NYC Is Reaching Peak European Techno

On Sunday during July 4th long weekend, while people all over the country were patriotically flipping burgers on charcoal grills and shooting fireworks, I found myself staring into the eyes of the Statue of Liberty, watching bright green lasers flash across her weather-beaten face as techno rumbled through the grass below me.

Moments earlier, I’d taken a wind-swept ferry ride to Governor’s Island, a 172-acre grassy oasis off the southern tip of Manhattan, where international techno series HYTE was throwing a two-stage, outdoor festival in partnership with New York marketing group RPM, on a sweeping field with panoramic views of lower Manhattan and Lady Liberty.

Having suffered through chaotic shitshows at other jumbo-sized music festivals, I braced myself for a battalion of popped-collar finance bros and hula-hooping EDM kids. But my companions on this questionable journey, both DJs and promoters in Brooklyn’s underground techno scene, assured me that the lineup—which included European superstars Maceo Plex and Marcel Dettmann, techno experimentalists Rodhad and Matrixxman, and buzzy newcomers like Peggy Gou—would make the trip worth it.

After clambering off the ferry, we made our way past friendly security guards and a chain-link fenced perimeter towards the VIP area—a cozy tented lounge padded with cushions and rugs. After climbing on a giant inflatable duck for a quick smoke break, we headed to the main stage.

From a distance, all we could see a few hundred people idly chatting in groups or lazily swaying side to side. I wondered if the headliner hadn’t gone on yet—until we turned a corner, and I spotted Richie Hawtin leaning over the decks, playing spaced-out minimal techno while haloed by the phosphorescent glow of a dozen giant video screens behind him on stage.

After a few minutes, my friends and I turned to each other with arched eyebrows and wordlessly came to a consensus. As we trudged towards the other stage, one of my friends summed up what we were all feeling: “No vibe!”

Thankfully, the vibes were aplenty at the second, smaller stage, thanks to a back-to-back set by Chris Liebing and Speedy J under their joint alias, COLLABS. Starting with droney, ethereal vocals floating over chugging bassline, the duo build up a pressure-cooker of tension over their two-hour set, which slowly exploded into coils of acid synths, clattering snares, and metallic pistons of pounding drums. Eyes closed, you could be fooled into thinking you were in a dark, subterranean dungeon rather than a breezy field under the stars.

As we waited in a sweaty, half-hour line to board the ferry back home, my friends and I came to the conclusion that the well-organized, slickly produced festival had far exceeded our expectations—and could be a promising sign for New York nightlife of what’s to come.

Big-room tech-house is nothing new to New York City—it’s soundtracked local warehouse parties like Resolute and Blkmarket for over a decade, before moving into Williamsburg clubs like Output and Shimanski in the mid-2000s. The sound was also no stranger to Pacha New York, where Speedy J and Chris Liebing, along with Ibiza titans like Carl Cox, played before the long-running venue closed in 2016. These days, you can catch tech-house DJs spinning everywhere from Meatpacking spots like Cielo to Bushwick’s The Brooklyn Mirage—a palatial indoor/outdoor venue run by Swiss promoters Cityfox. HYTE headliners Rodhad, Maya Jane Coles, and Peggy Gou have all played at dusty underground raves in New York in the past few years.

But big German techno brands, like Time Warp and HYTE, are new to this corner of the world. Berlin-based HYTE was co-founded by Andy Bell, who also runs Ask My Management, an artist management company that reps DJs like Chris Liebing, Marcel Dettmann, and Loco Dice who regularly play at their parties in Ibiza.

Lineups at Time Warp read like an overview of the global dance music industry’s top players, with crate-digging DJs renowned for their masterful takes on house, techno, and everything in between—such as Laurent Garnier, Ricardo Villalobos, Sven Väth, and Nina Kraviz—regularly making appearances.

Time Warp and HYTE have long-established markets in party cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, and Barcelona, but have only recently made forays Stateside. Both debuted in New York in 2014, and have been throwing heavy-duty warehouse parties in venues like The Brooklyn Hanger ever since. Cityfox landed in New York in 2012, but their brick-and-mortar venue, the Brooklyn Mirage, just opened last weekend after a months-long battle with the city.

