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!

 

 

Secret Cinema at Club Poema in Utrecht

secret-cinemaI wondered how it would feel after Berghain, going to a small club in Utrecht for a mere 7-hour party. Would it feel like a blip, over too fast? However I knew the DJ, Secret Cinema, was a super talent, so I didn’t think it could go far wrong.

The other concern was that I had heard that Poema was frequented by very young people, which can be great or not; it just depends on how into the music vs. the beer they are. I was literally embarrassed once for world-class DJ Dubfire, when I went to a club in Den Haag and it was full of beer swilling, girl-groping frat boys, singing their own songs, arm in arm, instead of paying attention to the music. It was awful. However I saw a video clip of Secret Cinema at Poema last year and everyone looked into it, so I felt optimistic – and I was not disappointed!

poemaThe crowd was young, very friendly and into it. One of my favorite sights in the world is a man of any age, dancing happily, totally into the music. This place was full of beautiful 20-somethings with big smiles and great dance moves. Wonderful.

As usual, Secret Cinema delivered, masterfully building up the energy minute by minute. He knows what a DJ is supposed to do! He always sees me at his events (Uber-groupie here) and we connected from time to time. The result of my 14-hour “training” in Berlin meant that the end of this night seemed to come more quickly, but I still felt satisfied and went home and straight to sleep. Next event won’t be til January 1, 2017 – going to head back to Awakenings after a long break from them. What’s your next event? Let me know in the comments; I’m always interested in hearing what else is going on and what DJs I should not miss.

Happy holidays everyone!

 

Berghain – Berlin, Germany

Berlin and Berghain were everything I could have hoped for. This entry will have few pictures, because Berghain doesn’t allow them. As I will have only my memory to guide me, a nearly pictureless entry seems fitting.

My delightful new dance partner Sasha and I got into Berlin on Friday by train (no airports – joy!) and enjoyed exploring and staying the first night at a hotel. Then we stayed with friends Alex and Ami, a gay couple married 17 years now – how time flies – with whom I had partied with some 8 or 9 years ago in Berlin – and who are regulars at Berghain. They are super fun hosts and they took excellent care of us all weekend. We did touristy things on Saturday, but you’re not here to read about that!

We dreamed about getting up at 5am Sunday to catch most of Lucy, a DJ I love, but we only managed to get to the club by 8:30AM. There we bumped into our friends Alex and Diana, on their way out! They had been out all night at Kit Kat and were done.

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The line wasn’t all that long, and we went to the guest list door and observed a number of people being turned away. There was no arguing. They door guys shook their head and the people just left, sighing. The door guys chatted between themselves casually and didn’t pay attention to letting anyone in for a few minutes. But when they did, Sasha and I went right in thanks to the guest list, stored our coats and went straight to the main room to hear Lucy and let my friend Greg aka Donor know we were there. Lucy was tremendous, just as he was the one time I saw him before in Amsterdam. Amazing music. Too bad he turned out to be not such a friendly guy when I introduced myself. Bit of a “superstar”. Oh well…his music is worth it.

I really enjoyed Greg’s set and the view from the booth, and when he played a Richie Hawtin Minus Orange track from way back when (1999-2001), I had total flashbacks of being in booths together back in our day – what a treat! It was also a good chance to relax a bit before attacking the rest of the day – my plan was to stay until 10pm after Len Faki, which would definitely require pacing. Alex and Ami and their friend James joined in time and seemed to enjoy Greg’s set a lot too.

It wasn’t crowded all day, until around 8 or 9PM. There was always room to dance. The people seemed to be about 30-40% gay men, 20-30% fetish, and the rest of us, mostly reasonably mature and dressed in black or sometimes nothing at all. Only a few super flashy girls, like one super tall slinky blonde in a shiny leather bodysuit – who ended up in the back of the DJ booth later on… always with company, such as a certain superstar DJ. 😉

I like how they gave the DJs 4-5 hours sets that they can really sink their teeth into. It also meant that the music didn’t continually go up and up (how could you for such a very long event?) so each set peaked and then the next DJ started out a bit slower again and built their story up.

Next up was Norman Nodge, a Berghain resident who spun for 5 hours (!). At first I wasn’t all that impressed because he was spinning some retro 80’s and breakbeat techno, which isn’t really my thing. But it gave me a chance to chat with Greg before he left, and the last three hours of his set were amazing and by then, the party was full on.

