Reviewed on Saturday June 1

A rising game-player in the thriving Sydney independent electronic scene, the artist and touring management group Astral People transformed the Opera House Studio foyer into a two-room tech-rave. The weather was cold, damp and downright miserable but that didn’t stop an enthused and appreciative crowd from enjoying the sold-out show, and with a little help from esteemed Detroit house icon, Omar-S, it possessed a festive spirit rarely experienced in such plush surroundings.

The main room started with local DJs Ben Fester and Preacha, delivering solid mixes. The party vibe then stepped up a notch with Sydney stalwarts, Africa Hi-Tech, the local duo of Mark Pritchard and Steve Spacek. The crowd responded to their eclectic and ebullient sound with increased urgency in their dancing. The duo’s live set traversed several different sounds, from post-dubstep, juke, bouncy reggae-influenced grime and even DnB. Backed by a nifty video backdrop, ‘Out in the Streets’ was the standout with its wobbly basslines and propulsive beat augmented by Spacek’s enthusiastic howls.

Venturing out to the ‘rave-cave’ section, the volume seemed doubly loud, as the concentrated dancefloor got into UK producer Jon Convex, who delivered heady doses of crunchy bass and bro-mantic house melodies. Known for his work in Instra:mental, he also showcased a more toned-down flavour, which is representative of his ‘deeper’ and more acidic take on house. On most nights I’d have stayed for longer but this night was all about one man.

Appearing onstage with his typically aloof demeanour, Omar-S delivered a solid mix featuring classic Detroit house tunes and new material off his latest release, Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself. Like a Zen master of raw funk and soul he was always in control, never missing a beat, assortments of jittery synths and warm bass reaching upward into the crowd’s collective consciousness. Unfortunately, the crowd had somewhat thinned out by the latter stages of the night – possibly due to the lower volume levels.

While taking a seat upstairs on the comfortable red seats in the mezzanine level, which in itself was a strange experience, I gained a visual perspective on what Omar-S does best: hypnotise audiences with understated and minimal house. When electronic and house music is increasingly saturated with frenetic, manic ‘bangers’, it was gratifying to see a producer so comfortable in his own skills and sound, and for that, Astral People delivered a night that celebrated all the best features of contemporary electronic music.

BY LARRY LAI

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