Awakenings Festival’s booking policy is simple: strictly techno. And so it’s been since 1997, when the very first installment occurred at the famed Gashouder venue. In more recent years, the festival has added a second day and taken up residence at the outdoor monolith Spaarnwoude Houtrak, a 35,000-capacity multiplex featuring eight arenas and located just outside of Amsterdam. The Netherlands capital, perhaps synonymous with decadence and indulgence, is an apt setting for Awakenings, at which legions of diehard techno listeners gorge themselves on deep house, EDM, trance, and other mutations of electronic sound. The festival, in other words, is Europe’s undisputed techno Mecca.
Sound and Vision
In the early 1990s, Rocco Veenboer was throwing raves in Holland. A trip to America, however, focused his vision for plotting events. He attended a couple Grateful Dead shows, notorious spectacles of sound and vision, and realized that lights and production were in fact just as essential to the appeal as the music itself. With that in mind, Veenboer founded Awakenings in 1997. Twenty years later, Awakenings Festival is renowned for its consistently unparalleled talent, convenience, and progressive values.
Indeed, Awakenings Festival occurs each year at the Spaarwoude Houtrak, a colossal stretch of grassland nestled by a lake outside on the periphery of Amsterdam. The stages, meanwhile, are humongous sets outfitted with world-class sound and, of course, lights and more sophisticated technology designed to augment the listening and dancing experience. In fact, Awakenings’ insistence on implementing technology for attendees’ comfort and convenience extends to its scheduling applications, which are readily available from the festival’s already highly navigable website. It’s a futuristic event, in other words, set in a classically beautiful idyll.
Awakenings adheres to a “leave no trace” policy, participating in the De Helden Van Nu (the Heroes of Now) initiative, which involves volunteers separating garbage for recycling purposes. And those plastic bottles in which vendors serve drinks? They’re in fact PlantBottles, the first-ever recyclable bottles made from plants. On top of that 95% of the food served at Awakenings is vegetarian and the other 5% is organic meat.
All Walks of Techno
Each year, the Netherlands’ largest techno event also represents a veritable who’s-who of artists relevant to and pushing forward contemporary electronic music. Naturally, there are familiar headliners, the genre superstars, but Awakenings also features artists reputed for their role at taste-making Berlin venue Berghain, for example, and esteemed pillars of their field alongside upstarts who are difficult to categorize. In other words, the “strictly techno” policy isn’t so strict: techno’s amorphous inclinations and contrarian trends come together at Awakenings.
History and Past Line-ups
In 2014, the festival expanded to two days for the first time ever, which appears to be the new status quo. Dozens of artists fill out the lineup each year, now performing multiple sets throughout the weekend for the benefit of attendees who wish to not make hard decisions and neglect concurrent acts. Some of the past highlights include: Eats Everything, 2000 and One, Julio Bashmore, Maya Jane Coles, Dense & Pika (live), Marcel Dettmann, Henrik Schwarz, Adam Beyer & Joseph Capriati, Ben Klock, Carl Cox, Clouds, Dave Clarke, Jeff Mills, Nicole Moudaber, Alan Fitzpatrick, Ben Sims, Ricardo Villalobos, Pan-Pot, Sven Vath and John Digweed.