However, it was hard to ignore that not a single DJ from New York played at HYTE, save for Russian transplant Julia Govor. Though Brooklyn’s electronic scene is flourishing, the “Bushwick techno” sound—characterized by a lo-fi crunch and industrial drum kicks in the vein of New York pioneers Adam X and Frankie Bones—was nowhere to be heard during the time I spent at the festival.

And though HYTE’s second stage this year was a partnership with Detroit’s Movement festival, none of the artists—except Richie Hawtin—actually have roots in Detroit. Thus, HYTE is more of a European-style festival on American soil, with a market that’s expanded to include both a mass audience and heads.

The arrival of these European institutions could be a sign that America’s electronic dance music scene is maturing. Kids who were gorging on EDM a few years ago, when DJs like Steve Aoki and Deadmau5 were dominating festival stages, are now listening to DJs like Matrixxman and Jackmaster.

While these techno acts are already considered “mainstream” by my friends in the underground, it’s still cool to see that they have such mass appeal in New York, where five years ago, the only options you had for a giant electronic music festival were Electric Zoo and EDC.

What gives me the most hope for our future is that looking out into the crowd, I saw people of all stripes—EDM kids, crusty old ravers, finance bros, Euros, and even rave snobs like me, dancing together under the shadow of Lady Liberty. With the addition of more local talent—and maybe a few more ferries to shuttle us to and from the island—HYTE could be exactly the kind of techno bacchanal that New York nightlife needs.

Michelle Lhooq is on Twitter

When Festivals Respond to Their Environment, Magic Happens

Just northwest of Milan you’ll find Villa Arconati. In 1610, nobleman and art collector Galeazzo Arconati acquired the castle that had sat on the site since the Medieval days. Under his watchful eye the the palace was reconstructed with grand intent; furnished with frescos and populated with the patron’s extensive collection of Roman statues. The gardens were designed in keeping with 17th century taste, replete with pristine gravel tracks and a maze of symmetrical hedges.

400 years on, the further reaches of the garden contain an overarching canopy of trees; a festoon night-lit tunnel has emerged. Off to one side is the beginnings of a labyrinth, in the centre of which stands experimental Berlin-based vocalist Stine Janvin. Looping and bending her voice, she builds bursts of shrill notes into a dizzying wall of sound—the initially fragile-sounding vocals, quickly becoming a heady surge, as delicately placed notes waver into screams. The afternoon has dipped into evening, and the sky’s blurred from burnt-peach into bruised-blue.

It is the first of many occasions across a weekend when music and place seem to be conspiring. The same weekend, in fact, that saw most of the UK descend on another eco-conscious festival slightly closer to home, THUMP spent three sweltering days in the muggy cloisters of Villa Arconati’s wooded gardens for Terraforma Festival.

All photos by Michela Di Savino.

Walk around the villa in 2017, in June’s 37º degree heat, and it’s still majestic, if a little scuffed. The building’s face seems stately, palatial, but its corners have softened over time.

On closer inspection the plaster is fractured, the features of the gargoyles muted and the walls swept yellow by centuries baking in the sun. For all its historical standing, it looks ready to fall apart in the places—something recognized by the Augusto Rancilio Foundation who are currently leading a massive restoration project on the site. Using private investment and visitor donations, they are on a mission to, in their words, “bring about a rebirth of Villa Arconati as a new centre of the creative and contemporary arts.”

Restoration is loaded term, and it’s not one you’d necessarily associate with rebirth. Typically, certainly here in the UK, renovating a historic property means bureaucracy and preservation—lots of a cordoned off four-poster beds and “KEEP OFF THE GRASS” signs. It normally means opening a small cafe, and charging pensioners £15 to wander around the drawing room before trying to flog them a commemorative biscuit tin. What it doesn’t mean, generally speaking, is avant-garde electronic music.

Speaking to Ruggero Pietromarchi, one of the festival organizers, after the event, he explains how the festival’s relationship with the villa began. Prior to organizing Terraforma he had been working for a production agency that had been putting on a series of events at Arconati for years—mostly classical concerts by the likes of Ludovico Einaudi. Through working on the site in this capacity, Pietromarchi realized its potential, largely down to the untouched, left-to-ruin gardens—along with collaborators he began to envisage Terraforma, a festival that was “site-specific,” that would interact with and positively improve its environment. “I realized we could help this place of huge importance to Italy’s cultural history,” he tells me. “It was perfect.”

Suzanne Ciani.

