New Yorkers were in for a treat on Valentine's Day as the Awakenings festival took place in America for the first time. Awakenings is highly regarded as the premier techno festival in Europe, bringing prominent acts such as Adam Beyer, Carl Cox, and Loco Dice to its main event in The Netherlands. It was time for Manhattan to get a little bite of the action, and that we did - and more. Although the size of the show was modest in comparison to Awakenings' Dutch festival, it was in no way minuscule. The Dutch version of Awakenings is undoubtedly the flagship of the brand, featuring multiple stages and dozens of artists; when the lineup dropped for the American edition, comparisons abounded via online forums, with a handful of critical fans opposing the plentiful eager ones. But if Awakenings NYC proved anything, it was that the popular European festival can successfully plant a seed across the Atlantic. Finally, Awakenings has marked its beginnings as the global vehicle of techno, right here in New York.
The lights and lasers throughout the night were thoroughly immersive. (Photo taken by me.)
Bass echoed from every corner of the Hammerstein Ballroom as Julia Govor and Kamran Sadeghi kicked off the show with a killer back-to-back set. There were no gimmicks as the Ballroom's brilliant acoustics clouded the space with pitch-perfect highs and lows. There were no go-go dancers, flashy blacklights, or bottle service. The message upon entering the Awakenings-conquered Ballroom was clear: for the next few hours, it would just be us and the music.
The Ballroom glowed with the impressive lightshow that Awakenings is partially known for, bringing a festival ambience to the historic structure. Pan-Pot's prime midnight set saw the spacious venue fill rapidly with fans from the tri-state area and beyond, even with the Northeast's record-breaking stint of sub-zero temperatures. Creators of fine, minimal techno with a darkened edge, the producers blended their tracks with those by the likes of Sidney Charles and Mark Reeve. The DJ Award-winning Nicole Moudaber went back-to-back with Victor Calderone once Pan-Pot's set ended, which took the aggression factor up a notch. Nicole and Victor are frequent collaborators, and together they create an endless cycle of inspiration, with Nicole describing their constant back-to-back sets as "effortless." And then there they were at 4AM, the power couple: Adam Beyer and Ida Engberg. Husband-and-wife as well as Drumcode figureheads, the two spun a tech-house infused set that included Taster Peter and Jel Ford. The pair's selection of tunes was fittingly smooth, and still upbeat, as they carried the crowd on until the event's ending at sunrise. But for a number of attendees, the night was only halfway over - it was time for the official Awakenings afterparty at Output, whose doors opened at the dawn hour of 6AM.
With Awakenings making an enormous debut in the city, the question is begged: what's going on across the East River these days? Manhattan, often regarded as the commercialized island opposite the hipper confines of Brooklyn, is enduring some sort of a nightclub renaissance. Techno-centric events are beginning to find homes on the island again, years after the notorious Limelight shut its doors. The opening of the brand new Flash Factory, a club in Chelsea that - like its Brooklyn counterparts, Verboten and Output - promises to keep partiers focused on the music, signifies the start of a new movement in New York's dance music community. Does Manhattan - known for its nightclubs with red velvet ropes, individual "male" and "female" tickets, and glorified bottle service - have a chance at finally taking back Brooklyn's spotlight? If future events in Manhattan can mirror the vibes experienced at Awakenings NYC, then consider me interested.
Featured photo credit: Awakenings
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