Sun, Sand and Sound: A confession from Belgium’s Ostend Beach festival 2016

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Not the usual party on the Beach A Confession from up north Belgium at Ostend Beach 2016

I have been missing the sea for a while, and I was really looking forward to finding myself on a beach with a nice selection of electronic music. The perfect chance was Ostend Beach 2016, Belgium, were I decided to go not only because of the impressive line-up, but also for the seamless experience produced by other Flemish festivals that I have attended in the past. This event confirmed the dedication of Belgians to parties and festivals.

I must say it took me a while to adapt to the sand (everywhere), as I am not used to dancing and walking on it for such a long time, but after a while, you just embrace it and go along with it. Once you get used to this unusual environment, you find yourself floating around the festival site with a big smile on your face, thanks to the music and the nice vibe of the people. The sun did the rest.

I found mainly locals attending the event, which is quite good for a medium sized event like Ostend Beach. Three stages, with different genres, and a couple of smaller ones (one also in the toilet area with some funky beats). I wanna start with a criticism, just to get it out of the way. I honestly struggle to understand why on Saturday they dedicated the main stage to essentially EDM, while artists such as Kolsch or Joris Voorn were placed on smaller stages. I guess, though, that this is a tendency of most festivals nowadays, they all need to cover expenses in some ways. That being said, in some ways it was probably even better. Smaller stages allow you to connect easily with the dj, you feel part of the musical trip and you don’t suffer the distance between the dj boot and the crowd.

First of all, let me give some recognition to the sound system. The techno stage (Decadance on Saturday and Krush on Sunday) had some fantastic Funktion-One speakers, probably the best on the market, but also on the other stages the quality was impressive. That is the first thing I look for in a music festival, and we began on the right foot.

We started with Marco Bailey in the early afternoon, and what a start. A Belgian dj and producer who has spent many years touring and releasing techno music with different labels (Drumcode, Intec and Sleaze, just to name a few) before launching his own labels MB Electronics and MBR Limited. It’s clear that he knows very well what the crowd wants and he is not afraid of delivering: nice, well placed, banging techno for the first people ready to party. The sun now was really hard on us, and we would have loved to have some chilling area in the shadows, but we decided to move to another tent where Cafè d’Anvers, the famous Flemish Club, was in charge with its Resident Chantal. The atmosphere was getting ready for the first high profile artist, Kolsch. You can expect anything from the Danish producer and dj, but what you’ll get for sure are euphoric people and hands in the air, with of course some chunky percussive melodies keeping you dancing and sweating all over. That’s exactly what happened, with ups and downs wisely calibrated for a dj set that drove crazy the crowd.

When I go to festivals I always find myself wondering whether it is better to watch perform djs you know already, or maybe try someone new. Either way, you risk to miss something out. In this case, we let the guts decide for us and we decided to go back to Cafè d’Anvers stage, giving a chance to two Belgian duos. Bollen & Fichtner and Nukov & Yelmet were two brilliant surprise to me. I recognised my limit, I didn’t know them before, but I am super glad of the choice as they gave us goose bumps and spread a tremendous energy with four hours of non-stop-pushing-techno! Honestly, probably the best surprises of the whole festival. I know we should have moved (probably) but we decided to stay, we couldn’t leave that stage without giving a chance to the British Jey Kurmis, from Leeds. And it was worth it, a remorseless thundering techno set that well prepared the floor for the Techno King of the Netherlands himself, Mr Joris Voorn. What can I say about him that has not been said already? I guess it is just fair enough to say that he is one of the top dj currently in activity, because he has everything on his side: technique, passion, fantasy, flexibility and, most importantly, a unique connection with the crowd. Joris again mixed the cards on the boot, with some explosive classy techno merged and infused with more melodic moments. This first day, was a true blast. We didn’t follow the younger kids to the after party, been there, done that, we had to be in full swing for the next day. Some epic moments ahead.

Second day was a bit windier, but that didn’t stop the people to come early. The crowd was even more mixed than the day before, with all generations coming together creating the perfect conditions for another day of madness. We decided to take it slower, Marko De La Rocca and Nik Bril, both Belgian, warmed up our brains while lying on the sand and enjoying the sun, just before Yamo, one of the minds behind the entire festival but also a very talented dj with a pleasant mix of jazzy, uplifting house, quite deep in some parts, accompanied with rumbling low-end and from time to time by a live sax performer. Something totally different from the rest we have seen so far.

And then came the time for one of the most desired set of the festival, with Edu Imbernon. We had the pleasure to interview him, and this interview will be published soon, but let me focus on a few things for now. Edu has been on the scene for a while now, and we can feel it immediately. The energy he spreads, the way he takes you back and forth, up and down, is really something unique. He said to us that when he plays, he wants to tell a story. Well this story was well received by the crowd, and you could tell it by just looking at the smiles around you while he was playing. No time for rest though, all ready because it was then Patrick Topping time. This bloke from Leeds never stops to amaze me. Producer and dj with a unique sense of rhythm, surprising us at each drop, no stop beats for two hours. Thanks for everything Patrick, can’t wait to see you playing around again (also because I was interviewing Edu and I could’nt enjoy the full set).

I don’t feel ashamed to say that I didn’t feel the need to wait for Sven Vath. No disrespect, but consider the fact that I have seen him many times and the need to be up and running in the office the next day, well, it was enough for me at this festival.

I will take back with me some top quality music, fantastic memories, a great atmosphere and a very friendly organisation (big ups to everyone working there, always with a nice attitude!). Also, when you party in Belgium, you can feel that this Country has an history of love with electronic music. It’s not just the last decade of EDM that fired everything up, but it’s a long tradition of underground music and festivals that makes this place one of the best to party. We met some fantastic people, and I truly hope that we will see them again. I’ll be back next year for sure, and I’m quite sure they will be there again for a new adventure of sun, music and fun.