Agnes Klos reports back from India, where Mumbai events agency sLick! celebrated its 10-year run with two big parties starrring Charlotte de Witte
“Come on, dance with me. Move your body, and lots of beats.” The voice of Karen Mulder splits the hot air in Goa as one of the 90s' most iconic rave tracks, The Age Of Love, floods the crowd instantaneously with heart-melting flashbacks of stories weaved on the steamy dancefloors and never forgotten. It meant one thing only: the reigning queen of techno had arrived on Indian soil. Charlotte de Witte in da house!
Rumours that the Belgian techno DJ, producer and KNTXT label boss would be returning to the country for the first time in over three years had been floating around the Internet for a while. “Bring on the tour life”, a statement from CDW on social media, hinted a upcoming dates and the anticipation levels kept on rising. Until finally sLick! confirmed three gigs featuring one of the hardest working techno DJs on the scene, which definitely cemented CDW's “no sleep” mindset and proved that even quarantine could not slow down her roll.
While bookings of international artists remain infrequent as India's live music recovers after the COVID-19 mandated lockdowns, it looks like some sort of a comeback is on the cards for the nation's music scene. The first firestarters were the psytrance headliners of the Hilltop Festival, followed by the visionary techno pioneer Sven Väth, and now following in their footsteps came Charlotte De Witte, techno’s next-generation superstar.
Barrel YanTree, Candolim
Kicking things off in style, a brand new gorgeous venue in Candolim, Barrel YanTree, paved the way for the two-city, three-date tour that hit Goa and Bangalore from March 19-21. The modern Indian fusion restaurant, part of the Taj Holiday Village resort complex, had been transformed into a live concert venue of the highest standards. An impressive entryway with a gigantic banyan tree tantalised the crowd to explore further the massive outdoor space that provided ample opportunity for a techno rave. Features such as a dazzling stage with an LED glow tower, mind-blowing laser displays, visual mapping and jets of CO2 were all present to ensure maximum impact.
Barrel YanTree is a mostly outdoor venue, with a swimming pool, a boat-like wooden structure and a glass-panelled indoor bar which offers breathtaking views over Candolim. Outside, next to the bar, wooden swings hanging on thick sailor ropes add character and further charm to the ambience, while a glamorous wrap-around balcony, filled with Ibiza-style booths ornamented with white curtains, is there to be reserved by high-end clientele who want to enjoy a fully equipped mini-bar and shisha on each table.
The venue's high production values were enhanced by the glorious sound of live music coming from Rabz, who opened the stage with a blend of dub and electronic beats. Houdini then served up some minimal grooves that warmed up the crowd for a lounge-y spin on electronic music from OSL. Next came Almost Human, who delivered a melodic, meditative set of deep techno. However, it was a Mexican DJ, Ana Lilia, who truly turned up the tempo and temperature with her blend of bouncy, dancefloor-oriented tech-house laced with tribal overtones and in-your-face, no-nonsense techno. Rock Da House by Vinicius Honorio, Dark Mind [Ben Sims Remix] by M.R.E.U.X and Nothingness by Alignment were just a few of the stompers. With an alluring stage presence to boot, Ana was the perfect DJ to set the vibe for the evening's headline attraction.
After a little bit of technical set-up, de Witte took the techno-hungry crowd on a pulsating ride with no full stops. Captivated by her dark, hypnotic sounds with hints of acid house, the place went off the hook. Every soul present went simply wild, filled with gratitude to be united on the dancefloor once again for a unique experience that explored new dimensions of melody and movement. CDW graced us with the pounding beats of heavy-lifters such as Reinier Zonneveld & Miro's Black Sun’ and the Nico Moreno remix of The 7th by David Temessi ft Mr A, as well as her own fast-paced acid psy-techno, as represented by tracks such as Selected and Rave On Time.
Taking the decks after the queen is never an easy task but Ankytrixx managed it with flair, keeping the dancefloor enthralled till the very end with tracks like Alexey Sonar's Bon Voyage, Purple Disco Machine's recent remix of Shakedown's 00s classic At Night and Lucky Strike by Victor Ruiz & D-Nox & Alex Stein. But the weekend of madness with Charlotte de Witte did not stop there: Round 2, at Hilltop in Goa on 20 March, was even wilder, harder, faster and sweatier than the night before!
This iconic party destination, with the setting of a neon palm grove filled with glow-in-the-dark coconut trees, had the crowd hyped from the get-go. A melodic bang by Nat Issa while the place was gradually filling up was a good kickstart at 4pm, and was followed by Moses, a local talent hailing from Goa, who showcased his signature atmospheric synth hazes, rolling percussive hits and deep basslines by dropping bombs such as The End Of The Tunnel [Temudo Remix]. Next up was Bullzeye, who dug deep into electronic roots and provided us with the techno chills we desired with the likes of Cannon In G# by MOTVS, before we sailed away into another galaxy on a three-hour tide of raw, relentless and pulsating techno from CDW.
Bringing big guns to the spinning tables with Pure Madness by VCL, Future Dancefloor by Alignment, Transition by DJ Dextro, Vibrate by Overture, The Acid Pass by Acid Sisters and the latest 2020 remix of Hold That Sucker Down by Jerome Isma-Ae, Ms De Witte tore the roof off Hilltop. The way she laced her breakneck DJ sets with the immersiveness of acid house from the 90s left us flabbergasted by the thunderous, earth-shaking hardcore sounds and yearning for more from this Belgian legend.
The only downside was that the party at Hilltop wasn't hosted on the main stage: the place felt utterly overcrowded and hundreds of people queuing outside were sadly not able to get in. The afterparty moved to the garden of Hilltop with a B2B set from Ana Lilia & Likwid, followed by surprise guest Starling and then finished off by Moses.
After this blasting weekend, Charlotte de Witte will undoubtedly remain a force of nature to be reckoned with and a leading figure within the vibrant, ever-evolving techno scene. And congratulations to sLick! are also in order – both for reaching the 10-year milestone, and for managing to pull off successful, large-scale events in these trying times.
Words & pictures: Agnes Klos