Few conquer electronic music like the Dutch. From drum and bass to techno music, the Netherlands is a hub of artists producing synthesized sound. It’s a somewhat golden opportunity then when a festival that is “traditionally electro-tinged” takes place on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
On Friday 4th July, PITCH festival once again came to Amsterdam’s Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek for a two-day party, with a mixture of live artists and a variety of DJ sets. The Westergasfabriek is a post-industrial site that for the weekend provided five indoor venues and an outdoor Park (main) Stage. A renovated factory site just a short walk from the city centre is a undeniably rare place to hold a festival, giving PITCH a special and eccentric atmosphere to what you might expect after going to other festivals of muddy country parks in the middle of nowhere.
Photo Credit: Grace Wye
What was again different from the typical festival experience is the absence of on-site camping – if you’re coming from anywhere outside of Amsterdam and surrounding areas, booking accommodation is essential (fortunately for the Animaux bunch, a university student took us under his wing). From a personal perspective, calling a tent home for a couple of days with hundreds of other festival-goers is part of the festival spirit, since it becomes one of the best times to meet other people and to get involved with activities other than listening to music. Whether it’s seen as a good or bad thing, music is the sole provider of a good time at PITCH.
The Line Up and The Unexpected
PITCH festival presented some of the biggest names in intelligent electronic music today. We saw the literally blinding performance by DARKSIDE, the visually stunning works of Moderat’s set, and a show-stopping concert by Massive Attack throughout the weekend.
One of my favourite things about any festival is that as well as seeing sets of the artists we know and love and get initially excited about when we see the names on the line up, we get to see artists that we’ve never heard of before, or know very little about. From a personal perspective, what was impressive about PITCH was the dynamic range of music, especially in sets throughout the daytime. This couldn’t be truer than the performance by Tinawiren on Day 1. Having known very little about the band, the collective and slightly rebellious sound was fascinating; I (along with many others there) struggled to take my eyes off them. There are clear influences of world, folk and blues in Tinawiren, and vibrant colour takes the stage everywhere. Visual aspects included using the space of the Gashouder (an old industrial building) to create a colourful surrounding and a communal feel.
The early birds of Day 2 could hear the upbeat sound Dutch MC Typhoon, who kicked off the Park (Main) Stage, as they passed through the entrance barriers. Though it’s his thoughtful lyrics that are accepted as his musical strength, Typhoon did a solid job of pumping up the masses with a hip-hop sound unique to the festival and interacting with the audience (throwing in a little crowd-surfing for good measure). It was possibly the only way to reawaken the Park Stage from Massive Attack’s mesmerising performance the previous night.
The Park Stage also played host to a fantastic group of artists throughout Day 2: Jungle by Night, a Dutch instrumental band that varied their set from afrobeat to funk to dub carried on the upbeat atmosphere that was unlike any other stage throughout the Cultuurpark.
Buraka Som Sistema proved to have one of the best stage presences of the day, fusing techno with kooky African beats to get people moving and bring them together. Female MC and dancer Blaya was captivating, and almost single-handedly managed to fill the stage with girls from the crowd.
Who I would label the “underdog” of PITCH – the artist I held no high expectations of but dazzled me sideways – was Shigeto, who performed in the Westertent. Combining electronic sounds with a fantastic percussion set, it was truly entrancing watching him perform in a technical frenzy and clearly putting everything he had into the set.
Photo Credit: Grace Wye
Getting There and Around
Travelling and from Amsterdam is generally easy and cheap, especially by plane, ferry or coach. Our own journey began from York in utter chaos, after a speedy race to Leeds Bradford airport and dashing through customs ten minutes before the plane was due to set off. We took a bus back from Amsterdam to London and another from LDN to Leeds, and I would *strongly* advise against anyone doing the same – the second bus journey killed us all and with a little forward planning, trains can be just as cheap and half the time.
Amsterdam itself is pretty easy to navigate, especially by bike – using a map of the city should be enough to get you around, and bikes are quite cheap and save a lot of precious time. Also It’s weirdly a much safer way to get around the city and to the Cultuurpark than by walking.
Photo Credit: Grace Wye
As mentioned in Animaux’s preview for PITCH festival, a token system is used for the weekend to prevent unnecessary queues and delays at the numerous bars and food stalls. 10 tokens would set you back about €13.50, and could get you basic spirits, beers, water, and all different kinds of food.
One of my major and only issues of the weekend was that although people were not permitted to take bottled drinks into the festival (it seemed a bit unclear about the situ with taking food into the arena), a 250ml plastic cup of water cost 1 token – as did the same amount of beer. We were lucky enough to befriend the log technician Jeremy, who spent the two days making sure that the fire in a huge log burner didn’t go out (what a job), and gave us a couple of bottles to refill each day.
From a festival like PITCH, expect older locals and kooky youths. Expect a wide array of nationalities that share a mutual appreciation for electronic music, and expect to unexpectedly fall in love with less recognised artists and performances.