An Interview with Freekuency Festival

Freekuency Festival is a not-for-profit festival that takes place during spring in Portugal and works on a on a pay-as-you-like entry system. Born out of the free party movement, Freekuency has developed over the years into a spectacular 3-day event with a friendly-family atmosphere. I took the opportunity to catch up with one of the festival’s organisers to delve a little deeper.

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I like the idea of a pay-as-you-like entry system, but it is a big risk! Has the risk paid off thus far?

To have a donation on the gate was a financial risk and in the first few years we struggled to get the budget for the following festival. But as the ideology of the festival is not financially driven; we decided from day one to use a “pay what you want if you can” scheme. In recent years, festivalgoers have began to understand the ideology and thanks to their generosity, the budget for the festival always gets reached, with room for growth.

Describe the music and the crowd

The music is very diverse, with six areas crossing the spectrum of underground music. This creates a platform for many unknown arstists to perform on a high-quality sound system. The atmosphere at Freekuency Festival is truly amazing, as there is a unified understanding to what we are trying to create, with each and every person being a part of it.

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How do you go about selecting artists?

All the areas manage their own music and demos get sent well before the festival.
Artists can reach us over the Freekuency webpage. We don’t look for superstars as for us, it’s more about quality and the vibe.

I read that the artists, performers, crew and helpers work and play for no money whatsoever – what do you think motivates these people to participate in the festival?

Yes, what you have read is right. It’s hard to believe, but no one is getting paid! The organisers, DJs, artists, cooks, litter pickers and toilet cleaners are all in this together for the pure love of the festival. Making this work and setting a good example adds to the great atmosphere of the festival, where everybody plays an equal part.

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What has been your biggest challenge to date?

Keeping up with the infrastructure and the needs of people as the festival continues to grow each year.

How can people get involved in volunteering at Freekuency?

People can always get in touch upfront over the Freekuency webpage, come a day before the festival or lend a helping hand while it is happening. Workers always get drinks and warm meals from our kitchen.

What would you say are the main reasons for visiting?

People can experience soundsystem culture at its finest with a great atmosphere in a beautiful country.

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Is there anything else you would you like to tell people about Freekuency?

We can never thank all these people who make this festival happen enough – their time and devotion are what make it possible for us to grow and continue. Also, we’d like to thank the local people for their patience and tolerance, and the council for their help.

Find out more about this year’s Freekuency Festival via their official website.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day

A Look at Transformational Festivals in Europe

After scouring the internet, I noticed that almost every article on transformational festivals and every festival calendar predominantly focuses on those taking place in North and Central America. The phenomenon has its origins in the US, so it’s no surprise the movement there is growing so rapidly, and these days there are new events in nearly every state making it rather hard to keep up.

For this reason, I decided to compile a list of transformational festivals in Europe, as there are new ones popping up in beautiful forests, beaches, and national parks across the continent, yet many people are unaware they even exist. Below is my pick of the year – if you have other suggestions, feel free to let me know.

April

Transition

Where? Doñana, Spain
When? 25.04 – 30.04
Why? One of the best-kept secrets of the European festival scene, Transition is an open air tribal gathering that takes place in Doñana National Park. It provides a space to explore the ancient ritual of Trance Dance for five days, with the idea being to ‘transition’ in to a new dimension and raise your state of mind and being. With its focus on community, it’s an especially good one to visit for solo festivalgoers, who are welcomed with open arms at the Unicorn Camp. Kids and OAPs can enter for free.

May

Earth Garden

Where? Attard, Malta
When? 31.05 – 3.06
Why? Earth Garden is Europe’s best-kept music festival secret, meaning you’ve probably never heard of it, though it’s been going for ten years. 2018 marks its official international launch and, seeing as Malta has been named one of Europe’s capitals of culture for 2018, this seems like a good time to visit. Pets and kids welcome.

June

Meadows in the Mountains

Where? Polkovnik Serafimovo, Bulgaria
When? 7.06 – 10.06
Why? Meadows in the Mountains prides itself on on its beautiful natural surroundings and the native community that inhabits the area. Local residents host attendees in the Rhodopian Mountains, undoubtedly one of the most spectacular festival locations in the world, and the organisers strive to use the festival to promote green and sustainable methods; everything from the stages to the shacks are sustainably sourced from the bordering forests. MITM is not about big names, and the artists that play tend to be unsigned, underground musicians from Europe.

Burning Mountain

Where: Zernez, Switzerland
When: 27.6 – 1.07
Why: In a conservative country like Switzerland, transformational festivals really are a breath of fresh air. Burning Mountain provides an open canvas where you can leave your marks and connect with others away in a setting that is renowned for being one of the most beautiful locales in the country. Here, it is all about participating, rather then consuming, an interaction best achieved through commitment and sharing. And dancing of course…

Fusion

Where? Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
When? 26.06 – 1.07
Why? Often dubbed the Burning Man of Germany, Fusion is certainly one of the most unique festivals in the world,  as there simply don’t appear to be any real rules. This year will be particularly special because the organisers of Fusion decided to take a break in 2017, meaning expectations for the 2018 edition are high. Like many of the festivals on this list, there is no advertising and to be in with a chance of buying a ticket, you have to register in advance and just hope that you’re one of the lucky ones selected.

July

Nowhere

Where? Between Zaragoza and Lleida, Spain
When? 3.07 – 8.07
Why? The aptly named Nowhere, a week-long event in the Spanish desert, is about as close to the Nevada experience as you’ll get in Europe. This rule-free experiment in creative freedom and self-expression started in 2004 with just 35 people, who wanted to find a place to hold hold a decompression party after Burning Man. Fourteen years on, it now attracts roughly 2,000 festival-goers from across the globe. Anyone can play at Nowhere, so if you fancy taking to the stage, just bring your kit.

