Archives for posts with tag: Paul van Dyk

img_3249Back from an extended break in London, The Netherlands, Italy and Ibiza, it’s now time to get back into writing my reviews. But first things first, I need to catch up on what I did while I was away. Finding time to write up every event proved too much this year, and once I’d let it slip, I decided that the best thing would be to write up a single review covering every event of the summer in Europe.

img_3256First up, of course, was Luminosity Beach Festival, of which so much could be written. As always, it was the perfect blend of wonderful music, amazing sunsets, meeting old friends, making new friends and dancing to trance across three stages. So many highlights, as always, but there were a few that I have to mention.

  • The Thrillseekers, who opened with Sasha – Xpander (a bold move), and just got better and better, over three wonderful hours.
  • Orkidea, of course, who opened the new stage on the Saturday, warming us up perfectly for the day’s musical treats ahead.
  • Signum, who played another brilliant set and surprised me when he dropped the wonderful London Grammar – Wasting My Young Years (Solarstone Remix).
  • Liquid Soul, whose deliciously melodic psy-trance was perfect for the time of day.
  • John O’Callaghan, playing possibly my favourite tune of the year so far: Ludovico Einaudi – Two Trees (John O’Callaghan Remix).
  • John 00 Fleming, ripping apart the new stage as only he can do.
  • Paul van Dyk on classics day as the sun set. How good it was to see him back in action!


The festival gets bigger and bigger each year, and perhaps as it does so it loses a little of its charm and intimacy. But it’s still streets ahead of anything else in the world for trance fans and next year’s tenth anniversary, with an extra day’s music to enjoy, has been put firmly into our diary (tickets and accommodation already secured).

Back in London we had the chance to catch the latest dance:love:hub night, at Brixton’s Club 414. Sadly, The Digital Blonde had to cancel, but we still had a great time dancing to some warm, melodic psy-trance, courtesy of Jon Cockle, Façade and others. These events are notable for the friendly vibe and the brilliant decorations of the intimate 414 really made for a special night.


Our annual pilgrimage to Ibiza took us to Amnesia for Cream and what a great night it was too! Without a doubt, Amnesia is my favourite club in the world, despite the ridiculous bar prices. Jordan Suckley played a really good warm-up set, which I probably enjoyed more than I would a peak hour set in his normal style. Paul Oakenfold relied a bit too much on EDM drops over old Perfecto classics in the first half of his set, but got it spot on in the last 45minutes – so much so that I forgave him for what had gone before!


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, in his element as the Cream resident, played even better than his Luminosity set and showed that his remarkable recovery from the life-threatening fall at ASOT750 is all but complete. And then Aly & Fila tore the roof down with a brilliant set that showed Fadi at his absolute best. What a moment when he dropped The Thrillseekers – Amber (ID Remix) and we got to hear the other contender for tune of the year on the sensational Amnesia sound system!


At the other end of our Ibiza trip we were hugely disappointed when the news came through that Solarstone had broken his ankle in Majorca and was unable to play either the Connect Boat Party or the Connect Pure Trance night at Es Paradis. Still, the show must go on, and Sied van Riel was flown in to cover. He played back-to-back with Alex Ryan on the sunset boat party, which is definitely one of the best things about Ibiza.

Version 2The Pure Trance night went ahead without Solarstone, and there was a disappointing turnout for what proved to be a night of superb trance. Orkidea opened with a wonderful 90-minute set, Sied van Riel played a wonderfully trancey set and John 00 Fleming played one of the best two hours I’ve ever heard from him, closing with Tiësto – Suburban Train and Brainbug – Nightmare. With plenty of room to dance, we had a brilliant night.


In between the big events that bookended our week on the white isle, we managed several trips to the wonderful Tropi bar, making friends and dancing to tunes played by DJ Ange, Nathia Kate, Amy Parnell, Paul Stone and others. There really is no other bar like it, anywhere in the world and we even left Eric Prydz at Café Mambo early just to get back to Tropi!


Back in the UK and there was time for an overnight trip up to Manchester for the last ever Majefa night, at Sound Control. The main room of the club was absolutely rammed and, with little ventilation, it was a real sweatbox. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed John 00 Fleming’s set – very different from the tunes he played three days earlier in Ibiza and I’d really love to know whose remix of Binary Finary – 1998 he dropped.


