Round two of our weekend down in Melbourne took place at the Festival Hall on Saturday evening. It’s been a few years since the Godskitchen brand last graced Australian shores. But it was returning in some style, with a line-up that certainly excited me, mostly for the opportunity to see Pure NRG Live, but all the DJs on the bill have delivered great sets in the past.

The Festival Hall in Melbourne is not an all-night venue, so the event was set to run from early evening to 1am. After the previous night’s fun with Neptune Project at Brown Alley (see below), we needed a late recovery brunch before heading to meet friends for pre-drinks and then onto Godskitchen. The first thing that struck us was the seemingly enormous and endless queue, but after exploring to check which gate we had to enter by, we discovered a much shorter queue, so we were inside pretty quickly and just in time for the start of Richard Durand‘s set.

Durand had also been part of Godskitchen when it last visited Australia in October 2011, but it was an extended set he played at the Gaelic Club in September 2010 that I remembered most fondly. However, I’d heard little about him in the intervening years and I suspected that he’d moved away from playing the kind of trance I love. Nevertheless, I was intrigued to hear what he plays these days, with no expectations from the set. Which was just as well, because I really didn’t like it at all. I found it to be lowest common denominator crowd-pleasing stuff, with EDM-style remixes and remakes of classics like Cassandra Fox – Touch Me and Energy 52 – Café del Mar, interspersed with tunes like The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up and John Legend – All Of Me (Richard Durand Remix). I thought the Legend tune was completely out of place at a dance event, but maybe that’s just me?

Next up was Giuseppe Ottaviani, one of my favourites, and a DJ more accustomed to playing late or closing sets than at 8pm. It certainly didn’t seem to put him off his stride, as he delivered a brilliant set that I really enjoyed dancing to. Dropping Paul van Dyk feat. Plumb – I Don’t Deserve You (Giuseppe Ottaviani Remix) early on helped to set the scene for 60 blistering minutes of driving trance in his inimitable style. We also heard Giuseppe Ottaviani feat. Alana Aldea – Heal This Empty Heart, Solarstone – Shield Pt. I, Giuseppe Ottaviani – Liverpool, Andain – Beautiful Things mashed with Aly & Fila – Underwater and Giuseppe Ottaviani feat. Amba Shepherd – Lost For Words. The hour flew by and before we knew it, Giuseppe was taking the applause and handing over to the next DJ.

That next DJ was Jorn van Deynhoven. People who know me well will know that I often talk about van Deynhoven’s set at Nevermind in July 2012. That afternoon he played one of those sets that will live in your memory forever. Booked to play an extended three hour set, he refused to hand over and ended up playing nearly five and a half hours of incredible trance. We’ve seen him a few times since and while he has never lived up to his brilliance that day, we have often enjoyed his sets, most notably at the recent ASOT 700 party in Sydney (see blog entry below). On this occasion, however, I was less impressed and felt that the first half of his set was lacking in direction and leaning far too heavily towards a “big room” sound, which felt like a wrong step after the trance that Guiseppe Ottaviani had played and had gone down so well.

I didn’t enjoy Armin van Buuren – Together (ASOT 700 Anthem) (Jorn van Deynhoven Remix, Mark Sixma – Adagio For Strings (what a truly awful remake this is) or Armin van Buuren feat. Laura Jansen – Sound Of The Drums. But to be fair, the latter part of the set was much better, from the moment he dropped Jorn van Deynhoven – Headliner and followed up with Orkidea – Purity (Sneijder Remix), Commander Tom – Are Am Eye (John Askew Remix) and Faithless – Insomnia.

As far as I was concerned, the real attraction of the night was Pure NRG Live – the combination of Giuseppe Ottaviani and Solarstone. This is a new venture for them and it is so much more than simply playing back-to-back. Indeed they have rejected the ‘B2B’ label in favour of Giuseppe’s preferred term, ‘M2M’, or musician-to-musician. Giuseppe has always rejected the label of DJ, as his sets are based around him playing live keyboards and remixing and mashing up on-the-fly. This approach has been extended to Pure NRG, with Rich Mowatt (Solarstone) also playing keyboards – and rather than just taking turns to choose tunes and mix them, as in a typical B2B set, both musicians are often performing simultaneously .

The result is quite simply sensational as they mash up their own tunes and create magic with old tunes, giving them a new lease of life, as well as giving us their take on some more current tracks. Amongst the many great tunes they played, I noted Armin van Buuren presents Rising Star feat. Betsie Larkin – Safe Inside You, London Grammar – Strong and Queen – Radio Ga Ga (what a stunning sound they made with this!). The highlights for me were the mash-ups they played at the end of the set: Nu NRG vs. Aly & Fila vs. Solarstone – Dream Fireisland and Ferry Corsten vs. Above & Beyond feat. Zöe Johnston – Galaxia Good For Me. I was quite simply blown away by how good this set was.

It was always going to be difficult for Jordan Suckley to follow such an incredible set. But Suckley’s uplifting 140 style is well suited to such occasions. Unfortunately, I found it rather anti-climactic and a bit stop-start and I never really felt he got into his stride. I think this was probably just a personal reaction, as he played some great tunes: 4 Strings – Take Me Away, John O’Callaghan – One Special Particle and Will Atkinson – Numb The Pain among them. My heart was just yearning for more Pure NRG! I really enjoyed Jordan Suckley’s set the last time I saw him, at Oxford Art Factory, but on this occasion, I felt he let his undoubted skills with the mixer get a little bit in the way of the music.

The night was not yet complete, however, as the local DJ, Sensualise, brought the night to a close with masses of energy and a great mix of psy-trance and some classics. Liquid Soul – Have You Ever?, Armin van Buuren presents Rising Star feat. Betsie Larkin – Safe Inside You, Tiësto – Traffic, Coming Soon!!! – Become One (Interactive Noise Remix) and a mashup including Cosmic Gate – Fire Wire and Neelix – Expect What. It was a great way to end the night and rather than drift away, the crowd stayed on to hear the local star smash it out in style. I think we’ll hear more from this guy.

We were tired now after two nights of dancing and it was time to head back for the chill out and post-party debriefing while others got ready to head off to one of the two official after-parties. It had been a fantastic two nights of trance and we’d heard some of the best music you could hope for from Neptune Project and from Pure NRG. A final word about the production at Godskitchen, which was fantastic. Sound so loud that your hair vibrated at first, until the room filled up, combined with a great lights, visuals and laser show made a perfect setting for the great music, although it was the music of Pure NRG for which I will remember Godskitchen 2015.