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!

 

 

Loveland – The Best Techno Music Artists AND the Best Production

loveland 3

I mean really. Does it get any better than this? A lineup of nearly all of the best techno music artists and literally the best stage production (all the stages) that I’ve ever seen. This was my 5th year at Loveland, and they hit it outta the park again. Each year until now I’ve come back wondering if they can do it again, and they do. This year I was a little bit concerned because they rearranged things and made the main stage a long, long walk from everything, and particularly far from the other stage with techno DJs.

I need not have worried.

Loveland 1Unlike many electronic dance music festivals,  all the stages here had excellent music, decor and sound, and the festival grounds were fun and easy to navigate. The light shows were simply incredible, as you can see. I discovered Hernan Cattaneo of Argentina – WOW. I am now glad for the long walk between the two techno stages, because it led me to listen to DJs I otherwise would have ignored. Very clever of them!

Between Hernan Cattaneo and Guy Mantzur, I’m saving a place in my techno heart for progressive music. It was deep and thunking, spiritual and melodic. Delicious! Sven Vath finally, after several years of “missets”, delivered a spectacular performance, and Secret Cinema, well – I thought I was getting tired of him but then he came back and thrilled me yet again. Such talent from right here in the Netherlands.

I left Loveland feeling utterly fulfilled and ready to buy my next 5 years of tickets to Loveland today.Loveland 2

Funktion 1 Sound Systems Everywhere at Welcome to the Future

welcome to the future

Isn’t it beautiful?! Welcome to the Future is one of the very best techno festivals in the Netherlands, possibly in the world, and I was not disappointed. Some of the best techno music artists were there, including Carl Craig, Pan Pot, Secret Cinema and Len Faki (who I haven’t seen in a long time and was happy to get the chance). Unfortunately, Carl Craig and apparently some others had some rather serious technical problems during their sets, making it perhaps not the best musical experience for everyone. They placed a Funktion 1 sound system at all 7 stages. The sound was impeccable, everywhere I went – and I suppose that amazing sound system made every mistake audible to the audience as well!

wttf4 I think what I like best about WTTF is the sheer beauty of their sets and the lovely location, which is one of the prettiest party places in the Netherlands. It’s so very flat here, it’s nice to go someplace that has a few hills to wander around for a change in scenery.

They are also a very green party, with all organic food, free tap water and everything is recycled. They also have a “leave no trace” policy, which must be a feat, the way people just throw their trash on the ground.

The artistic highlight of the day for me was Pan Pot at the end. I wasn’t sure about them, because the first few times I saw them they seemed to repeat much of their set from place to place, which didn’t impress me. What I heard on Saturday was almost all new and all great, and combined with the amazing location and set, it convinced me to stay til the end rather than leave early, as I had planned. Thanks, Pan Pot!panpotwttf

 

 

Psychedelic Trance. A little break from techno.

shut up and dance 1016

I really like psychedelic trance music. A lot. However, as with all genres, there’s a range of styles and types, and the most common type of psy trance, a very frenetic, fast (and fun) , style of trance, can exhaust me pretty quickly. It’s around 150 bpm! (Compare that to techno’s 125-130). I went to the Psy-Fi festival in Leeuwarden last year, and that was amazing and wonderful. There were lots of stages, including a stage in the forest that had DJs who played a mix of psy-trance and techno – the best psychedelic trance I’ve ever heard, and a bit slower and easier to dance to. We spent 3 days camping there and had a blast. I think something like 30,000 people were there.

This time it will be just one stage (and just one night), and 1/10th the number of people. I wonder if the music will exhaust me quickly or if I’ll be able to stay the distance. At least it’s on the beach, which means I can distance myself to take breaks as needed, and enjoy the lovely views. Will report back on how it all goes.

Aftermath

shutupanddance

Woweee that was amazing! Every time I go to a psytrance event, I tell myself I should do more of them. It was on a beautiful beach at sunset and went well beyond, til 4am. I made it til almost the end! The crowd was a lovely mix of ages with lots like me around. I went with a new friend who loves the music and two total newbie first timers who both enjoyed themselves – one of them seemed totally amazed. I hope he’ll go to more events with us! The music started out nice and slow, the way I like it, and built up gradually. It never got toooo fast for me, thankfully. There were bonfires and fire dancers, poi jugglers

LED-Poi

and a really good vibe. Unlike at techno events it was just so colorful – both what people wore and how they decorated. Techno can be so serious sometimes!

My favorite DJ of the night was called Second Side, from Germany. I thought Germans did techno best, but it seems they can also put out some killer psy trance! It’s also notable that I’m taking note of a psy trance DJ’s name. Til now I knew none of them.

I also liked the size of the event at around 3000 people. The 30,000 at Psy Fi made it a much bigger project to accomplish. This was close to home and easy to navigate – perfect for a professional partier with too many amazing parties nearby and too little time to get to them all.

