After nearly 29 years, I’m beginning to see the value in controlling how I spend my time.
A work-life balance which is starting to pay off, by giving me a bit more soul and a bit less stress; a fulfilling but not frenzied social life which makes time for those I care about, as well as for myself. And a healthy(ish) set of selection criteria for partying which sees me at less crap club nights, and at more carefully considered events which match my music taste and mood – as opposed to someone else’s.
Choose your battles wisely, they say, and this year I did. Wildeburg Festival, hidden amongst a beautiful bamboo-covered nature reserve in Kraggenburg, had all of the good things.
Unlike most Dutch festivals, Wildeburg offered 24 hours of music in what would normally be a suffocating permit policy and a strict midnight finish. We camped for the full three-days on the premises (also rare for the Netherlands), and brought our own alcohol and food with us (almost unheard of).
And this wasn’t a suspiciously nice incentive for a subpar line-up and shoddy stage design, either. Jennifer Cardini was a Friday highlight in the small hours, as refreshing on decks with her selection of dark techno anthems, as she is in interview discussing inequality in the music industry. Robag Wrhume came up with the sun, losing none of the subtle quirks and full-bodied melodies he’s known for but with an added aura of happiness to his set which crowned him my new spirit animal. He had the audience – which ran a full age-spectrum from post-hipsters in their early-twenties, to fifty-year-olds in bucket hats – bouncing around this wild other-world which we’d found ourselves in together.
Walking around the festival grounds separated us from civilisation, both because we were completely mesmerised, and completely lost. Beyond the standard glitter-and-hippy garb, this was really special: we found ourselves crawling through doors in bamboo to reach secret forested living rooms hidden behind the trees. We chased bright wildflower patches across bridges to discover lake beaches – dominated by wooden stage fortresses, windmills, boat sails, and floating plastic flamingos. The music played on, creating separate stories of sound and within the wider world of Wildeburg – from Saturday’s Algerian rock band Imarhan, and house with Detroit Swindle, to pockets of hip-hop and jazz, disco and reggae.
On Sunday the day ticket holders arrived with a fresh energy, and we rose further into our a parallel world of new friends, great music and tent-made gin cocktails. With Geju, SHLTR, DWIG, Monoloc, Lucy playing as the day ripened, Gerd Janson closed the festival with Pick Up by Koze – to which a thousand-strong crowd with glow-in-the-dark jellyfish went completely mental.
People smiled, slept, spoke freely to strangers, and it all added something to this strange paradise. Sure, some people were so high that they needed to eat their weight in magnesium and reconfigure their eyeball-to-socket ratio, but everyone was having a good time, with no sense of the self-destructive zombie apocalypse you get at many electronic music festivals.
It wasn’t the best lineup I’ve ever seen, but it was the best festival I’ve ever been to – and I’ve been to a l-o-t of festivals. Maybe there’s something to be said for balance when you’re at events like this, as well as anywhere else: incredible setlists, but not so great that they imprison you from exploring your surroundings. Fun people, but not so clingy that they restrain you from solo stage hopping. Creative stage design, but not so OTT that they drown the natural environment with synthetics.
Whatever it is, Wildeburg has got it, and we’d recommend you round up your friends and dive in next year.
Words by Alex Durham
Cover Photo by Ruben May