After J00F it was time for M.I.K.E. Push Live – and despite the heat and the short amount of time he had to play (55 minutes), what an incredible set he delivered, including Plastic Boy – Silver Bath, Push – The Legacy, Push – Strange World and finishing with an amazing live rendition of Push – Universal Nation.


We also caught a bit of Matt Darey’s set in the downstairs room and really enjoyed listening to Ryan Hamer in the bar, especially when he dropped Sean Tyas – Lift. The after-party was a bit of a let down, because instead of the billed 4-hour set by Akira Kayosa, he shared the DJ’ing with at least three others and it was such a mess that between them they managed to mix from one tune back into the tune they’d just played.

Our final event of the year before we flew back to Australia was Wax Format at the Magic Roundabout at Old Street roundabout in London. A mostly outdoor venue meant that the sound lacked a lot of punch, but it’s actually a great setting and has a bit of the feel of Sydney’s Greenwood, without the religious buildings! It was a good chance to see lots of our London trance family and friends for the last time this year and the only slight disappointment was that Richard Durand’s set, whilst full of classics, such as Veracocha – Carte Blanche, Armin van Buuren – Communication and Binary Finary – 1998 (Paul van Dyk Remix), didn’t really live up to its In Search Of Sunrise billing. After Richard Durand finished, Sam Mitcham played a really good set to call a close to our musical tour.

So that wraps up the last three months. Hopefully I’ll be getting things back to normal now, with a dedicated review of each event I attend.

It’s always pretty tricky narrowing down your favourite tunes and when you look back at previous years, you realise that some you loved then don’t seem so good with hindsight, while you seem to have missed out some amazing tunes altogether.

So I’m not going to claim this is a definitive list, but an attempt at listing the tunes that had the biggest impact on me in the last twelve months. I’m deliberately excluding mash-ups (so no place for the wonderful Ferry Tayle mash-up of Good For Me and Nubia) and re-works of old classics (so no room on the list for Dan Stone’s rework of Matt Darey’s I See The Sun or Robert Nickson’s update of Spiral).

I’ve done my best to ensure that I’ve only included tracks released (as singles or on compilations) since 1 January 2015 – but it’s always possible that something on this list appeared in 2014, but escaped my attention until later. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading the list, which is in alphabetical order, and maybe listening to some or all of them!

Stuart Millar – Airplein (Peter Steele Remix)

Standerwick feat. Jennifer Rene – All Of Us 

Giuseppe Ottaviani – Crossing Lights 

Aly & Fila vs The Thrillseekers – Es Vedra 

Paul van Dyk & Mark Eteson feat. Tricia McTeague – Heart Like An Ocean (Aly & Fila Remix) 

Peter Steele – Mantra 

Ciaran McAuley – Maria

 
Aly & Fila vs Ferry Tayle – Napoleon 

Solarstone – Nothing But Chemistry Here 

Solarstone & Iko – Once (Solarstone Pure Mix) 

Sean Matthews – Paradise (Giuseppe Ottaviani Remix) 

Orkidea – p:Machinery 

Thomas Datt – Prana Flow 

Scientific Harmony – Purgatory (Angry Man Remix)  

UCast – Ramp 

Orkidea – Revolution Industrielle 

Factor B – Sacrosanct 

Factor B – Stratos Galaxias 

Amir Hussain – To The Lost 

The Noble Six – Undimmed  

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Our annual trip to Ibiza is always filled with musical treats and this year was no different. Except that there were quite a few differences this year in Ibiza, with Armin van Buuren taking his A State Of Trance shows from Monday nights at Privilege to Thursday evenings at Ushuaïa, while Markus Schulz took up residence at Amnesia on Sundays. Ferry Corsten has moved his Full On Ferry night from Eden to Space. And the Driftwood team have launched a new trance night, Sunk, at Privilege’s side room, the Vista Club. Finally, Gatecrasher have taken over and renamed Eden, with trance scheduled every Monday night. The only fixed star in the firmament is Thursday night’s Cream at Amnesia.

So when we booked our six-night stay, we knew that there was probably more to see and hear than even our eager appetites could manage. Thus we turned down the opportunity to see the New World Punx on the night we arrived, knowing that the following day’s Driftwood party would be worth preserving our energies for.