Talking to Pietromarchi, what’s striking is his flexible understanding of what it is to be sustainable. “That can be more short term, or long-term, like the way we are cleaning up the park. Sustainability is trying to find the balance in every action you take.”

Even the number of Italian acts the festival books is viewed as an act of sustainability. “It’s both philosophical and practical,” Pietromarchi adds. The high percentage of local artists—from the hisses and lulls of Rome-based DJ Rawmance to Paquita Gordon and Ece Duzgit’s slow-building, but ultimately transformative B2B— of course cuts down on flights, but also contributes to the site-specific nature of the event. Pietromarchi adds, “I want it to be international of course, but this is an Italian festival.” This interplay between the festival and the site even extends to what the artists play. While he obviously doesn’t dictate their setlist, Pietromarchi is keen to speak with artists ahead of their sets to introduce them to the festival’s spirit and atmosphere. “I try to make every artist aware of the specific setting; who is playing before, who is playing after,” he adds.

The dialogue between artist and setting is ever present. On Saturday morning we drag ourselves to the main-stage for 10am. Already the sun is bearing down, and the constant scourge of mosquitoes hover expectantly. Enter Italy’s brightest star and Terraforma resident Donato Dozzy, who embarks on three-hours of some of the most enthralling ambient we’ve ever heard. Like the hot, sweet air itself, it sounds like being dragged through honey—strange and soporific. Or Suzanne Ciani’s triumphant set in the aforementioned labyrinth, the drowned arpeggios of her Buchla almost mimicking the garbled clicks and whistles of the twilight forest.

N.M.O.

This is no mistake of course. The clue’s in the name. “Terraforming,” so their website goes, “is the theoretical process in which life on a planet becomes possible through the creation of an atmosphere.” It’s the sort of self-aggrandizing that in lesser hands could come off as unsightly, but in this case the claim checks out. At every stage the festival are concerned with how their presence on the site can create something new.

The labyrinth stage, for example, is entirely new venture the festival organizers have constructed in collaboration with the Augusto Rancilio Foundation. Using sketches that dates back to 1743 of a maze that may, or may not, have actually existed in the garden, the three-year project has seen rings of hornbeam hedges planted, with the final inner circles of the design due to be completed next year. A pamphlet, handed to festival goers on arrival explains the project in detail, along with period illustrations of Milanese nobility enjoying the “garden of delights,” and extensive catalogues of the flora and fauna on display.

There are smaller touches as well. On arrival festival attendees are given personal ashtrays to collect their own cigarette butts, as well as biodegradable soap and deodorant. These free gifts seem to inspire everyone, miraculously, however wavey they get, nobody seems to drop a cigarette end or a plastic cup on the floor all weekend. We should also add, that at no point does conscience cloud the party. From the subterranean tremors of Mala’s buoyant midnight set, to the distorted pummels of Dreesvn’s sudden-impact techno; reverence for the location never stops people from letting loose and kicking up a few leaves.

When I ask Pietromarchi if he thinks Terraforma’s model could work anywhere else, he pauses for thought. “It’s been suggested a lot that we start terraforming other places,” he responds warily, “I think it’s interesting, and it could be done, but I want to avoid it becoming a format.” The way of working could work elsewhere, but the last thing he wants is a franchise; a Terraforma template that can be rolled out in any other part of the world. “I could imagine a Terraforma somewhere else but it would probably be called something else. It wouldn’t be ‘Terraforma Sicily’. It would have its own soul.”

Nevertheless Terraforma offers an important case study for the festival market. Environmental concerns are gradually moving up the agenda, but too often they are translated into cursory gestures of recycling bins and refillable cups. These are, of course, important considerations, but what’s largely missing is a more meaningful assessment of how festivals can contribute and interact with their locations. Before we got lost in the mire of city-park weekenders, gourmet hot-dogs and silent disco tents, there must have been a reason why we thought putting live music on outdoors was a good idea. Terraforma points to the way back—showcasing that when a festival works with and programs around its site, the results can be singular and extraordinary.

Sustainability doesn’t have to be a box-ticking exercise, it can be weaponized. By building on Milan’s past, Terraforma is signaling the future.

Follow Angus on Twitter.