Noisily Festival of Music and Arts

Where? Leicestershire, England
When? 5.07 – 8.07
Why? Utterly unpretentious and with a strong emphasis on having good, old-fashioned fun, Noisily is the UK’s leading Psychedelic music festival, showcasing unique local and international DJs. Each July, 4,000 revellers flock to a beautiful woodland set deep in the English countryside, where they totally let go for the next four days. Besides the music, the fun-loving crowd and friendly, intimate feel of the festival would be my main reasons to go.

Feel Festival

Where: Lichterfeld-Schacksdorf, Germany
When: 5.07 – 9.07
Why: This friendly, laid-back festival keeps things cosy with just 10,000 attendees on a beach roughly 127km from Berlin. Feel tends to have a very versatile line-up, which is kept secret until just a few days before the start of the festival, as the organisers want you to make the journey for reasons other than the headliners. The fact that you camp on the beach itself is just the icing on the cake.

Festival Harmonic

Where? Trigance, France
When? 12.07 – 15.07
Why? As the only festival in France on this list, Festival Harmonic is your chance to step out of your comfort zone and dance to Psybient, Downtempo, World Music and Dub with French hippies in the countryside. Besides the music, you can attend workshops and conferences and watch a variety of performances. With alluring lines such as “Come with your heart, Harmonic will do the rest” and “We are happy to inform you that you will be happy!”, you’re bound to feel the love at this delightful little gathering.

Nation of Gondwana

Where? Grünefeld, Germany
When? 20.07 – 22.07
Why? Nestled in a forest with a small lake roughly 60km from Berlin, Nation of Gondwana is truly a hidden gem and, though it may be a recurring hotspot for Berliners, very few people outside of Germany will have ever heard of it, despite the fact it’s been running for twenty-four years. Whilst many other German festivals are growing rapidly, NoG’s organisers choose to keep theirs small on purpose and do not speak to the press or advertise the event in any way.

Boom

Where: Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal
When: 22.07 – 29.07
Why: Boom is festival that has stayed true to its values; it is totally independent, with no sponsors, no government loans and no commercial bail-outs. This way, the organisers are free to do as they please and they choose to focus on creating a space where people from all over the world come together to experience an alternative reality. They focus on combining music, art and culture with sustainability, using their own resources and contributions from “Boomers”.  Moreover, Boom is a biannual festival, so if you don’t attend this year, you’ll have to wait until 2020!

Where The Sheep Sleep

When? 26.07 – 30.07
Where? Veluwe, Holland
Why? There are regional Burning Man events all over Europe, but what’s different about Where the Sheep Sleep is that the Dutch burners actually set up an affiliate of Burning Man called Burning Man Netherlands, a non-profit organisation that aims to extend the culture and core principles of Burning Man into a larger world. Tickets go on sale from April 1st.

Ozora

Where? Dádpuszta, Hungary
When? 30.07 – 05.08
Why? One of Europe’s biggest open-air gatherings, the mighty O.Z.O.R.A. Festival is an absolute must for anyone who, like me, is nuts about flailing their limbs to Psy, Techno and Acid House. If you’re not then don’t fret, there are plenty of other musical styles on offer, as well as an array of workshops on everything from alternative massage therapies to batik.  There really aren’t any words to describe Ozora; you simply have to go to find out what all the fuss is about yourself.

August

One Tribe

Where? Hopton Court, England
When? 30.08 – 3.09
Why? Founded by the Audio Farm crew, who are well-known for their legendary electronic nights in Manchester and North Wales, One Tribe makes a nice change from the money-hungry festivals that dominate the UK’s festival scene. Independent throughout, One Tribe is a non-profit, non-corporate organisation, with all the money from ticket sales going to The Green Paw Project, a charity that works to save the lives of helpless animals in third world countries- if that’s not reason enough to go, I don’t know what is.

To be confirmed…

Aespia

Where: Secret forest location, UK
When: TBC
Why: Aespia has a very interesting concept – you meet in London, hop on a blanked-out shuttle bus and get whisked off to a a secret forest location for a 24-hour celebration of art and escapism. It’s special because it provides the backdrop and materials, and invites you to become the artists. Upon entering the woods, you pass through “limbo”, where you drop off your bags and phones and change into art overalls, before preparing to create a live piece of art on a giant three-dimensional canvas.

Ezera Skanas

Where: Vestiena, Latvia
When: TBC
Why: As far as music festivals of any kind go, Ezera Skanas is definitely one of a kind. Set in the middle of a lake, musicians play on rafts and people paddle out in darkness then, as the first light appears, the music begins and the listeners drift to find a good spot. It gets very little publicity and is deliberately kept a secret,  making it all the more enticing.

Written by: Milly Day

Interview: André Janizewski of Nation of Gondwana

Nestled in a forest with a small lake roughly 60km from Berlin, Nation of Gondwana is truly a hidden gem and, though it may be a recurring hotspot for Berliners, very few people outside of Germany will have ever heard of it, despite the fact it’s been running for twenty-four years. Whilst many other German festivals are growing rapidly, NoG’s organisers choose to keep theirs small on purpose and do not speak to the press or advertise the event in any way. I was lucky enough to get a few words out of one of the organisers, André Janizewski, in this exclusive interview. Read on to find out what he has to say about Nation of Gondwana. 

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Where did the name Nation of Gondwana come from?

My partner Markus Ossevorth and I wanted to organise an open-air party in 1995, after being refused in to a party during Love Parade 1994. We decided we did not want to repeat such an embarrassing situation and our solution was to organise a party ourselves without a doorkeeper to decide who would be let in. A friend of ours came up with the name and, as we never expected to hold the open-air event time and time again, we agreed to his suggestion. Twenty-four years on, the name appears to have stuck.

What kind of music can we expect to hear at the festival?

Techno, House, Downbeat and a little Rock ‘n’ Roll after hours.

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How would you describe the atmosphere?

Hippie-style and open-minded. The location is very close to Berlin, so all the party hats from there come out to party together. Sexual orientations and music styles merge in a Gondwana.

With NoG increasing in popularity, how do you maintain its underground feel?

