Live report: Metamorphose Spring12

The Flaming Lips and Orbital were on dazzling form as Metamo moved indoors

Live report: Metamorphose Spring ’12

Photo gallery: Metamorphose Spring ’12

Earthquakes and nuclear meltdowns be damned: sometimes all it takes is some lousy weather to screw up the best laid plans. When heavy rain forced organisers to call off the Rainbow Disco Club party at Harumi Port Terminal during Golden Week, it followed a pattern that would be familiar to the folks behind last year's Freedommune Zero and Metamorphose festivals – felled by torrential rain and a typhoon, respectively. Coming within a few weeks of each other, the cancellations provided a limp conclusion to what had initially looked like a vintage outdoor party season.

But then Metamorphose came back. Last weekend, some eight months after the party was originally supposed to take place, many of the acts who'd been booked to play reunited for a second attempt. The format was a little different this time, mind you: unwilling to risk a repeat of Metamo '11, this spring edition was moved indoors to Makuhari Messe, the unlovely concrete edifice used for Summer Sonic, Womb Adventure and Countdown Japan. And while there were DJs playing until dawn, most of the action took place during the daytime – meaning that only the keenest punters got to see Ebo Taylor and Afrobeat Academy, whose exuberant morning set kicked off at the unfriendly hour of 10.30am.

The venue's vast halls yielded a yawning expanse that Metamorphose Spring '12 generally struggled to fill; only during Orbital's evening set did the main room feel even close to capacity, while the second room looked more like a slumber party for most of the day. If the organisers might have been hoping for a better turnout, though, the upshot was that they were spared the ills that plague many Makuhari Messe gigs: the bottlenecks, the lack of seating space, the interminable queues for toilets and beer.

Though Time Out managed to get there early, Taylor's opening set turned out to be a lot more fun than the acts who came immediately afterwards. The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group's acid-fried power trio schtick worked well until guest vocalist Teresa 'Teri Gender Bender' Suaréz (of Le Butcherettes) steered them into soggy, trip hop territory from which they never quite recovered. Next up, the initial bemusement provoked by Gorillaz Sound System – why are they performing behind a curtain? where's Damon Albarn? what's with the Indian headdress? – gave way to boredom when it became clear that their set was going to consist of little besides stale mashups and snippets of their parent group's back catalogue. That people were crowded in to see this rather than listening to Moodymann's excavation of mid-'80s house and proto-techno over in the second room was an injustice, but never mind about that.

Thankfully, the acts that followed were far stronger. 2562's live set paired techno and two-step rhythms with smeared, liquid bass lines, replacing the frostiness of the producer's earlier work with a new – and welcome – warmth. Then it was on to Galaxy 2 Galaxy, an established Metamorphose favourite whose appeal had always struck me as perplexing: how could a group playing jazz-fusion techno, complete with ample saxophone and keytar solos, ever possibly sound good? But aside from a brief ooh-er moment when their overhead visuals compared the Tohoku disaster with Detroit's 'crack tsunami' (guys: don't even go there), this Underground Resistance crew were a hell of a party band: so cheesy on record, so convincing live.

Orbital went even better, proving that they're still one of the best festival acts in the business. The material from comeback album Wonky meshed seamlessly with older staples including 'Chime' and 'Are We Here?' (and, mercifully, no 'Doctor Who' theme), while their LED visuals provided the most impressive spectacle of the day… well, at least until The Flaming Lips came on. Wayne Coyne's man-in-a-bubble routine – this time soundtracked by the riff from Black Sabbath's 'Sweet Leaf' – remains a delirious treat, supplemented with confetti, enormous coloured balloons and a posse of audience members dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz. The only problem when you start with a bang that loud is that it leaves you with nowhere to go, and the Lips suffered from a mid-set slump before rallying for a glorious closing rendition of 'Do You Realize??'

Twelve hours after arriving, Time Out decided to call it quits there, which means that we missed the all-night DJ session with Joris Voorn, Adam Beyer and Darren Emerson vs Tim Deluxe. Judging from the thinning crowds, it seemed like a lot of other people felt the same way – which was understandable. It was great to have Metamorphose back, sure, but great enough to stay all night at Makuhari Messe? We'll have to draw the line there.

Photo gallery: Metamorphose Spring ’12
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By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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