Remembering "Heaven" By DJ Sammy, The Soundtrack To Every Forgotten Holiday Romance

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer’s out of reach

August 1991. Palma, Mallorca. 2AM. The midsummer heat moves enticingly amongst the bodies crowded on the dancefloor of Zorba’s tropical discotheque. Bronzed men with open white collars sit comfortably in their own sweat at the bar, watching the dancers move beneath the lights with just their long, elegant white cigarettes for company.

Samuel Bouriah, a twenty-two year old lifelong islander, smiles to himself in the DJ booth, feeling the club slowly effervesce beneath his fingertips. He pulls Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” from its cardboard sleeve, just as a young woman catches his eye. It’s Marie-Jos van der Kolk, a few months away from her home in the small Dutch port of Ijmuiden, working her summer holiday job in the bars and clubs of Mallorca. They share a quick, shy smile with one another.

Four years later, Bouriah and van der Kolk would become a couple, performing together as DJ Sammy and Carisma, the Eurodance super-duo pumping in every club from Arenal to Magaluf, their names echoing across the azure waters of Badia de Palma and beyond into Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, having become circuit staples.

In the UK, DJ Sammy is indivisible from his 2001 rework of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” the ultimate dance track for-all-seasons; equally at home in the CD player of your mum’s Ford Ka; peak time at your school disco; an ill-advised but well-meaning first dance at your cousin’s wedding; or as the default mp3 rip that every Kazaa search would yield without fail, regardless of the search terms.

Before all that, he and Carisma had already put together “Life is Just a Game,” the title track of their 1998 album, and a prototype for the happy-hardcore sounds Sammy would become infamous for. Whether you’re a fan of Eurotrance or not, there’s no denying how much fun this music is, and as the product of the ultimate holiday romance, the chemistry between Sammy and Carisma both as lovers and performers is electrifying. It is a record of unbound joy, of Balearic fantasy, of young love, of hearts racing at 140 beats per minute, and if you don’t believe me, just take a look at the album artwork.

It’s unfair to dismiss DJ Sammy’s oeuvre as purely happy-hardcore grist. Under his one time alias Porno DJ, 1999 single “The Judgment” on German dance stalwart Kontor gives us a glimpse of his genuine production genius. The note on the sleeve”Use this funky shit to make yourself horny until you come out of your ears!”is less of an instruction and more of a pure premonition. The track, sadly, has largely vanished into total obscurity, like a discarded Fanta can left punctured and alone on a Spanish beach. Luckily for us, an obscure vinyl rip survives on YouTube like a shed snake-skin, a souvenir sliver of Sammy’s once inhabited alter-ego. Listen for yourself: the venomous big room house banger still stands on its own today, the sampled moans of ecstasy dripping over a thundering kick-drum.

Adopted as the unofficial anthem to that year’s Berlin Love Parade, “The Judgement” is a lesson in the primal joys of thumping hedonistic house. Sammy didn’t stop there. Releasing records before the millennium as Le Petit Sam with Eurohouse heavyweights Adrenalinthe label responsible for introducing York’s seminal trance rework of Chris Rea’s “On The Beach” to Germanythe party continued with Lovestern Galaktika Project, a stunningly bizarre dance outfit headed by Hungarian porn stars Joe Balogh and Ricky Feher. Collaborating with Sammy, their track “Lovestern Galaktika” blends all the debauchery of Love Parade with a queer sci-fi aesthetic. In what must have been a high-budget production for its time, the video sees Sammy at the controls of a spaceship, a chrome pleasure-seeker cruising around an imagined universe of holographic club scenes, CGI explosions and tight buns.

The incessant heat of the Mediterranean pulled Sammy back from the cold vacuum of space. He soon ditched the uncertainty of the future and began to look further backwards, beyond even Chris Rea, all the way to 1984 and guitar-toting Canadian chart-botherer Bryan Adams. Building upon the elemental happy hardcore sounds which were bread and olive-oil for veteran Sammy, in the true Balearic spirit of revival and reinvention he sensed unexplored potential in Adams’ syrupy ballad, a pleasant dissonance between his patent euphoric trance and Adams’ cloying lyricism. With his producer Yanouthe future architect of Cascada’s multi-platinum Eurodance behemoth, “Everytime We Touch”and Dutch vocalist Dovan der Kolk having seemingly been left in the recesses of the cosmosDJ Sammy created “Heaven.”

