When almost everything is said and done, it becomes difficult to find the words and explain beyond-fantastic. It also happens with A State of Trance, a celebration that year after year has become a pilgrimage for all trance fans and lovers, and also for the newcomers. We have been in that moment, and we’ll tell you all about it!
Another year, another ASOT: the excitement remains the same, over the roof! Despite the changes that may occur from time to time, the spirit is what makes every ASOT feel like a continuation of the previous one. This year we encountered a different layout, a progressive stage and a few more changes: some paid off, some other had dubious success: but in the end, it’s always a pleasure to experience it!
Some said a few years ago that Trance was dead, and that ASOT was going to give up on trance in order to keep massive as it is. This year, however, we’ve seen the festival expanding yet another time, and all I see is that trance is all but dead.
2018 marked the return of W&W and Heatbeat -among others- to the stage of A State of Trance. Interesting enough, these two were some of the up-and-coming talents back in ASOT 500. Seven years later, it seems an eternity.
Like every single year, A State of trance put on a massive show with some of the greatest names in the trance scene, setting the mood for a year that promises a lot, and I’m sure it will deliver. The motto ‘Be in the moment’ now spreads to many other moments that we will all be looking forward to during 2018.
As the previous year, Trance Energy Radio was an official broadcaster, consolidating our relationship with this amazing event,
MIXED REVIEWS FOR ORGANIZATION
Arriving early is the normal thing to do, in my opinion, but this year I wasn’t there from the moment doors opened. I like to blame it on the freezing weather as I entered through the press entrance, which was conveniently located on the Jaarbeursplein. Entering was quick and efficient until I realized the lockers for the press were literally outside the venue. You have to go back and forth through security to get there. I can’t describe my surprise when I realized it was that way.
Since I had also VIP, I walked through the Jaarbeurs to get to the opposite side. I had hope that the VIP was going to be better organized than the previous year, as one usually learns from mistakes. Unfortunately, having VIP ticket is turning less and less of a benefit and more of a burden. The reason for this remains a mystery to me.
As usual, the entrance was a little messy, the security controls were going all out with some people who had eye drops and too loose with others, but that’s nothing different to any other event. You can make your own conclusions whether this is a good or a bad thing and if and when it ought to be fixed.
The main problem I experienced was with the lockers, having many with codes in print that didn’t match the ones in the lockers, and on top of that, the girls in charge were giving away the lockers without restrictions nor checking who had the tickets or not. Basically no control whatsoever.
I had lost quite a lot of time doing all this, so by the time I got rid of my jacket I was ready to start running around to check out the venue like I always do. For the second year in a row -and despite the extension of the area involved- getting around was easy. Signaling was properly placed and I praise the one-way lanes in some areas. The only part that I’d improve was the location of the Road to 1000 stage in the upper floor because the place was too tight and it didn’t feel right, but then again, this can be easily fixed next year and we can blame it on the inclusion of a fifth stage.
I really liked the fact that the chill area was the main court, easily accessible and with direct view and access to the Radio Studio -that replaces the legendary radio dome, which had limited visibility-. It felt a lot like a meeting point, and people seemed to appreciate the space, even when -to my surprise- there were fewer people than expected to try to look into and listen to the Radio Studio.
As I said before, the biggest misstep this year was to give up on the cashless system that last year was formidable. I assume it had to do with operational difficulties (perhaps people from abroad had issues with the payment?) but unfortunately this year, if you didn’t spend all your tokens, you would be left with worthless pieces of plastic in your pocket, and I don’t find that to be the best solution -even if it’s profitable-.
Quoting myself from last year’s review: “The fact of not having tokens on me and paying with a rechargeable card was awesome and I hope more of the large events adopt this way because I believe it’s great. It was working perfectly. On top of that, losing a card is much less likely than losing a token, so for me, it was the highlight feature regarding the organization.” Sadly, it didn’t stick.
ALDA excels at organizing events, and even when there is room for improvement, and trial and error, it is always a great success and a pleasure to be in a place where the organization works like it should. My recommendation for next year is: go the extra mile. Surprise us. People will appreciate that.