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Driftwood 
is my favourite thing to do in my favourite holiday destination. What more can you want than 100 or so trance aficionados on a boat in San Antonio bay, listening to proper trance on a Funktion 1 sound system, as the sun sets? This was our third time aboard Driftwood and the routine is now very familiar. Gathering at Itaca bar, exchanging tickets for wristbands (which also got us into Sunk the following night for free), a couple of warm-up drinks and then walking along the harbour front to the boat and climbing aboard, ready for the music to start. And taking a while to get used to dancing on a rocking boat!

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And what great music we were treated to! After a nice warm-up by Alex RyanMina (from Fady & Mina) played a great set, including his remix of Aly & Fila – Your Heart Is Mine. But we’d all come to hear Aly & Fila play, and Fadi did not disappoint, playing so many great tunes: Alt+F4 – Alt+F4, Oakenfold – Southern Sun (DJ Tiesto Remix), Luke Bond feat. Roxanne Emery – On Fire (Aly & Fila remix), Chicane – Autumn Tactics (The Thrillseekers remix), Above & Beyond – Sun In Your Eyes, and, of course, as the sun set, Aly & Fila feat. Jwaydan – We Control The Sunlight. And after an overcast afternoon we got a brilliant sunset, as if to confirm that Fadi really does control the sunlight!

After Driftwood, we headed into San Antonio’s West End, to relax over drinks at the Tropi Bar, served by the one and only Oscar, and chatted to the new friends we’d made at the Driftwood party. We skipped Gatecrasher, having heard that the rostered DJs were unlikely to appear and the club very likely to be nearly empty. Not long after our visit to Ibiza, we learned that Gatecrasher had crashed and closed the doors. A shame that a great trance brand has been brought so low.

Tuesday night was one I was really looking forward to, ever since I realised that we were going to miss Pure Trance in Sydney. To make up for that, we were lucky enough to time our trip to the white isle to coincide with Pure Trance Ibiza, courtesy of Sunk, at Privilege’s Vista Club. With Orkidea, Solarstone and Giuseppe Ottaviani on the line-up, we didn’t want to miss a minute, so we were banging down the door to get in just after midnight.

Orkidea‘s set at Luminosity had been so wonderful, but this time he wasn’t going to be playing classics, so it was our first experience of a normal opening set by him. And what a wonderful set it was, awesome progressive tunes, like his remix of Tilt and Paul van Dyk – Rendezvous, edging up the energy level steadily till he closed with his remix of Paul Oakenfold – Southern Sun.

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Next up was Solarstone, who started by dropping his Pure remix of Orkidea – Unity, a nice touch and a great transition from one set to the next. I loved the set, heavily laced with his own tunes like Solarstone & Clare Stagg – Jewel, Solarstone – Pure, Solarstone – Please, Solarstone – 4 Ever and possibly my favourite track from Pure Trance Volume 2, Driftmoon – Howl At The Moon (Solarstone Retouch).

The Vista club at Privilege is a much-improved space since our last visit, two years ago, when it was little more than an unadorned side-room, with the CD decks and mixers set up on a temporary table. The sound is great, as are the lasers and lights generally.

Following Solarstone, it was time for Giuseppe Ottaviani. Although Giuseppe was in fine form, playing a banging late night set, for some reason the crowd began to thin out, and as a result the room was fairly empty by the time he closed with Paul van Dyk feat. Plumb – I Don’t Deserve You (Giuseppe Ottaviani Remix) and Giuseppe Ottaviani feat. Vitamin B – Waiting on Someday.

After a quiet night on Wednesday, we were ready to return to the fray on Thursday for Cream at Amnesia. There’s always a fantastic atmosphere at Amnesia and a packed main room dance floor enjoying the music as well as the lasers and famous ice cannon. We arrived early to take up a good position – on the recommendation of some new friends we abandoned our usual spot on the step in front of the DJ booth for the podium at the back of the room. Although this gave us a great view, I don’t think the sound was as good in this spot, so later in the evening we found ourselves back in prime position on that step!

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After the warm-up DJ, it was Paul Oakenfold who got the main event rolling, but I really didn’t like his set at all. His mixing has never been his strong point, but in the first half an hour or so it was the big room EDM tunes that he was playing that grated more than the mixing itself. Later in his set the tunes improved – KhoMha – The Dark Knight, Darude –Sandstorm, PPK – Resurrection, Paul Oakenfold – Southern Sun, Paul Oakenfold – Café del Mar, John O’Callaghan – Big Sky – but the mixing didn’t and the overall effect was of a set being “phoned-in” and, although I hadn’t really expected that much, I was disappointed.

