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This Was: Awakenings 2023

The summer edition of Awakenings Festival took place on July 7th and 8th in Hilvarenbeek in the Netherlands. The festival was originally scheduled for the entire weekend however Sunday was canceled because of severe weather conditions.

The Awakenings brand has been a household name in the electronic music industry when it comes to techno for over 25 years. The summer edition brought 100,000 attendees, with 15,000 visitors staying on the campsite, and more than 100 nationalities represented. What sets Awakenings apart from other weekend festivals is that it seeks to be more than just your run of the mill festival experience but rather is branded as a techno holiday. Awakenings is a vacation experience that combines relaxing and spiritual components such as yoga, cacao ceremonies, coupled with music festival essentials such as art installations, state of the art production, and of course an epic techno line up.

In this review we’ll dive deep into every aspect of the festival, however unfortunately since Sunday was canceled we were unable to capture the full magic of Awakenings and see all of the artists on our must-see-list. More reasons to attend next year!

Getting There
We arrived at the festival on Friday in the late afternoon after a two-and-a-half-hour car drive from The Hague in horrible vacation traffic with no air conditioning. It was the perfect weather for a festival but not for a long drive stuck in Friday traffic!
Getting into the festival was easy with clear signage of where to go and helpful staff leading the way. There were even stands along the route from the parking lot to the festival entrance selling cold drinks and slushies.

Awakenings took place in the beautiful town of Hilvarenbeek located in the North Brabant province of the Netherlands. The sun-drenched festival grounds really encompassed the concept of an ultimate techno holiday with stunning lakes and shady woods if you needed a break from all the fun in the sun!

The stages were connected throughout the festival grounds by bridges crossing the water. We were able at one point to take a boat from one side of the festival to the other which was something I’ve never experienced at a festival before. You could also take pedal boats and traverse the lake, a nice refreshing collaboration between Awakenings and Fuze Tea at the Fuze Tea area. Walking around the festival there were incredible art installations throughout, for example the woods lit up at night with geometric structures. Additionally, at the centerpiece of the festival grounds was a Ferris Wheel where you could get a bird’s eye view of all the action.

One note though for those who like to wear white shoes or fancy platforms, take an extra pair of shoes with you or leave them at home because it did get quite dusty!

Food & Drinks
The price for food and drinks were standard compared to other festivals in the Netherlands (around five tokens for 19 euros). There were a variety of food and drinks to choose from such as smoothies, burgers, spring rolls, kebab, cocktails, and toasties. One notable detail concerning the food was that, in line with Awakenings’ sustainability efforts, the festival was 100% vegetarian, not only for the patrons but for the crew as well.

The stages at Awakenings are differentiated by letter with Area W being the main stage. This did get a bit confusing but thankfully the map in the app made it easy to find each of the stages. On Friday four stages were open to the public: Areas V, Y, U, and L. On Friday Area V served as the main stage equipped with fireworks and some of the biggest artists in the scene. On Saturday all of the stages were open to the public, however unfortunately because the festival was canceled on Sunday we couldn’t spend as much time as we would have liked at each of the stages, but here is a basic breakdown of each one.

Area W
Area W was the main stage, this colossal structure comparable to a stack of skyscrapers which illuminated the sky on Saturday night.

Area V
The second largest stage at the festival was a large wooden architectural spectacle. At night fireworks lit the sky (and even some shot out over the crowd which I’ve never seen before!).

Area Y
Area Y was my personal favorite of each of the stages as it was the home to the harder names in the techno scene. This large tent was also equipped with large video screens and of course (even more lasers!).

Area U
Area U was unique in the fact that it was the only stage that was totally built on the water. This stage really gave you vacation vibes as you danced on top of the lake to pulsating techno.

Area L
Area L (the Lab) was located across from shady woods perfect for cooling down and enjoying some art installations. This stage hosted in collaboration with Mixmag and Red Bull was home to some of the emerging talents in the scene.

Area X
Situated behind the Main Stage was Area X where legends like Nina Kraviz took the stage. If lasers are your thing then this area was for you!

Area C
Area C was home to some of our favorite artists like Seth Troxler and Patrick Topping.

Area D
Area D was the Gashouder stage nestled in the woods paying homage to the iconic Amsterdam venue. Awakenings recreated an outdoor Gashouder, copying the iconic framework of the Temple of Techno.

Area H
Area H, an intimate area with illegal rave vibes located in the woods, was where you could find some of the hottest names in the local techno scene.

Visuals & Sound
Awakenings had a state-of-the-art sound system, we did not hear of any issues concerning the sound at any of the stages. Each stage had its own set of unique visuals between lasers, pyrotechnics, and decorations. On Saturday evening fireworks lit up the sky in Area W.