MORE MUSIC, MORE PEOPLE, MORE FUN
This time around I decided to make the most of the night, especially because I knew the interviews would take most of my night. Early in the night, there was only the Mainstage where Armin was playing a fabulous warm-up set. Even some of my friends that have fallen out of love with Armin were praising the set. And that’s a lot to say!
I can’t assess if the Mainstage was substantially expanded this year, or if it was an impression of the lights and ambiance, but it felt overwhelming. As usual, the VIP areas were located up on the sides and far enough.
The lights and the effects looked amazing and the people were all in from the very beginning. Lights were set mostly hanging from the ceiling, forming a visual path around the whole area, simply delightful. Every year is better than the last year, and that’s one of my favorite things in ASOT.
Right after Armin finished with the warm-up set, Ilan Bluestone took over the decks. I wasn’t particularly leaning towards any of the options on that time frame, so I decided to go around and have a look at all the stages and stay wherever the mood felt right.
I had an internal conflict after stopping by Allen Watts and Day Din, as both seemed to be the most appealing, but in the end, all the stages were relatively empty which made the decision quite difficult by all means. I kept walking with the hopes to find one of my friends.
It was nice to hear that the styles in each area were clearly defined, you could totally tell that Psy was Psy and WAO138?! Was living up to its name. That was one of the main criticisms I had back in 2015 because all the stages felt somewhat similar and blurry when it came to styles.
STARTS WITH ONE
I was itching to dance and at the same time jumping around thinking about the interviews so it was hard to focus at any of the things around. I dropped by the Radio Studio to have a look, and I really missed the vibe that the radio dome and the silent area -with headphones- used to have. Call me a nostalgic, sometimes it’s hard to let go.
In order to get the night started properly, I made the choice to go see Jorn van Deynhoven, since he’s one of those DJs that never disappoint. I can’t recall any single occasion when I didn’t have a blast with him.
It was a little over 23, and Jorn was already killing it. What a set! Pounding beats, uplifting and euphoric sounds, shivers all over. It was impossible to resist to get taken away by the music. For me, the best track of the set was Craig Connelly ft. Emma Connelly – We Are (Daniel Skyver Remix), a track that for me sounds perfect on so many levels. And mixed by Jorn, in such a great set, it just made it even better.
The Who’s Afraid of 138?! area was an absolute stunner: the stage looked like a spaceship and the DJs seemed to be in command. On top of that, the lights and the screens added a little extra to all that visual insanity that was there to blow you away. Fantastic!
But as the night progressed, and as usual, midnight becomes the time when DJs start overlapping and your heart breaks into pieces. This is particularly noticeable when different styles happen to be under the same roof, and you have to make tough decisions that in all cases will make you skip something else.
By Midnight, all stages are quite full, and the Mainstage is at that point where it won’t empty out for as long as the night lasts. After Purple Haze smashed the dancefloor, it was time for NWYR to take over. Solarstone had said that as W&W were going to play trance, then he’d play dubstep; and lots of people I talked with had the same impression. They were wary about how that would turn out.
In truth, NWYR delivered a set that felt a lot like their previous sets. I have the feeling that they’re trying hard to rebuild their name into the trance scene, and even when they attempt to make ‘something different’, there’s always the counterpart of W&W making trance in the period 2007-2012 which will always remain the point of comparison.
However, my plan had always been to head to Who’s afraid of 138?! Where Solarstone was doing what he knows to do best: an over-the-top pure trance set. But on my way there, I had to pass by our friend Blastoyz who was doing some damage on the Psy stage. That was certainly a difficult moment.
Blastoyz was smashing the place, playing Skazi – Acelera in the Blastoyz remix, and it was massive. The crowd was going crazy, and if you had told me that it was 4 AM I would have totally believed it.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have as much time to spend with Solarstone. I managed to hear around 15 minutes of his set live, going through some tracks like Thank You, which is a heartfelt track and deeply touching.
Right after 00:20, it was interview time. First with Allen Watts -which will be uploaded soon!- then Heatbeat and Chris Schweizer, Jorn van Deynhoven, Gareth Emery -click to play video!- and finally NWYR. Interviews were a blast, and the videos will be available in the upcoming days.
