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We all live for that energy: ASOT Festival 2017 – Utrecht

Written by Luciano Medica on . Posted in Home

After a long year waiting, A State of Trance Festival finally came. And it still feels as it went way too fast. An event that exceeded expectations and that brought some surprises: here’s a take on this night with the facts and my personal input.

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What an event! Every year ALDA events tries to raise the stakes a little higher when it comes to organizing a new edition of A State of Trance festivals in the Jaarbeurs (Utrecht, The Netherlands). It has been becoming a ritual for me, something that I have to do religiously every year. I feel lucky that with every edition I like it more, and I feel a big part of it has to do with the effort and dedication behind that both the organizers and the DJs put into this gig.

Under the theme “I live for that energy”, A State of Trance has deployed a number of renowned and up-and-coming DJs that have provided one of the best spectacles in Trance and have set high expectations for the rest of the year.

I realize that along this path of development there have been editions in which the result was not up to the expectations. However, the 2017 edition was undoubtedly one of the greatest events that ASOT has ever put on. At some point, I found myself thinking how far seems the time when the Brabanthallen in Den Bosch was the preferred location.

It was also the first ASOT event Trance-Energy Radio broadcasted live; for sure it will be the first of many more to come.

 

WELL-ORGANIZED, JUST LIKE IT SHOULD

I arrived early (around 20) and queued for the VIP entrance which I was entitled to use. The process of entering to the Jaarbeurs was a little messy, to be honest, and rather slow; but I managed to be inside by 21 when the show was set to start. It was interesting to see that the guests were sharing the VIP entrance with us. It looked like the people in charge were having some difficulties to manage the crowd and split the guests from the rest.

Compared to previous years, this time the entrance was better organized and I felt properly welcomed. It was my second time as VIP and this time it felt the way it should. Unfortunately for some, the VIP queue was so long that it took them a little longer to get in. I find this to be a minor mistake, but something that should be taken care about in future editions.

I took my time while entering in order to analyze the organizational features of the venue this time. Last year for some reason I felt that the signal boards and the areas were arranged in a way that would have made you lose precious time when you needed to go to the toilet or from one stage to the other.

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This time, the Jaarbeurs felt much smaller than it really is. The layout was clearer and more straightforward. The ‘chill areas’ (food, merchandising, and others) were not in the middle of the way, but on the sides. It was easier to avoid them if wanted and in my opinion, that’s a very good idea. It was all supported by better indications signals and more crowd management crew, ready to help if needed.

The biggest highlight and best feature so far was the cashless system. I got an email requesting me to register my ticket in order to get a card to pay during this night; the card was delivered to my post address. I followed the instructions and the Friday prior to the event I had the card delivered at home. I charged the tokens online, it worked smoothly. This time I was even able to ask for a refund with the tokens I didn’t use, while in previous years you were forced to use them or lose the money.

This lack of tokens and paying with a rechargeable card was an awesome system and I hope that it can be adopted in other larger events as I believe it’s great and worked perfectly. Also the fact that losing a card is much less likely than losing a token, in this sense, it was for me the highlight feature regarding the organization. Good job!

Naturally, there’s always enough room for improvement, that’s for sure, only that compared to the previous editions it was easier to notice this time that the towards the organization are heading speedily the right direction. I feel really surprised when I find out how things are positively evolving.

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC

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After walking around and getting something to eat, I was ready to start enjoying the energy we all went for to Utrecht.

I took a look at the mainstage; I wanted to check how the stage was designed and how it was arranged. VIP areas were on the sides as usual and unfortunately a little too far behind. This is something I’ve seen repeating for years, I’m not certain about how to come up with a better solution, still I’m sure that the people behind ALDA events could give it a second thought for next time.

The stage was awesome, as Armin had stated on the radio transmission. Lights were set in a particular way which made the impression that the DJs were inside of the structure, instead of being in front or in a breach of the lighting systems. It was also very bright and colorful. Definitely worth seeing.