Atmosphere & Organization
One major takeaway throughout the weekend is Awakenings’ dedication to the underground vibe. This is a notion that is sometimes overlooked or forgotten as electronic music becomes more and more commercial (especially in the Netherlands). Despite the fact that Awakenings is one of the most well-known techno festivals in the world the vibe of the festival remains to be intimate and gives visitors that true underground feeling.
One example of this was Stage L that Awakenings hosted together with Mixmag. Stage L was set up like Boiler Room parties. For those who do not know, Boiler Room events are infamous for their intimate settings where guests are encouraged not only to dance in the crowd but to dance in the DJ booth around the DJ, sometimes in extremely close proximity! Boiler Room sets are known for being underground and intimate, and you really felt this at Area L.

One of the most anticipated sets of the weekend for me was ANNA. Despite the fact it was early on a Friday afternoon she threw down! Her energy on stage was contagious and it set the tone for the rest of the evening in Area Y. I tried to use the “Shazam” app to look up some of the incredible tracks she was playing but was unsuccessful in finding them. If anyone has track names from this set send them our way because it was fire!
Ben Böhmer
One of the main reasons I survived the COVID-19 pandemic was because of Ben Böhmer’s live-streams. To be able to see him live on stage for the first time (and not just on my TV) was a real treat! As the sun set on Friday evening, he dropped some of our favorite tracks like Beyond Beliefs, Weightless, and Maelstorm.
A new addition to my must-see list this festival season is Kölsch. After stumbling upon his set in the forest at World Club Dome in Germany last month I knew I couldn’t miss him at Awakenings! He had us grooving to Deep Inside and Environ. His set was a pure mix of deep melodic elements paired with euphoric rhythm. I’m eager to see what he has in store for us in the future!
Deborah De Luca
Italian DJ and Producer Debroah de Luca is most known for her energetic stage presence and dark pulsating music and her Awakenings set was no exception. She dropped a few of my favorites such as Free Yourself and Outer Halo. Her sets are known to take listeners on a journey, and looking out into the packed crowd everyone was captivated by her sound.

Sustainability & Accessibility
Awakenings continues to be a leader in the scene when it comes to accessibility and sustainability. Everything they do, for instance the Social Safety hub and the Low Stimulus Sapce, are initiatives they hope other festivals will be incorporating soon as well.

The Social Safety Hub is a concept implemented by Sexmatters and is accessible for visitors who at any point throughout the festival feel unsafe or need guidance or advice regarding a difficult situation that they or their friends are experiencing. But also visitors that just have questions or are interested in the topic are more than welcome to come over for a chat.

The low stimulus space is a partnership with HandicapNL and Philips TV & Sound, and is an area of the festival where guests can go to relax in a quiet and safe space or access the care that they might need throughout the weekend. The low stimulus space consisted of small lounges with TV screens showing calming images with noise canceling headphones featuring ambient playlists that DJs made specifically for these rooms. Moreover, there was also an option to listen to white noise or to have total silence.

Next to the low stimulus space was a care room with a bed and medical caretakers from HandicapNL available to those who need it. These important aspects of the festival demonstrate Awakenings’ dedication to making the festival accessible for everyone and making all ravers feel welcome and comfortable, especially people with a disability who would maybe choose to stay at home if such services weren’t available for them on the festival grounds..

Concerning sustainability, it was clear to me from the very beginning that sustainability is crucial to the festival and the brand overall. Awakenings implemented the recycle token system where upon entering the festival you’re given a recycle token, then with every drink purchased you either need to provide a recycle token or bring your cup, bottle, or can back to the bar (otherwise you pay a fee on your next drink). This system ensures that the grounds are clean as it encourages visitors to hold on to their cup rather than throwing them on the floor.

In addition to this, Awakenings reuses the same wood from the stages each year and repurposes it in different ways. Furthermore, even the wristbands for entrance were made from recycled material! And of course, as previously mentioned, Awakenings is a 100% vegetarian festival, which also adds to its sustainability efforts.

General Impressions
Awakenings is one of those festivals that encompasses so much more than just music. It’s a brand that is committed to not only major causes such as sustainability and accessibility but also representation and diversity within its line ups. The Awakenings line up this year had artists from all over the world many of whom were female. In a male dominated scene, it’s amazing to see so many talented female artists taking the stage and we hope that other festivals follow suit.

Unfortunately, the festival was cut short due to inclement weather. On Sunday morning, the organizers made the tough call to cancel the final day of the festival. Visitors were notified before the start of the festival and those camping were evacuated, for the international visitors that couldn’t go home yet shelter was provided on-site. I luckily was home (about to leave actually) when I received the news. However, I did see that instructions were given via email regarding refunds, finding safe accommodations, and other important information for those camping. It is always a tough call to make when it comes to canceling a festival, but safety should always be at the forefront and we will definitely be coming back next year! 

Luckily for us Awakenings will also host a total of 9 events during Amsterdam Dance Event coming October. Full line ups will be released Wednesday July 19th and tickets will go on sale on Thursday July 20th at 20:00 CEST via Awakenings.

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