Out of all days of the week on which to schedule the last performance of the Australian tour, fresh off the “Money Sucks, Friends Rule” album, I wonder why Dillon Francis chose Sunday night? Not just any Sunday night, mind you, but the last night before the vast majority of working population resumed their posts and returned to the real world of bills, bosses and bad colleagues. On the one hand, it could disable every die-hard Francis fan in Melbourne. On the other, the fact is was a Sunday night and a paid show at 170 Russel Street, instead of a regular cue-and-wait Saturday club night at the same residence, also known as Billboards, was no doubt a way to ensure the best crowd possible in which to end a very successful tour.
Successful in more ways than just playing music – Dillon has turned Australian overnight, tweeting his adventures with vegemite, VB and goon, as well as doing a ‘shoey’ on stage in Sydney. The sheer amount of PR and advertising to MNFR led me to wonder if Francis was letting his personality cloud his music – which was larger? The man can definitely make a tune, but was it his personality selling shows? It wasn’t helped with a walk-off during his set at Beyond The Valley.
Warming up for the big man were Gambit with an all-Australian set and Toronto’s Grandtheft. Gambit adequately set the tone with precise mixing and a creative song selection. An impressive showing, proving he is one to watch in the future. As soon as Grandtheft walked on stage however, he raised the bar. His first action was to jump on the mic, exuding the sort of swagger that one would when signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent. Through a flurry of cuts, fades and filters, 170 Russel was humming to the finest tunes a warmup could summon, and by the time 11.45 came, the floor was full. Dressed in black, Francis looked every part the 21st century rock star. A warm embrace between mates, Grandtheft exited to a roar of support for the man of the night.
But before we were graced by one of the world’s favourite DJs, up from the side emerges local boy Generik. On his Facebook page before the night, Dillon promised that he would make Generik “do a shoey”. Crowd laughing on, Generik did his “shoey”, setting a scene you would struggle to imagine at a gig of any genre apart from dance music.
Any doubts I had about Francis faded quickly with an attention-grabbing, lose-your-mind fest of dance music’s finest. The songs from his album featured prominently throughout, and each was treated with a huge crowd response throughout. “Set Me Free”, “We Make It Bounce”, “Hurricane” and “What’s That Spell” in particular were favourites on a night, especially the latter with Francis endearing himself to Melbournites forever with the “Australian version”. (“Give me a ‘C’!” – “C!” – “Give me a ‘U’!” – “U!”…)
The visuals are as much of the performance as the music and lighting with DJ sets in modern times, as they help distinguish an artist with unique imagery and symbolism. Granted anything looks pretty good after a few drinks, the visuals were nothing but pure Dillon Francis – cats, cats talking, cats with Dillon Francis’ face, Dillon Francis in Super Mario… it was the perfect bizarre sideshow to the touring circus.
Yet no matter what the screens show, the music is the main focus, and the man (or woman) behind it all. Smiling away while he dropped banger after banger, Francis delivered the hype with every mix spot-on, every effect on-point, savvy work on the microphone and a song selection to keep every front-rower on their toes.
Despite this though, there was one thing missing. “Get Low”, Francis’ collaboration with DJ Snake, had not yet since been played. There was definitely a sense that the longer the show went on, the greater the eagerness towards that face-chewing, mind-blowing drop and the madness that follows.
The last minutes of his set were typical Francis – from Tyga’s “Bugatti”, a refined, renowned sing-along, to “In The Air Tonight”; a mix so unpredictable, so unanticipated, that everyone inside could be heard singing their lungs out. But then it came – to the fade out of Phil Collins, came “Get Low” in a strange-but-super transition. It was possibly the three most random songs to finish a set ever experienced, yet what else would you expect?
The crowd reached its highest (vertical) point to that very track, jumping as high as they could. In the confines of those walls, it literally hit the fan. For the last and greatest track of the set, people shuffled, mimed, raved, fist-pumped and even attempted to dance in a shindig of great proportions. Walking offstage to applause, having played ten minutes longer than scheduled, Dillon Francis exited to Deckhead, having possibly the hardest job in the city that night.
As soon as he was gone, the floor began to clear. Amidst the dubstep that followed, we took our leave to the cue of “Bangarang”. Out in the fresh air with a bunch of satisfied youth, it was evident that Dillon Francis had done what his image dictated; blow the roof off the joint, get the crowd singing along before attempting to dance, get Generik to do a shoey onstage, endear himself to Australia, play his latest and greatest with the best of the past and deliver the packed 170 Russel Street the best night they would have for a while yet – all on a Sunday night.