Paul van Dyk was next and he took the night to another level. He combined his technical expertise with some wonderful tunes, both new and classic to create an amazing energy and he had the main room buzzing throughout his set. Amongst the many classic tunes he dropped (maybe more than usual because we were celebrating 20 years of Cream at Amnesia) were Paul van Dyk – Time Of Our Lives, Giuseppe Ottaviani – No More Alone, Paul van Dyk – For An Angel, The Thrillseekers – Synaesthesia, Binary Finary – 1998, 4 Strings – Take Me Away, Randy Katana – In Silence, Underworld – Born Slippy and Paul van Dyk – Home.

5am arrived and it was time for John O’Callaghan to take us through till the close. At this time of night, there’s no messing around with JOC. It’s 140+BPM all the way. For me, this was the best set of the night. At 7 o’clock he was still going strong – along with at least 200 clubbers, determined not to leave until forced to. Along the way, we’d been treated to tunes like Vincent de Moor – Fly Away, Paul van Dyk & Giuseppe Ottaviani – Far Away, Ferry Tayle feat. Poppy – The Way Back Home, Flynn & Denton with Audrey Gallagher – Say My Name and Rui de Silva feat. Cassandra – Touch Me. We left blinking and searching for our sunglasses as we headed for the usual bunfight for taxis.

Friday night was our last night before flying home to London and we decided to take a late trip out to Space to catch Full On Ferry with Ferry Corsten and Aly & Fila. Last year, we had enjoyed Ferry’s set immensely as he transitioned from the EDM of Showtek through to uplifting trance to hand over to Fadi, by playing all his trance classics. This year, however, it was a very different experience. Perhaps because Space is a mainstream club, or for some other reason, but Ferry showed no interest in playing anything other than commercial mainstream EDM and, although the messy Space crowd were lapping it up, the room was by no means full and I found the music awful. The only hint he gave at what he is capable of was in the short section where he played back to back with Fadi, when he dropped Punk and Sweet Sorrow.

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With a crowd all set up to hear commercial tunes, Fadi did his best to rescue the night, but a lot of the people there were not interested in staying to listen to trance and the vibe in the room suffered as the place emptied. We heard some great music of course: Pink Floyd – Shine On The Dark Side Of The Moon (Neptune Project’s Out There With Pluto Mix) sounded fantastic played on the Space Discoteca sound system … and it was good to hear Fadi drop Rapid Eye – Circa Forever and Oceanlab – Satellite. But compared to other occasions when we’ve seen Aly & Fila, this didn’t rank among the best – primarily down to the venue and the crowd.

Another year in Ibiza and lots of great music and dancing. It can be expensive, of course, but we usually find ways of keeping the costs down so that we can afford to come back year after year. As always seems to be the case these days, Driftwood was the highlight. But Sunk shows a lot of promise, Cream is always special and we hardly noticed the fact that we missed out (by choice) on seeing either Armin or Markus Schulz.

Roll on 2015!

 

This blog post is based closely on the review I wrote for DJ Mag Australia, which can be found on its website, here.

The worldwide celebration of trance, A State Of Trance 650, rolled into Malaysia on Friday 15 March as part of the Future Music Asia 3-day festival. And with no sign of Armin van Buuren planning to bring his annual party back to Australia, there was a sizeable contingent of Aussies flying in to join in the fun for the second year running in Kuala Lumpur.

Arriving at the Jalat Bilal stadium for A State Of Trance 650 party, we were greeted by the familiar sight of security lines and ID checks but it was a pretty smooth and well-organised entry and we were soon inside the venue. The stage was set up in the large car parking area outside the stadium itself but it was such a large area that there was capacity for tens of thousands. A strange arrangement where you were not allowed to take alcoholic drinks into the front part of the arena seemed hard to fathom, especially given how poorly it was enforced.

The stage production and sound was as good as anywhere in the world and noticeably better than in many countries I have attended festivals in. The light show on the screen behind the DJs was a fantastic 3D affair and even before dusk the lasers were playing across the smoky haze that enveloped Kuala Lumpur from recent nearby bush fires.