We have many guests who have been with us since the 90’s and together we make sure that we keep this underground flair by not advertising in magazines or on flyers, and usually we don’t carry out interviews (this is an exception). We also have NO sponsors! And we’re limited to 8,000 guests, so we’re doing our best to keep it underground.

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Who or what has been the festival’s greatest influence over the years?

DJ Sven Dohse, a local hero who has been regularly playing the last slot of the festival for more then twenty years now. He has his own very special style and every year the dancefloor is full. We’ve had many big names there, but Sven remains the crowd-pleaser commissioner. Other than that, the village Grünefeld is a big influence; Nation of Gondwana has been held there for 20 years now, and we are working very closely with them. They sell food, do the firefighter’s work, deliver many things we need and, a weekend before the event, we put on a little party together with beers and a barbecue.

What have been the standout moments for you?

There was once a Punk Rock band instead of a house DJ behind the curtain – a big surprise for the audience! One minute, they were hating on us for the shock we put them through and the next, they were being attacked by Steampunks with flamethrowers assembled on Mad Max vehicles- an even greater shock! Haha.

What would be your top three reasons for visiting Nation of Gondwana?

Our guests, the little lake and the music.

Enticed? Visit Nation of Gondwana’s official website for more information, or join the community on Facebook.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Photos by: Ringo Stephan

Interview: Jan Bennemann of Nachtdigital

What began as a party organised by two friends in a small village near Leipzig twenty years ago has blossomed into the much-loved annual open-air gathering, Nachtdigital, a festival which now attracts people from across Germany and the rest of the world.

I took the opportunity to speak to one of the festival’s organisers, Jan Bennemann, to find out a little bit more about how Nachtdigital got started and how it became the legendary event that it is today.

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Me: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Nachtdigital and how the festival first came about?

Jan: Nachtdigital was founded by Michel and Leo, two friends who organised a party together in a small village close to Olganitz, which has been Nachtdigital’s location for the past two decades. They wanted to take their party outside and stumbled over the Bungalow Village in Olganitz, which is a holiday camp for families or school classes. For 20 years now, every first weekend of August, we’ve been turning this camp into a festival for electronic music lovers.

Me: I’ve heard the festival be described as “a party thrown by the children of farmers, for other farmers’ kids.” How is this party now attracting people from all across the globe?

Jan: Hahaha, yes you could actually say that. For many years, the core crew consisted of people who grew up in this area, with some villages containing just 500 houses. Some of our families were involved in farming, especially our grandparents, just to make a living. In the early days, it was a small party with local friends and friends of friends. As the years passed, the word spread; some crew members moved to bigger cities, party-goers told their friends and Michel took his car out every weekend to drop flyers at other events. This is how new people got involved and starting making the journey to the middle of nowhere in East Germany.

Me: What do you think is the special ingredient that makes this such a unique and wonderful event?

Jan: The people who are involved. It is like a big family of 3,500 people, which creates this intimate feeling at the festival – it is truly hard to describe and something you can only experience by being there. Another ingredient is the music. We always have a concept behind the booking, and we pay a lot of attention to the fact that there is something different happening on stage and in the audience, compared to other events.

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Me: What has been your own personal highlight since the festival began in 1997?

Jan: It’s almost impossible to pick a personal highlight because every year I’ve been there, something sticks in my mind, and all these wonderful memories are highlights for me. More generally speaking, what amazes us the most is how thankful and happy our guests are, time and time again.

Me: And what have been the biggest challenges?

Jan: The biggest challenge in the history of Nachtdigital was the turning point where we were about to run out of money, which was 10 years ago. To save the festival, one of the founders took out a loan and Thank God he took this risk, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing these words now.

Me: Having read up a little on Nachtdigital, what appeals to me the most is that you aren’t trying to book the biggest and most popular acts, but are instead looking for DJs you wouldn’t see at every other festival. How do you go about selecting these DJs?

Jan: My brother Steffen has been the programmer of the festival for quite some time now. His personal handwriting is always visible in the lineup and he is the main reason you won’t find just a lineup of headliners every year with next to no change. His vision has a big impact on what you will hear at the festival and in the lead-up to it, all he talks about is the ideas he has for artists to book and he always manages to surprise us. Steffen has our unconditional trust.

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Me: It seems that, despite increasing in popularity over the years, Nachtdigital has managed to retain its small festival feeling- how have you achieved this?

Jan: We sell about 3,500 tickets but not more. We think having more people would destroy that special feeling at the Bungalow Village and that’s how we’ve succeeded in maintaining the perfect vibe. Still, it has a lot to do with our guests – they make it what it is and honestly, they are just the loveliest people on earth.

Me: What does the future hold for Nachtdigital?

Jan: To grow and attract new people. Holding a festival has become a big business these days, which also has its downsides. With Nachtdigital, we’ve learned that it doesn’t necessarily have to be faster, better, harder, stronger; just keep it the way you like it, as that’s all you need to be happy.

Me: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We put everything we have into Nachti, please come and see it for yourself!

Join the Nachtdigital community on Facebook.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Photos: Anke Guderle

Interview: Reinis Spaile of Ezera Skanas

As far as music festivals go, Ezera Skanas is definitely one of a kind. Set in the middle of a lake, musicians play on rafts and people paddle out in darkness then, as the first light appears, the music begins and the listeners drift to find a good spot. It gets very little publicity and is deliberately kept a secret, so for the past few years, the festival has only reached people through word of mouth.

I caught up with Reinis Spaile, one of the founders of Ezera Skanas, to find out more about this intriguing concept and what drove him to transform the idea into a reality.

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Me: I absolutely love this idea of a festival on rafts and boats- how did you come up with it?

Reinis: It began as an experiment on how sound travels on the wide water surface, then developed into a space for free creation without any borders or rules. We created it like a utopia that we could all be a part of and find a way to contribute, despite our diverse disciplines – film, design, photography, choreography and music. The end result was a ritual where, in this diversity, we celebrate the sunrise, the beginning of a new day.