Little can really be said about “Heaven.” To understand how ubiquitous a tune it was, and still is, you just have to be quiet for a moment, and listen to the infinite loop of it that’s been relentlessly playing inside your head, every moment of your life since 2001. Baby you’re all that I want/ When you’re lying here in my arms… There it is. Maybe sparks are cascading from the electrified dodgem net above you. Maybe you’re in a wooded area behind a ring road, Ray Mears-ing a bong from a two litre bottle with freezing hands and the light from your mate’s phone. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re between the speaker stacks of a small town club grinning with your eyes closed. We each have our own place in Heaven.

Bathing in the heavenly afterglow of a hit single, Sammy once again found himself beaming back into the Balearic past, alighting, yet again, in 1984. This time around, it was former Eagles’ wizard Don Henley who caught the Mallorcan’s eye and it Henley’s suffocatingly elegiac yacht-rock stomper “Boys of Summer” was his transformational target. Already sun-drenched in burnt-out boomer for poetry”A little voice Inside my head said, “Don’t look back. You can never look back.”Sammy didn’t need to do much more than send a shuttle up into the stratosphere to bring van der Kolk back, and rent a vintage convertible for the video. The stage was set for global dominance. Or so it seemed. In reality, sadly, unfortunately, “Boys of Summer” signaled the beginning of the end of DJ Sammy’s career at the forefront of summer holiday soundtracks.

Reflecting on “The Boys of Summer”, we can’t help but see it as sadly prophetic. Sammy winding the Benz down the coastal roads, alone. Van der Kolk already seeming distant, not featured as Sammy’s love interest in the video, instead popping up in a series of cutaway shots. Her career and her voice, climbing and rising like a coastal albatross above and beyond Sammy. Then on a yacht, staring bleakly out towards the Mallorcan sunset, his ponytail draped in an immaculate braid over his shaved head and secured with a small gold medallion. It was a looklike his career in the mainstreamthat would never be seen again.

Searching for DJ Sammy today is like leafing through old photographs of a holiday romance: any pleasure to be derived from the activity is outweighed by the crushing sadness of time’s unstoppable passing, and yet, and yet, you can’t stop yourself when the opportunity arises. At best you might hear him crackling from the tinny speakers of a battered Dance Dance Revolution arcade machine in the corner of a defunct bowling alley. Zorba’s tropical discotheque is long closed, and the Magaluf clubs where Sammy cut his teeth are now just foam party fodder, celebrity appearances, the blue LED lights of Grey Goose sponsorship. Abandoned MySpace pages and unfinished websites, their page view counters frozen in time like the mileage clock of a scrapyard Saxo. He and Loona separated in 2008.

“I’m drivin’ by your house/Though I know you’re not at home”

I rediscovered DJ Sammy through an unlikely encounter. Apparently, Do’s acoustic Candlelight Mix of “Heaven” had become so popular in the US after 9/11, that a radio DJ for the obscure KKXX-FM in Bakersfield, California, made his own unauthorized ‘9/11 Mix.’ Bizarrely, he chose to overdub a little girl’s voice over the track, the daughter of one of the station’s programmers, with a script that makes it sound like her dad had been killed on September 11th. This one, “i miss you daddy,” is someone’s GCSE project.

Though the video is a complete fabrication, and inexplicably creepy, there is an entire internet mythology of the little girl and her dead dad, with countless spinoff and reaction videos. It may seem an odd place to find the influence of DJ Sammy, but somehow it seems fitting.

With our consumption of dance music so networked into a world of daily updates, Soundcloud pages, sleek bios and press releases, unsurprising tour dates and collaborations, finding DJ Sammy at the centre of this mythological, nostalgic Web 1.0 world of creepy viral videos and Piczo glitter is quite comforting. He belongs to a dance music archeology that we are still unearthing, and like a lost civilization, barely makes any sense to us. Perhaps DJ Sammy and Carisma were rightlife is just a game.

And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

Tom Glencross is a writer. He does not have Twitter.

This article appeared originally on THUMP UK.

European Music Festivals Are Increasing Their Security After Germany Attacks

Lake Festival. Photo via website.

A string of deadly attacks across Germany, including the July 24 suicide bombing outside an Ansbach music festival that killed one person and injured at least ten, has resulted in heightened security measures both in the country and throughout Europe.

