REVIEW: Let Them Eat Cake NYD 2016

Let Them Eat Cake is an attractive alternative to the marathon 3-day festivals held over New Years and this year’s fourth edition sees the festival to continue its exponential growth. In previous years, the main areas were pretty packed, but it was very easy to disappear into shady little grottos to escape the thumping music. In 2016, the grottos are increasingly populated, and the main areas are stadium-filled. Arrive at 1pm and you would have seen the number of patrons at the 2015 edition. By 5pm, the grounds of the Werribee Mansion was practically swarming with people. It’s a testament both to the strong brand Let Them Eat Cake has quickly built up, as well as the increasingly discerning musical tastes of Melbournians.

The unique setting of the Werribee Mansion achieves something that no other Australian music festival does. The towering image of the Italianate Mansion casts a much-needed aura of class and sophistication over an event that is traditionally completely devoid of these things. The shadow of the Mansion demands a degree of respect from the revellers; it elevates the entire worth of the festival. Throwing a warm plastic cup of VB over your shoulder into the dust bowl of the Melbourne Showgrounds can be done without remorse, but it’s much more difficult to hurl a plastic cup of Pimm’s and Lemonade onto the perfectly manicured lawn of this pristine tourist attraction. The setting certainly does conjure up the decadence of pre-Revolution France, Marie Antoinette and her phrase which the festival was named after.

The sense of taste is present in every element of the Let Them Eat Cake infrastructure. The art installations are typically handcrafted wooden monuments, hidden between the pine trees. Even the food trucks are tirelessly constructed to fit the aesthetic. A Captain Morgan’s van is made to resemble a frail wooden pirate ship. And speaking of food and drink, it’s little surprise that Let Them Eat Cake serves up only the very best of indie cuisine – a very far cry from the Four and Twenty pie that is the staple food to ignore eating at any lesser festival. No, at Let Them Eat Cake you ignore eating the absolute finest. All this against a lush green setting; a paradise for both snap-happy Instagram models and hippies looking to literally roll around in the grass.

Of course the most impressive design element of Let Them Eat Cake is the elaborate stages. I could hear murmurs amongst the crowd welcoming the changes to the layout, as well as the overhaul of the aesthetic. It provided not only a better sense of space, but also the ability to move seamlessly around the festival. Whilst all of the bespoke stags were intricate, it was hard to look past the magnificence of the ‘Palace of Versailles’ stage. Underneath the mammoth shadow of the Mansion, stood two twin handcrafted pyramids, reminiscent of a Caribbean Daft Punk. A light show illuminated the Mansion, whilst the pyramids shot out twin jets of flame.

Like that scene in the Matrix, revellers danced shirtless and shoeless beneath the primordial setting, just like the Morpheus-officiated rave in the caves of Xion. In one year since the last Let Them Eat Cake, you could be mistaken for thinking that the crowd had been infiltrated by the cadre of loyal doofers who haven’t missed a Rainbow Serpent since the Rainbow Serpent first created Australia. However this 400% increase in bindis could just as easily be explained by the increasing influence of doof culture in mainstream fashion. Rather, the crowd of Let Them Eat Cake are all keen fashionistas embracing the chic of the urban shaman, yet the festival also boasts just as much shirtlessness as Stereosonic. The difference is that people here aren’t showing off the effects of Clenbuterol – they are just really fond of having mud pressed against their bare flesh.

Given the attention to detail to the festival’s infrastructure, it’s no surprise that the line-up is similarly curated. Let Them Eat Cake continues to boast the most sophisticated line-up of international artists performing a genre that you might loosely call ‘dance music.’ The line-up is in a word, “discerning”. The artists tend to offer a more forward-thinking, minimalist version of all things house, techno and drum and bass (as well as many more). It offers a line-up that is traditionally more “European” in scope, and often absent from the Southern hemisphere. DJ Ben UFO provides his brand of challenging dubstep, funky and grime, complete with bad movie fighting sound effects. German pioneer Motor City Drum Ensemble performed an intelligent mix of both retro and futuristic house. Even the hip-hop is sophisticated, with Slum Village – compatriots of J-Dilla and living legends – on board for this year’s festival to lend some old-school legitimacy strictly for the hip-hop heads. Whilst the forecast had Werribee at only 31 degrees, for those strung out from the night before, it felt like 50. A cool change, and the bigger, higher energy tunes of Âme and Daniel Avery were welcomed by the enormous crowd at the main stage. A faster pace, and some original music gave the crowd a much-needed push to the finish line.

Let Them Eat Cake continues to completely re-examine the potential of dance music festivals in Australia. Where most Australian music festivals are dusty and pedestrian, this festival is lush, bold and exquisite. The only challenge? Maintaining its garden party feel as more Melbournians with an appetite for all things dance, continue to fall on Werribee.