Me: Wow! How has it evolved over the years?

Reinis: In 2012, there were more people performing than there were attending, but it has grown significantly since then, with more people choosing it as their morning destination. Many travel from afar to experience this collective dream during sunrise. Every year we develop a new artistic program, which we need to be very sensitive with because the music and set design should respect everybody’s individual experiences. We perceive the music as a soundtrack for the rising light and the rising awareness.

Me: So what different styles of music can be heard?

Reinis: The music adapts to the changing scenery, starting from the minimal instrumental music that is played in the darkness, till the impulsive music at the silhouette phase, and climaxing with spacy music as the sun rises. It interprets the state of sleeping, dreaming and waking up.

Me: How would you describe the type of people Ezera Skanas attracts?

Reinis: People who attend this event vary in age, from young, hyperactive teenagers, to adults and elderly couples and singles. All are united in their desire for a personalised experience. The interesting thing is that they’re all separated by the water because everybody travels in their own boat, yet somehow water connects them and there is a unifying feeling in the air. The audience respects the silence, solitude and nature, and uses this experience as a chance to listen to their thoughts.

Me: What would you say are the most essential items to bring?

Reinis: It is a serious and adventurous trip, so everybody should be well-prepared. The lake is large and the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s helpful to have a light, warm outfit and tea or other hot drinks to stay warm, as well as a proper boat. It is also important to double-check the forecast before leaving home!

Me: How do you want people leaving Ezera Skanas to feel?

Reinis: The best outcome is when people return home confused, asking themselves “Was it real, or was it a dream?”

Me: Have you had to overcome any major challenges for the festival?

Reinis: Every year, the festival faces different challenges, with the greatest being adapting to the ever-changing weather conditions. This is an ongoing relationship; the nature is wild, so we must make sure we listen to it and adjust our plans accordingly.

Me: Any final words?

Reinis: Once I woke up 5am and went to the central park. There was nobody there, but the sight was absolutely stunning and I thought to myself that there should be a million people here at this moment to see the beauty of the sun rising. It is a very calming moment that starts and ends the day in a peaceful way.

You can find out more about Ezera Skanas via their Facebook page.

 

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day

Review: Kiez Burn

Just over a month ago, I found myself on a bus, in a storm, heading to a plot of land roughly 112km from Berlin for a festival named Kiez Burn, which was taking place for the very first time in Germany. With the exception of Aurora, aka “Burning Argentina”, a tiny event where just 120 people were present, this was my first Burn and I was brimming with excitement and intrigue.

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The “Just Being” kiez

Despite the forecast predicting rain all weekend long, the weather significantly improved after the first night and I spent most of Friday exploring the festival site in the sunshine and dipping my toe into each of the camps to see what was going on. Just as Berlin is home to different kieze, i.e., neighbourhoods, each of which has its own character, Kiez Burn is made up of several camps, all with a unique style and focus. The camp I had applied to be part of – Just Being – offered a space for relaxation, and attracted a more conscious crowd. I was mostly drawn to it because I didn’t think it would be as wild and druggy as some of the other camps, and I was right. The people at Just Being were unbelievably kind generous; even though I hadn’t actually managed to join, as I applied too late, they willingly shared their space and all their food with me, which I was extremely grateful for. It was a group that I felt extremely comfortable and happy with, and slowly, over the course of the weekend, I was really able to fully relax and switch off (something that never normally comes easily to me).

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Camp Pyjamacakes 

Camp Pyjamcakes was another prime spot for relaxing and chatting to people. They served pancakes in their pyjamas to anyone and everyone, which I thought was such a fantastic idea, and was naturally greatly appreciated by all those that attended. It was there that I did my first workshop, which was on consent and practicing saying “no”. Seeing as consent is one of the festival’s core principles, it was great to have this reminder to take responsibility for the community by asking permission before hugging or touching anyone, and it also enabled us all to get to know one another more intimately. The intimacy level went up a few notches during the kissing workshop, which followed soon after, and consisted of everyone walking in a circle in two directions and asking permission to kiss those they wanted to. There were ten different types of kisses in total, beginning with the most innocent and least tactile – an air kiss – and progressing to a kiss on the hand, then the forehead, then the ear, a butterfly kiss, an eskimo kiss, a peck on the cheek, a peck on the mouth, a kiss on the mouth and finally, a kiss with tongues. After that, we did an activity which I can best describe as ‘kissing meditation”. Firstly, we were split into two groups: apples and mangos. Then, the apples stood in the centre of the circle with their eyes closed, while the mangoes came and kissed them in different ways, on different parts of their bodies. One minute, I would feel nothing, then all of a sudden, there would be three people kissing me on various parts of my body – it was very exciting! Interestingly enough, it was here that I met most of the people that I went on to spend time with throughout the festival, and a couple have now become good friends.

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Kinky fun

The Kinky School camp was pretty much what it says on the tin; somewhere to get naughty, playful and adventurous. I didn’t spend that much time here, but I did take part in a Tantra workshop, which was definitely more amusing than arousing. To introduce ourselves, we had to go around the room each saying our name and one word to describe how we were feeling, then making the sound we make when we orgasm, which the rest of the room had to repeat afterwards (that was certainly an effective way to lower everyone’s boundaries). The rest of the workshop consisted of different exercises in pairs that were designed to make us more open and connected, but like I said, for me it was purely entertaining. Perhaps I simply wasn’t in the right zone.

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Playing around at Multi-Culti Circus

Multi-Culti Circus was the camp for music, as well as fire juggling, poi, hooping, acrobatics and other circus activities. The DJs here played an array of different styles, but my favourite had to be Marius Melange with his driving Techno. Mitte was another place I ended up spending a great deal of time at, for there was music at all hours of day and night here too and, as someone who can’t get enough of dancing, it drew me back time and time again.

