’s why they didn’t put him closer to the Sahara tent.

As meek as Harley may have looked when he set foot onstage, the second that the sound of Flume came on, Harley was gone, and the distinct tenor of Chet Faker Uh-Oh-Oh’d the crowd into  “Drop the Game.”

We’d sacrificed Brian Ferry to secure a good spot up front, on the left against the black drape-covered walls of the tent.  Being it was the first day of the festival, it was feasible that most of the people emerging from the crowd toward us were in the Gobi tent for their first time.  Coupled with the fact that it was night time and that may serve as a plausible explanation for why they would thrust themselves past us and plunge headlong into the tent wall and rebound, stunned and reeling.  We’d grab them by the shoulder and point them to the opening up front.  “That’s what you get for leaving Flume!”

His transitions from song to song are fluid, seamless works of art in themselves, often weaving the two songs together and shifting elements around before easing the previous song out.

One of the highlights of his show, and of the entire festival for me was his performance of “On Top,” which had everybody’s hands high and feet dancing.  Harley appeared from time to time, taking in the crowd before Flume took back over.

Emoh Instead, the second half of What So Not, stood on the stage during the show.  I was a little shocked when he didn’t join Flume on stage for “Touched.”  He stayed put, arms crossed, shifting from foot to foot.  My attention was diverted from the slightly pouty Emoh back to Flume when he announced he had something new to play for us.  It would seem Christmas can also come in April.  It turned out to be his new remix of Lorde’s “Tennis Court.”  At first, it sounded like a very slightly altered version, but a little over a minute in, it took a sudden turn and there was an audible “Whoa!” of appreciation from the crowd.  (at about the 1:12 mark in this video)  Even if it was a remix, it seems like a lost opportunity to not have brought out Lorde for live vocals.

In fact, his final four songs were all remixes, closing out his brief 60-minute set with his remix of fellow Coachella performers Disclosure.  Flume let us all down easy, then the humble Harley came on to show his appreciation.  The show was over far too soon, but the set was not hurried, nor did there seem to be any compromises, just the heavily bass-addled sounds of a very capable Australian.

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