Running from Thursday to Saturday evening, Into the Valley returned for its second instalment over the last weekend in July. From Stockholm the journey there takes three and a half hours, though it can be made considerably more fun by booking a Thursday festival-run party train.
In the UK in particular, festivals are securing incredible line-ups, making it difficult for festivals to discriminate themselves from other festivals purely on the basis of the artists on offer. Consequently, the location, crowds, quality of the sound systems and whether the festivals provide the opportunity for artists to realise their full potential have become incredibly important.
Into the Valley does location really, really well; the festival is based in a 35,000-year-old comet crater in the north of Sweden that had been converted in to a concert venue in the mid-90s. It’s no gimmick either – being able to look up at the tree line surrounding the edge of the valley as the sun sets while dancing away to premium quality music is a unique, unforgettable experience. Combined with an international crowd who created a very positive vibe throughout the weekend, Into the Valley has all the makings of a great festival.
As with any great festival though, the quality of the music was what really made Into the Valley. A strong line-up of international and local talent delivered throughout the weekend. The festival organisers had not scrimped on the quality of the sound systems: each stage was decked out with high-quality sound systems and set up to minimise sound bleed between stages, an issue which often lets otherwise good festivals down. The main stage, the Theatre, is a permanent stage in the crater and has a top-notch sound system already installed while the Hanging Garden, Pyramid and Temple stages (in ascending order of size) were all fitted out with superb sound systems.
The Hanging Garden stage, the smallest stage, hosted the local talent over the weekend. The Rollerboys, veterans of the Stockholm club scene, played an outstanding, high-energy set Friday evening, though it was so light it could have been afternoon. Being so far north, Into the Valley never really seems dark. Instead, a constant half-light settles over the valley. The whole festival feels like it blends into one day, with only brief snatches of sleep punctuating the light. Alongside the woodland/crater landscape of the festival, the light contributes to the otherworldliness of the festival.
Bicep were treated like heroes at the end of their two-hour set on the Pyramid stage, with the crowd clamouring to shake the duo’s hands and grab a photo with the pair. In all fairness, Bicep deserved this reaction, playing one of the standout sets from the festival with their 2015 track Just receiving what was likely the best audience reaction over the weekend.
Hunee was one of the few DJs who could pick up on the mood at the end of the Bicep set and shift things in a decidedly funky direction. Despite the crowd clearing away from the Pyramid stage to see Joy Orbison b2b Ben UFO or Jeff Mills, those left were in for a real treat with Hunee playing a set from which it was impossible to walk away without feeling elated.
Into the Valley also made sure that female artists were very well represented at the festival – something that by no means can be said for the majority of electronic music festivals. Nina Kraviz closed out the festival on the main stage perfectly with one of the largest crowds turning up for her brand of deep, atmospheric house. Honey Dijon played a strong afternoon set, keeping things decidedly funky, while the Sweden born, Berlin-based DJ and producer La Fleur loosened up the crowd with her brand of melodic house.
Although the trend toward funkier house tracks, prevalent at UK festivals the last few years, remained (a prime example being the track Gimme, a track which Move D has kept on rotation and which appeared during his Into the Valley set), a few sets verged toward a harder end of the spectrum. A prime example was Four Tet’s live afternoon set, normally a relatively jaunty affair, which deviated towards a decidedly darker tone at Into the Valley, incorporating techno elements throughout an engaging set.
All in all, Into the Valley managed to hit the bar set for a high-quality music festival. A few niggles were experienced with the camping set-up when the sustainable tents ordered from a festival-affiliated company were difficult to put up, and a heavy police presence dampened the free revelling spirit of a festival slightly. However, Into the Valley brought together a group of like-minded music fans, provided world-class musicians the opportunity to perform at their best and topped it all off with a stunning location. Only its second year, Into the Valley has the potential to become a mainstay on the European electronic music festival circuit.