Walking away from the last set of DGTL Festival at Amsterdam's Docklands on Sunday night just a few weeks ago was like saying goodbye to an old friend who lives overseas- you are sad to see them leave and you wish you had a few more minutes to hang out because you might not see them for a while, but you know you'll see them again and you are glad you had those few days together.
Forget the poetic inferences; let's talk business. This was the first time we have crossed paths with DGTL and both the festival itself as well as the music did not disappoint. Ferrying across from the central station in 10 minutes and you were greeted by a gritty and industrial grouping of warehouses and shipping containers with the familiar thump of techno traveling through the ground.
The layout of stages and ease of moving between them was mostly good - two of the larger stages, Digital and Analog, could only be accessed by crossing a bridge over a service road and sometimes this could get a little busy, but the staff on hand ensured a steady flow of traffic. Inside each of the warehouses housing the stages, the sound quality was very well balanced no matter where you were standing, there was no need to rush to the front (although the inevitable push forward could not be stopped!).
Now for the bread and butter - the music. The world class line-up delivered in a big way. The organizers tried their best to make sure the big names didn't overlap but when you pack 80+ of the biggest names in the industry into 6 stages over two days, it's going to happen no matter how hard you try to avoid it. It's never a good idea to try to catch everything by running between stages but we did our best to sample the best each stage had to offer.
Maceo Plex's label Ellum had a fantastic vibe when we walked in on Pachanga Boys throwing down the kind of music that makes everyone move (and sweat); melodic and deep interspersed with the classic synth moaning-sound byte of their genre-defining track "Time". Maceo himself blew the roof off of the building when he stepped up and for the first point in the day I found myself with absolutely no elbow room at all - a small sacrifice to pay to watch one of DGTL's biggest artists unleash his rhythmic drums and soaring vocal tracks he has become a household name from.
Hot Since 82 was another must-see. Innocent bystanders were thrust out from under the protective covering of the warehouse enclosure in front of the Digital main stage and out in the wind but not one complaint was heard - everyone was too busy bouncing around to the institutional Daley Padley moving between tracks with seamless grace and with drops that never really seemed to drop, just get bigger and better.
Crossing the food court area (read: french fries and mayonnaise, as fine a Dutch meal as you could ask for) and heading into the Analog warehouse, David August's wall of synths, snares and sound captured you and started making you work off all those extra mayo calories. Mano Le Tough followed August's set and as anyone who's seen the man at work can attest, if you ever have a chance to see this man from Ireland get up on stage, do it!
To close off the weekend we found ourselves captivated by Âme. The duo from Germany usually has only one man up on stage at a time but this didn't matter at all, the sounds coming from that man (Frank Wiedemann) were unbelievable. The Innvervisions stage, with powerhouses Dixon and Recondite among the talent selected for the day, was musical bliss from start to finish and Âme closing out was easily the best two hours of the weekend.
All in all, DGTL opened up the festival season with an explosion and the constant flow of high-energy music coming from all of the stages was matched by the atmosphere of the crowd. A great way to spend the Easter holiday and you can be we'll be back for more. Enjoy some sets recorded from the weekend below: