Animaux | UK

Preview: Dekmantel Festival 2016

Apr
28

Dekmantel Festival is back to the Dutch capital with its fourth installment and it is a doozy – they promise over 150 artists spread out their day and night programs as well as the opening concerts. Have a quick gander at the very stylish video they cooked up:

Dekmantel are heavily expanding on their opening concert idea and offering not one (like last year) but nine (!!) concerts spread out across Amsterdam’s beautiful city-centre locations. All venues are linked with free ferry services and promise an additional free cultural program. These range from James Holden’s dreamy techno ventures with a live band to Alessandro Cortini’s (Nine Inch Nails) live electronica experimentations. You can check the full opening concert line-up over at Dekmantel’s website.

August fifth marks the first official day of the festival in the stunning natural surroundings of the Amsterdamse Bos park and it is hard to describe the amount of musical talent spread out throughout the weekend. Just the first day sees the likes of Jeff Mills, Ben UFO, Surgeon and Moodymann among many other very talented folk. And this theme continues throughout the weekend – I can hardly imagine what it will be like deciding if I should see Dixon or Aux 88, Roman Flügel or Daniel Avery on Saturday and picking between Palms Trax or Motor City Drum Ensemble on a Sunday afternoon just seems cruel. To top it all off at Amsterdamse Bos, the organisers promise: “We aim high with everything we do, but the festival terrain is an exception. We want to give our visitors an open view on the landscape, and thus the decorum will incorporate no skyscraping elements of any kind.” You can check the full day-by-day line-up here.

The night programme returns to the Melkweg – which is one of Holland’s most well-known and iconic music venues. The large building is a former milking factory, and has been in full effect since the abandoned factory got discovered in 1970. It’s a perfect spot for an adventurous club night, offering you a chance to wander and get lost somewhere between the four separate areas, including the majestic Rabozaal, and the coiling hallways that lead you there. Some of the names throughout the weekend include The OrbTama SumoOptimo and Jackmaster (full night line-up here) and yet again, Dekmantel showcase their prowess in offering a huge collection of talent with focus on great music as opposed to specific genres or styles.

It is clear that Dekmantel are continuing their strive towards building the greatest city festival in Europe. It oozes quality – from locations to the talent, everything has been meticulously planned in order to create an atmosphere like none other and if you are one of the lucky ones that managed to grab a ticket, I salute you as we are in for a ride.

http://www.dekmantelfestival.com/

Dekmantel Reveal Colossal Lineup For 2016

Feb
23

If you weren’t already dribbling with excitement over the prospect of another year of Amsterdam’s Dekmantel festival, then, well.. what’s wrong with you? Even a quick glance at the lineup announcement should be enough to make you look like you need treatment for rabies. It’s an absolute monster.

Set in the idyllic ­ and enormous ­ Amsterdamse Bos forest, about 20 minutes outside the city centre, Dekmantel is thought of as one of the best techno and house festivals on the European calendar and its a reputation which has been snowballing year on year. Ever since more humble beginnings as a series of events and parties (not all legal) in and around Amsterdam, curators Thomas Martojo, Casper Tielrooij ­ and more recently Matthijs Theben Terville ­have faithfully nurtured their concept with an unwavering and inherently simple philosophy “we’re not a festival that changes the lineup year on year” “We’d rather focus on quality.”

Just by taking a quick glance at the latest lineup release you can see what they mean, a good number of this year’s artists and selectors are tried and tested Dekmantel veterans. Theo Parrish, Robert Hood, and Moodymann return, harking back to 2007/8, when Thomas and Casper brought Detroit’s uniquely industrial stylings to Amsterdam’s ­ at the time­ minimal house focused scene. Ben UFO, San Proper and Juju & Jordash also represent a significant part of Dekmantel history, the latter pair being the first to put out EPs on Dekmantel’s own label. The more recent release of EPs from New Jersey master Joey Anderson, and accomplished Ukrainian producer Vakula, not to mention an ongoing partnership with Robert Hood really bolt down a flourishing feeling of trust surrounding the label. Both working on the basis that they “need to release it, because it needs to be heard” the pair further established the Dekmatnel name as a bustling hive of raw talent.