Thomas Jensen, founder of Germany’s metal festival Wacken Open Air, told Billboard during an interview that his event, scheduled for August 4-6, will no longer allow backpacks or bags of any kind on festival grounds. Alex Skolnick, whose band Testment is scheduled to perform at Wacken, said the festival atmosphere puts him at ease despite recent events such as the Le Bataclan and Pulse nightclub shootings. “Entry is so regulated and there are watchers everywhere who’d observe the first sign of anything out of the ordinary… the possibility of that kind of an attack feels like a freak occurrence.”

Read More: We Asked America’s Top Club Security Expert How Venues Can Prepare for Active Shooter Situations

Other countries have also followed suit. Austrian publication The Local writes (via ORF) that dance music gathering Lake Festival has also banned large backpacks and purses. Organizers will also be implementing additional safety measures including bomb-sniffing dogs and searches, and have stationed 50 extra people at the entrance alongside 400 security personnel and multiple police, lifeguards, and firemen. Organizers expect hundreds of thousands of people to attend the festival, which starts today (July 28) and goes until Saturday with performances from headliners Alesso, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, and more.

Yo Van Saet, Festival Director of Belgian’s Rock Werchter, told Billboard that because Belgium is currently on high alert, large-scale events such as hers require an increased police presence, in addition to utilization of drug-sniffing dogs. So far, no bags have been banned at Rock Werchter, but there will also be 50 special gates for metal detection. “Compare it to airport check-ins,” he said.

Chokri Mahassine, a promoter for fellow Belgian festival Pukkelpop, says that their security team has also ramped up its efforts ahead of the August 17-20 event, but declined to elaborate on them for “safety reasons.”

European Music Festivals Are Increasing Their Security After Germany Attacks

Lake Festival. Photo via website.

A string of deadly attacks across Germany, including the July 24 suicide bombing outside an Ansbach music festival that killed one person and injured at least ten, has resulted in heightened security measures both in the country and throughout Europe.

Thomas Jensen, founder of Germany’s metal festival Wacken Open Air, told Billboard during an interview that his event, scheduled for August 4-6, will no longer allow backpacks or bags of any kind on festival grounds. Alex Skolnick, whose band Testment is scheduled to perform at Wacken, said the festival atmosphere puts him at ease despite recent events such as the Le Bataclan and Pulse nightclub shootings. “Entry is so regulated and there are watchers everywhere who’d observe the first sign of anything out of the ordinary… the possibility of that kind of an attack feels like a freak occurrence.”

Read More: We Asked America’s Top Club Security Expert How Venues Can Prepare for Active Shooter Situations

Other countries have also followed suit. Austrian publication The Local writes (via ORF) that dance music gathering Lake Festival has also banned large backpacks and purses. Organizers will also be implementing additional safety measures including bomb-sniffing dogs and searches, and have stationed 50 extra people at the entrance alongside 400 security personnel and multiple police, lifeguards, and firemen. Organizers expect hundreds of thousands of people to attend the festival, which starts today (July 28) and goes until Saturday with performances from headliners Alesso, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, and more.

Yo Van Saet, Festival Director of Belgian’s Rock Werchter, told Billboard that because Belgium is currently on high alert, large-scale events such as hers require an increased police presence, in addition to utilization of drug-sniffing dogs. So far, no bags have been banned at Rock Werchter, but there will also be 50 special gates for metal detection. “Compare it to airport check-ins,” he said.

Chokri Mahassine, a promoter for fellow Belgian festival Pukkelpop, says that their security team has also ramped up its efforts ahead of the August 17-20 event, but declined to elaborate on them for “safety reasons.”

Two People Died At Scotland’s T In The Park Festival

Photo via Flickr user gpainter

Scotland’s T in the Park music festival is off to a solemn start following the deaths of two people, as reported by the Guardian.

The largest Scottish festival kicked off yesterday (July 7) at Strathallan Castle in Perthshire, which is expected to host upwards of 80,000 attendees over three days. Presently, details surrounding the situation are scarce, though it’s confirmed that the deaths involve one male and one female. According to the BBC, both were 17 years old. Police are reportedly treating them as separate, unexplained incidents, though neither is thought to be suspicious.

T in the Park director Geoff Ellis told the BBC, “We are shocked and saddened by today’s news and our thoughts are with the families and friends at this time. We are offering our full support and assistance.”