After a couple of local DJs got things started, it was time for the Australian, MaRLo, to open up the official ASOT650MY proceedings. After MaRLo’s set there was a fifteen minute interlude for prayers – not something that I’ve come across at a festival before!

A change to the original running order saw Andrew Rayel up next and he delivered a set true to his style, mixing popular tunes such as Zedd – Clarity and One Replublic and Alesso – If I Lose Myself Tonight together with his remixes of classics like Cosmic Gate – Exploration Of Space and Faithless – Insomnia. When he dropped his own tune – How Do I Know?, he was joined on stage by the singer, Jano, to take the crowd’s applause. He also treated us to various recent hits like Armin van Buuren feat. Trevor Guthrie – This Is What It Feels Like, Dash Berlin feat. Emma Hewitt – Waiting and Above & Beyond feat. Richard Bedford – Sun & Moon. He finished with a flourish, dropping Alex M.O.R.P.H. – For The Love Of An Angel and handed over to Omnia.

Omnia took up where Andrew Rayel left off and was soon giving us an extended and re-worked version of Omnia & Ira – The Fusion and he had everyone jumping around to his own track – Infina (but did he play it twice?) as well as a double hit of Gareth Emery, dropping Arrival, from the Northern Lights album and Emery’s new tune, feat. Bo Bruce – U.

Now it was time for Markus Schulz to spin the tunes and give Kuala Lumpur a shot of his Coldharbour style. We were treated to tracks from his new Scream 2 album accompanied by favourites from Scream, like Nothing Without You (feat Ana Diaz), standards from his sets in the last year like Fisherman & Hawkins – Apache and back catalogue classics like Markus Schulz – The New World. He even dropped the old Fat Boy Slim hit, Praise You. This was not my favourite Schulz set of recent times, but he was undoubtedly playing well to the local crowd, who responded enthusiastically.

With the screens dazzling, the lasers playing across the night sky and the sound pulsating, there was an electric atmosphere as the evening drew towards its climax. At 10.45pm, Schulz handed over to the man himself, Armin van Buuren, who gave us a tour de force of trance from his newer tunes from the Intense album, like Forever Is Ours (feat. Emma Hewitt) and The Sound Of The Drums (feat. Laura Jansen) to the latest single, Ping Pong and updated classics like Tiësto – Adagio For Strings (James Dymond Rework), Binary Finary – 1998 (Jordan Suckley Remix) and his own Communication (Faruk Sabanci Remix).

As the clock moved to midnight, he took the microphone to get everyone to stop dancing for a moment and pray or pause in thought for the passengers and crew of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. It was a poignant moment before we got back to dancing.

He gave us flavour of Gareth Emery, mashing up Concrete Angel (feat. Christina Novelli) and U (feat. Bo Bruce – Bryan Kearney Remix) and then he ramped up the gears with the Shura Vlasov mashup of Simon Patterson – Brush Strokes and John O’Callaghan – Big Sky. He concluded the set with RAM feat. Susana – Ramelia and Armin van Buuren vs Photographer – Airport Shivers (Armin van Buuren mashup). There was just time for an encore and naturally he chose This Is What It Feels Like, mixing up two remixes – the John Ewbank Classical Remix and the W&W Remix. If you can’t beat them, join them, so I sang along …. ironically, of course!

After two magnificent hours from Armin, it was time for Paul van Dyk to take over and bring the night to a fitting conclusion. With a set full of his own productions, such as Time Of Our Lives, For An Angel and I Don’t Deserve You, PVD kept the tempo high and the crowd dancing to the very end.

This was a magnificent day’s music for trance fans local and international coming together on the day to celebrate as the Malaysian trance family. Undoubtedly Armin himself stole the show, but none of the other DJs let the side down and all played their part in making it a day to remember.

The news broke the following afternoon that six party goers had died as a result of overdosing on methamphetamine – the details are still somewhat sketchy as I write this – and as a consequence the following day’s Future Music Festival Day 3 was abruptly cancelled by the Kuala Lumpur police. Although everyone is undoubtedly shocked and saddened that this should have happened, I can only hope that it doesn’t overshadow a fantastic day enjoyed by so many thousands.

