And then there are those rare sets…

The sets that move you to your core, that make the rest of the party vanish into the background as you realize you’re hearing something so special and it will never be repeated, because, of course, this is techno.

This happened to me at HYTE, a series of parties that happen in a bunch of cities around the world. It’s a tremendous organization, and the party itself was top notch, with the most amazing lighting (who was the genius who thought of pointing the lasers downwards from the ceiling, instead of out at the crowd like they always do?) It was a super cool effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was also well organized, with enough room to move, friendly people and staff and a crowd with phones in their pockets instead of in front of their faces.

And to make it all even better was the super awesome Meetup group that showed up that night:

They were a totally into it group from Holland, Serbia, Peru and the US, they brought an amazing vibe to the night, and somehow most of us managed to stay together for most of it too.

But…the MUSIC!

The title of “Best Techno Set I’ve Ever Heard” still goes to Carl Cox during his closing season at Space. He covered the entire world of techno somehow, masterfully and brilliantly, and I’ll never forget it. But “Most Beautiful Music I’ve Ever Heard,” has now gone twice to Chris Liebing. Two years ago at Welcome to the Future, and again this past Friday night. Techno? Beautiful? Really? Really.

His signature sound is one of the strongest, deepest and most powerful basslines of any DJ out there, and he puts it at a good clip, around 130 bpm, putting it firmly in the techno category (as opposed to progressive). But then he mixes it with such divine melodies, pads, quiet moments and a story-like journey, which is all so beautiful to hear. Strength and beauty: it’s always been my goal with my own music, and it’s always what I love to hear best. Chris Liebing is my techno hero!

I recommend Hyte, I recommend Chris, and I recommend you all join me at one of our fabulous Techno Lovers Meetups with people who really love and understand techno music.

Coming from out of town? Drop me a line at dancemusiclover67@gmail.com and I’ll set you up with an event you’ll never forget.

Finally, a housekeeping note – I see the links somehow got broken on my DJ  Recommendations page. I have fixed them. Enjoy!

 

Sneeuwbal Festival – Level UP! (And Awakenings NYD)

I heard about this festival last summer and thought – wow, a DAY festival in the winter?! How cool is that? I usually have to resign myself to all nighters until the summer months when the outdoor festivals happen. Now, in this region, I believe there are only two months out of the year without a daytime festival. Nice.

In addition to capitalizing on the market for daytime techno events, this event added more to the usual formula. I used to think I was just a picky techno snob, demanding this and that, but this time I heard more people talking about the same things – it’s time for promoters to level up, and many of them are.

For example, I didn’t post to you about my visit to Awakenings on January 1, not because it wasn’t fun, but because it was the same, standard formula event that Awakenings has delivered, quite successfully, for 20 years now. That formula includes: 

  • A solid, well known lineup of trustworthy headliner artists
  • A superb, second-to-none visual production
  • Easy in, easy out, easy to get around
  • Friendly staff and security from beginning to end

This year they did up the visual display quite a bit, to the point where I just wanted to sit and watch it for a while.

 

It was Awakenings as usual: A good time and a really great show to watch.

But for events now to really stand out, be special and to earn my ticket money, this is what I’m seeing, most of which rarely can be found at Awakenings:

  • Some superstar headliners, and some special, well chosen surprise artists
  • A unique and absorbing theme or environment
  • A well mixed crowd in terms of age and diversity
  • Superb sound: this is the one I am finally hearing others talk about.
  • And finally, the magic: A crowd that *dances* and doesn’t have their phone in front of their face for more than half the party. You won’t find that Awakenings, like, ever. The show isn’t what matters so much, the people and the music matter more.

Sneeuwbal festival offered almost all of the above, except, sadly, for sound quality. It was great in some places, not in others. I heard complaints from other visitors about it, which pleased me because they should care, and I thought I was the only one. Sound can now be truly extraordinary, and for 40 or 50 euros a pop, it should be.

The ski park, snowball theme, check. The well mixed crowd – awesome and so friendly. And I even was tempted to take my phone out now and then to grab a pic, but the vibe was so “DANCE,” I just couldn’t. So I didn’t. I danced.

And for the lineup, two gems I have to recommend to you: Albert van Abbe and Klaudia Galwas. AMAZING! Albert was some pure and proper minimal techno, a la Jonas Kopp, and Klaudia was simply creative, awesome and totally unique. You have to hear her.

I had a great time communing with dear dance friends Irene and Peter from Rotterdam, and very much missed having my favorite dance partner Sasha along, but all in all I was very pleased and had such a lovely day dancing in the wintertime. I highly recommend this festival!