The Peculiar Sadness Of Going To A Music Festival Alone: A Photo Essay

I’ve never been good at making commitments. I can hardly finish a novel, let alone agree to attend a five-day music festival in a foreign country. But after spending a non-refundable $619.22 for six nights at a hotel approximately 0.6 miles away from the entrance to Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival, I was fully committed.

I arrived in Barcelona directly after a ten-day solo-trip in London, riding high off of British nightclubs, love affairs, and countless meat pies. What kept me going was the prospect of seeing some amazing bands like Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, and the freshly reunited Avalanches across three consecutive days in the fresh, Balearic air. I also should note that I’m at a point in my life where the stressful parts of the festival experience have begun to outweigh the exciting ones. Read: I’m more concerned with wearing comfortable shoes than making sure my outfit is photogenic, or that my hair is freshly washed. Still, it seemed like it would be well worth it to power through my post-UK bender exhaustion for another handful of daysor so I believed.

Primavera Sound, which ran June 1-5 this year, was one of the most well-planned and strictly organized festivals I’ve ever attendedso much so that I had to ditch those friends of mine who weren’t able to enter daily through the separate and mandatory press check-in area, and whom it would be hard to link up with anyway, because they didn’t have texting or data plans in Spain. I decided to do the festival in honor of myself, and to focus on seeing the music I wanted to see, rather than staying close to my incommunicado compadres in a sea of tens-of-thousands.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and in some ways it flew in the face of knowledge I already had, which is that being solo in a place that’s intended for social interaction can be extremely lonely and torturous. It’ll be a great experience, I thoughtI live by myself, have been voluntarily single for years, and party-hop solo in New York just about every weekend, so how would this be any different? Still, it was a way of putting whatever self-sufficiency I thought I had to the test.

I had hoped that LCD Soundsystem, who have been my favorite band since I saw them live during my freshman year of college, would provide sufficient companionship with their headlining set on Thursday night. Sadly, my experience during their set was lackluster. I once again bailed on my friends in order to enter the press pit to take what I hoped would be legendary photos, only to be told by security that I was on the wrong side of the pit and couldn’t enter. There was no way in hell was I about to spend the first half of LCD’s set clawing my way past thousands of Europeans and other tourists just to get into the press pit, so instead I stayed put and sang along, alone. I thought about how I wished the bass was turned up to the level I’d become accustomed to, thanks to nightclubs in NYC. They played “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” and I cried a little. My photos sucked.

The following day, I approached the correct side of the press pit to take some shots of Radiohead, and was told that my camera equipment was not professional enough to enter. I thought the security guard was kidding. “I am a professionalhave you heard of VICE?” was all I could think of saying. Despite my persuasive nature and charm, I was not granted access. So I spent another legendary musical performance distraught, singing alone to “Creep” while intermittently chatting with an adorable boy next to me who spoke in an accent I could hardly understand, aside from, “What a lovely track, yeah?” And a lovely track it was, but I felt so fucking alienated from it all.

Later that evening, Maceo Plex closed out the night with an outdoor set. People were dancing on each other’s shoulders and shuffling to strobe lights as Maceo spun intense techno underneath the sun rising from the east. This time, I took in the music surrounded by the friends I’d lost touch with earlier, and the feeling of being with them at a multi-stage festival in a foreign country was unmatched glory. I even had some company to walk my tired-ass up the stairs and out the festival exit once it ended, and watch me devour an entire personal pepperoni pizza on the sidewalk at 6:00AM. If I did that alone I would be a sad-sack, right?

The relief I experienced when reuniting with my drunken friends made me realize something: we live in an age where sharing experiences with your friends is something routine, be it in person or on social media. Going solo to Primavera Sound left me without a source of external validation, with no one to acknowledge that I’d really seen these acts I’d waited years to see, except for my Snapchat followers. Call me a product of my environment, but I’ve been molded, and so have you. I spent more time questioning why I couldn’t break that mold and enjoy my alone time at the festival than I did simply listening, observing, and reveling in it all.

Thatcompounded by a UK-related hangover, potential quarter-life millennial crisis, and missing some guycaused my photos of the festival to reflect something of a despondent mood, focusing on the shapes and colors found at Primavera Sound rather than the music and the crowd. They say good art raises your state of consciousness, so if you find yourself questioning your habits and overall existence after viewing this gallery, I’d consider it a win.

Sara Wass is a VICE staffer and NYC-based (actual) photographer and writer. Check out more of her work here.

Powered by WPeMatico