The club is massive, but interestingly the two dancefloors were not as huge as I expected. The hugeness is the building, and all its winding corridors and hallways and places to sit and play and dark rooms and bars and a café that has sandwiches, fruit and ice cream up top. The Panorama Bar is a lovely dance room with huge windows, and it had sunshine streaming into it and a very happy, party vibe while the Berghain room was the dark, thundering place. I’ll give you one guess where I spent 100% of my time.

The sound quality was absolutely superb, no matter where in the room you danced. That came in handy when it did get crowded later. For once in my life, I didn’t feel the need to always be in front or up high. Part of it was that everyone wasn’t quite as tall as they are in the Netherlands, but also, the perfect sound and the people-watching made it fun to be just about anywhere.

The bathrooms were unacceptable, in my opinion. Clean enough, but there were only a few toilets for women and they were always occupied by groups of people doing illicit things, forEVER. For those of us who had no other choice of where to pee, this was a real problem. I think I probably spent at least 2-3 hours of my day in the bathroom lines. Sigh.

Next up was Len Faki, who didn’t impress me too much. Norman seemed much more complex and interesting, while Len’s set was simple, straightforward and minimal. He ended well, and I had thought that was when we were going to leave. However everyone had told me how good Ben Klock is, so I thought I should give him a few minutes.

OH MY WOW! Both Sasha and I were blown away by Ben Klock. We had all these adjectives to describe the other DJs, such as eclectic, complex, progressive, minimal, etc, but the only word I could come up with for Ben was “perfect”. Not too fast, not too slow, not too hard or soft, and always, but always interesting, captivating even!… and two more hours flew by before we finally admitted defeat. Ben Klock = highly recommended.

The next day was spent in recovery mode, doing little to nothing before catching the train home. I couldn’t have asked for a better few days, or better hosts or a better dance partner to share it all with. Now I just have to wonder….what, if anything, can top that?! If the answer is “nothing” I’m totally satisfied.

Welcome to the Future Daytime Indoor Festival

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Welcome to the Future does it again, and inside and in the daytime. What an ideal formula they have! The Elementenstraat Warehouse is a fantastic venue with great sound and a nice underground vibe. After feeling somewhat disappointed with the most recent Dockyard Festival’s sound quality (due to being in tents instead of actual rooms), I was so happy to find everything here just perfect.

I went with my new partner in crime, Sasha, and was set to meet up with a bunch more techno lovers throughout the day. On arrival, we were treated to DJ Mirella Kroes, and I soon realized that this set was going to be very special. She started out completely ambient, and slowly worked us up into a total frenzy. Let me note that this is NOT EASY to do, taking a room from empty and filling it up so early in an event. She took a pic of us at the end of her set,wttf maybe you can find me somewhere in the corner there… 😉

 

 

 

Next up was Joran van Pol, who I first saw this summer at a little local rave called “The Neighbors,” which frankly was not one of the most exciting events I attended this year, that is, until Joran came on. WOW! Soooo glad I stayed for him, and so glad to see him on the lineup for this event.

joranHe’s super talented and recently I caught him on Facebook doing a live, interactive session where he worked on his tracks and took questions. I loved it! So when he arrived at WTTF I had to introduce myself, and he is a total sweetheart. I love it when they are such nice people.

Our friends gradually arrived during his set, and I could tell they were blown away as well. I expect Joran is going straight to the top, just as he deserves. Catch him if you can!

The best part of all? Everyone was dancing and no one had their phone in front of their face. Awesome vibe.

Then came our beloved Cari Lekebusch, playing with a lady DJ named Zoe. I enjoyed the set, but didn’t particularly enjoy the MCing of Zoe – I never have a need for anyone to talk to me or sing to me during a techno set. Still, I liked their music, and his infectious smile and enthusiasm are always a joy to watch.

See what I mean? 🙂

Next up was Egbert, simply not one of my favorites. I wandered around the rest of the event restlessly until the next DJ, who was also good but not great. I can’t even remember who it was – so as you can see, the event started out super strong and the music kind of petered out slowly from there. By the time the last DJ came on, Dave Clarke, I was exhausted and had to leave. He’s a bit too hard and fast for my taste anyway.

Overall, despite the moderate musical decline, I’m really pleased with how the event went, the sound quality, and the overall vibe of both the people and the venue. It’s events like this that make me feel that Awakenings just doesn’t deliver quite the unique experience some of these other organizations do. WTTF knows what they are doing!

