As I packed my bags on a Monday afternoon after spending a super enriching three days at HORST Arts & Music Festival, I made my way to the train station to continue my journey to the last pit stop of the season. The Netherlands boasts of a stupendous dance/electronic music culture and one would think Amsterdam would be at the crux of it all. Although the city highlights some of the finest cutting-edge clubs and electronic music producers, my destination was the small city of Tilburg in the south of Netherlands to contribute my efforts to the team of ‘Draaimolen Festival’
‘Draaimolen’ referred to as ‘Carousel’ in Dutch has been generating great acclaim year after year especially with respect to their stage and visual design. This year marked the 5th edition of the festival at the beautiful venue of Charlotte-Ord. Where do I start about Charlotte-Ord? A former rehabilitation centre, the overgrown plot of land was subsequently taken care of by the festival. Towering trees aiming for the sky, spectacular sun rise and sun sets with the light cutting through the trees and hidden trails and paths into the unknown – the location for Draaimolen was truly spellbinding. So how did I stumble upon this festival? After attending Freerotation in July it was brought to my attention that the team was hosting and curating a stage at Draaimolen including Freerotation residents. With a deep interest to explore festivals which aren’t always in the known I made my way into the festival site on the Monday the week of the festival.
Freerotation Head Honchos Steevio & Suzybee
Everything looked rather barren and raw as I made my way to the meeting point where everyone convened for lunch/dinner or hung out while taking a break with some red wine or beer on the house. Nearby was the office where the core festival team including the owner, Milo spent most of their time immersed in their lap tops bringing together everything in place for Saturday. For most of the festivals that I worked on during the summer, I was mainly present a day before and after the festival with majority of my responsibility taking place during the festival. However, this was the first time I got insight into the amount of sweat, turmoil, hard-work that went into bringing a musical experience to life. There was a certain amount of resonance as I have been down this road with respect to my own tours back in India but a festival is a whole other ball game.
I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy for me to get accustomed to living in a caravan and jump straight into getting my hands dirty after working for over 17+ hours the past weekend. To adjust to the same definitely posed as a challenge. There was one moment when I sneaked into my caravan to get a quick snooze but hey! in the heart of my hearts I got involved to the best of my capability. Now check this – when I meet people from the overseas who move to India for work or live in our country for a bit, they often say that they get spoilt as everything is available to them on their doorstep. What can one expect from a hugely populated country with Mumbai being the ‘city of dreams’ leading to migration of people from smaller towns and villages to build a sustainable living for themselves. This often leads to a lot of labour opportunities where people are ready to do anything to earn and get by. Whereas in other parts of the world, labour is expensive which means you got to pull up your socks, my friend! This contrasting observation was definitely a reality check for me as I saw people who were in charge of heading certain verticals of the festival do all the physical and strenuous work themselves. It was a rather empowering feeling when I started helping out – from ironing big batches of cloth and trying to hang them of a forklift to doing my daily rounds of shooting the behind the scenes footage to just offering an extra pair of hands wherever applicable.
What made this year’s edition of the festival a truly special one was the exquisite line up. Each stage held it’s own unique aesthetic and identity offering something for everyone. Apart from the Freerotation stage, there were two stages specially curated by Job Jobse under the property name ‘Strange Love.’ As this was the first time the Dutch music producer and DJ was delving into the production side of things as well, it was refreshing to see him and his team hard at work living the caravan life amongst the rest of us. The outcome was a 100 strobes, 30 smoke machines and shitload of lasers lightening up the forest and truly creating the feeling of a ‘rave’ in the middle of the woods. The cherry on the cake was a majestic line up, my favourites being Larry Heard and Mr. White LIVE and Ben UFO going B2B with Nina Kraviz for the very first time. A short walk away nestled in one corner of the festival site paved way for ‘Strange Love’ 2. To be completely honest with you, this stage blew my mind away mainly because I discovered so many new artists (most of them being Dutch), thereby getting a feel of what the local music culture is all about. Oceanic played a soothing and calm LIVE set, Eefje De Visser’s solo live set gave me the goosebumps whereas the rest of the line up including the likes of Elias Mazian, Fenna Fiction, Luc Mast, Dollkraut, Solar B2B Mohzgan and Sandrien laid down an eclectic mix of genres creating a really unique intimate vibe making it difficult to leave.
Job Jobse @ Strange Love 1
Larry Heard & Mr. White LIVE at Strange Love 1
Nina Kraviz B2B Ben UFO at Strange Love 1
Strange Love 1 by night
Private Hearts special with Elias Mazian, Fenna Fiction & Luc Mast
Oceanic Live at Strange Love 2
Eefje de Visser LIVE at Strange Love 2
Cut to ‘The Parking Lot’ a stage catered for the no nonsense heavy duty techno lovers. When I was backstage overlooking the crowd in front of me, I felt like I was taken back in time, a time where everything felt pure. Pure dance, pure revolution, pure love, pure drugs. This is how it all began. Although I personally don’t connect with the hard hitting sound, I befriended and met so many people who just stayed put from start to end. Now that is pure passion and commitment. Creating an environment that complimented the style of music, the production was kept simple yet powerful with two visual panels and a bunch of well positioned park amps which could leave you mesmerised and I’m not surprised that the festival won an award for the ‘Best visual and stage design’ for the same.
The Parking Lot By Night
Personally, you would never find me at the main stage of any festival as I usually prefer the hidden nooks and corners but Draaimolen’s main stage oozed with so much happiness and vibe with Motor City Drum Ensemble playing a sundown set followed by The Black Madonna with her strong stage presence and Dixon bringing back memories and yet again delivering a set which reaffirms his standing as No 1 DJ over the years. As the night was coming to end, I couldn’t envision myself ending it anywhere else apart from the Freerotation stage to catch Ben UFO who charmingly delivered two distinctive sets during the course of the day. I came full circle.
Draaimolen Main Stage
Numero Uno Dixon closing the night at Main Stage
The Black Madonna
When I think of a turn out of over 9000 people, it can be a rather overwhelming vision for the eyes. But Draaimolen striked the balance beautifully giving great importance to an audio, visual and musical experience ticking all the boxes. It is surreal to see a place in it’s raw form to being filled with people to seeing it all get over within 12 hours. It’s a bitter sweet feeling to see months and months of hard work just for a 12 hour or 3 day affair and sometimes that can leave you with a hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach. I usually succumb into momentary depression after the end of each tour because all that adrenaline has to subside. And this experience was like no other.
Props to the entire team for pulling off such a swell affair. I couldn’t have picked for a better way to my season. If I had to describe this festival in one word, it would be GRAND. Keep an eye out for the after-movie, I’ve shot it 😉 Secretly I am shitting my pants as this is first time I’ve done something like this but I can’t wait to see what comes out of it!
Oh, and a special shout out to Riley for all the finger licking delicious barbecue that he cooked for the entire staff day in and day out giving us all the fuel we needed. Goodbye Summer 2018, you’ve been invigorating!
To keep tabs on what this wonderful crew is upto in the coming future, follow Draaimolen at –