THE CORE OF THE EVENT
There were also many things to prepare for the interviews and I was freaking out a little bit. It doesn’t matter how many DJs you’ve met or how many interviews you’ve done before, it’s always uncharted territory. So by the time the interviews were done, I felt a sense of accomplishment and also relieve. Now it was my time to party hard like there was no tomorrow.
I was partially devastated to find out that I had missed all of Armin’s set on the Mainstage. I had quite some expectations -like always- because in the last months Armin has been drifting to a much calmer and difficult to remix style of production, so I was completely taken over by curiosity.
I will not speak about a set that I couldn’t attend, since listening to it at home won’t produce the same effect. I’ll fast-forward to 3 AM.
I stopped by Gareth Emery on my way to meet my friends. He was playing a set full of his own productions as he had told us during the interview. Lots of collaborations with Ashley Wallbridge and remixes of other tracks.
Soon enough I landed again at WAO138?! To attend to John Askew tearing the place apart. I can only describe the set as mind-blowing: it was fast, it was exciting, it was energic. Playing tracks like his own ‘Raven’, ‘Black Coffee’ and ‘Recalibrate’, it was certainly a set that didn’t allow much time for breathing and resting!
TOP OF THE NIGHT
Usually, 4 AM is that moment of the night when you start to feel tired to some extent… but not this time! It felt like the night was just starting and there was so much excitement still in the air!
While in WAO138?! Chris Schweizer B2B Heatbeat released their set, full of massive IDs, I also wanted to have a look at Factor B up in the small area that was Road to 1000. I was wishing I could split myself into many pieces, as I was thrilled about many DJs at the same time…
I still can’t believe that I missed ‘Not Giving Up On 3rd Earth’, one of my favorite mash-ups of all time. Then again, those are the sacrifices you have to do when there’s too much to see and only one of you to attend to the areas.
Back to Road to 1000, Factor B was also doing his magic: a heavenly, uplifting set; with tracks like No Frontiers by Super8 & Tab and many of his own productions, it was a special moment, where you could feel that you were flying along with the music.
After a brief visit to WAO138?! To spy on Scott Bond, we decided to go to the Mainstage for Ben Nicky, who decided to close the night with maximum energy but also amazing classics. Some of the greatest tracks that he played were: Exploration of the Next Level (mashup), The Tribe, Born Slippy vs. Spike, among others.
And SHIVERS! How can an edition of ASOT end without Shivers towards the end? That track that makes everyone connect with the very essence of A State of Trance and everything Armin van Buuren has worked for throughout all these many years.
To me, Shivers is that track that connects us all, announcing the end of the event, but also showing us that trance is larger than one and will still be there even when this night is over. What a tune, I will never stop loving and praising it!
Towards the end, Chakra by W&W and Vini Vici and Cobra by the man, Ben Nicky, closed the event with a blast. But even so, my personal remark about this part: Oh how I missed Armin’s vinyl set from last year!
CLOSING WITH A BANG
All in all, ASOT 850 Utrecht delivered what it promised. It was massive, it was fun, it was diverse. It probably made more than one of the fans that stayed at home want to ‘be in the moment’. The trance spirit was in full power and the organization helped to achieve the amazing atmosphere.
To be completely honest, this year the festival had a mixed imprint, a blend of classic, conservative -in the sense that there we no big innovations- and impressive. Sounds as confusing as it felt: things I praised last year -like the e-tokens on a card, that once the event was over they could be reimbursed- were given up to go back to the unfair token system that makes you go home with worthless pieces of plastic, among other things…
For most of us, the night felt too short. The ‘personality’ of the stages and its crowd was deeply embedded and you could feel like attending different smaller events, all joined by the love for trance. The biggest take out of ASOT every year remains for me, the diversity and the possibility to choose and go for whatever your heart calls for.
Once again I felt that the crowd was connected to that trance energy that is there and is so difficult to explain. Trance is larger than one, larger than the DJs and larger than the Jaarbeurs -yes, that big!- and it’s more alive than ever. Live fast, party hard and trance on!