Festival season has hit Amsterdam and for our first adventure – Diynamic Festival – it didn’t actually matter that it was starting on a Friday afternoon. There’s a buzz in the air and the warm sunshine has worked wonders on our collective disposition, because for the previous two weeks, The Netherlands had been subject to the kind of thunderstorms you only see in disaster movies.
We’re travelling to a lesser known part of Amsterdam (for tourists anyhow) called Amsterdamse Bos – a huge inner city green space about the size of Central Park in NYC, which hosts many of the summer’s festivals, and the Netherlands has a LOT of festivals. With me on this voyage of discovery is my business partner Damion, he’s a bigger fan of Diynamic than I am and its funny to see him this animated and excited for a party.
We jump off the train at Amsterdam Zuid (South); there’s a shuttle bus to take us into the park running every 15 minutes, but we don’t realise it costs €10 each, and this one is standing room only with a 15 minute wait ahead of us for the next bus. So we catch a cab, “It’ll cost roughly the same anyway,” Damion tells me half believably. He’s right… near enough. The first thing that hits you with Dutch festivals is not the utter bowel shredding loudness of the bass, but the utter coolness of the Dutch people. There’s no scallies hanging around looking sketchy, no hordes of ticket touts, no groups of drunken teens squabbling, just a bunch of well-dressed, well-mannered, up-for-it locals on a half day from work or school looking to have a brilliant time dancing in the open air to world class music.
It happens every weekend here. All summer.
After a bit of a wait for press passes – they ran out of wristbands – we head into the festival. The music is warm like the weather inviting us towards the massive main stage like an Indian cobra trainer and we oblige mindlessly entranced by the sounds. The festival is already half full and it’s only mid-afternoon. Sunglasses seem to outnumber heads as we gaze into the crowd all swaying to the deeply satisfying melodic house vibes we hear Adriatique deliver with aplomb. The whole crowd is jumping. Beaming smiles and an air of happiness surround us and the rest of the world feels a million miles away to me.
We stay and listen for a few minutes but over to the other stage Thyladomid is in full flow. Although the main stage is impressive, it’s this second stage which holds all the surprises here. A gigantic wooden structure, which resembles a Swiss mountain cottage; it looms magnificently against the lush green of the park. Behind the stage, a quiet stream trickles, the lights from the stage dancing amongst the sun’s rays.
There are no barriers back here. There’s no need. The stream is pretty wide and the people on the other side seem content to listen from their vantage point as they enjoy the sun and the company of their friends. I think back to the UK and how hordes of already drunk kids would try swimming across to gain access, anxious they might be missing something, and oblivious to the fact they can see and hear it all from the other bank.
The sounds over here are groovy and pulsing. We grab a few beers from the fridge (God I love backstage passes) and settle in to listen to the rest of Thyladamid’s incendiary set. There’s a wild crowd there who whoop and cheer to every track like it’s a Beyonce concert. They can’t get enough of the shy German’s vibe, and it’s only 5pm. Long way to go, but this crowd has stamina! A lad catches my eye, waves me over and says something in Dutch, “Oh I’m sorry,” I say, “I’m still learning Dutch, I didn’t quite understand you.” Instantly he converts to English like it’s his native tongue and I feel incredibly small and un-educated.
He was asking me about my T-Shirt (I was wearing my grey Decoded Magazine one), I tell him about the mag, my job and why I’m there. We share a few stories and a beer and he’s gone. Summoned away by his buddies who’ve grown tired of this backstage area and are going to head over to the main stage. We follow 15 minutes later, Ost & Kjex are good and lay down a fantastic vibe, but H.O.S.H. is on the other stage and that’s Damion’s favourite DJ.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a DJ with as big of a smile and bouncing with so much energy as H.O.S.H. …apart from maybe James Zabiela. He starts on a pretty melodic – dare I say – progressive tip and the crowd are loving it! He one of those DJs you don’t ever tire of seeing just because his energy and enthusiasm is larger than life, and that stage presence is hypnotic.
Slowly moving up through the gears, H.O.S.H. builds and builds layers of percussion, hooky melody and epic soundscapes to continually energise the audience who move with his ever whim. For me, hearing old classics like Winx – Don’t Laugh again was a treat, and testament to a true artist to delve back into the annals of history to re-familiarise new dance music fans with the tracks that shaped our early rave years. His 2-hour set flew by and as he handed over to Kollectiv Turmstrasse, I have to say, I was a little sad he had to stop.
However, KT were on top of their game. They’ve been to Amsterdam numerous times I’ve been here and this was the first time I’d had a chance to see them and boy, did they not disappoint! The moment they dropped ‘Sorry I’m Late’ the whole festival took notice. Last time I saw that I was at Gatecrasher Summer Sound System in about 2005 and Groove Armada played Superstylin’ live. I remember Andy Cato explaining he had a cold and so apologised in case he messed up his trumpet parts. He didn’t, he was magnificent and the whole tent bounced maniacally like some bizarre pogo convention. Dynamic did the same, it was pretty emotional for all.
Capitalising on the energy, Solomun took us to the moon and back with his headline 90 minutes. There’s a reason the German label owner was chosen by Global Underground to re-launch their highly successful City series, he really understands his crowd and the music which moves them. Thoroughly danced out, Damion and I begin our crazy journey home, but that’s another story and one I’ll save for another time.