 

 

Ibiza – Not Just for Techno Anymore

Just got back last night. Before I left, I remember thinking that this would probably be my last trip to Ibiza, especially seeing as I don’t particularly like doing all nighters anymore, and that’s when the techno plays in Ibiza. Instead, I’ve come home feeling like I’ll definitely go back, even with the closing of Space and the departure of our beloved Carl Cox.

Somehow, I managed to see this twice, without feeling like killing myself: Sunrise. The rest of the time, with lovely friends Kerri and Michelle, we dozed on the beach, ate near the sea, slept a lot and of course, danced ourselves silly. Twice – first at Space with the legendary Carl Cox and second at Amnesia with Marco Carola.

20160907_073626_resizedWhat I haven’t yet figured out is exactly what happened at Space. All the DJs prior to Carl Cox (David Squillace, Nina Kraviz and Eats Everything), all seasoned top global DJs, were so incredibly boring! We literally stood around from 11pm til 3am hoping. And then Carl Cox got on and spun the set of a lifetime. He’s closing Space and departing, and I felt like he pulled out all the stops to show us the entire world of techno. What a true legendary master of the genre. It was incredible. But how could all the others do so badly? That is a mystery to me.IMG-20160911-WA0000_resized

During our recovery period, we saw incredible sunsets at the hotel like this one. We were so able to relax, I figure that’s why we were able to recover so well and do it all again a couple of days later. Then it was on to Music On with Marco Carola. I have to say, Amnesia is probably the nicest club I’ve ever seen, anywhere. Just a beautiful design with amazing visuals, plenty of “up high” places for short people like me, and a superb sound system. Too bad Marco Carola never did it for me musically all night long. I was very surprised about that. I preferred Apollonia in the other room, although they were nowhere near as amazing as Carl Cox. Still, in such a beautiful club with great friends, good music was enough to make the night a total success. Our friend Michelle went there for Hyte a couple of nights before, and it sounds like it was truly spectacular – so that’s what I’ll be going there for next.

old town ibizaI also had heard that we should really go outside the club zone to see some of the real beauty of Ibiza. I found it right in Old Town. It was one of the most picturesque Spanish villages I’ve ever seen! (And I’ve seen a lot of them). So I’m now inspired to visit and see more of the island. I’ve decided that Ibiza is some sort of sacred ground, and sacred grounds are often trampled by those who have no respect, and Ibiza is no different. But it’s beauty is real, and there is real, wonderful music there as well. Count me in on the next trip.

To Ibiza for Music On with Marco Carola and Space with Carl Cox

Sun and fun and techno – what could be better?

Ibiza-Spain

We’re off tomorrow, my almost 20-year veteran party buddy Kerri and I, back to Ibiza with our new friend Michelle to experience the best the island has to offer in techno. First up will be a visit to Space for Carl Cox’s final season there. Am not too thrilled with the rest of the lineup on that night, am hoping Eats Everything or Hot Since 82 will surprise me. Have any of you had good or bad experiences with them?

I’ve pretty much given up on Nina Kraviz, although I used to enjoy her so maybe I’ll be wrong!

Vita-notturna-Ibiza-Space-Beach-Club

And then on Friday, Music On with Marco Carola, supposedly “the most transcendent night of techno on the island.” The toughest part for me will be the late hours of the parties, which start at midnight. I’ve gotten so spoiled with all the daytime party opportunities I have around the Netherlands! But I am determined, just this once, to soldier through and experience what everyone’s always talking about.

music-on-announcement

In between the parties, we have nothing on the docket but beach time, which is my kind of vacation. I’ll report back on my return!

 

Reflections on 20 years of raving

Loveland 1I didn’t even realize it was 20 years until yesterday.

I experienced the monumental joy of helping “birth” another raver last weekend at Loveland. Ruth, a first time rave attender, turned to me at one point and said, “Thank you – I’m having the time of my life!” I had the pleasure of saying to her, “You know what, 20 years from now, it will probably still be as much fun as it is now!” In fact for me it may be even better. I don’t know. The joy is still palpable, and that’s what matters.

I sort of exploded onto the Washington DC scene in 1996, fresh from a failed marriage, relatively old for the scene at age 29 and and very eager to explore electronic music. The “regulars” seemed a bit surprised by my enthusiasm, but I think they saw that I was genuinely meant to be there, and they soon welcomed me into their fold.

after perfect motionIn particular, I was welcomed by “Ravers Geriatric” a group of ravers over 25 years of age (!!) led by Jammin’ James E, a 30-something lawyer by day and raver by night.

