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

 

 

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

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!

 

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!

 

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.

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??

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!

 

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.

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.