Awakenings Festival 2017: A weekend techno masterclass!

I’m going to jump right in as Awakenings Festival needs no introduction. If techno is your bag then you are no stranger to the Awakenings name. This year marks their 20th anniversary and 70,000 + people embarked on a sellout weekend with over 100 techno artists showcasing their craft. I was entering a techno heaven.

De Sluwe Vos (The Sly Fox) was warming up Area V (main stage) after taking over from Olivier Weiter who we only just missed. You can really tell he loves what he’s doing and was very eclectic in moods and styles throughout his set starting more deep and funky then moving through to more percussive rolling beats and acid lines, breaks and chunky grooving techno. A very varied and well-structured set. Henrik Schwarz was up next and The Sly Fox was a perfect warm up for his deep groove set with hints of saxophone funk and acid. As an early evaluation of the main area the music played for the time of day was perfect. We were placed on the grass bank watching as the festival mood was heightening with everybody planning who they were aiming to catch throughout the rest of the day.

It was time to explore and we decided to head on over to Area X with a short diversion to Area Y on the way and catch the end of Nastia. We were greeted with a heavy hit of energy and was nothing short of banging as we were expecting after recalling watching the infamous YouTube video of her in the green dress at Kazantip Festival. We literally caught her last two tracks and a very nice transition from Jupiter ‘T Quest’ into Underworld ‘Dark & Long’ for her final tune. Soon arriving at Area X which is an indoor area as was Area Y the atmosphere was rocking. ANNA and Monika Kruse were wrapping up the last 15-20 mins of their set which was brilliant uplifting, driving and melodic techno. Area X was truly being rocked and unknowing to us what was to follow at the time I’m very glad we stayed as next up was Reinier Zonnerveld back to back with Secret Cinema.

Reinier was sporting his Filth on Acid label t-shirt which summarizes his style perfectly. Their energy together upped a notch from ANNA & Monika and the indoor fireworks shot across the tent as they dropped their opening tune. Moments of mention here were Coyu & Zonnerveld’s new release ‘My Head is on Fire’ Beatport link here and Secret Cinema with a nod back to 1999 and his collaboration with Private Productions ‘Gung Ho’. Conscious we were trying to fit in as many sets as we could we decided to head back over to Area Y to catch Ben Klock.

On the short walk back to Area Y it was evaluation time again. We had been here maybe 3 hours, we haven’t stood in a queue for no longer than a few minutes either to get our drinks tokens, getting served at the bar or going to the toilet. Bearing in mind Awakenings is a 70,000 capacity and sold out festival this is a testament to how well it has been organized. I’ve been at some UK festivals where I’ve been in a bar queue for at least 20mins. Not only this but each set we have heard to this point has got better and better.

The plan was to nestle somewhere near the front for Ben klock and “get involved”. It didn’t go as easy as planned. We got near the front but there wasn’t much you could do once you were there. It was far too busy and uncomfortable. In fact it wouldn’t matter where you decided to place yourself there was no escaping the fact everyone had the same idea. The Berghain techno don was on everyone’s ‘to see list’ so after about 30mins we moved on again back to Area V for Papa Sven Vath.

En route we stumbled by Area X which is another outdoor area to the sounds of Lil’ Luis ‘French Kiss’. Who could this be? Yes, it was Ricardo Villalobos. Does he play this everywhere or am I just lucky? Arriving back to the main stage Sven’s set was being streamed live on Be-at TV. Cocoon in the Park was two weeks from now so I knew it wouldn’t be long until I caught him again. The vinyl purist was on before Joris Voorn who was on our hitlist to definitely stay for. Keith Carnal‘s ‘Illusion’ into Barnt ‘If she says she’s a healer, she’s a healer’ got those knees up and feet moving as we picked our spot getting ready for Joris.

Now I’m maybe going to dissect this a little as you know Joris Voorn playing Awakenings is always going to be a little special. Festivals are about unity and togetherness through your love and passion for music. On a few occasions, I have seen and heard of groups here as a family. It’s great. How many families would you say you know who go to a techno festival? Glastonbury et la I can understand as the music and acts cater for all ages but let’s admit. Techno is a little more niche. This is maybe where viewpoints are slightly different in the Netherlands than in the UK. What I saw next solidified this. Joris had his two boys and his wife with him as a family. Ringo was also sitting next to him while he was playing which I think is awesome. Since returning home and reading some of the comments saying its ‘unprofessional’ I completely disagree. Look at the experience this young child has been exposed to at an early age. I only hope it rubs off and he continues in his father’s footsteps. And of course, he also played ‘Ringo’ which was named after his son. Anyway, this set was a journey. Steve Bug & Cle ‘Together’, dubspeeka ‘Mod1’, Joris Voorn ‘I Ran the Zoo’ (out now on Green), Members of Mayday ‘Sonic Empire’ (which I really need to know what remix this was), Martin Landsky ‘1000 Miles’ and a track I never really paid much attention too, although I’m aware of how big a tune this is – Azido Da Bass ‘Doomsnight’ (Timo Maas Remix). The bass absolutely rattled on the main stage speaker system. It was a true festival moment I will no doubt cherish.

We have now approached the final set of day one. A duo I’ve yet to see play live who I’ve been a fan of for years. Pan-Pot! Their Off Sonar Day and Night mixes are always a guaranteed listen. At this point it was a discussion over “how can you beat Voorn’s set just?” It can be done and it completed our theory that every set does get better. Area V is still the location, the production on this stage is outstanding as with every stage I’ve seen so far. Now I’m being told I’m about to see it in all its glory as Pan-Pot shift the gear up to drive us through to darkness. This set was filthy, absolutely awesome.

