“Welcome aboard, ladies and gentlemen,” a lightly Australian-accented male voice says cheerily over the intercom. “Today’s flight will be a little over one hour. Just a few safety precautions before we head off: we ask that you move about the cabin as much as possible, be sure to loosen those belts, and remember, all our flights are fitted with smoke detectors, so do try not to get caught.”
And it gets better. After a few minutes of build-up background music, two shadowed figures approach the elevated DJ booth, designed to resemble a pair of wings. The wings light up a sky blue color and reveal the two men — already busy adjusting the control board — one dressed as a modern-day pilot in a navy blue suit and cap, the other as an old-fashioned aviator, complete with the leather jacket and goggles.
To some, the this-is-your-captain-speaking aeronautic atmosphere Flight Facilities attempts to create might be theatrical…but I love theater. And judging from the numerous fans I saw throughout the night sporting pilot caps, the audience loves it, too.
Australian house/electronic DJ duo Flight Facilities landed at the Observatory in Santa Ana last Friday night to perform hits from their only studio album, “Down to Earth.”
Composed of friends Hugo Gruzman and James Lyell, Flight Facilities formed in 2009 (then known as Hugo & Jimmy) in their hometown of Sydney and has been likened to house DJs like ODESZA.
They began gaining recognition after co-writing “Crave You,” their first original song, with Aussie vocalist Giselle Rosselli, a song that played consistently in 2010 on Australia’s alternative music radio station Triple J. After their 2010 “Maiden Voyage” tour across Australian and Japanese nightclubs and a few more singles, the duo locked themselves in a studio to produce their long-anticipated debut album.
“Down to Earth” was released last October, a 14-track album packed with electronic-pop songs ranging from suave to funky and featuring A-list vocalists like Reggie Watts and pop princess Kylie Minogue.
Flight Facilities took the stage after an impressive opening from Touch Sensitive, the solo project of producer Michael Di Francesco who has become known for mixing electro beats with his piano and guitar-playing abilities.
I half-expected Flight Facilities’s set to be performed live but with the recorded vocals in the background, so I was surprised when Owl Eyes herself, the Aussie songstress featured in their song “Heart Attack,” jumped onstage to lend her voice to all the female-dominated tracks.
Owl Eyes controlled the show as she whipped her blond mane, stomped across the stage and at one point insisted on standing in the pit with the audience. Her voice is light and wistful, yet strong, and though it’s unique, she somehow replicates the voices of those featured on other songs and makes them her own.
I’m not exaggerating when I say every song Owl Eyes performed with Flight Facilities sounded better live. “Clair De Lune” was particularly dreamy, with Flight Facilities’ sensual downtempo meshing nicely with Owl Eyes’s croon. Of course, “Crave You” was the big fan favorite, and Owl Eyes often turned to the audience to have them scream lyrics like “Why can’t you want me like the other boys do? They stare at me while I stare at you” back at her.
Where the show fell a little short was on the male vocals. Rapper Tayyib Ali graced the stage for just a few minutes, and the rest of the male-dominated songs were voiced by famed Empire of the Sun instrumentalist Surahn Sidhu. Sidhu’s vocal range is incredible, but unfortunately, it’s no match for Reggie Watts’s iconic funk falsetto featured in “Sunshine.”
Maybe it’s the pulsating tempo you can feel in your body that only an intimate venue like the Observatory can produce, and maybe it’s because it was a welcomed change from listening to “Why Do You Feel” in the background every time I studied for a midterm, but Flight Facilities just sounds better live.
Their show isn’t a setlist, but a carefully-crafted, well-sequenced journey. With the addition of wanderlust-inducing visuals playing on the back screen, like a projection of a large airplane window overlooking grassy landscapes and nighttime city skylines, Flight Facilities takes fans on one hell of a ride.