Review: Awakenings 2015

Ben Smith headed to Amsterdam at the weekend to take in the city's all conquering techno pageant Awakenings. Read his review here.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 3rd Jul 2015.
Originally published: 30th Jun 2015

Image: Awakenings 

Awakenings: a techno utopia where the majority of its entrants would probably choose to die, a place where warm up sets cease to exist and the stages have a considerable resemblance to Optimus Prime. It'll leave the sound of a kick drum rattling your skull for days, but what else would you expect from a festival that houses just about every major techno force on the face of the planet?  

Pinpointed on the periphery of Amsterdam, Awakenings is set around a lake on a colossal stretch of grassland. It's the equivalent to impounding eight stages of unrelenting techno on an area like Hyde Park, but almost anything goes in the Dutch capital, so why not? 

Efficiency is fundamental to the whole operation of this event, both musically and logistically. You'll never find yourself waiting in a queue for more than five minutes and you'll consistently find yourself sandwiched between multiple turntable behemoths at one time.

Day one starts with Dense & Pika laying down a live set, two hours of dynamic drums and warped nuances under the blazing sun complete with a slice of their Digitalism rework 'Roller'. A quick hop to Area W, an open air arena with a metal studded podium saw Luciano tinge the air with some felicitous Latin grooves you can always count upon. 

Naturally a four hour loosener in a Dutch drum canyon requires some bodily replenishment, more so when KiNK's up ahead on a cubic structure, tooled up to the eyeballs with live instruments. Unfortunately efficiency isn't often associated with a group of British lads, but arriving early does allow for Agoria dropping the timeless 'Domino' at the tail end of his set. 

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T, R-E-S-P-E-C-T" loops continuously for a 10 minute stretch on the Jupiler Stage, obviously that's KiNK, because only he can introduce Aretha Franklin to Europe's prime techno crusade during a live set, never mind sign off on a roided up version of Masters at Work - 'Work'.

The contrast between people uncontrollably off their faces dancing to KiNK's live jiggery at this point, and a troop of sunbathers by the lake just metres away is untrue, but that's just what happens at Awakenings - no one has to be chained to the dance space involuntarily, while riding the groove. 

Again, the main stage, a towering formation of futuristic wonderment demonstrates the same dance-floor hierarchy. A cold one is never too far away, and with a grassy slope positioned at the back of the main arena, there are people outstretched with a beer taking in an in-consumable volume of decibels, while Joseph Capriati's sliding in numbers like Bjarki's 'I Wanna Go Bang'.

We're always complaining about sub-standard shitty sound systems when we're back home though, so why not get your head blown off at Awakenings for one weekend of the year? 

Peddling back to being sandwiched between multiple gargantuan's at one time, we opted for Pan-Pot back where we started for the final set of the night, despite Hawtin, Kraviz, Len Faki and Liebing providing the alternatives. Triggering a routine assault of stripped back grooves, the Italians provided a what the fuck moment with a rework of Lance Mathard's trancey number Shock.

Day two starts equally, a swift train ride in from the city and a hop onto a shuttle bus paves the way into the festival. Sam Paganini decimates the Drumcode stage with Rave at a mere 2pm, Paul Ritch twists some live machinery after that, then Gary Beck absolutely pummels a vast aircraft hangar aptly named Area X. Tale Of Us continue the mid-day debauchery with some clockwork cuts and just a stones throw away Alan Fitzpatrick winds in the formidable Truant on the Drumcode fort. 

By this time you can accurately gauge people politics at the festival, it's a considerably multi-national crowd, various flags scale the dance-floor and whoever you come into contact with: whether it's the topless Spaniard off his tree, the obligatory Scouser or the Italian lads from your hotel, who know no limits; everyone is on the same wavelength. Obviously hedonism has a huge part in that, but what we're trying to say is there are no dick heads - Awakenings brings people together. 

_UNSUBSCRIBE_, the guise of Dave Clarke and Mr Jones are next to tear the aircraft hangar limb from limb, before we move on to a similar space occupied by a stupefying Gaiser set over at Hawtin's Minus settlement. Gaiser signs that off with a buzzsaw live version of 'Dirty Tricks'. 

We've all seen the main-stages lit up with fireworks on Youtube, but even with Beyer and Engberg firing off last on the Drumcode stage, the pull of Marcel Dettman and Ben Klock linking up in a super-sized warehouse for the last set was far superior. After all, one of us wears Jurassic Park t-shirts, they'd never let us into Berghain until the day we die.

It's also of note that Dettmann is the human equivalent to Thor, a towering German that stitches together records so effortlessly despite spinning the near entirety of the set with a cigarette in hand. Throwing blow after blow of crucifying slabs, Planetary Assault Systems 'Arc' glitches under a mind-blowing light show that extends to fireworks being fired across the roof at one point. Eventually the festival's final coming meets an abrupt end; Almost. 

As the masses begin to disperse and Klock and Dettman applaud the crowd, "Do you want more" echoes around the room; of course we fucking do. Klock launches the rip roaring bass of Paul Kalkbrenner's Steinbeisser, an all-conquering finale to Europe's undisputed techno mecca, confirming we'll be back next year, as long as the local council doesn't file for noise pollution. 

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