With a long line of successful events and a contact list that would be any promoter’s wet dream it’s no wonder the Dekmantel name has become synonymous with excellence, and looking at the list of djs gracing the selector stage this year you can see why: Ricardo Villalobos, Dixon, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Jackmaster, Nina Kraviz, The Black Madonna, Tale of Us, Fatima Yamaha, Rødhad and Ben Klock all make up just a glimpse of what an utter dream of lineup the trio of music devotees have put together, putting pay to the strong Dekmantel ethos ­celebrating artists that simply need to be heard.

Also on the bill are a number of scintillating partnerships which are not to be missed. 808 state’s Graham Massey and ‘Voodoo Ray’ creator A Guy Called Gerald reunite to showcase a live all-­analogue acid house set. Ben UFO and Joy Orbison also team up again, spinning anything that falls between house and techno, as well as local boys Antal and Hunee putting together what is sure to be a lively and soulful collaboration.

For those who just don’t know when to go to bed, the festivities will continue well after the sun goes down at the long-established Melkweg (Milky Way) club, which will play host to the likes of, Jackmaster, Legowelt (live) and a dizzying swathe of exciting up and coming talent. The festival will kick off on the 4th of August with a series of opening events dotted around the city, all connected by a free ferry, neat huh?

The full line up can be found here, tickets here. Dekmantel will run from the 4th – 7th of August.

Dekmantel: Highlights – An Eye Witness Account

Aug
10

Day one at the much-anticipated Amsterdamse Bos site, is like entering a dystopian playground. This is going to be my haven for the next three days and I can’t wait to start exploring it. Some of my absolute favourite sets take place during that Friday. On my first visit to the famous Boiler Room stage I am greeted by an uplifting and feel-good set by Tripeo, who gave us an hour-long House set highly influenced by Disco beats. The bright sun instantly transports my thoughts to a chilled summer in  Majorca as I dance along to the sound of summer.

After the attending the start of Robert Hood‘s ruthless set in the UFO stage, my impatience grows as I am aware the time for Ben Klock to grace the Main Stage is fast approaching. Arriving before his set, I am happy to find that his predecessor Model 500 is closing his set with a hard punch. After a long anticipatory silence Ben Klock takes the stage. The sun behind us is setting to the perfect soundtrack and we are all on the same train to sundown as he transitions into darkness, seamlessly easing into a steady beat. The next set by Marcel Dettmann is perfectly complementary. His sound descends all God-like and you know that the darkness has finally taken over. The bright sun has set with Ben Klock and the dark moon is rising with Marcel Dettmann.

I leave the main stage half-heartedly to catch another set I am dying to see in the UFO stage. I arrive whilst Blawan is ending his set with a surrounding embryonic sound as a clash of machineguns blasts through the speakers. Squarepusher has signalled his presence. His signature mask, often slightly different with each appearance, is easy to make out in front of the geometric colourful visuals which appear behind him and his white fencing suit. The white iron mask completely hides his face. Feelings are intense, like stepping into a Matrix world of which he is the leader. The deck might as well be controlling us and not the beat. It’s something amazing to witness; his control of both the unpredictability of the beat and the crowd. He stops after every track to impose seconds of torturous silence before hyping the next one and backtracks the tempo just to test us before the track climactically ends.  If I had to use just one word to describe his set it would have to be ‘orgasm’. Pure orgasm. Mixing in Andy Stott’s ‘Damage’ was just the cherry on the top. Definitely my personal highlight.

As the second day kicked off, I move straight up to the tower between the Main Stage and the entrance. Aphrohead’s ‘Let’s Prance’ echoes from Mano Le Tough‘s set, who played before John Talbot took the Main Stage. I move to The Lab stage in time for Palms Trax. The vibe during his set reminds me of an exotic house party; chilled, light groovy house music with a nice selection of vocal samples and melodic synths. I notice the groovy track by Jack J, ’Thirsting’ come on and instantly everyone is whistling and swaying to the beat.

