Traumatized by Techno
Photo from Flickr.com (not by me)
As soon as I left the convention center into the brisk morning air I vowed I was only going to listen to acoustic folk music for the next month straight. When my friends and I bought tickets to the I Love Techno music festival in Ghent, Belgium that happened on November 10, 2007 we had no idea that we had just committed ourselves to attending one of Europe’s largest raves where we would have to stay awake for over 36 hours.
The following is an account of one of the longest days of my life:
2 P.M. November 10, 2007
We decided to spend a few days in Amsterdam before heading down to Belgium for the festival. We were already a bit haggard from the last two days as we entered the train station to catch our train to Belgium. Due to our lack of Dutch-language skills we were apprehensive if we were even at the correct platform for the train to Ghent. We glanced at schedules and destination names nervously as we tried to figure out where we were supposed to be.
However all of our fears were allayed as soon as we saw a group of five Europeans walk up to the platform we were waiting at sporting neon-hued dreadlocks and five inch high platform boots splashed in shades of florescent pinks and yellows.
“Yes,” my friend leaned in and whispered to me, “we are definitely on the right train to the techno festival.”
As we arrived at the train station in Ghent I was immediately swept into a sea of brightly clad techno enthusiasts who accosted us as we tried to push our way to the exit.
A rather drunk girl danced about maniacally shouting in a brash cockney accent, “I love fucking techno! I love fucking techno!”
I thought that maybe five thousand people would to be in attendance at I Love Techno. However, I was terribly wrong. I had underestimated the number by about thirty thousand at least.
To say I was severely overwhelmed at this moment would be a vast understatement. The only thought that I could muster was I am not prepared to be here at all. While I do enjoy listening and dancing to techno music I feared that I did not love techno as much as these people did. The looks of dread that slowly crept over my friends’ faces told me that they felt the same way.
“What have we gotten ourselves into?” we asked each other as we laughed nervously and packed ourselves onto the tram that took us to the convention center where the festival was about to begin.
Neon lights and colorful flags hung all over the massive, chilly interior of the convention center. For dinner we ate penne pasta drowned in a thick red sauce served quite elegantly in a half-liter paper soda cup. It was more than I was hungry for at the time, but I realized that I had half a day of dancing ahead of me so I loaded up on all the carbohydrates I could fit into my stomach. Five smaller rooms off the main hall hosted various electronic and techno acts for the rest of the night. The air was cool inside where we ate in the main hall, but this was the last time I felt cold as I spent the next 12 hours drenched in sweat from this never-ending dance party.
I was apprehensive to start dancing so early when we had so much ahead of us. I started slowly to conserve energy during a set by a DJ who went by the moniker “Monica Electronica”.
Her music was not terrible, but it wasn’t very exciting either. It was nice to save up energy for all the acts I was anticipating after she finished.
Earlier in the night because we aren’t drenched in sweat.
As soon as Simian Mobile Disco, a duo from England, hit the stage my energy picked up. All my fears and apprehensions melted away as I began to take in all the music that blasted from the speakers all around me.
We danced from 8 P.M. to 6 A.M. For eleven hours straight we danced, and danced, and danced. I have no idea how I survived, especially since the only thing in my system were two Red Bull energy drinks and about two glasses of water. I was so dehydrated and sweaty that I only went to the bathroom once the entire night.
Even though none of us had heard of the next act, a Belgian DJ named Dr. Lektroluv, we decided to remain in the same room to hear what he would do.
He entered the stage wearing a bright green mask and dark sunglasses. His suit was made bright gold cloth and instead of using regular headphones he used a telephone to listen to his music. We were all in awe of his ridiculous get-up.
Eventually a few of us decided to brave the lines to go get water. As we pressed through the crowd to get back into the room to dance we lost our friend Jessi. I feared I would never see her again because the room was mobbed by so many people.
12:30 A.M. November 11, 2007
While Dr. Lektroluv did not disappoint, the next act, Digitalism, was the high point of the night. While they mixed electronic dance music they also performed with a live drummer which was unusual but had a nice effect.
At this point the room I was in nearly emptied as crowds forced themselves over to the room where the Parisian pair Justice was playing within the next hour. They put out one of my favorite albums this year, and while I wish I could have heard them perform live I do not regret my decision to stay to hear Ellen Allien, the famous DJ from Berlin.
Ellen Allien is part of the electronic music scene that began to thrive in Berlin when she started DJ-ing and producing music in the ‘90s. Before coming to the techno festival I was most excited to hear her perform.
For the first ten minutes of her set she played a simple beat that repeated itself. Eventually the barely noticeable beeps and blips turned into the driving beat behind an hour and a half long set that passed by in a blur. While everything she did was very minimalist, it provided a cool atmosphere for the middle of the night.
During the next act my energy disappeared. Miss Kittin and the Hacker destroyed the immaculate vibe that Ellen Allien had so painstakingly created earlier. This was the turning point in my affection towards techno. While I enjoyed it before, she made me start resenting every single electronically synthesized note that I heard from here on out. Her lyrics were incredibly simple-minded and her vocals were nothing short of screams that went on for much longer than my ears enjoyed listening to.
By the end of the night we looked like this….and this.
Finally at 4 A.M. the headliners MSTRKRFT went on. I wish that they had gone on earlier in the night when I was not entirely drained of energy. They were one of the better acts but I could not manage to enjoy techno anymore at this point. In my head I told myself that if I stopped dancing I would lose all of my momentum and crash. So I continued to dance like a zombie, going through the motions. Each moment we dragged our bodies to the beat it got more and more tiring. Eventually I succumbed to my exhaustion and we decided to leave the dance floor.
We gathered all of our friends to begin our long journey home. When the entire festival ended, all thirty-five thousand people in attendance raced to get on the tram back to the train station. Being surrounded by that many exhausted, sweaty, angry people (many who were coming down from a various assortment of party drugs) was one of the most terrible moments of the night. However, at this point I just had to laugh at the insanity of it all. As I was pushed forward by the masses I laughed to myself in my deliriously tired mind and wondered
Just how in the hell did I end up here?