NINA KRAVIZ on festivals

Nina Kraviz

A German translation of this column is available in Groove 149 (July/August 2014)

I was a very curious little girl and would often inspect my parent’s magazines and especially their collection of postcards. One time an old picture of a hairy man with a guitar in front of a ridiculous amount of people caught my attention. The writing on the card said „Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock ’69“. „What’s this ‚Woodstock'“, I asked. „Oh, it’s a legendary festival, baby“, my parents replied. „Things have changed ever since.“ Until very recently images like this have been the very first reference whenever the word „festival“ pops up in a conversation. A band or a musician performing in front of a big crowd.  A show. A musician. An instrument.

„What kind of instrument do you play“, an officer asked me at the Australian border control some years ago. „Well, I actually play records“, I replied. „Ah, you’re a DJ!“ Yes, a DJ with a record bag full of used vinyls covered with stickers that read „acid“ and „FHXE Detroit“. I had arrived to play at Stereosonic festival which has a daily capacity of 65,000 visitors. It was perfectly organised and everything worked like clockwork. There was so much care involved it felt like I could easily be some famous pop artist. The sound was mind-blowing and even my turntables worked with no trouble. The Australian sun burned hotter than ever.

This is one of these festivals where bigger stages are for mainstream guys. I was playing a smaller stage. I realized that this country is different than Europe when it comes to electronic music. But no time to compare: I finished my set and rushed to the bigger stage with the famous EDM artists. I was very curious. The difference was shocking. They played on a packed stadium-size open air main stage and the effect they had on people was unbelievable. Recognizing a famous melody from the first note the crowd screamed in pure ecstasy of happiness. The music was really loud and with all the screaming it sounded like a proper mass orgasm. The experience itself was truly amazing: In just five seconds each and every hand was up in the Sydney air. Everyone was unconditionally happy. I had never seen anything like that before. Will I ever be able to make so many people happy like that in just five seconds? Do I want to make them happy like that? It looked and felt like the most intense rock concert ever, but the people on stage didn’t play a single instrument. Sorry Jimi! They are DJs. Like me. Or at least there is no better word to describe what they do. Maybe it’s a DJ-simulacrum?


„Will I ever be able to make so many people happy like that in just five seconds? Do I want to make them happy like that?“


It’s somehow similar to what I feel every time I see some so called „deep house“ chart. Music that has no other connection to what I tend to know as deep house than the name itself. Something with the same packaging but totally different content that somehow starts up it’s own life and exists under the original name. Quite different genres, though. It’s almost a Blade Runner scenario. At Coachella where I performed recently, a modern „deep house“ act was closing one of the biggest stages where one day earlier I watched Pharrell Williams and Nas. And people were enjoying their music as if there was a rock band playing. Isn’t it incredible?

Things have changed. Lil Louis didn’t perform at a festival in front of 30,000 people when he had the first house crossover hit with „French Kiss“ in the US a quarter of a century ago. I am really curious where this transformation will eventually lead to. On the other hand I ‚ve noticed that I play more and more big festivals that host more people each year, like Dekmantel for example, and they have not a single purely mainstream name on the line-up. On the contrary the line-ups are becoming more tasty. More and more non-electronic music festivals are inviting electronic artists of a very different calibre. There is an undoubtedly a demand for quality. Luckily for me, with the progression of festival numbers and their sizes, where I play that sometimes remind me of a football field – one thing always remains the same  – my music. I am really blessed that I can afford to play what I really love to bigger crowds – slightly adjusted energy-wise. A raw blend of dance rhythms that I would play for the most dedicated crowd in a small club. Well, these are much bigger crowd now. It definitely seems like a good sign to me. And I don’t even play an instrument!

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