The glorious weather persuades me to leave The Lab and return to the tower. The vantage point towards the Main Stage and the crowds gives me no reason whatsoever to want to move. The long silence between John Talabot and Four Tet was agonising but the soaking sun and friendly vibe on the tower made up for it. When his set kicks off I know I’ve made the right choice. His musical choices such as ‘OAR003-B’ by Oni Ayhun are another perfect soundtrack to the perfect sunset. My only regret on that day is not witnessing what must have been an impressive 5 hour long set up to the end of the day by Antal RH, Hunee and Floating Points at the Selectors stage.

On the last day I decide to see a majority of female artists. Helena Hauff in The Lab is going to be my first lady. I see her standing behind the deck, nonchalantly smoking one cigarette after the next whilst she spins the crowd into motion. To my surprise the German techno artist shies away from her usual acid techno touch and brings in some hard-core bass lines into what can only turn into an extremely ruthless set.  Instead, she surprises us with some ‘on your feet Disco’ beats and RnB samples which put the pop and lock into her classic techno. It turns out to be a highly experimental and varied set impossible not to dance to.  One look at the stacked speakers in the lab and you can see them helplessly emerged into a continuous tremble. Each beat feels like a punch and the more she punches the more we yearn for. She is certainly giving us all she has.

The other lady I am dying to see is Nina Kraviz. Upon my entrance to the UFO stage the black widow of techno descends like a dark cloud. The vibe on the dance floor is animalistic and she is ruthless from start to finish, playing some of her favourite tracks such as the relentless ‘All Aboard The U.S.S. Severe EP’ by Barcode Population from 1996.To finish, she brings in some groove to calm us down with Cafe del mar song ‘Energy 52 (remix by DJ Kid Paul)’. And although the energy and undeniable talent bursts out of the stage, part of me leaves the stage with a desire to see her bring something new to her next sets.

I return swiftly to catch a bit of Clark‘s visually stunning dark set before setting off for the main stage to catch UK hit artist Carl Craig. His set brings the UK scene to Amsterdamse Bos with its groovy and vocally rich tracks. It is now only one set before the end of the last day and the crowds are going wild. A drone-like voice echoes around the main stage ‘You have been the best audience that we ever had’ and the words are being projected on the massive screens ahead. Germans Siriusmodeselektor (Modeselektor + Siriusmo) appear on stage. Hip Hop, RnB vibes and vocal samples blast from the speakers after a majestic intro. Their monkey logo appears playfully on the screen as the presenter stands on the control panel with a microphone reaching out to the audience. the hype is rising as he waves his hand in the air as if saying ‘Dance monkeys dance!’. He does the same throughout random moments of the set; a powerful figure on top of our world reminding us to dance as if it is our last chance …because for some it is. Some of their hit tracks featured in the set include ‘I’m not into twerk I’m into Kraftwerk’ and ‘Evil Twin’, which comes in towards the end to leave the Main Stage in a cloud of smoke and dust for the last time.

Special kudos have to go to  the techies for putting together a jaw dropping personalised Siriusmodeselektor visual show. I would also like at this point to congratulate all visual artists and lighting technicians as the level and quality of atmosphere was truly amazing to witness and added a serious bonus to the whole experience. Each stage both at Amsterdamse Bos and the Melkweg had its own personal atmosphere and the variety between stages was fascinating. Special mention has to go to Heleen Blanken, visual artist of my visually favourite UFO stage and to the lighting team of The Max in the Melkweg, who managed to add a colourful touch without compromising the underground and eerie set up of this main stage.

On the third and final night I am visiting the Melkweg, the after-party which runs till the early hours of the morning. I am pleased to find that it’s refreshingly different to the day site; a predominantly underground vibe with four stages and an indoor smoking area, each stage with its own unique character – its perfect for an after-party. There is one person I am lucky to be watching playing a live set tonight; Andy Stott. Well before the clock strikes 2am I abandon my roaming of the spanning three floored club and enter the Oude Zaal stage. I arrive just as the last set ends in a funky disco tune which I find odd as a prelude to Andy Stott. However, the short silence and the slow emergence of an intro as he takes his place beneath the smoke and swirling lights has me catching my breath. A hypnotic, angelic voice sounds from the speakers reminiscent of a combination of his two tracks ‘Leave’ and ‘Time Away’ I can’t shake the feeling that there is incredible pain in his intro and the same feeling remains throughout the entirety of his set. It is influenced by various genres such as Industrial, Noise and Dark Techno but he surprises us with some Gabber, which through his dark dexterity feels like repetitively and mercilessly being shot by a shotgun.  All in all, what I’m feeling is a disturbingly beautiful pain and strangely I do not want to let go of it. His final beat comes as a sigh of relief and a cry for more.