The world’s best techno music artists go Dutch in Barcelona

Loveland Barcelona 2016

Well that was awesome and so worth the trip. Techno music artists Sam Paganini, Gaiser, Matador, Secret Cinema and so many more gave us the performances of a lifetime in a gorgeous venue by the sea – Loveland’s first time in Barcelona, and I’d say they did a nearly perfect job.

I was a bit concerned the venue might be too big to compete during Sonar, Barcelona’s massive music fest bringing thousands to the city, but it was a relatively small space with just two stages – perfect choice I think. And the lineup was sure to bring crowds, which it did, but it never felt too crowded. And Spain got a taste of Dutch electronic dance music event organization, which is, shall we say, more impressive than typical Spanish parties? The downsides here were: no lockers, and drinks were very expensive (as they are here), which didn’t go over well with the Spaniards (who are used to paying MUCH LESS), one bit.

And did I mention Sam Paganini? Sam Paganini BCNThat man is a tour de force – I keep expecting to be bored with him (as I was with Pan Pot, for example), but nope – the creativity keeps on coming. And my new discoveries: Gaiser (yay, I can see him in Porto soon!) and Matador. They KILLED it! (Those of you who speak Spanish will know how appropriate that is for Matador in particular).

Etienne en mi BCN

Here’s my friend Etienne and I enjoying the pre-party vibe early on, before sunset. So lovely! It was so good I went back on the second day with my dear friend Edith, and the show was only live techno. This means the artists create and play music on the fly, without playing whole records or tracks from other people. It’s a bit more complicated and until recently, I didn’t like the sound too much – it was too much like a live band for me. That has all changed… and I love it all now!

 

Dutch Loveland (and we) Are Going to Spain!

I was so excited when my friend Etienne sent me the announcement that one of my favorite Dutch dance music promoters, Loveland, was going to Barcelona to put on a two weekend events in an awesome venue!

loveland live loveland drumcode

We immediately shoved everything in our schedules around to be able to go, in part because Loveland is a spectacular electronic dance music festival and it would give me the opportunity to visit my dear friend Edith, with whom I enjoyed many a great techno party when I lived in Barcelona.

Then I heard these events would be held the same weekend as the Sonar music festival in Barcesonar crowdlona.

This is not particularly good news to me – I’ve been there and the whole city is simply swarming with zillions of dance music tourists and getting around easily and getting a table and getting a place for your towel on the beach? Not likely. Sigh.

Ah well. We found a cool AirBnB place so we can cook for ourselves if needed. As insiders, we know how and where to get out of town to the best beaches where there will be room for our towels. So there!

Then we got the great news that Víctor and Alex were going too! This is going to be great.

 

Industrial techno?!

herr zimmermanI’m heading to the Herr Zimmerman festival this weekend. It features several industrial techno music artists I’ve never heard before, including Vitalic, Fraulein Z (yay, a lady DJ), Tansman and others.

I’m normally not into industrial techno, finding it too harsh and noisy, but I think I’ll give it a shot. Why? Because it’s in Delft and I’ve never partied in Delft, and it’s in an old factory, which sounds like a super cool dance music event venue.  The SoundCloud pages sounded pretty good, and a couple of cool people are going who I haven’t seen in awhile.

Oh and the cat on their event poster is just so cute. 

So at the very least I’ll enjoy all those things and if the music isn’t to my taste, I don’t have to stay all night, right?

 


Aftermath:

I have to wonder if I was simply not meant to go to this thing. I woke up feeling unsettled and nervous, but I didn’t know why. I mean, I was going to a party in a new place with new people but that’s hardly unusual for me. Why was I feeling such unease? Then I went to the station and you heard about my extraordinarily slow bus ride to Den Haag, then I caught the train to Delft. Thinking I had all the time in the world to kill, I had a lovely late lunch on a terras in Delft, then took a nice long nap.

Then I got a message from my friend Eric that “he had arrived!” Arrived where, I wondered? Delft, the NL after his latest trip? I took another look at my ticket and realized the party was already half over. AAAAACK!

Ran into the shower and into a taxi, who *promptly got us completely lost*. I kid you not. I’d have thought he was just taking me for a “long” ride, but he was following the GPS which I could see was programmed for the address on my ticket. He himself said, But I thought it was the other way….but in the end, we didn’t see the party in either place! We were texting my friend, who said it was indeed at the address on the ticket. Somehow, the *third* time we drove down the same road, we both saw it. Arrrgh!

My two new friends found me quickly and two glasses of white wine were drunk in one swell foop. Then it started to rain! There was a big indoor hall but it was packed and I didn’t like the sound of the music, so I stayed outside huddled right next to the DJ truck, as there was a sort of awning there. About 10 or 15 of us huddled there, dancing our patooties off because the music was just so awesome, in the pouring rain. Most ended up getting soaked; I managed to keep my shoes and socks dry enough somehow.

