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Live Review: Palm Tree Music Festival @ Riverstage

14 March 2023 | 3:00 pm | Ray Shindo

"Mother nature also seems to be a fan of EDM, as the rain beats down to the bass house drop."

Image: Dave K

Image: Dave K

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Anticipation and excitement rattles through the long queue as the doors open to a blast of shimmering synth. 

The Palm Tree Music Festival, developed by renowned DJ Kygo, has finally made its way to Brisbane grounds. A storm was approaching, but who cares when the lineup is first-class? 

Canadian DJ Frank Walker kicks off the festival with an exuberant remix and mashup of popular hits, as he welcomes the resort-dressed, Coachella-ready festival goers into a summer rapture. 

It drizzles a little harder as the drop hits during his remix of Save the World, but still no raincoats in sight. 

People hurriedly dance their way to the concrete platform in front of the stage, and the festival excitement runs on full blast. 

The crowd is in for a pleasure, when Sam Fischer makes a surprise appearance. The Canadian DJ finally performs his remix of Fischer’s This City after three years, accompanied by flawless live vocals. 

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The set ends on a high and he passes the baton onto Dutch DJ Sam Feldt.

A ticking noise echoes through the unlit stage and the crowd awaits impatiently. As the tension accumulates, the modern house star surfaces from behind the booth in a striking yellow shirt, kicking off with a classic deep house mix.

All hands go up, waving to the joyous melody of I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Synth stabs accelerate to the rising pitch, and the need for a release strangles us. The crowd roars to an unexpected big room drop, and EDM fans bang their heads with pride.

The Dutch DJ continues to amaze with house remixes of hits from different eras, including Belly Dancer, the Tiktok famous abcdefu, and the iconic melodic hook from Kids by Global Deejays

Mother nature also seems to be a fan of EDM, as the rain beats down to the bass house drop. 

Halfway through, he subtly transitions into his new release, Enough To Drink with Cate Downy. Harmonising with the crowd’s zest, he performs a more upbeat, progressive house version.

The drizzling stops temporarily, and ponchos are thrown off, as Sam Fischer serenades us once again with live vocals for their 2021 collab, Pick Me Up.

Unfortunately for the rising modern house star, his set is drawing to an end.

He entertains us one last time with a classic kick ‘n bass remix of Australian classic Land Down Under.

Two hours in, the energy only multiplies. 

Lost Frequencies is met with chaotic cheering as he runs onto stage.

The talented Belgian DJ starts off extremely low energy, the rhythm and music resembling a techno vibe. 

With repetitive rhythm and similar vibes dragging on, some may be lost as to where this set is going. However, the creative genius never fails. He has a plan. 

Ethereal aesthetics glides across his mix, and ten minutes in, we see a little more color. 

Excitement intensifies, as melodic synths takeover, stepping into a radiant future rave. 

While the tone is quite similar throughout, and the beat drops are light, the simplicity in the mix and calm tone is alluring. 

He slowly but surely puts us into a euphoric state by prompting the pleasure to stem from and permeate within us, instead of showering it from above with lively rhythms.

His distinct flow may not be for everyone but definitely enchanting to those who can appreciate his style. 

The mood shifts quite dramatically however, when a wistful guitar melody rings through the Riverstage. 

We’re immediately transported back in time, as he performs his 2015 hit, Reality

The crowd sways side to side and sings along, reminiscing young summer days. 

The sky grows darker, and the crowd’s mood finally starts to align with his dance/electro pop style. 

By this point, the rain is already a part of the show design. White lights shine through shards of water as smoke floods the stage, revealing only a shadow.  

The synth bounces rapidly now, and the crowd feels invincible, as the Belgian DJ bursts into the stunning 90s rave drum ‘n bass mix of Want Need Love.

Nostalgia hits the crowd like a drug, when he cleverly transitions into the 2014 hit that launched his career. Warm cries of love and whistles of appreciation cuts through the air, as he performs Are You With Me

We let the dreamy vocal line and soft string synths takeover our soul, as we sink into the glorious night. 

The vocals dissolve into the mist, and the song restarts with an arpeggio-like, high frequency synth. 

