When a promise leads to the great night – Grotesque Indoor Festival 300
Written by Katrina Merca on December 21, 2017
After over 2 years, dreams came true: I finally got the chance to come for Grotesque Indoor Festival 300 (GIF300)! If a few years ago I was just curious about it, it wasn’t until last year that I promised myself (and also to RAM, in fact), that I will make it to the next edition – and I did it! Its super friendly atmosphere, that surprised me, and intriguing (also live) ‘decorations’, which make this event quite unique, compared to other Trance events I’ve visited. But what comes next?
Let’s go back to the beginning: since 2012, Grotesque had its festival editions (with few exceptions) in Maassilo Rotterdam – a former factory, which may not have all the modern designs, but had enough space for everyone, all the needed things and quite a good ambiance, which is also important. This festival needed some time to grow, but thanks to other smaller Grotesque events and lots of advertisement around the Netherlands, it brings more and more people every year. What is also amazing is that it brings a lot of big names to its stages, but still keeping that intimate atmosphere, unlike during big festivals like A State of Trance, or Transmission.
Also I liked the fact that while waiting, you can always find something to do in Rotterdam, especially exploring all these shops around the city and finding something new and interesting. Another point – architecture, so if you come to Rotterdam too early, you don’t have to spend your time at McDonalds, Starbucks or in coffee shops , you can do a lot of other things even for free, even if shops will be tempting you a lot.
For me it all started early in the morning. I had my flight around 7 AM, so I arrived to Rotterdam shortly before lunch, and I had absolutely nothing to do. Thanks to Facebook I arranged to meet for a walk with my friend from Czech Republic (Vaclav), who won the competition and free trip to GIF300 – it’s always nice to meet other same passionate TranceFamily friends and also meeting new friends. Later I even enjoyed some time with myself while exploring the city, but soon it was time to meet my TranceFamily Sister to eat and then head to the Maassilo for the beginning of the night.
As true fans, Sintija and I arrived early, even before doors were open, but thanks to my job as press and her job for Grotesque we got the chance to have a look around the location before it became full. I’m glad it keeps that old factory mood, with a lot of space to chill, three stages and some interesting decorations (those three figures of the Joker!).
All the rooms were connected between them in few ways, which made it easier for the crowd to move, and can be a problem at some other locations. Stages were quite simple, but I liked it, because if you want, you can really get close to the DJ, you can catch him after the set and so on. It was one of the points to give the place a better atmosphere. And finally there was the time for the night to begin!
The journey to Mardi Gras
It all started at 21:00, with Adam Seller warming up the Green room, holding on to the progressive vibe of Anjuna, Pryda and other sounds, which always sound good for the opening of a festival. Once again I got the evidence that crowd loves productions of Grum, as Adam wasn’t too afraid to play more than 1-2 of his tracks, but I loved to hear ‘Napier’ by Rolo Green, even if I had to “Shazam” it for the track’s name which I always forget.
I was also super surprised to see the room getting full so quickly already for the warm-up DJ, as usually people come 1-2 hours after the beginning, but here it was not the case, and by the end of Adam’s set room looked very good already. Maybe it was also because only one stage was playing at the beginning and the second started one hour later. Respect for organizers and crowd for this, because I’m sure that it made Adam Seller to feel himself better in his position of warm-up DJ.
Even if I had planned to stay mostly at the main stage (Green Room), still I was curious to check also the other rooms. At 22:00 2nd Phase started their set in the Purple Room, but there was also something happening already in the Yellow Room. I must admit that I’m not into House so much, so I don’t have many comments about that part of the festival, but I’ve seen a lot of people there and a lot of good comments about that stage, which makes me happy, as this festival attracts even more people in that way.
The sound of 2nd Phase is still unknown for me, but it has a dark note with a touch of Techno, especially while they were playing their fresh release ‘Hot Sauce’, and maybe the Cold Blue remix on their collaboration ‘Killer Twist’ with Mark Sherry was more melodic, but that dark sound was still there, and I could see that the ones who came to that stage for them were enjoying it, which is the most important part.
A bit later Marco V took their place by the decks, playing ‘Rossen’ as the first of his tracks, keeping same dark sound of Trance, but time to time opening to the beautiful melodies on the breaks. An active beat was always keeping people dancing, which surely made the DJ happy and ready to rock the dance floor even more.
Soon I returned to the Green Room, where Super8 & Tab were playing their typical set of so-called ‘Hybrid Trance’. Before I left, they were already playing some of their hottest tunes of the year, such as ‘Cosmo’ and the ‘Pressure’ mash-up with ‘Northern Soul’ by Above & Beyond ft. Richard Bedford. I can’t forget ‘Mega’ either, which I still love after over one and a half years since its release. I came back to them exactly when they were playing ‘Chakra’ (by Vini Vici and W&W), that psy-prog-trance track, which is unusual for Super8 & Tab, but which I know they love to play, because it makes the crowd go crazy. They closed their set with ‘Quest’ – another hit of this year, but the crowd was already getting ready for the next DJ. Even if the Finnish duo played a similar set to the one they played at Transmission festival, for me it still gave a lot of energy, especially because of their mixed-up styles of tracks. I’m sure there’s a lot to expect from them next year, but let’s leave this topic here and return to the host of the night, who was playing next.
