Mount Kimbie – Twilight at Taronga

Mount Kimbie – Twilight at Taronga

Diminishing returns is a rarely talked about truth attached to growing older. We come into this world with the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed enthusiasm of a puppy, curious to the core and eager to drink in the sights – ready for nothing but excited for everything. Then the years slowly stack up behind us, and things begin to get easier, less alien. The world develops an outline as we start to make patterns out of our past. Green means go, red means stop. High-pitched sirens warn us of dangers; dull patters on glass offer up-to-date weather reports. Eyes taper and lock when someone’s about to bite, then peak and soften when they catch sight of something they care about. The puzzle, though never complete, slowly comes together.

And while this jigsaw is taking shape, another feeling creeps its way in; a feeling of repetition, of muted déjà vu. The lines start to blur again, but differently this time. The patterns are everywhere now. Each ‘fresh’ sitcom has the same characters in slightly different settings, and flicking over to the news gives you copy-paste stories of war, politics and skateboarding pugs. Commuting to work, we follow those recurrent parallel lines all the way to the office, clocking on and continuing to carve furrows into once ergonomic chairs. Even conversations become a buffet of easy questions and answers, with “How are you?” and “Good thanks, you?” the entree to “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” and “Yeah, the suns been out all week.” Similar to a needle on a skipping record, it can wear us down.

So we learn to treasure those special days where we are reminded that this planet still has magic hidden away for us, waiting in a person, a place, an idea, clear and blinding at the same time, vivid like a dream you close your eyes to return to.

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Stepping from the ferry onto Taronga’s Wharf was the first reminder. Leaving the harbour behind, Sydney had painted itself on to the horizon – haloed by our bridge’s arched back; the city sprawl easily forgotten as fans weaved their way off the dock. Busses carted everyone uphill while eucalypts stretched their arms overhead, the convoy rumbling to a stop near an ivory entryway and releasing droves of tourists into the wildlife park where they were greeted with the smiles of people in love with their job.

Descending into the zoo, the concert-goers found themselves distracted by meerkats and amber-backed tree kangaroos, taking a moment to remember that this floating rock isn’t just for us. Whip birds cracked through their neighbours’ chatter. Bilbies scurried through the undergrowth while lemurs peered down from the canopy above. The new arrivals made fast friends with Taronga’s residents, meeting giraffes as the almost-dinosaurs circled an all too small enclosure and sneaking a peek at the sea lions tucked behind high walls, sleepy and ready for bed.

At the final turn Twilight at Taronga came into view. A curved stage sat modestly before the Harbour Bridge backdrop, where Christopher Port closed out his set with a garage-inspired cut, samples and rimshots sandwiched somewhere between Jamie xx and Burial. Picnic blankets covered the lawn facing the musician, flutes of champagne and sauvignon blanc already being pinched and sipped, with dips and crackers splayed around the hungry onlookers. The sun made its last stop as the stage was readied for Kucka.

The Brit turned Australian native made her way to the mic alongside Dillon Howl, who found her home behind a Roland Juno. After a few words and a cheeky smirk, Kučka launched into her 2015 EP ‘Unconditional’ with hazy synths flickering over new wave RnB. The duo brought night with them, and while the beams stayed understated, the two were highlighted beneath blue and yellow droplights; keeping tempo with the seated and swaying campers, catching breaths each time Kučka sang.

Soon “Divinity” washed over the crowd. Submerged, sparkling, the melody dripped and glistened like the Flume collaborator herself; her loose top a liquid mix of pinks, blues and silvers, warping with every twirl of her fingertips. Dillon kept close to the beat, moving to her own grooves. The other big player was “Honey”, slippery and intimate, swinging around in FKA Twigs old playground. And while the comfortable picnickers never rose to their feet, love was returned with each song, cheers and whistles collecting at Kučka’s podium as she waved goodbye.

While the Tasmanian devils play-fought over territory and two gorillas took turns grooming each other, Sydney left their grassy seats and piled up against the stage. The less than sober onlookers didn’t even have time to limber up. Mount Kimbie strolled out onto the platform with a reserved excitement, simmering under the seaside stars to gaze out at the growing crowd, wreathed on all sides by Taronga’s makeshift jungle. Without a word they dove into “Four Years and One Day”.

In the wake of their latest album, the duo has become quartet. Alongside Dominic and Kai was Andrea Balency, a standalone talent joining the boys to help reign in the huge number of synths and drum machines while also taking vocal lead for half of the set. Behind was a welcome drummer, adding depth and maturity to the band. Swapping around on stage during a quick introduction from Kai, the foursome sidestepped into “Audition”; a meandering synth-driven bopper that unfurls live, climbing high like the inquisitive chimpanzees scaling branches to get a better look at the scheduled commotion.

By the time Mount Kimbie reached “You Look Certain” the audience had taken over the grassy reservations made by rugs and folding chairs. With the exception of a few hold outs, Taronga’s visitors had decided to make the most of a venue transformed by subdued synth-pop; swaying to stories of self-imposed isolation, reminded by the music and like-minded partiers that it was a choice. Tall-stemmed glasses of rosé were emptied and, along with inhibitions, tossed to the floor.

The next heavy hitter was “Blue Train Lines”. Quipping about whether they even had the right ‘koalifications’ to perform at such a spectacular amphitheatre, Dominic took over the mic and did his best to cover King Krule’s absence. It was always going to be hard for Dom to fill in for Southwark’s greatest export, and while he couldn’t replicate Archy’s tortured rasp, the instrumental didn’t suffer. Regardless, “Delta” soon followed and got the whole grandstand dancing.

As the syncopated drum lines wavered out into the night, Kai said his last goodbyes before nodding to the British-born crew, geared up and ready for their final song. “Made to Stray” came in modestly, dressed in black, disguised underneath muttered stanzas and downcast keys as it wound upwards, catching the sightseers in a whirlwind, breezelessly whipping up hair and sheer skirts. The band couldn’t hold back their glee with Andrea beaming out at the audience and Dominic dropping his guard to laugh at where their bedroom project had taken them. In one final climax Mount Kimbie pushed their gear to the limit, cocooning Taronga in sound, turning the fabricated wilderness into reality, drawing out the true animals; hollering, sweating, bouncing to the digitized tribal rhythms.

The collective exited the stage with a wave, leaving the dusty Australians to put themselves back together, disenchanted at the prospect of re-joining society. Collars were straightened and dresses patted down, hair brushed back and pocket mirrors consulted while the overeducated mammals jumped back on the harbour barge, watching the city lights brighten in the distance. Civilisation was waiting.

Written by Aaron Vargas