Many festival goers woke up Saturday morning to the sounds of booming thunder and torrential rain, and probably thought they were in for a long, soggy day at the park. I had my rain boots, socks, and an extra pair of sneakers packed and ready to go, and dressed for a typical early summer day in The Netherlands (wind/rain/clouds/a brief interlude of baking hot sun/repeat.) However, the festival gods had other ideas, and by midday the sun was out, the clouds had parted, the rain boots stayed home, and with our spirits lifted, we were on our way to The Crave at Zuiderpark, Den Haag.
Unlike previous years, this was the first time The Crave Festival was held at a park and not the warehouse grounds of their home office, which had offered an intimate, raw, industrial vibe. This year organizers carved out a small piece of the park that perfectly captured the spirit of an intimate daytime summer festival, nestling the three different stages between tree-lined paths, footbridges, open fields, and various water features. From the entrance to the furthest stage was only a few hundred meters, which made navigating from stage to stage and meeting up with friends quite seamless. The food trucks served everything from vegan fare to gourmet burgers and fries, provided substantial seating, and there was hardly ever a line to grab a drink. The staff and volunteers were friendly, and the medical staff was more than helpful in providing sunscreen for anyone who asked.
There were three stages set up, with each offering its own sonic, palpable experience. The Mainstage was situated in the middle of a large open field which served up-in-your-face, pulsing, acid-layered techno. At what I would call “peak sun,” Matrixxman dropped Anthony Parasole’s “Point God,” which acted like a siren song for the shirtless, shoeless, dancing masses as they descended upon the stage in what seemed like a matter of seconds. Adjacent to the Mainstage was a lakeside chill out area serving up fruit smoothies, lounge chairs, hammocks, and respite from the sun.
The PIP x Creme stage was the smallest of the three, offering up a pleasant blend of live music with vocals and off-the-beaten-path house and techno from Legowelt, DJ TLR, and Lake Haze, which was appropriate considering its location. Fit snuggly between a drink tent and a sun-kissed, water-side chill out area at the end of a footbridge, the PIP x Creme stage offered an intimate experience of eclectic, experimental sounds that ran the spectrum of underground dance music.
The District25 stage was located in the center of the festival grounds with the DJ booth and a decent portion of the stage itself built under a metal hangar. I found myself spending most of the day here, allured by the rhythmic, tribal, spacey sounds of Woody and Call Super, and remained for the disco and classic house dancefloor smashers provided by Dutch festival professional and local favorite Tom Trago, and Makam. The sound inside the hangar was considerably louder and more “full” than outside, but this had the unique effect of providing ample space in the center of the dance floor to dance (or sit down and have a rest) while catching up with friends and enjoying the last remaining light of the day.
With Karenn closing out the Mainstage to a packed crowd of techno die-hards, Mind Against finished off the District25 stage as well as any fan could hope. While their production meanders between emotional, somber, and baroque, their DJ style is much more chameleon-like depending on the festival they play, but there is always a beginning, a middle, a release, and an end. A story. (Imagine Beethoven with a synthesizer and a kick drum). This was no exception, as they packed the hangar and destroyed the dancefloor with arms in the air, flags waving, and a light show that mesmerized from start to finish. A wonderful ending to a wonderful day.
The Crave Festival was a great success for not only the organisers, but also for the electronic dance community in The Hague. This may signal the beginning of a new era, where dance music culture is embraced and more public land is allocated for events that provide the same quality and professionality as The Crave Festival.
Words by Tyler Besse