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Getting creative

Other than dancing, attending workshops and basking in the sunshine, I spent my time admiring all the impressive works of art that so much time and effort had clearly gone in to. The creativity demonstrated at that place was remarkable, and all the details and little touches, from flickering lamps, to elaborately decorated signs, to an eclectic toilet soundtrack meant that I was constantly noticing new things, even on the last day of the festival. The costumes people had brought along were also highly creative, and the place was just a picture of colour when everyone got dressed and made up. If you weren’t donning a whacky costume, you were stripping off completely; there wasn’t much in between it seemed! I spent equal amounts of time doing both, but the naked moments were undeniably my favourite. On the penultimate day, after emerging hot and sweaty from the sauna (yes, there were saunas) I joined the “human carcass”, essentially a production line for washing bodies. Each person who wanted to be washed would walk between two rows of people, who were either given the role of soaping, rinsing, or drying, using their cupped hands as a squeegee to remove the water. After being “promoted” from dryer, to rinser, to soaper, it was my turn to be washed (yippee!) The first thing I got asked was “Do you have any boundaries?” to which I answered “no”, thereby giving everyone permission to wash me literally all over. That was certainly a novel experience.

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Sharing my experience of sobriety 

I decided prior to the camp that I would join a friend of mine who, like me, is teetotal, in giving a talk on being sober. I really didn’t think anyone would show up, but to my surprise a few people did, and they listened intently as we each shared our experiences of getting sober and giving up all mind-altering substances. If I was able to help or inspire even just one person, then that would make me very happy.

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Dancing in the bubbles

The last night and day of Kiez Burn were the best for me, as by that stage I had really settled in and was starting to feel truly at home. Along with a few others from Just Being, I helped prepare a Tom Kha soup for our final meal, which we sat and ate all together. The, after a short sleep, I woke up around 4am and began my morning handing out ear plugs from Welfare to those who were heading bedwards and needed to block out the pounding beats from Mitte. I spent the next few hours dancing and taking part in a kitty massage workshop, where I played the role of a cat massaging its owner, then received a deep, intense massage from him (which I very much needed). The two of us then decided to do some meditation after that and give the sauna another go, before hosing each other down with icy water to cool off. Two hours before the bus was due to leave, a 90s rave began, but nobody seemed to want to dance so I was the only person flailing my limbs around for the first half an hour or so. Gradually though, more and more people began to join me and, by around 5.30pm, Mitte was filled with colour and movement once again. Possibly the best moment of the entire weekend was when the heavens opened and it started to rain for the first time in days, just as the DJ began playing the classic I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters, and everyone gave it their absolute all; rarely have I seen that much energy and pure, childlike happiness contained in one space. It was absolutely incredible. Needless to say, I found it difficult to tear myself away and ended up having to run to the bus, which was about to leave without me.

Overall, Kiez Burn was a very memorable event, and it has inspired me to take part in similar events and get more involved in the community of Burners, as it was the people at the festival that made it so special – hopefully I’ll see a few familiar faces at Where the Sheep Sleep this weekend, and I’ll definitely be joining everyone at Kiez Burn 2018.

This Summer’s Pick of the Best Festivals in Eastern Europe

Each year, more and more music festivals seem to emerge across Europe, with Western Europe now starting to resemble a festival battlefield, where the big events play host to the same artists year in, year out and many smaller ones do not survive. Move across to the East though, as it’s a different story – all sorts of unique and quirky festivals can be found here, and they’re almost always located somewhere spectacularly beautiful with just the right balance of big names and up-and-coming acts. It is over this side of the continent that you’re more likely to find adventruous, open-minded souls, who really care about the music. Below are three of my recommendations for anyone planning to visit a festival in Eastern Europe this summer.

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1) Electric Castle – Romania
When is it? July 12th – 17th
What makes it so wonderful? How many festivals do you know that take place in a castle? EC, which is set in Banffy Castle in Transylvania, provides the ultimate backdrop for boogieing. As well as an eclectic lineup, featuring major names and smaller, more underground artists, there’s a whole array of surprises concealed within the castle’s walls, like secret party areas and hidden hammocks. Now in its fifth year, Electric Castle has established itself as Romania’s biggest electronic music festival and is definitely worth making the journey over to its capital for.
Who should I see? Because I’m all about the Techno, I’m most looking forward to seeing Moderat and Francesca Lombardo, but I also like the Deep House artists on the lineup, which include Dixon, Âme and Maceo Plex. Then of course there are the more mainstream acts like Deadmau5 who, whether you love him or hate him, always puts on a pretty good show and Trance legend, Paul Van Dyk.

2) Into the Valley – Estonia
When is it? June 29th – July 2nd
What makes it so wonderful? Into The Valley’s organisers had the idea of using strange places to host their festival, with one taking place in a Swedish industrial park, another in a fort in Cape Town and now, for the first time, it’s going to be held in a limestone quarry and former prison in Estonia (that’s about as strange as it gets!). However, despite the size of these sites, Into The Valley’s atmosphere is cosy and intimate, and it has a real family feel to it. In terms of the music, you can expect to see world class House and Techno acts, underground DJs and local heroes work their magic on an impressive sound system. Although the festival is only in its third edition, it has already seen the likes of Richie Hawtin, Tale of Us, Nina Kraviz and other big names grace the stage.
Who should I see? My picks would be Jeff Mills for thumping basslines, Marcel Dettman for Berlin-style Techno and Scuba because he’s just all-round awesome.

3) Meadows in the Mountains – Bulgaria
When is it? June 9th – 11th
What makes it so wonderful? Meadows in the Mountains prides itself on on its beautiful natural surroundings and the native community that inhabits the area. Local residents host attendees in the Rhodopian Mountains, undoubtedly one of the most spectacular festival locations in the world, and the organisers strive to use the festival to promote green and sustainable methods; everything from the stages to the shacks are sustainably sourced from the bordering forests, and composting toilets and solar showers are constructed on site. The other special thing about MITM is its strong sense of community and the friendly people that return year after year to escape the chaos of city life. It is for these reasons that so many people cherish this small festival, rather than an extensive lineup of global superstars. As well as nature, music, sunshine and smiley faces, you can enjoy holistic and spiritual workshops that take place over the course of the weekend.
Who should I see? As I mentioned before, MITM is not about big names, and the artists that play tend to be unsigned, underground musicians from Europe. The 2017 lineup is yet to be announced, but will be soon, so watch this space!