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A week later than originally scheduled, this was the night that Voodoo hosted the one and only Paul van Dyk. It’s been more than five years since PVD played a nightclub in Sydney – his only set since November 2008 being his rather lacklustre appearance at Future Music Festival 2012. Apart from that disappointing occasion, and Ultra in Miami last year, I’ve only ever seen him play in the cathedral of trance – the main room at Amnesia. And he’s always been fantastic, so I was very excited about seeing him at Home, especially with the sound and production improvements that have occurred recently.

First the Voodoo crowd had a two hour set from ATB. A name from the old days of trance when he had a smash hit with 9pm Till I Come, he was not a DJ I’d seen before and with no recent tunes that I’d heard, I didn’t really know what to expect.

It has to be said that the busy crowd really enjoyed his set, with lots of hands in the air, some singing along and a really buzzing atmosphere. But it didn’t really do anything for me and I was puzzled by his repeated use of the microphone to do some MC’ing or even karaoke-style singing to the tracks he played. I didn’t recognise much of the music, which was not at all trancey, even when he dropped a remix of Motorcycle – As The Rush Comes. And I managed to be in another room upstairs on the terrace when he dropped 9pm Till I Come. Being brutally honest, this was not my thing at all, so I was very happy when it came time for PVD to take over at 2am.

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Paul van Dyk and ATB have a longstanding dislike of each other and PVD has in the past apparently refused to play on the same night as ATB. So credit to Genesis/Voodoo for the way they handled the handover so smoothly. Although there was, sadly, no truth in the rumour that Markus Schulz, who was watching from the wings, would play a few tunes in between them to ensure they were kept apart!

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Paul van Dyk‘s equipment was swung into place and the legend took to the decks to a huge roar of welcome. In addition to the CDJs, he uses laptops and keyboards to create the sounds that just got better and better as the night progressed. He often dropped little hints of his big tunes, like Time Of Our Lives, mixed into his set at key points to tantalise us before dropping some big vocal tracks, to have everyone singing along to tunes like Giuseppe Ottaviani with Eric Lumiere – Love Will Bring It All Around.

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There was room for classics like Paul van Dyk feat. Johnny McDaid – Home and the legendary Paul van Dyk – For An Angel as well as Binary Finary – 1998 and Robert Miles – Children. All of these were received rapturously on the dance floor.

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With the lights, lasers, confetti and ice canons and PVD playing this well, it almost felt like a little bit of Amnesia had come to Home. It was a really amazing feeling and definitely one of the best nights at Voodoo, leaving everyone wanting more, long after the bar shut. PVD eventually finished up around 4:30am and we were just able to dash off for the last bus home.

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Thanks once again to Luke Davids Photography for the great photos!

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Back in Ibiza and what better way to start the holiday with a night at Amnesia, for Cream with Paul van Dyk and Eddie Halliwell? And after the ridiculous delay to our flight, caused, apparently, by hot weather in London, of all places, we were certainly very ready to let the dancing begin.

Amnesia is my favourite club in the world. There’s something special about this place that’s hard to define. The sound system is awesome, naturally. The main room always has an incredible vibe. And then there are the ice cannons. You get ice cannons in other places too, of course – but nowhere are they as powerful and all-enveloping as here. When the room is so hot you feel faint and the beats build to a drop, the anticipation of the icy blast is almost as good as the refreshment it delivers. And it was at Amnesia, five years ago (less one week) that Renée and I met, starting the best five years of my life.

They’ve changed things a bit at Amnesia this year. Before, the DJ played up in the balcony, at VIP level. Now that part of the balcony is gone and there is a large DJ booth on the floor beneath where the balcony originally was. The DJ is still elevated and this probably gives a better connection to the dance floor from their point of view. But there was something unique about the old arrangement which I think has been lost with the change.

We arrived on the dot of 1:30, just as Eddie Halliwell started his set. After the disappointment of his New Year set in Sydney (see earlier blog post), my expectations weren’t so high. But this time around, he played a very good warm up set, building steadily so that by the time he handed over, the stage was perfectly set for PvD. He dropped all sorts of great classics, most memorably Rank 1 – Airwave and Push – Universal Nation. But overall, I felt that the set was all over the place – there didn’t seem to be a logical progression to the tunes and it felt a bit random in terms of which track followed which.