I cried at my first event, I was so happy to have found my home.

By 1997 I had bought my own turntables and by 1998 I had my first DJ gig as DJ Zelda, which happened in a hair salon in Rockville, Maryland as I recall, with two expert DJs on each side of me, (Ty T and Jay Selway) helping me push the right buttons and get through the thing without completely making a fool of myself. I am grateful to them to this day.

dj zelda buzz
DJ Zelda at Buzz, circa 2001.

As DJ Zelda I got to play at most of the major clubs in the DJ area, even at Buzz, where I opened for my heroine at the time, Mrs. Wood, a techno DJ who was married with children, such a revolutionary concept in those days. I even started my own DJ school, Metatrack studios, which lasted until 2002.

DJ zelda 2000

At that time, the political climate in the US was intolerable for my husband, and we decided to move to Madrid, Spain, to start a new life, and a new DJ career for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, the DJ fame I thought was headed my way did not materialize. I continued as DJ Zelda until 2005, but then we started a family and things got rather complicated in terms of  playing at 3AM…I found I lost my music muse.

However, I still dabble in DJing today, and I still *adore* going out and helping bring people together who love electronic dance music. Most of the people I was involved with 20 years ago are still involved in the music as (sometimes quite famous or well-known) DJs, producers, promoters, designers and partiers like myself. It just doesn’t get boring, and you don’t just outgrow it!

My main mission these days is to keep spreading the joy of stepping outside the mainstream music scene, to fall in love with something real and different and ever-evolving. Those who can hear the music, like my new friend Ruth can, are set to enjoy so many years of joy in the electronic dance music scene.

Are you up to the challenge? Can you hear it?DJZelda1_smEtienne en mi BCN

 

 

Not the best DJ set, but an awesome party anyway

Trooped off to Bloemendaal Aan Zee on Sunday, to the Woodstock beach club. This despite not hearing the best DJ set online from the proposed artists (“Sunday Breakfast”), and despite the day starting out cloudy, cool and windy. Woodstock is a lovely venue and I figured I might as well get outside and enjoy the day and enjoy seeing my good friend Folami who just bought an apartment not too far from the venue. Lucky!

Woodstock in Bloemendaal, NetherlandsAnyway, I was pleasantly surprised on arrival – the sun came out, and the music was quite good! I later realized it was so good because it was the residents playing, and not the guest artists. To be fair, the guest DJs were good, just not great. They had at least one of the three important qualities of a great DJ: they chose great tracks that we loved to dance to. Their technical mixing skills weren’t very good (although to be fair it was very windy, and spinning vinyl outdoors in windy conditions is not easy). They also didn’t seem to create much of a journey.

The fact that we had an awesome time speaks to the other aspects of a great party: a nice venue, friendly people, friendly staff and good quality sound. All of these were present and accounted for, so we really enjoyed ourselves and danced a lot more than I thought we would. Great way to spend a Sunday evening!

 

Gare and Gaiser: Not Up to Expectations

Well, it was an experiment, right?

The venue was cool, but what you see here is almost all there is:

gare

There’s the bar there in front of you, and the dance floor on the left. It is a cool space, but I thought there’d be more to it. Not that I mind small clubs…I just had the impression of something larger. The sound quality was not what I am used to here in the Netherlands (yes, spoiled brat speaking here, and I realize the sound I desire just may not be possible in a converted wine cellar). The set by Gaiser was good, but not all that special, like what we heard at Loveland a couple weeks ago.

The crowd was young and reasonably friendly but not very diverse or particularly open to visitors. The night was also very hard on my body, but I suspected it would be going in. At 1am, they *still* weren’t letting people in because it was so empty. My dear husband kept me company til midnight, which involved more wine than I usually have, and then inside the club they clearly paid no attention whatsoever to smoking regulations so all in all, it was kind of rough. They also had no laser show because apparently they had previously been using lasers dangerously and had been caught out, so there was no particular light show going on.

I don’t mind giving up the next day to sleeping and recovery if I can gain an amazing experience during the night: great music, new friends, cool light show….

This event was not worth it in the end, but how do you know if you don’t try? In the future I won’t risk very late night events unless I have personal assurances from people who’ve been there that it is worth it, a la Music On or Space in Ibiza (coming up in September). This place had a good reputation, and maybe it is good compared to what else is on offer in Portugal. I’m open to your comments below on: How do you know before you go??