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SHVR Ground festival sweating to much the same

Dylan Amirio

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, May 8, 2018  /  08:52 am
SHVR Ground festival sweating to much the same

Dance up: SHVR Ground's second day's main stage highlights included energetic sets by Alan Walker. (JP/Aditya Bhagas)

For years, the local dance festival game was dominated, and somewhat monopolized, by Ismaya’s Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP), which evolved itself from a small-tier event to one that is recognized as Southeast Asia’s biggest. For a long time though, the DWP was the only show in town.

International events such as Ultra Music and Bestival came down to Bali and offered alternatives, but their prestige, and therefore price, was not accessible to most dance-music lovers in Indonesia.

SHVR Ground may still have many things it should work on, but with diligence, it can become a significant event in the local circuit in the future.

Work on things like what? You ask. Well, for starters, booking a lineup beyond DJs that share too many similarities.

On their own, artists like Nicky Romero, Bondax, Disclosure and Gareth Emery can deliver topnotch DJ sets but it just felt like every stage at the event was playing the same kind of thing. Diversification should always be one of a promoter’s main concerns when assembling a lineup.

It’s an issue that could be heard throughout all the sets on the local-heavy third stage, called the “Arctic Diamond”. The pace of the music just ran through each other, with few local DJs opting to distinguish themselves from their peers on the lineup.

One could find dozens of unique local DJs if one were willing to dig deep enough into the underground. But it wasn’t all boring. Local mainstays like the Sunset People’s Project and Diskopantera proved to be highlights in this scape.

Another thing was the location, there’s a reason why the DWP wisely moved location to the bigger JIExpo Kemayoran area. For a large-scale event, Ancol’s Allianz EcoPark is simply too small to accommodate the large crowds that turn up for a dance event. The main stage felt crowded and uncomfortable at times.

In terms of highlights, the first day of SHVR Ground was dominated by main stage (Frozen Galaxy Stage) acts Rita Ora and Disclosure.

Ora played an earlier set at 9 p.m., showcasing her bombastic stage show full of the old flares-and-smoke kind.

With 26 backing dancers in her tow, she ran through hits like “I Will Never Let You Down” and “Your Song” as spectacularly as any other pop star of her caliber.

Read also: Swedish DJ Avicii 'could not go on any longer', family says

Her short tribute to recently deceased Swedish DJ Avicii was also a heartwarming and moving highlight in her set, with a video tribute of the DJ as well as his hit single “Wake Me Up” being given some deserved airtime on stage.

Even though Ora was billed as the headliner, Grammy-winning nu-house duo Disclosure undoubtedly took that position that day, drawing in the largest crowd of the first night.

But in an arena DJ setting, Disclosure seemed to be badly stripped of its maximum potential to awe. In between its hits “When a Fire Starts to Burn”, “White Noise” and “Omen”, it filled the space with house tracks that served mainly to just fill the time between delivering the hits that people came for.

The second day’s main stage highlights saw energetic sets by Alan Walker and Alison Wonderland, the latter of whom had the best set of the night.

Wonderland had her set focused around semi-trap-based bassy tracks, which served as a welcome change of pace against most of those who delivered house sets.

Walker, on the other hand, was the primary draw for many in a second day that was low on headliners. This isn’t that peculiar, since his songs and his logo are commonly found on shirts, cars, motorbikes and speakers on the street, in malls and on the radio.

Elsewhere in the indoor “Chilling Square” stage, the acts that were able to soothe and cool down the punters who had exhausted themselves from the more upbeat outdoor stages came to entertain.

Vincent Fenton, aka FKJ, delighted the crowd on the first day of the event with one of the only three live sets found at the festival, running through his brand of slow R’n’B-infused jazz and blues, switching intermittently from guitars, to bass to a wonderful saxophone, creating a chill atmosphere and making people wish they were on the beach to enjoy this further.

FKJ was followed by English electronic duo Bondax, which delivered a set full of house remixes and the like. A particularly notable moment during the set was the appearance of Kallula and Monica Karina, the two Indonesian vocalists who have made their names known through collaboration with master Indonesian DJ Dipha Barus. Does this appearance signal a possible collaboration? We’ll just have to find out later.

With 51 acts in total, SHVR Ground was a good alternative for those in need of a cathartic dance so close before the country restrains itself during the fasting month of Ramadhan. But whether or not the festival can hold its own remains to be seen.

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