As the synth accelerates, the whole crowd enters a hypnotic state for the last time, rocking to his electro-pop outro remix of Are You With Me.

Lights go up on stage for a short intermission and a set change. 

The crowd was in luck to have the chance to go to the bathroom, get some chips and drinks, without missing any of the performances. It’s a rare concept in most music festivals.

Close to 7pm, the rain magically lifts, as soft lilac lights pour over the stage, accompanied by uplifting melodic electronic music. 

The crowd is immediately engrossed in that particular, summer night glory. That freedom of youth and experiencing pure bliss with the people you love.  

Just as the music withdraws, Kygo runs onto stage, and a blast of summery synth sends the crowd into a tropical hallucination.

While the Norwegian DJ’s songs is recognizable for his tropical and deep house tracks, he shows versatility tonight, performing electro and tech house remixes and mashups.

The crowd goes absolutely wild for Mau P’s Drugs from Amsterdam.

Following a medley of some of his most recent hits, including Lose Somebody with One Republic, he pays tribute to legendary Swedish DJ Avicii with familiar tunes from Forever Yours and Levels.  

Kygo doesn’t disappoint, performing a collection of upbeat dance music, some with notable Caribbean instruments. 

Suddenly, a tumultuous symphony of synths and buzzing bass interrupts the glorious summer mood, and a wave of tech house music storms in. 

Fans are thrilled to hear tunes by Axwell & Ingrosso and the popular mashup of Galantis’ Runaway and Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction (Hardwell & Maddix remix).

We reach the highlight of the set, as Australian singer Conrad Sewell emerges through the golden fog. 

With live strings, and Kygo on the piano, the Australian singer starts, 

“I’m a flame, short of fire-” 

We’re immediately back in 2014, when the song was first released, as his mellow yet powerful vocals mesh effortlessly with the acoustic sounds of Firestone.

 The song then moves into a tropical EDM mix, Conrad still singing. The audience claps to the beat, and Kygo’s memorable set comes to an end with an explosion of red streamers.

Five hours had flown by, and the crowd is met with an emotional dilemma of wanting to see the final act but also knowing that it means the end of the festival. 

The legendary DJ, Tiësto, has finally made it to Brisbane, after the unfortunate cancellation of his previous Australian tour.

Tiësto’s Let’s Get Down to Business echoes softly, announcing the beginning of the final set. Arising from behind the booth, the Dutch DJ knocks us out with his mesmerizing 2018 hit, Wow

Fans whip out their phone to record this historic moment. 

We knew we were in for an incredible night, as he ventured through a collection of big room music and all his best hits from 2017 – 2019, including My Frequency and Jackie Chan

Fortunate for Tiësto fans, he’s playing a lot of his original mixes tonight.

Music flows from one song to the next swimmingly, subtly building tension while mixing classics and recent hits, including some iconic Latin songs.

The Dutch DJ just continues to impress, as he performs his best hits Boom and Split, consecutively. 

Following more big room mixes, scarlet beams shoot out to accompany Tiësto’s 2014 hit Red Lights. Hitting all the sweet spots, and always coming in with the right drop, his style is insanely addictive. 

He briefly plays his most recent release 10:35 with Tate McRae, and moves on to some old school tunes, sending the crowd into yet another frenzy with the notable melodic hook from Alice Deejay’s Better Off Alone

The clock is ticking, and the fans are begging for more. 

The legend distracts us from the bittersweetness of the ending approaching, as he launches into some unexpected happy hardcore. We vigorously pump our fists, releasing every bit of energy that’s left.

Tiësto continues to shock fans until the very last moment, as he chooses trance music for his final act. 

Trance, his starting point, but also a genre he had once left. Now, he was finally returning to his roots, and we cheered for his trance revival.

Gifting the crowd a final rush of euphoria, he takes a bow. 

We all just stand there in awe, lingering on the grass as we soak in the afterglow. No one wanted to move just yet, despite the beating rain. 

We gradually come out of the trance, shuffling towards the exit, smiling that muddy shoes and wet hair was worth the sacrifice.