Written by: Milly Day

Review: Mission Techno

I talked a bit about Mission Techno in my article on the Techno scene in Germany but after last Friday, I realised no words can really do this event justice; you simple have to experience it for yourself! I was lucky enough to be invited along by MT resident, Don Basti, who picked me up from my hostel in Mannheim and together we drove to MS Connexion Complex, which is just the most remarkable venue. Located on an ancient factory site, it’s dark, eerie and industrial (just the way I like it) and houses four different rooms: Tanzsaal, where all the rougher styles of Techno could be heard, the Main Floor, which catered to Hard Techno and Hartekk fans, the “Classics” room, Stahlwerk, a new addition to the festival and finally Treibhaus, where the DJS mostly played Dark Techno.

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While Don Basti and fellow resident DJ Florian Peschel were setting things up, I explored the venue some more and assessed the line-up, so I could decide who to see play. It was a tough choice, as there were so many fantastic artists, but I decided to kick things off with Leon Glock, who had won the award, “Best Newcomer to Techno”, and who was playing in Tanzsaal. Despite the fact it was very early, several people were already on the dance floor, doing that wonderful German shuffle dance (I’ll never get tired of seeing that) and showing their appreciation for Leon. His set was the perfect start to the night, it was nicely dark and driving, but without being too full-on.

Up next in Tanzsaal was Unmensch, who I discovered recently and whose sets I’ve been listening to repeatedly on Soundcloud, as I think they’re brilliant, but seeing him live took my love of him to a whole new level – his was probably my favourite performance of the night. Not only was the music pounding, but Unmensch is one of these DJs who really knows how to interact with his audience, making him captivating to watch. The energy in the room during that set was electric, each and every person was giving it their all, which made the Berlin crowd look lazy! People in this part of Germany certainly know how to rave.

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I somehow managed to tear myself away from Tanzsaal half an hour before the end of Unmensch’s set, as I really wanted to see the legend that is Talla 2xlc. It was wonderfully refreshing to hear some old school Trance, especially when it’s being spun by such a prestigious DJ, something you don’t normally get the luxury of listening to at a Techno event. Talla treated us to classics such as Push’s Universal Nation, Seven Days and One Week by B.B.E and all-time favourite Zombie Nation, beginning with those famous words from the “We are the walking dead” speech. He then played a couple more recent tracks, including his own remix of Sandstorm and Vini Vici’s remix of Free Tibet, which topped the set off nicely. The vibe in that room was very different, as the average age was considerable higher (no great surprise really) and there was a mellower feel to it, but still plenty of energy. I enjoyed seeing colour and smiles on people’s faces too- something you don’t experience much on Techno nights!

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I then decided to check out Treibhaus, the smallest room, a kind of witchlike cave with sludge green wavy walls. We managed to catch the end of Don Basti’s first set of the night, a dark techno set that he playing on behalf of Benijo, who had unfortunately fallen ill. Then Seimen Dexter came on and tore those wavy walls down! The first twenty minutes of his set were heavy and fast-paced, and I wanted to stick around to see how it progressed, but I was also keen to see George Perry, so after a short while I returned to Tanszaal. The style of Techno George was playing was deep and full of feeling and, while it was very powerful, there were harmonious elements to it as well. He reminded me a bit of Dekai, one of my favourite DJs here in Berlin, who I’ve seen many times but who always manages to surprise me. Their music is somewhat ominous; it gives you the impression of being chased by a predator. I like it when Techno can evoke such feelings in me.

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Finally, I saw Stormtrooper and Sebastian Groth play back-to-back. Now these artists both have very different styles, with Sebastian being a Techno DJ and Stormtrooper more of a Hardcore guy, so I was interested to see how they’d make it work. Initially, Sebastian played softer and slower but he sped up towards the end, and Stormtrooper slowed down, causing their styles to merge – the outcome was surprisingly good! You can read more about both artists in the interview I carried out with them after their set. Sadly, I had to leave shortly after that to catch my train back to Berlin, but my event finder and partner in crime, Brige Greene, stayed until the end to see Florian Peschel play and reported that “He ended the party with a grand finish.”

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Overall, I can safely say that the organisers of Mission Techno really excelled themselves with this festival; the venue was second-to-none, there was such an eclectic line-up, with so many different styles of Techno (and Trance!) and the crowd was unbeatable. Can’t wait to return for the next event on May 13th. Mission Techno = accomplished!

Written by: Milly Day

Next Generation Techno in Germany

Techno has been popular in Germany ever since the Berlin wall came down and the city unified to create an electronic music scene, with free underground electronic music parties popping up all over East Berlin. It became a major force in reestablishing social connections between East and West Germany, and the style – industrial, energetic and futuristic – made it the perfect soundtrack to mark a new era. Although there was still a lot of conflict between both sides of the country, everyone was extremely excited about this new movement and the possibilities it brought. Many claimed that this harder, darker sound was liberating, as it offered a release, which is why German Techno has always had its own unique and rather Gothic darkness about it. Predictably, this has changed over the years, with minimal Techno gaining popularity in the 2000s, but in recent times, acts such as Ancient Methods have brought this bleak, heavy style back to the Techno scene in cities like Cologne, Mannheim and of course, Berlin.

You’ll find this brand of Techno in the dimmest basement clubs across Germany, where people dance like it’s their last day on the planet, and it’s that power and intensity on the dancefloor that make nights out here so utterly compelling. Below are some artists representative of this scene that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in Berlin over the past few months.