 

 

 

Amsterdam Dance Event 2016

It is my favorite time of year again! For 5 days in October, the entire city lights up with yellow and black flags and events are everywhere (and I mean everywhere) from big to small, free to super expensive and everything in between.

ADE 1

After being exhausted last year from trying to do something each day or night, this year I was only going to go to two events: Afterlife on Thursday night and Dockyard on Saturday during the day, with a nice day off in between. I almost stuck to that plan…

First twist in the schedule came when I read about a free “secret” basement rave underneath a bookstore in the Red Light District – that sure sounded fun! And one of the DJs last year was Gregor Tresher – can’t go wrong with that. Maybe 50-100 people maximum. As it was in the afternoon of Thursday, I thought I could probably fit it in. Then when Secret Cinema posted about it as if he’d be there, I was in. I had to wait two hours in line (and I really, really hate waiting in line…) but I’m glad I did.

Here’s a good video that gives you the vibe (only on FB, unfortunately), but this was the place, below the bookstore Mary Go Wild: MGW1
It was hot and sweaty and friendly and whooping and we were inches from the DJs. Cool.

Next was a stop at a Chinese restaurant for wonton noodle soup, my new absolutely favorite in-between parties replenishment meal. There I met new friend Sasha and off we went with Rowine to Afterlife, an event I selected because it was put together by Tale of Us, my favorite DJ duo of the moment.

afterlife 1I hoped they would choose other artists who share their passion for more spiritual and melodic, yet still pounding techno. However, I had not heard of many of the artists they chose, and that was ok with me because I thought I would take it very easy that night in anticipation of Dockyard, which was sure to be the most killer party of all. I’d probably get home by 3am at the latest.

Yeah, right.

Sasha and Rowine were fabulous company! Rowine had heard of many of these artists and she happily showed me around. Tale of Us did indeed choose artists that all offered the kind of deep techno I am in the mood for these days. And, I found an absolute new favorite, DIXON. I still don’t know how to adequately describe the journey he took us on.

The video doesn’t capture any of the incredible visuals that accompanied his set. I can’t even call him a mere DJ because it was a full audio and visual experience, but some of the power of his music is captured here. Give it time. Give it the whole 7 minutes to feel the vortex as he drew us in. This is not your usual techno. As I mentioned, I was saving up my energy for Saturday so I avoided drinking too much and I know what I saw and heard were all real. Then of course I had to stay for Tale of Us….who were also outstanding, but it was still just a DJ set…and then it was 6am and the party was over. So much for getting home early!

I did take it extremely easy the next day, venturing out only for pasta (more replenishment) and just to stroll around lovely Amsterdam in the fall. I headed back to the hotel early at 8pm to get ready for bed, and what did I find there in Centraal Station but an excellent techno party happening right in the middle of it!Centraal ADE I mean really good sound, and really good music. Everyone from old to young, local and foreign, were all getting down together, which was a lovely sight. I was so happy that people got to hear some great techno, helping dispel the myth that it’s all boring repetitive nonsense. I had to dance just a little bit, ya know…fortunately for me it ended at 9pm.

Then the last event for me was Dockyard, a festival I’ve been to twice and enjoyed thoroughly each time.dockyard 1 I was excited to introduce my new friend Costyn to the festival and to the music, and to my friends as well. Unfortunately, Dockyard didn’t live up to the last two editions. I thought they generally moved too quickly into the hard stuff, and the music didn’t get good until Monika Kruse came on at 5pm. She and Art Department  were perhaps the best of show for the whole night. Dubfire was pretty innovative as well. But overall, it seemed a bit lacking in…something. Part of it was the tent environment vs. the club that Afterlife was held in, Mediahaven, which seriously has the best sound system I’ve ever heard. Even with Funktion 1, in tents it just doesn’t come across quite as well. I did have, however, a fantastic Meetup group that actually managed to come together all at once and stay together for quite a while – that rarely happens. Thanks, fun people!

And my new LED shoes, oh my! I think I would have become independently wealthy that night had I had a booth with them for sale. They were a HUGE hit! shoesI didn’t expect they’d be so unusual, but I got a zillion compliments on them, and they were comfy, too. You can buy them here: CIOR Mens Womens Boys Girls 11 Colors Led Sneakers Light Up Flashing Shoes. 

