A wonderful conclusion to a festival that will be sorely, sorely missed.
At 6 PM on Sunday evening, the light turned orange over the lake at Bungalowdorf Olganitz, and the final DJ set in Nachtdigital's 22-year history began. Robag Wruhme, a longtime friend of the festival, handed over the decks to Leo and Michel, its founders and figureheads since the beginning. What followed was a medley of songs that felt directed less at the general crowd and more at the family of regulars and volunteers who are the heart of Nachtdigital. Depeche Mode's "Enjoy The Silence," the Superpitcher remix of Dntel's "(This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan," even Nelly Furtado's "All Good Things (Come To An End)" (you can hear the whole thing here). Some punters looked on in confusion or even frustration, pining for one last rave-up before the end of the weekend. But the atmosphere in the booth and at the front of the dance floor was extraordinary, all hugs, tears and singalongs, the whole scene backdropped by the sunset glinting off the lake. Among the misty-eyed was Job Jobse, who, when Everything But The Girl's "Missing" came on, donned a helmet, climbed onto a speaker stack, and crowd-surfed.
Sunday marked the end of something very special. For the hundreds of people who worked on it over the past two decades, Nachtdigital was a source of community and even a kind of surrogate family. For the thousands of people who came each year, it was an annual ritual where the music was often secondary to what the festival once called "the indispensable sensation of being together." What began as a party "by the children of farmers, for other farmers' kids," became, by no plan of its own, a destination for people from across the globe. Its reason for finishing now, two years after its 20th anniversary, is not publicly known. But in the sage words of Nelly Furtado, all good things do come to an end, and it's hard to imagine a better end for Nachtdigital than the beautiful, bittersweet farewell party it threw for itself last weekend.
Here are five key performances from the final edition of Nachtdigital.
How about this for a narrative. When Job Jobse was 18, he visited Nachtdigital for the first time and loved it so much he never missed another edition. In 2014, he debuted at the festival with a Sunday afternoon closing set. At some point along the way, he also met his partner, proposed by the lake and, just last month, got married at Bungalowdorf Olganitz, Nachtdigital's spiritual home. "It's hard to describe how much this place has meant to me," he posted recently on Instagram. To top it all off, he was given the Saturday morning set on the main stage at this year's finale. "I got to play the slot I always dreamed of," he wrote.
Job Jobse playing the set of his life at his favourite festival—it was only ever going to go one way. He immediately set the tone, opening with "Papua New Guinea" by The Future Sound Of London before neatly working his way through a tidal wave of hits. At some point early on the heavens opened, briefly yet with venom, leaving a thick alpine mist covering the dance floor. With the sun back in full force, the vibe swelled to boiling point, powered by endless classics. If you grew up listening to dance music in the '80s and '90s, there's a strong chance your favourite track got an airing, from Age Of Love's "Age Of Love" and Eurthymics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" to Sonique's "It Feels So Good." An edit of Bronksi Beat's "Smalltown Boy," which teased the vocal a cappella for ages before exploding, might have been the golden moment. Or was it "Glue" by Bicep? There were too many to choose from.
One of the nice things about Nachtdigital is hearing new artists in a setting that really does them justice—for instance, Lake Stage, a partially covered wooden dance floor that takes over when the main stage finishes each afternoon. Vlada, a Russian DJ based in Berlin, played here at noon on Saturday, kicking off what is effectively the afterhours portion of Nachtdigital's programme. Having arrived straight from Garbicz Festival in Poland, she made easy work of it, bobbing and weaving through two hours of club records that reflected a well-honed digging habit, all of them lush and futuristic, full of surprising changes and surreal hooks. I recognized nothing, though someone in the Nachtdigital Music group on Facebook ID'd "Christo," a 1995 track by Clark on Planet E. As she kept a packed dance floor stomping it out in the beaming midday sun, Vlada looked utterly at ease, lightly tapping her foot and occasionally puffing a joint. You got the feeling she could have kept this up for hours, mixing in one perfect and mysterious club record after another, well into the afternoon.
As Helena Hauff began her set at 3 AM on Sunday morning, the main stage dance floor was smothered in smoke and red lights. The spooky atmosphere, heightened by a few scarecrows on sticks above the crowd, fitted the music, which started with jacking electro before moving through techno and ghetto house. Playing a mix of stuttering broken beats and four-on-the-floor bombs, Hauff strung her records (naturally, only vinyl) together with pinpoint precision, living up to her rep as one of the most technically gifted DJs in the scene.
New basslines seemed to come out of nowhere, the loud claps and hi-hats of every new transition landing with mind-blowing accuracy. The barrage was constant, Hauff hunched over and chain-smoking, peering across the dance floor whenever a reaction was particularly rowdy (like the one for the The Dexorcist's garage bomb "Blindside"). For many, her set was the best of the weekend, a perfect combination of high-energy mixing and daring track selection. No one does it like Hauff.
At 10 AM on Sunday morning, Sonja Moonear swapped places with Paquita Gordon on the main stage, a changing of the guard that was also reflected in the crowd—those who trudged to their tents, weary and dazed, were replaced by fresh faces ready for the final day. Moonear, framed by three grand bouquets of lilies, played up to the sunshine and beaming smiles with big, fun bombs heavy on groove and quirky sounds. Her flow was a little disjointed—loud rave and techno tracks often followed stripped-back rollers and vice-versa—but the feel-good factor never wavered. Things got wild towards the end, the atmosphere amplified by cuts like Aquastep's "Oempa Loempa," Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy (Kamouflage Loves Fred Remix)" and Tommy Boy's rowdy remix of "Cubik" by 808 State. This was Moonear at full-tilt, and she went down a storm.
As soon as Robag Wruhme took over from Woody for the weekend's second-last set by the lake, the volume dipped. Anyone listening from afar was drawn towards the dance floor, where Wruhme began rolling out melodic tech house. The mood was psychedelic and uplifting, as soft chords and tones washed over the crowd during extended breakdowns. Deep and emotional, it was the kind of voodoo sound perfected by a group of veteran German artists in Wruhme's sphere (Roman Flügel, DJ Koze, Michael Mayer), where chugging grooves are sprinkled with lush synths and bleeps. This sound is distinctly German, heard in clubs and low-key forest raves throughout the country.
Some in the audience swayed from side to side, others jumped around in the water with the same energy from two days earlier. Perhaps the best moment of all was Wruhme's edit of "On" by Aphex Twin, which featured a stunning sequence of chords floating atop a gently shuffling beat. It was one of dozens of dreamy tracks in a set packed with delicate grooves dancing beneath melodies loaded with feeling.
We've compiled YouTube and Spotify playlists with some of our favourite tracks from Nachtdigital Mint.