This festival felt perhaps the most welcoming of any I’ve been to, and I noticed something interesting about the dancing: industrial techno folks dance like I do. Or I dance like they do. Everywhere I looked, there were people with my same rhythm – maybe that’s why I felt it was so welcoming?? It was fun and easy to get into each other’s groove, and this does not happen to me normally. Normally they are all doing that Dutch footwork dance, some of you know the one. This was different. We were all on this same groovy wavelength.

And at that truck anyway, it just seemed to me to be great techno, not noisy, buzzy, screechy industrial sounds like I had expected. There was some of that all over the place, mind you, but it was not all like that. Lesson learned – it was a great festival and the venue, the old factory (once FOUND) was superb. Lots of places to sit and perch when tired, lots of places to get close to the DJs when inspired. The music definitely had an industrial and electro feel overall; I think maybe I’ve gotten gradually close enough to it with my usual techno that I liked it pretty well.

First Time Festival: Nassau Festival, KingsDay 2016, Amsterdam

So I went to this new festival in Amsterdam on Kingsday on my own, because I wasn’t sure about it, as it was a first time promoter of a new electronic dance music event. I was also quite reluctant to go to an event at the Olympic stadium (sounds too big and impersonal), but in fact it was not in the stadium but was set up as a bunch of different stages *around* the stadium. It was pretty good, nothing earth shattering musically despite an excellent lineup. However, Carl Craig was awesome, as usual. What was really weird was that NO ONE was there for him. All the other stages were on the other side of the circle, and no one seemed to want to venture back to the first stage to see the Detroit Legend. So even though the event was packed, something like 20 or 30 of us were treated to a private show, which was cool but odd. And it was really, really cold. It might have been warmer at the other stages, which were packed with people. It was in fact sold out. So, interesting but different…we’ll see what they come up with next year.

Nassau festival

Dockyard Festival – Rougher but Better?

Well that was unexpected. Hmmm, now I don’t know what to recommend to potential visiting folks (like you?!). I guess it depends on what kind of electronic dance music festival you are in the mood for….

I bought my tickets for the DGTL festival I told you about two weeks ago with reservations, because I knew that this weekend I’d be heading to the same space for a different party, Dockyard Festival. Would that be boring, too much the same?

They turned out to be night and day.

So forget all that fancy sustainable pristine-clean-organic-greenhouses-vegetarian-digital bracelets-turn in your cups for credits niceness. Regular cups here, regular drink coins, regular festival food. Or was it? I had an *outstanding* burger before starting to dance; it was so good I had to give them high American praise, which they gratefully received. Then I people watched for a while. This crowd was older, rougher, grayer, and the young ones were hoodier. Had kind of a biker look to the grownups, or perhaps….people who worked on the docks, coming to Dockyard? I dunno, but it was sure different.

dockyard outside

My first thought was that this crowd could be potentially much harder to manage than all those highfalutin folks at DGTL, and that was the other main difference I noticed all day. Instead of paying for all those sustainable services, for the same ticket price, we got a pair of security guys walking past us every 10 minutes, day or night. Unlike in the US, they weren’t going around with flashlights trying to catch people doing bad things; they were very unobtrusive and I think they were just looking out for anyone who needed help. We saw no incidents at all day or night, and in fact the crowd was super well behaved and dare I say, they danced more enthusiastically, had fewer cameras out in front of themselves (age thing I think), and expressed more joy and authenticity while partying??

Meetup group dockyardAnd my Meetup group was soooo nice. It was composed of the lovely people you see in the photo below and a couple more who arrived later. However it was almost the shortest Meetup in world history, because my co-organizer Alex and I met everyone there at the lockers as planned, and then we all trooped off to Terminal 1 where we planned to spend the next several hours. But by the time we arrived there, we had lost all but one of the group! We sent messages about where we were but it was crowded and hard to navigate. It took a long time to get reunited, but we did, with most of them, and a small group of 5 or 6 of us spent most of the night together. It was so wonderful; not just herding cats like it might have been, but getting to know really cool people who share our passion for techno and dancing with them for hours on end. Niiiiice.

The lineup was terrific and the DJs were mostly on their game; Harvey McKay, Sam Paganini, Secret Cinema, Monika Kruse and Dubfire all delighted. My musical star for the day though? ART DEPARTMENT. Man, the only thing I can think of to call what he was playing is “Party Techno”. He had us whooping and jamming in a way techno rarely does.

Anyway, I get it. Just as major DJs these days have to have a unique musical message, in order to play in the big leagues of party promoters you have to create a unique, interesting and safe environment, no matter what venue you are in. Dockyard and DGTL for the win. You, dear visitors, just have to decide what you’re in the mood for.