Dekmantel is certainly an event no one should miss. The selection, variety and dexterity of the artists is like no other; the team is devoted like no other; the site is breathtakingly beautiful like no other and the experience, well, it is like no other

Photographs courtesy of Dekmantel. 

Dekmantel: The Land of Endless Industry

Aug
08

There is a lake outside Amsterdam, close to Amstelveen.  The silver surface mirrors the sky lapping at pristine shores – overlooked by the piercing pupil – the spire Church of St. Urban.  The location is idyllic, but when we were there the sounds of dystopia were distorting the serenity and twisting the shores into a paranoid mist, there we found the presence of Barad-Dur and industry of Mordor.

J.R.R Tolkien imagery feels only appropriate when, opposite the mainstage, there is a palm tree-clad tower shrouded in eternal smoke with rotating/watching spotlights.  Wherever you are in the festival ground you can see this structure, reminding you that beyond the stage you are standing at there are another four. All of these broadcasting grinding hi-hats and kicks abused by the frenzy of production. Dekmantel is a unique place where the music is inescapable, there is no area to take a few moments solace.  The relentless 4×4 kicks are a constant; which might explain the unbelievable energy the crowd demonstrated.  From the moment we arrived, until we were on the bus away from the outdoor factory of Dekmantel, every single soul was dancing.

Electronic genres are often criticised for their repetitiveness, to which I usually answer something along the lines of “that’s the point” or “how else are you going to dance?”.  Instead, here, the level of skill and showmanship of these world-class DJs kept the crowds captivated.  The usual shouts of approval were replaced, at Dekmantel and only here, with gasps of exasperation or of surprise.  I assume because the listeners could not believe the abuse the sound system was handling and how anyone could dish it out.  Robert Hood for example pleased the crowd with his infamous “Never Grow Old” only to disrupt it with “Chained to a dead camel” shutting down the proposed elation with an industrial mind-fuck.  Around forty minutes later “Never Grow Old” made it’s reappearance mixed into a Motown classic; Robert Hood remains a cheeky youth.

Marcel Dettmann, on the other hand, is slow and precise.  He begun with a stage exhausted by Ben Klock and a day stood in the sun; he started slowly to people moving around wondering where to go next. By the end of the set I was encased on all sides by people unable and unwilling to escape, like a tractor beam from a space age factory he locked us all in place.  This was only the beginning of the weekend, after which I was concerned nothing would live up to it.  While nothing surpassed it every act we were at met this high standard.

Of the five stages the UFO and the Main stage stand out in memory for being the biggest, but also having a constant stream of must-see head-liners – in fact it was quite difficult to leave this area of the festival.  The other stages; Selectors, the Lab, and the Boiler Room offered the underground specials, the Panorama bar residents and the quirky bookings (I’m thinking of Madlib and Roy Ayers).

Each of these stages boasted perfect sound and a variety of mind-blowing visuals – there was one moment in the UFO stage when I was almost certain my eyes had begun to see space differently.  A series of lasers cut through the ceaseless smoke jets that spiralled above the throngs of people; then from behind these plates of blue and green light an assortment of multi-coloured strobes polluted the visual field, until the over-stimulation gave way to nothing but white.  It would be at this point when the clarity of a new 4×4 would shatter the confusion, leading you back to the comfort of production, the reassurance of techno.  You have no worries at Dekmantel, no concerns of the outside world because the heavy-booted kicks put your mind at ease. Somewhere someone is getting things done, and for once it doesn’t have to be you.

After this weekend my music hunger has been sated, I’m comfortable to sit in silence and relive those blissful moments.  I can’t find much wrong with Dekmantel, my only warnings to festival-goers is to wear comfortable shoes and bring lots of sun-cream.  You will have a great day and wish it wasn’t over – especially when you’re faced with gruelling queuing for the 45 minute bus ride to the Melkweg after-party.