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Dekai and Holger Nielson

After seeing him three times, I can safely say that Dekai is one of the DJs that most gets the crowd going with his hard and pushing sound, which has earned him gigs at major clubs across the city. Holger Nielson can usually be found playing alongside him and, roughly three years ago, the pair started a label together called Ragnarök and began putting on nights in Berlin every couple of months. The label has a very loyal following, making the atmosphere at these nights unbeatable; as soon as one ends, I find myself getting excited about the next. Fortunately, there’s not long to wait now till their event on February 11th, which marks the release of Lukas Freudenberger’s new album and will take place at the much-loved Suicide Circus.

Hefty

Hefty is seen as the preeminent master of dark Techno, and it’s not hard to see why, as that raw, twisted and relentless sound of his is truly unique. After receiving a great amount of support from the people of Berlin and other cities in Germany and across the globe, he was inspired to create own label, aptly named Darker Sounds. I saw Hefty captivate the crowd at Magdalena at what was my first and possibly best night out in Berlin – they certainly seem to go crazy for him here!

Tommy Four Seven

Tommy Four Seven moved from his birthplace of London to Berlin after deciding it offered more opportunities for an artist of his nature, and has now firmly established himself as a name in the Techno scene here. In 2014, he launched own event series 47 at Arena Club and I had the chance to see him close the ninth installment of this night back in November, where he played straight-up Techno to a still packed dance floor. I can safely say I loved every minute of it.

VSK

Another artist that made the move to Berlin to pursue his love of DJing is VSK, whose sound ranges from dark and pounding, to a deep and more intellectual style of Techno. Fortunately for me, when I saw him play at Arena just prior to Tommy Four Seven, his set was nothing short of banging. This took me by surprise; not many DJs go straight in there with the heavy stuff, but VSK played hard, aggressive Techno from start to finish with no messing about, which works just fine in my opinion.

Ancient Methods

Ancient Methods‘ famous words “Music will tear down walls!” are indeed reflective of this producer’s powerful, industrial style of Techno, however he does something a little different to the others in that he features human elements in his productions. By intertwining semi-decipherable vocals and the occasional use of instruments with those bleak and heavy basslines, Ancient Methods creates his own special sound, which is what causes music to stand out. Although he plays in Berlin often, I’ve seen him just the once at Arena, where he warmed the crowd up nicely ahead of VSK and Tommy Four Seven’s sets.

Jan Fleck

Jan Fleck‘s passion for harder styles of music inspires him to frequently experiment with different sounds in an attempt to create something new and innovative. Consequently, he has received a great deal of attention for his tracks and DJ sets and rightly so, for when he kicked things off at the last Ragnarök label night back in December, he played what was probably the most interesting set of the night. I was absolutely blown away, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing him again tonight at Phonk!, a new concept of twin Techno nights across borders. Tonight’s event will be the debut of Phonk! and will precede a series of regular parties held in Berlin and Amsterdam throughout the year.

Like I said before, it’s not just Berlin that offers this kind of raving experience, I simply haven’t had the privilege of visiting any other German cities (yet). Throughout the country, you can hear this raw, industrial sound at a number of different festivals and events. Here are a few of my recommendations:

Mission Techno in Mannheim

The Mission Techno slogan is “Nomen est omen”, i.e. the name speaks for itself, which I guess it does, as not a whole lot more information is provided. This year sees four Mission Techno events take place at MS Connexion Complex, a sizeable venue located on a factory site that’s now over a century old in the south of Mannheim, with four different floors showcasing German Techno talent. Their first event of this year is on February 3rd, starting at 10pm and lasting a full twelve hours, so be sure to don your most comfortable raving shoes.

Darker Moods in Augsberg

Darker Moods is a series of banging Techno nights that take place at Kantine in Augsberg, in the club’s ‘schwimmbad’ (swimming pool), usually once or twice a month. The next one will be on January 27th, when Champas, Yannick Tella, Enrico Sommer and Bosedicht will each be taking to the decks to provide their audience with dark and driving Techno all night long.

MEIHT in Offenbach

MEIHT, which stands for “Mir egal ich hör Techno” (I don’t care, I hear Techno) takes place every second month at the MTW Club in Offenbach am Main. Occasionally, the organisers also join forces with promoters of similar events to put on nights in cities such as Frankfurt, Cologne and Darmstadt. The next one at MTW Club will be on January 28th and will see Colombian DJ Luix Spectrum’s debut performance in Germany.

EHCTV in Leipzig

In recent times, Leipzig’s Techno scene has started to rival that of other German cities in terms of creativity and excitement and EHCTV is a shining example of this fact. Next month, the Hard Techno event organisers are putting on an night called Pandora’s Box which carries the slogan “Accept the darkness and you will see the light”. Expect strobe lights, fog and some seriously floor-destroying tunes.

Trieb Klang in Stuttgart

Trieb Klang put on monthly events in Stuttgart, mostly at OneTableClub, where you’ll be exposed to dark Techno at its best and most brutal. Their next one, Techno Auf der Theo, the third of this particular event series, will be held on February 10th with a line-up consisting of Trieb Klang DJs Mr. Peppers, Schiggy and Michael Ott.

Written by: Milly Day

Review: Transmission

Up until recently, I was a Transmission virgin; I had of course heard of the prestigious Trance event, but had never got around to attending it. However, this year I decided that had to change, particularly as it was the festival’s 10th anniversary and I’m now living in Berlin, which is a mere four hours from Prague by bus. I had been told by several different people what an incredible festival Transmission was, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for just how spectacular a show it would be. Upon entering the venue, I was blown away by the sheer enormity of it and instantly captivated by the dazzling lasers, which darted back and forth. As I made my way to the front, where giant LED screens loomed behind the DJ booth, I became anxious that there might not be enough room to dance, as the place was completely packed – Transmission 2016 had completely sold out. Fortunately though, there was ample space to flail my limbs, which I went on to do wholeheartedly for the next eight hours.

