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REVIEW: Awakenings 2018

Europe's biggest outdoor techno festival

2018 Jul 13     
2 Bit Thugs

Agnes Klos reports back from Amsterdam, where the great and the good of the techno world once more reconvened for two days of partying in the sunshine

"Hey you! You're losing, you're losing, you're losing, you're losing your mind." A sexy female voice splits the hot air with the sweet temptation of an unexpected adventure, only to be followed by the pounding beat and buzzing bass of techno calling out brutally from the massive speakers. This means only one thing in the European city of freedom: the summer season has started and Awakenings has once again taken over Amsterdam!

Scorching hot weather, a cloudless sky, smiles spreading through the crowd faster than wildfire, unbelievable explosions of energy wherever you looked, firework torpedoes shooting above the heads in the indoor areas, mind-blowing futuristic stages... welcome to one of the best-known electronic events in Europe and the largest outdoor techno festival in the world! With 80,000 visitors in a weekend and tickets sold out months in advance, Awakenings is one of the highlights of Europe’s techno calendar and is growing in strength each year.

On 30 June and 1 July it was time again for what's considered by many to be the greatest techno festival in the world. Awakenings is the collective name of techno parties that have been organised since 1997. During the two-day festival that ran from noon-11pm on both the Saturday and Sunday, the organisers managed to accommodate more than 100 techno DJs playing their best sounds for one of the most dedicated crowds. Techno pioneers such as Carl Cox, Adam Beyer, Nina Kraviz, Ben Klock, Len Faki, Jamie Jones, Richie Hawtin, Joris Voorn, Joseph Capriati and Sven Väth played alongside 2018 debutantes like Honey Dijon, Peggy Gou, I Hate Models, Konstantin, Silent Servant and Palmbomen II.

Awakenings prides itself on giving a platform to new talents on the scene, and there's always the chance to discover something new. Over the years the festival has provided its loyal audience with a huge variety of artists and music. Most importantly, many DJs feel that Awakenings gives them a heart-warming sensation of arriving home and reminds them that they're a part of a big techno family, bonded together by the love of the bass-beating and pumping sounds!

Bart Skils, who along with Adam Beyer was responsible for this summer's huge techno bomb Your Mind, said: “Awakenings is like coming home for me, so even today I came on my bicycle, I stay here two days and I do not take any other bookings during the weekend of Awakenings. I come here to meet my friends and talk to everybody. And everybody that you see at ADE - it is the same with Awakenings, everyone is here!”

We live for special moments in our lives and they don't happen every day. One such moment came when Charlotte de Witte played a monster of a set in the Area X tent on Sunday. When Rocco Veenboer, Awakenings' owner and MC, shouted out her name on the mic, pumping up the energy in the crowd sky high, Charlotte gave him a beautiful warm hug and later posted the video on Facebook, saying: “Moments like these.... so proud to be a part of the Awakenings family.”

Veenboer once said that, initially, the intention of the festival was to create an underground event for people from Amsterdam/Holland, and that they never expected it to grow so fast in popularity. The proof of these words is clearly visible today. This techno giant never fails to satisfy even the most sophisticated music connoisseurs - and the 2018 edition was simply a blast, with scorching sun and temperatures of almost 30°C a definite bonus. The production on the various stages was mind-blowing, with the main stage in particular looking like a futuristic art display made up of differently-sized squares - simple, yet so powerful.

DJ Rush, who's been coming to Awakenings from the beginning, said that when he thinks of the festival he thinks of energy. "The people are here for the music and for the energy, it gives us DJs the tools to want to go in there and just celebrate and do our best."

With such an outstanding line-up, studded with highlights across four outdoor stages and four marquees, you'd need to actually clone yourself to see all your favourite DJs - although one advantage Awakenings has in that regard is that many of the bigger names play both days, so if you miss them due to a scheduling clash on Saturday, you can see them playing a different set on a different stage on the Sunday!

All the same, we obviously couldn't catch everyone, but DJs we saw truly whipping the crowd into a frenzy on Saturday included Amelie Lens in Area X (who the following day smashed it even harder on the main stage), Maceo Plex in Area W, Rødhåd in Area Y, and Paula Temple B2B Rebekah in Area Z. Some of the most memorable sets of Sunday, meanwhile, included Jon Rundell on the main stage, Carl Cox closing Area W, Charlotte de Witte in Area X, Boris Brejcha bringing buckets of beats to Area Y and the closing set, literally from out of space, delivered Richie Hawtin.

I'm not sure how many people actually discovered it, but there was also a small hidden stage, marked on the map with a question mark. In order to get there, you needed to go through a small caravan tugged away at the edge of the main stage. Then, beyond the trees, you found yourself in the backyard rave with another bigger caravan, leather sofas and cool vibes, kind of Fusion Festival-style.

If we had any grumbles, then the 11pm curfew is quite early, and in the long summer evenings doesn't leave you much time to experience the huge stage productions at their best or enjoy the lightshow - although we appreciate that the early closing is probably a condition imposed by the festival's licence. There could be more shuttle buses to and from the designated metro stations, too, because the queues for them were huge.

But all the the same, if you're a fan of techno, then Awakenings is still THE festival to go to in Europe! This year's was truly unforgettable: the waters glistening in the sunshine, the butterfly ladies bearing 'free hugs' signs, pure love beaming from everyone’s hearts, the globe echoing back with every beat and the humming bass, beckoning us to stomp together in one rhythm. I can't imagine a better way to start the summer!

Words: Agnes Klos Pics: Awakenings/





Tags: Awakenings, Amsterdam, Carl Cox, Adam Beyer, Nina Kraviz, Ben Klock, Len Faki, Jamie Jones, Richie Hawtin, Joris Voorn, Joseph Capriati, Sven Väth, Honey Dijon, Peggy Gou, I Hate Models, Konstantin, Silent Servant, Palmbomen II, Bart Skills, Charlotte de Witte, DJ Rush, Amelie Lens, Maceo Plex, Carl Cox, Rødhåd, Boris Brejcha, Jon Rundell, Rebekah, Paula Temple