Photographs courtesy of Dekmantel

Preview: Dekmantel Festival 2015

Jul
09

This will be the third, ongoing year of the young festival of electronic music, hosted in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. From the opening concert on the 30th of July to the last beat of the closing act in the early hours of August 2nd, Dekmantel will vibrate all the way throughout the capital with its new improved and expanded layout; and I sure as hell can’t wait to be shaken by it.

For the past two years Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) has been the main and only location of the festival. The 1,000 hectares of the entirely artificial landscape park –that is three times the size of Central Park if you need a comparison are located just outside of the city on the borders of Amstelveen. Although artificially created, don’t expect to see fake trees and little ponds. The site is a host of immense natural beauty and amongst other things you can expect to see lush forests, grassy meadows and large water areas including lakes and rivers. It is also a host of a variety of animals but I doubt you’ll get to see any before they are chased away by the boisterous vibes. De Heuvel (The Hill), is one thing you shouldn’t miss; an artificial mountain turned massive slippery slope in winter for kids to enjoy winter sports on. But who says you can’t use it for your regular adrenaline rush tumble? And if you want to fully embrace nature in all its glory there’s even a ‘Naturalist area’ where you can ‘kick your clothes off’ and relax. This year, the space will host five stages (MAIN, UFO, THE LAB, SELECTORS, BOILER ROOM) and not only will you have the chance to experience all of the above, but also another two additional venues!

Treating the opening concert (30th July) as a proper concert, the team have decided to host it in the concert hall for contemporary classical music, Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ (Music Building on the IJ). The building features two massive venues -one for music, one for theatre- and is located above the IJ tunnel by the waterfront, just a 10 minute walk from Centraal Station.

The second, newly adopted venue for the night programme is one of significant importance to the Danish electronic music scene. Former dairy factory, the Melkweg (Milky Way) has been the city’s most well-known electronic music venue ever since its renovation and re-opening in 1970. Located in the nightlife hotspot of Leidseplein, the venue features a number of multi-purpose rooms including two on the ground floor with ridiculous capacities (Max: 1,500 and Oude Zaal: 700) which will most likely be used for the purposes of the festival.

The Dekmantel team lives by the ethos they started with: quality over quantity. The music scene is grand and there really is something for every taste.

I for one can’t wait for some of the big names that will hit the stages of Amsterdamse Bog. The king of the infamous Berghain in Berlin, as well as producer and label owner, Ben Klock, will be gracing us with his presence, followed by the equally influential techno master Marcel Dettmann. Both will play on the Friday evening as a perfect reminder of what is to follow in the next couple of days. Two of the biggest American names in techno, Carl Craig, Detroit master and experimentalist and Jeff Mills with his relentlessly hard and industrial sounds are certainly going to grant some life-changing dance floor experiences I do not want to miss. One of my personal favourites, Nina Kraviz, will be one of the last to share her unique blend of acid house and techno with the festival crowds on Sunday at the UFO stage, clashing with the deep beats of Dixon from the Main stage –it’s going to be a hard choice. Incorporating more styles into his techno beats than anyone, from hip-hop to jazz, grime and live instrumentation, our very own U.K. artist Four Tet will also be gracing the Main stage and is certainly someone I never tire of seeing. Certainly, there are more names that strike a chord and a lot more genres for you to look out for. Squarepusher will be bringing us some drum & bass, musique concrete and acidic beats with jazz influences, Ricardo Villalobos his mad dance beats, Madlib his hip-hop influenced sounds and Siriusmodeselektor will give us the opportunity to feel his mad bass live. And if you need a break from all the electronic music just for a little while, Roy Ayers will be there to chill you out with his funk, soul and jazz.