A quick breakdown of tracks which stole the limelight. Dast ‘Last Dancer’ and ‘Sitting in the Sun’, Ramiro Lopez ‘Come Closer’, A Sagitarium ‘The Pathway’ (Matrixxman Remix) what a track this is. HMR ‘Marauder’, Raito ‘Rave 92’, Steve Mulder ‘Underground’ and even Sander van Doorn’s twist on Blaze’s ‘My Beat’ titled ‘The Rhythm’. Arjun Vagale‘s ‘Acid Test’ relentlessly fired us through to the final last tunes of the day leading up to the fireworks and a very fitting last tune – Inner City ‘Big Fun’. And take it from me we most definitely were having big fun.

Day 2 had a lot to live up too. I had reluctantly paced myself on Saturday to make sure I didn’t jeopardise Sunday too much. A nice full English breakfast at the hotel before we headed out did just the trick. Dense & Pika was the walk in soundtrack on the Drumcode stage (Area W). I last saw the guys at Chapter Festival (Rainbow Warehouse, Birmingham) earlier this year and they were impressive then. Their trademark style of big, raw and chunky kicks and bass enticed us down near the front to join in the action. DJ Rush ‘That’s what I’m talking about’, their own remix of Tiga ‘Louder than a Bomb’ and Knife ‘Silent Shout’ all did damage as we topped up the alcohol level again. With still a lot more stages we hadn’t yet visited from day 1, we turned to the map to further explore.

Âme were playing Area B who I found quite enjoyable however there was a craving for something a little heavier with a bit more energy we all needed for a Sunday. The outdoor stages were great but they really needed the music to smack you in the face to create and hold an atmosphere. Walking back round to the main stage we popped our heads into Area A and what a decision this turned out to be. All hail Format:B b2b Oliver Schories.

The joys of festivals are finding those ‘gem’ sets you weren’t expecting to hear. Both Format:B and Oliver are very respected producers but I must admit upon first seeing the line up I found this to be a contrast in production style, but boy did this work. Their set was full of energy and such an amazing atmosphere. It was full on dancing all round, the vibe was infectious and Oliver dropping his track ‘Kastil’ (on Parquet Recordings) completed everything. We found our set of the day albeit still quite early on. Our next visit was over to Area C to see The Black Madonna which held some sentiment to the group I was with. A close friend of theirs who had recently passed away never got the chance to see her play so this set was in memory.

Sam Paganini back over on the Drumcode stage was a set we were all in favour of catching so we headed back over to Area W. I must admit my initial intention was to also catch Paul Kalkbrenner (Live) after Kölsch at Area V, however Sam pulled the stops out with this performance which unfortunately I wasn’t able to walk away from. It was proving very much to be all about Drumcode today. Alan Fitzpatrick was to follow but we decided to head over to Tale of us and Joseph Capriati on the main stage at Area V for the final 4hrs of what has been a weekend techno masterclass.

Tale of Us were exactly how you would expect them to be bringing their deeper melodic infused techno to the table from mood setting tracks like Hans Zimmer‘s ‘Time’ to a more driving second hour leading to their closing track which raised a very nice smile on the face, the classic Age of love – Age of Love. The weather which up to now had been perfect decided to have a little change of heart, the kind that we are used to in the U.K.. Now it’s festival time and here comes the downpour as Capriati takes over. I wish I could tell you more about the last 4hrs but in truth I was enjoying myself far too much. I didn’t even care the rain was hammering down, the company and music were superior as we danced on through and worked away at the last of the drinks tokens.

At a festival of this scale there are always sets you didn’t get round to seeing. There were a lot a clashes for final sets especially. Nina Kraviz, Adam Beyer, Joris Voorn, Ben Klock & Dettmann, Liebing & Dubfire, Loco Dice were all appealing to any discerning techno fan. In hind sight Adam Beyer closing the Drumcode stage on Sunday looked amazing when I watched it back on Other sets I should mention after feedback from others were Paco Osuna on Saturday at Area W, Amelie Lens on Saturday at Area Y, Fatima Hajji on Saturday closing Area Z.

To round up the review it was the little things which makes this festival stand out and I can’t emphasise this enough. Awakenings is a tremendously well organised event from giving out drinks while you walk to the festival entrance, the festival bus’s which were continuous. You never had to wait, as one left another one was waiting, the bar staff were friendly and smiling, the toilets were as clean as you could expect for 70,000 people, after the festival finishes at 11pm the bars stay open until midnight and you are encouraged to stay, chill out, have a drink and take your time. In the U.K they can’t kick you out fast enough.  You can also hire a locker to store your bag or any belongings you don’t want to carry around with you all weekend. You didn’t see people who had “over indulged” and there was very few messy sights. Is this down to a more liberal and relaxed culture in Amsterdam? Maybe so. One last mention to the guy who had a monitor speaker on a trolley while walking back to the festival bus on Saturday ‘keeping the music going’ it was little memories like this. I can definitely say I’ll be back again next year. It’s a festival experience you should all encounter and enjoy!

About the Author

UK based former DJ and promoter, co-owner, director, writer & creative at Decoded Magazine. Studied at the University of Wolverhampton graduating in Graphic Communication & Typography (BA Hons). In house video editor and avid MMA follower with a keen ear for dark, twisted, hypnotic, tribal progressive house and techno.