A moment of silence… and then it all began. RAM opened his set with the official Grotesque 300 Anthem – ‘The Calling’ by the man himself and Darren Porter. Those vocals gave a mysterious note to the track, but you can easily hear the typical sounds by both producers, united with the goal to create something special. People were moving closer to the stage, as the host was one of the main reasons for people to be there, also for me, because if not RAM and his music, I wouldn’t be interested in Grotesque so much. He was keeping his sound during the set, sometimes going to something harder or also something softer and more lyrical, and that’s one of the best things about RAM’s sets.
I wish I could name all the beautiful tracks he played, but instead my advice would be to listen to that set (below) yourself, to understand what I’m talking about. Some tracks brought me some special memories, as Allen Watts remix of ‘Tonight’ by Cosmic Gate ft. Emma Hewitt – oh, that magical voice… Of course you could hear his fresh track ‘Melbourne’, but I also wish he played ‘A Billion Stars Above’ – track, which got my attention as ID track already in February and which is in my Top 5 of the year for sure. But it doesn’t matter – set was full not just of emotions, but also energy, especially when he closed it with remixed version of ‘Follow Me’ by Mark Sherry meets Space Frog & Derb – still a perfect choice! For one more time RAM stood on the desk to show his feelings and thank everyone who came to support, and finally it was time for him to relax a bit.
The sound changed again when Standerwick started his set, with some unknown vocal track, where you could recognize the voice of HALIENE, which made you think that this one should be released soon (and yes, in few months we can expect it being released, as Ian revealed after). His sets also have a mixture of progressive and uplifting sounds, combined into a musical journey, including some elements from other genres. Yes, maybe it sounds more like big room and mainstream trance, but who said that the crowd doesn’t love that? If someone didn’t, they could go to other stages, but the Green Room was still full.
I was lucky to hear remixed version of ‘Reckless’ playing by the man himself – finally! What can be better than hearing your personal Track of The Year 2016 played by its partial creator? Same with ‘Saving Light’, which followed later. And the remixed version of ‘Choosing His Angels’ by Solarstone? Why not! And the more uplifting version of ‘Sun & Moon’ by Above & Beyond ft. Richard Bedford? Sure! I hope that Standerwick had same amount of fun as listeners did.
At some point, I visited the Purple Room again, where Mark Sherry was having fun, especially when part of the crowd moved from the Main Stage to the second one. Most of them moved in order to avoid that ‘popsy’ sound to a more tech and banging stuff. Same was with Sneijder, who was playing after, but who was adding some more lyrical tracks in between, for example ‘Concorde’ by Aly & Fila and Ferry Tayle – the only track I could easily recognize during the short time I spent there. Room was surprisingly full, even If there was a bunch of people at other stages, chill and smoking areas, which meant – it was a success for the festival!
As I returned to the Green Room, Standerwick was still playing, but soon ReOrder took his place, playing his usual banging stuff, with some unknown tracks for me (probably taken from his upcoming album). Didn’t expect him to play ‘Northern Soul’, especially when the beginning was taken from the original, but the drop was totally changed for a more typical style for him, as I can say – with a ‘bang’. What about ‘I Am Ready’ track? If you take into consideration new ReOrder’s merchandise, it may be the title track of something new later. You could also hear Vini Vici vs. Bizzare Contact remix of ‘Answer From The Stars’ by Vegas, which is not typical Trance or even psy-trance track, but which still sounds massive.
Later on, he closed his set with own remix of ‘Concrete Angel’ by Gareth Emery – the one he wasn’t sure in the beginning of the year, if crowd will love it, but now he plays it with confidence as there’s no reason for crowd NOT to love it.
The night was coming to the end, Indecent Noise was closing the Purple Room with some energetic and ‘techy’ sounds, but once he ended, everyone was moving back to the main stage, for the last uplifting hour by Darren Porter. People started to leave, as it was already late and some were dreaming about their beds, but I stayed till the end, listening to the music and chilling with friends, discussing best moments of the night and our future plans.
Don’t know why, but one of the tracks, which attracted me, was Omar Sherif Remix of ‘I Feel Love’ by CRW, but later some more remixes – ‘See The Sun’, ‘An Angel’s Love’ and more – legendary tracks, including this year’s classic ‘Sogno’ by Alessandra Roncone, who was also there, enjoying her first Grotesque experience. And then ‘Deep Blue’ – oh, what a tune… Darren knows for sure how to choose good melodies for uplifting tracks. I’m sure that everyone else who stayed could find something special also in this set, and these memories were taken home and saved for the better future.
During all night you could see a bunch of circus artists walking around, showing tricks, some acrobatic acts, dancing on the stage and simply entertaining people with their costumes and smiles. This is something special for this size of festivals, making it unique together with all those ‘Mardi Gras’ style decorations, which are quite simple, but give the right mood to the colorful night. Now I’m curious of what else we can expect in the future from Grotesque.
Extra plus of this event – at least one and a half hours allocated for every DJ to play, so they had time to create not just a set, but something closer to a journey, to be able to start from one thing and finish with another one, and having enough time maybe even for some experiments. I’m sure they appreciated that too.
Two weeks after I’m still happy that I decided to spend money on this trip, even if my pocket was not as happy as my heart. I’m glad to see Grotesque growing every year, now starting to expand these festivals also to some other countries (for now GIF300 in San Francisco is announced, but we can expect even more locations later). Same as Grotesque compilations are coming out on a regular basis, mixed by the artists who performed at the festival (this year – RAM, Marco V and Darren Porter), not even mentioning the music label, which also had a lot of great releases this year. So, my advice – keep following all parts of Grotesque, as it should have a great future!
Separate thanks to RAM for having me there with his sound and creating this wonderful atmosphere between location, listeners and artists!