Last but not least, I have to mention the treats the team has lined up for our evening entertainment in the Melkweg. Again, I just have to praise one of the headlines as I am monstrously excited to see this guy. After his recent release ‘Faith in Strangers’, Manchester dub and techno producer Andy Stott will be playing a live set. Another highlight will certainly have to be watching the U.K. father of disco/garage/house, DJ Harvey, mix another one of his incredibly varied sets. Moreover, two artists will be returning to the Dekmantel stage after their successful sets last year: the granddad of U.K. techno Surgeon and U.S. experimental house boss Traxx. Once again, there will be something for every taste. Answer Code Request will be bringing the industrial punch and fierce determination, Basic Soul Unit the deep house, Boris Werner the house and others a lot more.

My expectations are big, but my excitement is bigger. I know I’m not missing this for the world… why should you?

Pitch Festival Review (Side B)

Jul
25

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. 

The Venue

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

General Info

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.

Pitch Festival Review (Side A)

Jul
24

After barely making the plane and after a few train rides we finally reached the gates of Pitch Festival. It was quite a surreal experience since there was literally no advertising anywhere to be seen in town and after a good walk, once you enter one of many parks in Amsterdam, you are suddenly greeted by booming bass and a sea of people.

Photo Credit: PITCH Festival

Pitch returned with its five stages – Westertent, home of bass, Gashouder, the second biggest stage in a massive hall reserved for the darkest performances, Transformator Huis, Westerunie, the most club like experience, Westerfielde, the smallest stage with more leftfield-y performances and the newest addition to the festival – the massive Park Stage, fitting thousands of people, reserved for the most crowd-drawing artists.

The two days seemed to be spread out to appeal to two different crowds – Friday consisting of mainly experimental and darker performances such as Moderat and Massive Attack and Saturday with Joy O and Richie Hawtin, seemed to be catered towards the raver population. Obviously there were exceptions, for example Phon.o’s hour caught me completely off guard. He played quite early – around 10, thus I walked in expecting a more slow, steady, experimental set. I was treated to a four to the floor, chest pounding hour of techno, crammed a long with a few hundred people that seemed to be hit by the same unrelenting 50 Weapons label train.

Photo Credit: Grace Wye

My favourite of Friday night, if not the festival, were Moderat. Every little detail seemed well thought out, from the four screens aligned in an X form to give a deeper, more enticing visual experience, to letting the sub-woofers introduce them after a long interlude. The performance was everything I was hoping for and more – Gernot Bronsert shouting at the crowd “Show me you want “Bad Kingdom”!” and everyone losing their minds will forever stay with me.

I was able to catch tiny bits of Mount Kimbie, who as always managed to dazzle the crowd with melancholy only interrupted by reverberated guitars, all done live, Lunice, who seemed to jump around more than the crowd (they tried, bless them) while ramming them with barely more than 808s and SBTRKT’s finishing touches on Wildfire which seemed even the bouncers sang along to. Majority of people seemed to be heading towards the Park stage, however, where Massive Attack were getting ready. Musically, all I can say is that, while not being a huge fan, I was impressed and whole-heartedly enjoyed their hour. So seemed to the thousands dancing, jumping, crying (!) and singing along. It seemed as if Pitch did their research and one of their main bookings hit the right buttons for everyone. The night ended for me with George Fitzgerald shaking “Gashouder” with a never-ending rhythm of house which let the happy festival goers use up the last remnants of their energy.

Photo Credit: PITCH Festival

I decided to sleep in on Saturday and head to the festival a bit later than everyone else – having seen Theo Parrish and Buraka Som Sistema recently I thought I’d save my ever so dwindling energy for the evening acts as I saw I was going to be moving quite a bit. I arrived just as Caribou was starting, with a full band mind you, which served as beautiful introduction and let me get back into the swing of things. I do feel though, that an 8pm start for Caribou was a weird time-tabling selection. Gaslamp Killer followed and yet again I was blown away by the energy his music and himself behind the decks exceed. The crowd were being treated to fresh and unreleased music straight from LA in his first European performance this year and they were not disappointed.

Photo Credit: PITCH Festival

As it so happens, that Saturday the Netherlands were playing Costa Rica in the World Cup. This was streamed on massive screens at the Park stage where.. Richie Hawtin was playing. I don’t know if it was the football, lack of intoxication, a massive crowd which did not really respond to much or a combination of all of those, but I was not overly impressed and started making my way to the Gashouder, to see one of the other highlights of my festival – Joy Orbison. An unrelenting two hour train of techno hit the massive building like no one else had managed so far. Playing with the crowd by teasing samples of well known tunes (Swerve comes to mind), he did not step out of the dark 130bpm range. Thoroughly engaging, not tiring and awe inspiring experience.