So that about sums it up! It took me a couple of days to recover, but I am now full of happy memories of another year’s ADE…and am already planning my November and New Year’s events, so stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Welcome to the Future and Toffler to duke it out for our ticket purchase

So two of the best of the best promoters in the Netherlands, Welcome to the Future and Toffler, have decided to do an indoor festival on the exact same day, November 19, one in Amsterdam and one in Rotterdam. Everyone’s already in a tizzy. Will be fascinating to see who “wins”! I don’t even know yet who will get my vote.

Oh wow – by then my country will have a new president!

 

Gare in Porto, Portugal. Check out THIS venue!

gareJust discovered that techno music artist Gaiser will be performing at Gare in Porto the week we are there in early July. I wasn’t planning to go out while on vacation, but hey – check out the look of this venue! Dark cavernous spaces and techno go so well together.

I will just have to brace myself for the late hours. In Spain, nothing opened until 12 midnight and no one actually arrived until about 1:30AM. Probably similar in Portugal. Ouch.

Cozy Club Goes Massive: Toffler Festival – Rotterdam, May 21, 2016

Toffler is a fantastic, teeny weeny club literally in the underground in Rotterdam. I go there often because it’s the closest thing to Boiler Room that we’ve got here. You can get right up front, inches away from the DJ. However Toffler is known around here as “The Tunnel,” because that’s what it’s like. You can maybe fit 10 or 15 people across, and a few hundred going back.

Toffler tunnel

The vibe at Toffler is always rich and fun. So when I heard they were going to have a big outdoor electronic dance music festival, I was intrigued. The lineup was killer, with Chris Liebing, Adam Beyer, Sam Paganini, and my current heartthrob, Tale of Us. Toffler Festival was really, really nice. Of course the perfect weather gave it an advantage many in the Netherlands don’t have.

Me and Peter at Toffler

There I am with my friend Peter from Rotterdam – smiles all around!

Something very interesting I noticed about this festival was that it was much more multicultural than the festivals in Amsterdam. I’d say half the attendees were white, and half were all the other colors of the rainbow. Very refreshing. My biggest complaint was the lack of free drinking water: who does that these days?! Other than that I thought it was spectacularly organized and laid out; somehow they brought the gezellig feeling from their tiny little club into a multi-thousand person electronic dance music event.

toffler5 toffler4

They’ll be doing an indoor daytime festival in November – You can be sure I’ll be checking that out!

DGTL Festival: Classiest Rave Ever.

DGTL1Well that was the classiest rave I have ever been to, and it had nothing to do with sushi or oyster bars. Friends, put this one on your short list for next year. Easter weekend, DGTL. Day and night tix available. We now see why the review said that “DGTL commands deep respect across Europe.”

To start with, it was the cleanest festival I’ve ever attended. Welcome to The Future tried to do something similar with encouraging people to turn in cups others had thrown away, but it always peters out early in the day and the place eventually gets just as trashed. Here, they used very high quality, thick plastic cups and you got a half credit for bringing them back to the bar, which quickly added up to more free drinks (1 credit per beer, 1.5 credits per wine)
and we didn’t see a stray cup ANYWHERE (or if we did we scooped it right up, all day long). Very effective.

Funktion 1 sound system. Take a listen. Hear it live and you’ll start criticizing sound quality like you never have before.

New Fave DJs: Tale of Us.

Fantastic industrial wharf site for techno, on the water, with a massive giant crane popping up through the middle of it. Nothing green to be seen here, if you want that check out the summer festivals.

State of the art lights and visuals, with 3-D stuff overhead, totally added to the experience.

Getting around was made extremely easy, toilets were clean and always available.

Great crowd, on the young side, but all were true technohedz, I got no creepy guys at all. NICE. Of course it helped that I was mostly hanging with my first Meetup group, which included several lovely folks from the Netherlands and a visitor from the US, all of whom knew their stuff when it came to techno, and I learned some really interesting things about the scene here. For one thing daytime parties, and multiple-day parties all year round are here and here to stay. The city understandably prefers them to night festivities and the influx of rowdy people on the streets at 5-6am. Sweet! My body is already cheering.

Oh and you can get your money back for unused drink coins if you bought them online (which I did)! That is something I never expected a festival would allow. I assume they must have upped the ticket price a bit, but they are all around €45 these days anyway. At least I feel like I’m getting a whole lot for my money, for an 11-hour daytime experience.

Overall just a very professional, authentic and well-done event that should raise the bar for all other festivals. Goodness we are some lucky and spoiled ravers around here.