The main stage was in charge with Ruben de Ronde b2b Rodg. Not being such a big fan of them, I have to admit they were sounding good. They even played a track with a vocal saying “this is not trance” which made me chuckle a bit, it was clear the whole set was not intended to be full-blown trance, or perhaps more than one was already tweeting something against this “not being trance”. Who knows?

 

Haters will hate, although in my personal opinion, even in the moments you don’t enjoy it as much, you can remain open to new styles and new artists’ sounds. Otherwise, we will all be attending to “A State of Gregorian Chant” and not A State of Trance. Anyway, after that, I went quickly to have a sneak peak of WAIO before heading to my destination.

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BUILDING UP THE MOOD

WAIO in the Psy area was surprisingly good, despite I didn’t listen too much of his set. It started full of power and it felt somewhere in between classical trance and psytrance. You could only tell by the higher BPM rate and some specific sounds, but all in all, it sounded more bearable for an opening set that night. I was quite impressed to see that by 21:30 the Psy stage was rather empty. This was logical, though, considering who else was playing at the same time.

After my short visit to the Psy stage, I moved to Road to 1000. I arrived around 21:45 and Denis Kenzo was playing there and with a perfect set for those who love vocal, melodic and progressive trance. It was totally different than what I was expecting to hear, and indeed I thought it was a clever idea making all trance fans feel included. The crowd could sense that since the capacity of the room was getting smaller. I guess it was half full at the moment I left.

I moved on towards the area I was heading to Who’s afraid of 138?! where Jorn van Deynhoven was doing his magic. He has never disappointed me so far, and I hope he never will. His set was uplifting and totally flawless. It was as you could feel the connection with the music as soon as you set a foot in that area. Loved it, fantastic. Should not be a surprise if by this moment this whole area was almost fully crowded.

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I left Who’s afraid of 138?! in my craving to see Super8&Tab playing. I’ve seen them at the Radio Dome and they announced they were going to play both trance and non-trance tracks, so I knew what to expect. I was also hoping that people would do the same.

As soon as I arrived at the Mainstage, it was surprising how a huge crowd had migrated while Ruben de Ronde b2b Rodg were finishing their set. Soon enough the Mainstage was 70% full. And I swear that’s a huge amount of people.

Super8 &Tab played a well-structured set, with a pounding vibe. To be honest, was difficult to make a difference within the leaps between trance and non-trance, as their personal mark was present as a red thread connecting all tracks. It was very good and people were acknowledging it.

It was a little hectic to run back and forth between different stages. But it was much easier to find them than it was to compared with previous editions. Once my mission at the Mainstage was accomplished, I ran -actually walked fast,  I don’t think it’s allowed to run- back to Who’s afraid of 138?! stage again.

Pure NRGSolarstone + Giuseppe Ottavianiwere there waiting for me. What a set! I have to say I’m speechless and I can barely make any comments. It was absolutely fantastic. From the beginning to the end. The energy was great, the people were connected to the music and you could feel it in the air. To some extent, it was one of those moments where it was easy to identify with what ‘living for that energy’ really means.

Right after their set, RAM took over the decks. I had seen him a couple of months ago and it’s always easy to tell when RAM is on stage because his personal mark is easy to identify. In general, it was a classical RAM set, at least as far as I stayed; I didn’t want to miss Armin playing at Mainstage.

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AFTER MIDNIGHT

It was 00:10 when Armin appeared on Mainstage and my expectations were really high but also was a little wary about what could happen. I love Armin, and that’s something everybody knows by now, but this time I felt the need to distance myself in order to get the best impressions and notes out of his whole set.

I would say his set was confusing at the beginning. It had moments when it felt it was the real Armin and some others when it sounded as he was trying to mix different styles and genres but not in the most satisfactory way. I was quite surprised about this since I had seen him doing this kind of mixes before and it had never bothered me.