Photo Credit: PITCH Festival

Thus ended my two days at Pitch this year. Coming back to the festival was a bit daunting since I thought I might have sugar-coated a few things in my memory over the two years, however I was pleasantly surprised. The quality increased pretty much all across the board (along with the prices for food and booze, mind you) and the newest Park stage seemed to be a fantastic success. It seems to me that visiting Amsterdam in July might become a yearly tradition.

Preview: Pitch Festival, Amsterdam

Mar
20

Amsterdam has been a budget student holiday destination for years. Be it for the art, the nightlife or something that you wouldn’t tell your parents about – legal prostitution, because “I just wanted to see what it’s about”, or the recreational drugs.

I travelled to Amsterdam in July, 2012 to visit the famous coffee shops, to ogle at the red-lit windows and, most importantly, visit Pitch festival. I stumbled upon it browsing Resident Advisor looking for something to do, since we were going for a long weekend and however nice my hotel room, sitting stoned there for four nights didn’t seem to be that exciting. As it’s July, very few nightclubs are actually open as the majority of punters (and club owners) have changed their skanky trainers for flip-flops. What I found seemed a bit hard to believe – a line-up filled to the brim with massive names that you rarely get to see in Europe, let alone UK (such as The Gaslamp Killer and Die Antwoord) playing in the massive Westergasfabriek – a former gasworks.

After a few days of getting to know the city centre and the mandatory tasting of smoke with my lungs, the day was upon us – let us find this random factory at the edge of the city and see how Amsterdam deals with a ‘day-time’ festival. I’ve been to one day-time festival before – Field Day and was left a bit underwhelmed. I loved the music and the people there, but as I was starting to get into the mentality of things it abruptly ended at midnight. I missed the party just going on until silly hours into the next day and seeing the mix of people – the ones that were still going and the ones that just got up to begin the next marathon.295352_3502929807110_28033314_n

A few bus journeys later (we got lost) we arrived at the gate and got greeted by the usual – a line of massive bouncers shaking everyone that looked at them wrong. We got lost in the massive crowd varying from the usual “I’M IN A ONESIE LOOK AT ME” people to guys still in suits, who got off work early. The first day (Friday) line up consisted of heavy hitters like Modeselektor, Machinedrum, Kramphaft and Kode9 as well as performances from James Blake, Azari & III and Mount Kimbie among others. This was the second time I saw Modeselektor (the first being just a month before at Field Day) and it just further cemented my astonishment of their ability of crowd-control and raw power they exceed. The other headliners performed as well as anyone could have hoped and everything went as expected and witnessed before.

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The second day (Saturday) really took all of the stops off with Die Antwoord, Mr Oizo, Mr Scruff, Nosaj Thing, Beardyman, Shlohmo and many many others taking control of one of the five stages both inside and out of the factory. It was very difficult (in a good way) to try timetabling all of the acts we wanted to see in the short period of time the day was on (2pm-3am) and to this day Mr Oizo’s sample “Vous êtes tous des Animaux!” blasting at a crowd of thousands jumping crammed in a tiny tent lives on with me.

 

Music aside festival’s operations were smooth. They use a token system to avoid queue’s, there are plenty of bars and food stalls, toilets are cleaned regularly and various little crowd-control means (one way routes, limiting access to arenas so there’s no shoving etc.) – basically you can see these guys have been doing this for a while.

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Roll on 2014 – two years since the Amsterdam experience and I am trying to scavenge pennies to head to the factory again. Armed with a massive outside stage addition and an incredible line up folks behind Pitch are swinging strong this year. With the likes of Massive Attack, Moderat, Richie Hawtin, Caribou, Darkside, SBTRKT and many many others it looks like a proper party. The tickets are just 85€ which is a steal compared to what you are getting and where you get to travel.

More info on Pitch : http://pitchfestival.nl/