Agnes Klos visited the NDSM Docklands in Amsterdam to see what happened when Drumcode and Awakenings joined forces
Only those who were present, stomping to the beats at the iconic graffiti-covered NDSM Docklands in Amsterdam, really know what happened when one of the world's biggest techno labels, Drumcode, teamed up with one of the largest outdoor techno festivals in the world, Awakenings. It's no exaggeration to say that on that unforgettable Saturday in August, history was made.
The buzz had been growing ever since Awakenings kicked off the festival season with a blast at the end of June. Word of a new gigantic event had been on the lips of all techno-hungry ravers, who knew that summer 2018 was going to be something truly special, and news of a collaboration between Awakenings and Drumcode spread faster than wildfire. "Choosing Awakenings as a festival partner was to me the most natural choice," said label boss Adam Beyer. "It's the festival that I have the closest relationship with, and in my opinion, they have the best production in the world."
The label's own DJs had been buzzing with excitement. Amelie Lens, Belgium’s most exciting new export who shot to fame in almost no time and nowadays is constantly in high demand, said: "I have really high expectations of the festival and I actually think it is going to be more than I expect." Ida Engberg, another Swedish techno DJ and the mother of Beyer's three children added, "Drumcode together with Awakenings - I am not expecting anything else than something absolutely amazing."
And they were right! The highly anticipated first edition of Drumcode Festival was a remarkable success, exceeding all expectations and selling out, attracting a staggering 15,000 visitors from more than 60 countries. Without a shred of doubt, Saturday 18 August marked another milestone in the history of this renowned Swedish label.
Drumcode Festival was a perfect opportunity to showcase the wide spectrum of the label’s diverse sound. The label grabbed that opportunity happily with both hands showed off their best, bringing in high-calibre artists such as Joseph Capriati and Nicole Moudaber to join the Drumcode family. The festival featured over 25 international acts spread over four colour-coded stages (Red, Purple, Blue and Orange), each stage representing a slightly different sound to satisfy even the most sophisticated techno palettes. As Enrico Sangiuliano put it, "Drumcode is a techno development department that has one of the biggest impacts on the techno scene," and effectively the four stages represented everything Drumcode stands for.
Blasting off the beats from massive speakers exactly at noon, Drumcode opened its doors to the massive crowd. The layout was very practical and after passing the entrance, the first view to welcome us was the Blue Stage, which was cleverly designed so that it seemed to merge with the industrial background. Shipping containers stacked on top of each other became a new home for the lighting and sound equipment, which looked as if giants had been playing with Lego - simply brilliant!
The Orange Stage had a different feel from the rest. More relaxed and lounge-style, its entrance was lined with hammocks and the line-up roster headlined slightly more groovy beats from Ida Engberg, joined by Adam Port B2B &Me, Nick Curly and Tiger Stripes.
All four stages actually began quite gently, luring the audience gradually in the early afternoon. But it was Bart Skils’ afternoon set that kicked off the party and set the Blue dancefloor on fire with his legendary track Your Mind, while in the only indoor arena, the Purple Stage, Harvey McKay enchanted the tent into a techno rave. Nevertheless, the Purple Stage crown surely went to new-generation Italian duo Luigi Madonna & Roberto Capuano, who dropped really heavy bass tunes, including the famous Midfield EP, and sent all techno lovers into a frenzy.
From then on, an already pretty mouthwatering line-up just got better and better, with all all four stages seeming to pick up the tempo simultaneously. At the Blue Stage, Marco Faraone showed everyone what powerful techno was all about, followed by a heady euphoric set from Enrico Sangiuliano before Amelie Lens topped the bill with her relentless, full-power beats that were simply impossible to resist.
Arms shot into the air, airhorns wailed and shrieks of ecstasy pierced the sky on the massive Red Stage (the biggest stage of the four) when Ilario Alicante swapped around basslines and drum patterns like a magician shuffling cards. Pan-Pot hit the right spot, followed by exceptionally skilled Joseph Capriati, while the night was finished off by Adam Beyer himself, who had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand and closed the festival in style with the OC & Verde Remix of Bedrock's classic Heaven Scent.
An event of this calibre deserved an extraordinary light show, and Drumcode didn't disappoint on that score, either. The Red Stage had it all, featuring top flame-throwers, an insane number of LED screens all around, lasers and fireworks. The choice of venue was also a smart one: the iconic industrial site NDSM Docklands in Amsterdam is an abandoned shipyard which over the years has been transformed into an exciting underground area, teeming with artists' initiatives and trendy businesses. Today, its rusty sheds and unruly concrete are the ideal backdrop for a new generation of creative people and entrepreneurs. Drumcode Festival truly honoured the industrial character of the venue, and one could not imagine a better canvas for a techno event of this size. Admirably, Drumcode also made it their mission to create a waste-free festival by implementing the use of reusable hard cups and bottles.
"That wasn’t just an event, it was an entire experience!" enthused 23-year-old Gabriel, who'd travelled from London for the festival. "As far as debuts go, this was one of the best. Flawless organisation, every DJ bringing the thunder, and a beautiful crowd to boot. So much thought and attention to detail. What a day!"
"What an amazing first edition of Drumcode Festival!" said Beyer afterwards. "I’m very happy and extremely proud. It was such a pleasure seeing everything come together after a year of hard work and planning. A massive thank you goes out to all the fans that attended as well as everyone else involved with the festival who made the day as special as it was."
Roll on next year!
Words: Agnes Klos Pics: Yannick van de Wijngaert & Simon Trel
Tags: Drumcode, Awakenings, NDSM Docklands, Amsterdam, Adam Beyer, Ida Engberg, Amelie Lens, Nicole Moudaber, Joseph Capriati, Pan-Pot, Enrico Sangiuliano, Luigi Madonna & Roberto Capuano, Harvey McKay, Bart Skils, Adam Port, &Me, Nick Curly, Tiger Stripes, Marco Faraone,