Towards the end of the set, it became more consistent and euphoric, which was a good thing for everyone. This time I was surrounded by friends who truly believed his set was amazing from beginning to end.

After Armin improving the vibe of his set, the transition towards MarLo went smoothly, with the Dutch DJ living in Australia’s trade mark sets, which are usually full of energy and pounding beats, playing this time classics such as ‘Visions’ soon enough to keep most of the people still at Mainstage.

It was not long until I moved to Road to 1000, this time I really wanted to see Chris Schweizer in action. He’s one of my favorite DJs and producers, and he’s Argentinian which for me as an Argie myself it’s a pride and joy. He played one of his finest sets so far, at least since I started following him back in 2011.

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It had a balanced mix of his own tracks, bootlegs, and mashups. We were able to hear ‘Shadows’, ‘Sub-Zero’ and ‘Spectrum’ among others. Definitely a fine set.

Around 03:30 I went back to the Mainstage where Fadi from Aly & Fila was playing. Such a pity, I missed by a few minutes when he played ‘Unbreakable’, a track that I hold near to my heart and that I have already spoken about before in this article. Anyway, not everything was lost, as I was on time to listen ‘We Control The Sunlight’. This set was interesting for most of us, as it was full of new tracks and IDs.

ASOT seems to be the showcase for the new music and what to expect the rest of the year, it was during this set full of surprises, we could think about it.

 

THE SUMMIT OF THE NIGHT

By the time Vini Vici came on stage, the Mainstage was a complicated area to stay. It was crowded and I was personally overheating. For some reason throughout the night the air conditioning/ventilation was not working constantly or efficiently enough, so sometimes it was feeling like asphyxiating.

Their set was amazing. The mix was neat, the tracks were what the people were waiting for and it went in crescendo until the end.

Going through classics like their ‘Free Tibet’ remix, ‘The Tribe’ passing through ‘Universe Inside Me’ and ‘Colors’ just to end with ‘Great Spirit’. Goosebumps all along.

Most of the people were jumping all the time. It was the highest moment in energy and in happiness, which it remained impressive if you think that most of the people were already a bit tired by then.

At the end, it was time for Armin Van Buuren’s vinyl set. It was very good, although at some point it felt it sort of reached a certain plateau in energy and remained flat until the last two tracks. My closest attempt to understand this could be that he was playing those classics that we all know and love, reaching a ceiling limit which it’s difficult to pierce.

How can you get any better than Rank 1s ‘Airwave’, Cosmic Gate‘s ‘Exploration of Space’ or Binary Finary‘s ‘1998’?

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It could have been nice to listen one of Armin’s all-time classics, such as Dust.wav or The Sound of Goodbye. We sort of missed the surprise factor.  I had the feeling we were missing these ones. Surprisingly he didn’t play any of his tracks, which results really interesting.

 

FINAL VERDICT

To sum it all up, this year’s edition of ASOT800 Festival was a much more consistent and coherent event than other times. The organization was superior and the planning of the event was better thought. To some extent, it was a successful attempt to bring back the trance spirit which was somehow a little mishandled in the previous years.

Each stage had its own identity; this was also for DJs who, even when they are not related, would sound like a logical succession of sets. And it was less running from one stage to the other to please everyone. The concepts were clear. It was entirely up to you if you wanted to stick to one style, everybody was relatively able to.

I really felt that we were all connected by that energy, the trance energy, which united us there and that made us feel as one. Is during those moments, when you realize that this is something larger than one, and sometimes larger than life. These are the moments when I feel I’m a proud member of this trance family that many don’t have the chance to enjoy.

2017, now I’m thrilled. Let’s get it on!
Bonus track: as a VIP attendant, we were given free water bottles on the way out. It was a nice gesture. Especially because sometimes the way back can be exhausting. Furthermore, I requested the refund of the tokens on Sunday and now it’s being processed.

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Luciano Medica

Argentinian journalist. Electronic music fan, trance music lover.
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