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Transmission 2016’s theme was ‘The Lost Oracle’

My dancing marathon began roughly halfway through MarLo’s set, kicking off with his brilliant remix of The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up. Wow! What a way to start. He went on to play a tune that I didn’t recognise, but loved instantly, and I went on to discover that it’s the new Scot Project track, W5 (Waiting For). After that, we were treated to Kyau & Albert’s latest release, Memory Lane, a lovely little progressive number. Then a cover of a song I never dreamed I’d hear on a Trance night got played: Imagine. This had everyone waving their lighters and phones in the air, while I just stood laughing and shaking my head in disbelief. I later found out that it’s MarLo’s own version and features the vocals of renowned Trance vocalist, Emma Hewitt. It went down a treat on the night, but my favourite moments were yet to come though, as I would rather be fist-pumping to a banging track than waving my lighter around to a slow one. Fortunately for me, the next series of tracks were indeed banging – MarLo played his own Join Us Now, a previous ASOT tune of the week, then I found myself jumping up and down and dancing with a bunch of mad Israelis to Orjan Nielsen’s Between the Rays (another MarLo remix), which was such a lot of fun and definitely the highlight of the set for me. I stayed close to those Israelis for the remainder of the night- they certainly knew how to party! MarLo closed his set with a real belter, I Don’t Deserve You Now by Paul Van Dyk ft Plumb, which of course had everybody singing along and was, in my opinion, the perfect way to finish things off.

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Spot the Brit amongst the Israelis…

A deep, space age voice announced the next act, Markus Schulz, a man I’d seen many times, albeit not for a while. As he made his way on to the stage, the visuals up on the screen portraying a Roman amphitheatre transformed into something which resembled outer space- it was all pretty trippy. Fisherman & Hawkins, who had played at the warm-up party in Mecca the night before, came and joined our ever-increasing group, as did Thomas Coastline, who had been on earlier that night. Markus played a number of his own tracks, such as A Better You, The New World and his release with Ferry Corsten, Loops and Tings. I enjoyed hearing his mashup of Stoneface & Terminal’s Spectre and Sebastien & Hagedorn’s High on You, which preceded Novaspace’s newest release, Cygnus. Like MarLo, Markus surprised us at the end with a cover of an old pop song, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, cleverly reworked by Infusion. After that, we were treated to a 15-minute Transmix by Vision Impossible, during which I opted for a change of scene and walked up to the seating area. The view from there was simply incredible, but nobody was dancing! And with songs like The Theme, Hey Now and Free Tibet, I didn’t see how it was possible not to dance. Back to the barmy Israelis it was.

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The view from above

Next up was Ferry Corsten as Gouryella, who came on at 2am but as the clocks went back that morning, he also ended at 2am. An extra hour of raving was a nice bonus, and totally unexpected, as I had no idea it was happening until I saw the schedule. As you’d expect, Gouryella was the first track that got played, as projections of the man himself appeared on the screen. He then proceeded to alternate between Ferry Corsten tracks, such as Reborn and Anahera, and those produced under the Gouryella alias, like Ligaya and Walhalla. He topped things off with Neba, the much-anticipated follow up to Anahera, an uplifting number reminiscent of Gouryella’s classic style.

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Big Ferry, little Ferry

After Ferry, it was time for the legend that is John O’Callaghan to take to the stage. I’d already seen him play twice over the summer, and his set at Captured Festival in Ibiza was one of the highlights of the year for me. JOC never fails to amaze me though, as this set was totally different; darker and more powerful, which actually I prefer. I can safely say I loved hearing every song that got played, as it was just one banger after another, but the standout tracks had to be the new Will Atkinson song, which I believe is called Chasing After You, and Beg Your Pardon by Bryan Kearney pres. Karney, which is probably my favourite song of the year. Yes, it’s more Techno than Trance, but that suits me just fine as I adore both genres and it’s always nice to have a bit of variety. It was also great to hear Cold Blue’s brilliant remix of Steal This Track for the first time, which I’ve been listening to non-stop since. Naturally, JOC played a number of his own tracks as well, including The Forging of Steel and Lies Cost Nothing, before ending on his Dark mix of Armin Van Buuren’s I’ll Listen. What an absolute stonker of a performance! Once again, the mighty Mr. O’Callaghan’s set was my favourite of the night.

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A highly impressive performance by JOC

Nicely energised after that set, I was ready for the next artists, Driftmoon and ReOrder, who were to DJ back-to-back. Although JOC was a hard act to follow, they managed it quite well, with an uplifting 140bpm set that kept everyone stomping away for the next hour and a half. Songs that stood out were ReOrder & Katty Heath – Love Again and Tritonal’s Blackout. The two men went on to play some Psytrance towards the end, before finishing off with a couple of classics, PPK’s Resurrection and the timeless Silence. Last, but by no means least, it was the popular Psytrance duo Vini Vici’s turn to play to the masses. I was feeling a bit weak after dancing non-stop for so long, so I returned to the seating area and wolfed down a slice of pizza (love that you could buy pizza here) and enjoyed the show from above once again. Vini Vici’s set started with a bang, with their most famous song to date, The Tribe, followed by a Psy rework of Tiesto’s Lethal Industry. I was raving away in my chair – it was impossible not to! Afterwards, I rushed back down to the dancefloor, just as Namaste came on. Amazingly, it was still packed and the crowd were going for it just as hard as they were right at the start. After dropping another of their own tracks, Talking with U.F.O’s, they played a series of classic Trance songs, beginning with Binary Finary’s 1998 and a fantastic mashup of Robert Miles’s Children and We Come in Peace by Liquid Soul & Zyce, followed by Adagio for Strings. After that, it was back to the Psytrance with Tick Tock by Sesto Sento and finishing things off with that much-loved remix of Free Tibet.

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The final act of the night: Vini Vici

Overall, Transmission 2016 far was a tremendous success and far exceeded my expectations. Not only was the music on point, but I could not have asked for a better crowd, plus the ‘Lost Oracle’ show was truly mesmerising, with all the lasers, confetti cannons, smoke displays and onstage dancers. It blew my mind. Can’t wait for Transmission 2017!