- Since their first event in Amsterdam in 2013, DGTL's sprawling empire now includes offshoots in Barcelona, Tel Aviv, São Paulo and (soon to be) Santiago De Chile. Their flagship event, though, will always be in Amsterdam. Each year on Easter weekend, roughly 17,000 revellers flock to NDSM Docklands, a repurposed dockyard just across the water from Amsterdam's Centraal station.
It's easy to explain DGTL's success. A stacked bill of electronic music that caters to the masses is presented with technical production levels that are as slick as you'd expect from a huge rave in the Netherlands. The site itself is fairly raw, all cranes, warehouses and shipping containers, though certain accents give it character. At one end, a mural of Amsterdam's beloved ex-Mayor, Eberhard Van Der Laan (who passed away from cancer last October), stands watching over the site. A little further along, an elevated shipping container appears to have exploded, strewing a wave of wooden pallets into the sky. SKYLINE, easily DGTL's most striking installation, greeted attendees as they made their way down the entrance hall. Strobe lights with subwoofers attached were suspended from the ceiling and worked in a patterned sequence, giving the impression of light and sound moving towards you in a deafening crescendo.
In the weeks leading up to the festival, DGTL announced they'd be implementing a zero food waste policy at this year's festival (which has also been vegetarian since 2017), with an aim to being 100% sustainable by 2020. Sustainability was present everywhere onsite, whether it was the fancy dress-clad litter pickers, the strict recycling and compost bins by the food stands, or even the portacabin where you could recycle your own urine into hot, minty tea.
Resident Advisor were back to host the Gain stage at DGTL this year. Though it was the festival's smallest space by far, a circular booth gave sets from the likes of Nathan Fake, Nightmares On Wax and Mano Le Tough a nice intimacy that wasn't found anywhere else onsite.
Here are five key performances from across the weekend.
DGTL's bookings have always favoured talent from close to home, and while Dutch darlings like Speedy J may have drawn some of the largest crowds, it was the new wave that played some of the strongest sets. Nous'klaer Audio are a label and tight-knit crew that call Rotterdam home. They've been quietly building a reputation in Holland through residencies at Amsterdam's De School and their hometown's BAR, but it's stellar releases from Mattheis and upsammy that have caught people's attention further afield. Label boss Oberman played a few solid sets at DGTL, but it was his younger brother, Oceanic, that shone. He played first to warm up the monolithic Modular tent, and then at RA's Gain stage after a raucous set from Honey Dijon, and managed both with ease. His style leant towards UK-centric sounds—Pangaea's "Bone Sucka" and Desert Sound Colony's "Aunty Wendy's Wedding in Wales" being notable highlights. Despite being faced with thinning numbers on both occasions, he still managed to craft a vibe.
Or:la is on a roll at the moment. With two Hotflush releases under her belt and a stacked summer of gigs coming up, Northern Ireland's Orlagh Dooley has built a reputation as an impressively versatile DJ. She played twice at DGTL, once by herself for a few hundred people at the Filter stage, and then back-to-back with Mall Grab to close out RA's Saturday takeover of the Gain stage. Though both sets were great, she played best solo, warming up the early crowd with funky cuts from Soulphiction ("B3B4URD1") and anthemic bombs such as SIL's "Windows (Original Update)." It's always refreshing to see an artist break out of their home country, and with Or:la tracing her way across the European festival circuit for the first time this summer, I'd like to think we'll be hearing a lot more from her in years to come.
I hadn't initially planned to catch Amelie Lens' set, but witnessing the crowd's reaction to her head popping up behind the decks for the first time was enough to persuade me to stick around. Aleksi Perälä was just wrapping up a stunning live set to a half-empty Generator room as Lens emerged to fiddle with her controller, prompting those in the front to scream in delight and chant her name. Noticing the crowd's response, she swiftly stepped out of view to give Perälä's ambient close some room to breathe. What happened next felt like a blur. In what seemed like less than a minute, the room had swelled to capacity (that's roughly 5,000 people). Girls were up on their friends' shoulders, their hands formed into heart shapes, and Lens was dishing out relentless, pummelling techno, much to the delight of the crowd. The two hours that ensued largely followed the same formula, with every addition of a hi-hat or acid line earning ecstatic cheers. Even when I moved to watch from the back of the warehouse, where it was hard to make out who was even onstage, the energy in the room called to mind a Sunday evening at Berghain. Whether or not it's your thing, you have to give Lens credit where it's due.
As Amelie Lens gave grateful smiles and waves to her adoring crowd, Zak Khutoretsky, AKA DVS1, quietly stepped up to the decks to begin his set. Droves of people— perhaps worn out from going full-pelt for Lens' set—appeared to be leaving, though this allowed for more room to dance for those who remained. The next two hours were as driving and fluid as you'd expect from someone with Khutoretsky's rave experience. His set was epitomised by twitchy, paranoid techno, which made for a refreshing break from some of the other big-room sounds on offer over the weekend.
It's been a whirlwind few months for Courtney Clark, AKA CC:Disco! She's been an Australian favourite for years, but prior to last summer her gig schedule had remained largely within her home country. It's not hard to see why she's now getting the recognition she deserves. She plays sunny house and disco, the majority of the time with a big smile across her face, as was the case when she played RA's Gain stage. Manuel Darquart's brilliant "Dream Sequence" fell alongside piano-heavy tracks such as Soulsearcher's "Can't Get Enough (Jazz N Groove Nu Disco Vocal)," and for a short while, it felt like a touch of Australian sunshine was shining over the DGTL site.
Photo credit /
Tim Buiting - Lead
Luís Martins - Artists