German DJ Claptone is known for not being known. His gold beaked mask keeps his identity hidden, leaving his music to speak for itself. He’s been bringing this idea of masked mystery to venues around the world for a few years now, most recently transforming the University of NSW Roundhouse into ‘The Masquerade’. With a strong lineup of up-and-coming DJs, along with the beaked man himself, it was set to be a night full of anonymous fun.
Unfortunately, due to confusion amongst Roundhouse staff over their photographer policies, I missed the part of Made in Paris’ set that I had intended to catch. The night was a marathon, not a race, so we had aimed to enter around 10.30pm to be able to stay until 2am. After being tossed around between various security guards, I eventually made it in just in time to catch the start of Sydney boys Set Mo. Theirs was a strong set as per usual – while the Roundhouse isn’t as intimate as other venues, they thrived off the vibes from the masked crowd. Free Claptone masks were given out on entry, meaning the crowd was a sea of pulsing golden faces. Set Mo tore through their own hits such as ‘White Dress’ and ‘I Belong Here’, adding a healthy dose of other dance tracks along the way.
Just as the crowd was truly hitting peak enjoyment, the lights unexpectedly came on. It was clear the Set Mo boys were just as confused as we were, with one of them ducking off to talk to staff intermittently. As a UNSW student, I had my suspicions about what had caused the sudden interruption – the fire alarm. They’re pretty much a daily occurrence at the university, and often require an evacuation even if it’s a false alarm. The alarm was quickly confirmed, although the venue itself wasn’t great at informing the crowd. The music stopped, Set Mo left the stage, and the bar closed. We were all left wondering what to do next, but the crowd didn’t disappoint in the meantime. There were dance offs and impromptu DJ Otzi singalongs as the situation was sorted, and twenty minutes later a triumphant cheer went up as the bar reopened. Set Mo took the stage once again, and the bangers recommenced.
This hiccup meant that Set Mo unfortunately had to cut their set a little short, but Claptone did his best to make up for it. His set was a fast-paced dance-fest that covered all his singles plus some new material. Hits ‘Puppet Theatre’ and ‘No Eyes’ were well-received, and each song ran smoothly into the next. While the Roundhouse wasn’t the best venue for the accompanying graphics that generally boost the performance, the crowd was on such a high that it didn’t really matter. Everyone was just happy that the gig had continued, and that the act they had paid to see was giving them the set they deserved. Claptone himself didn’t give much away, but his interactions with the wave of gold masks that bobbed up and down in front of him seemed to indicate he was enjoying himself just as much as they were.
All in all, ‘The Masquerade’ generally felt like a success. The crowd seemed to love it, despite multiple technical issues, and the acts didn’t let their sets be dampened by the interruptions. In this case, it was a great concept that was slightly brought down by the space it was in. The UNSW Roundhouse may have made sense due to the overlap of its typical patrons with Claptone fans, but ‘The Masquerade’ experience deserves a better venue.