So at 3am we were ready for Paul van Dyk and he started very strongly, taking the BPMs up a level and increasing the energy on the dancefloor. Early in his set he was playing lots of mash-ups but as the night drew on, he started to let the individual tunes speak for themselves, sometimes adding a live keyboard phrase on top. We heard Underworld – Born Slippy , Ummet Ozcan – The Box and his own tunes like For An Angel and One More Time.

Although he was playing some great stuff, there were some points when I felt the set was losing its flow a little, but in the second hour he got more focused and much more trancey. And full of great classics, like Chicane – Saltwater, Robert Miles – Children and even The Thrillseekers – Synaethesia. He played his smash tune from the Evolution album, I Don’t Deserve You, but I don’t like the original mix anywhere near as much as Giuseppe Ottaviani’s remix. The only sour note for me in the whole set was when he inexplicably dropped Above & Beyond feat. Richard Bedford – Sun & Moon. Seriously.

We’ve seen PvD play better than this, most notably two years ago, again at Amnesia. But this was a great set and a perfect way to re-experience Amnesia. And it was fantastic catching up with so many friends, both from Australia and from London. I can’t wait to return next year for more of the same.

So, it’s just over a week since the end of Miami Music Week and, if the dust hasn’t exactly settled, it’s now time to reflect on our time there.  Firstly, and most importantly, I’d leap at the chance to go again.  The club nights, at large venues like Space, or intimate nightspots like Dream, were simply fantastic.  Rubbing shoulders with the DJs, meeting like-minded music fans from around the globe and some great (if not always well-organised) boat parties made for a week that couldn’t be equalled, even in Ibiza.

But I wouldn’t bother with Ultra Music Festival again.  And yet it was a very impressive festival, with incredible stage set-ups and the best sound systems that I’ve ever come across at music festivals.  Maybe I’m jaded by so many festivals or maybe the festival sets that the big name DJs deliver are not what I really want to hear – and I know that in a club they are much more in tune with my tastes. I think I’ve probably been to my last big festival. From now on, I’m going to stick to boutique festivals and club nights or small parties. (But don’t quote me!)

There were so many surreal experiences in just ten days … bumping into Markus Schulz on Washington Avenue and talking to him about the ten hour set he’d played the night before … chatting to Menno de Jong as we both waited for the toilet on the Musette boat … Renee being recognised by Giuseppe Ottaviani when we got into Club Souz for Pure Trance … getting John 00 Fleming to pose with the sign for Ayesha … the Sol Republic shuttle bus that was a nightclub inside … Paul van Dyk joining us on the dancefloor when Giuseppe dropped No More Alone … and that’s before saying how good the music was.  Award for most bizarre has to go to the Saturday bus trip and the spliff being passed round by the Sol Republic rep!

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So many great sets, it’s hard to pick out my favourite.  The contenders would be Markus Schulz’s ten-hour marathon at Space (we lasted longest of the whole group, but even we had to admit defeat after seven hours); Aly & Fila – both of Fadi’s sets were incredible, I don’t think I could choose between the set at Dream or the set on the boat party; Giuseppe Ottaviani – again two great sets, one at Dream, the other at Club Souz; Solarstone – two hours of awesome Pure Trance just blew me away.  John O’Callaghan’s set on the boat would surely rate amongst these if it hadn’t been cut short after a sensational hour.  I’m going to pick Solarstone as my favourite set of the week, but it was a close thing (although if the sound at Club Souz had been better, I think he would have run away with it as best set).

And I really can’t choose between Global Connection (at Dream on Tuesday) and Pure Trance as my favourite nights of the whole trip.  I loved both nights so much … and feel very lucky to have been able to be there.

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Biggest disappointment was missing out on seeing Faithless.  We really couldn’t face the rest of Day 2 at Ultra, just to see Faithless play towards the end of the night and we were worried about the logistics of seeing them and getting back in time to change and go out for Pure Trance.  We were also upset that we missed out on the Anjunabeats Pool Party, partly due to not arriving earlier and partly due to the accommodation nightmare that we had to resolve as an urgent priority.

Best of all was spending a week partying to such great music with so many good friends from around the world, old and new.  Now it’s time to start thinking about Ibiza in early August and Future Sound Of Egypt 300 and Luminosity Beach Festival in Amsterdam on 16/18 August.

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We took the decision not to get to the festival too early. We really wanted to skip W&W and weren’t that fussed about Cosmic Gate, having seen them twice recently – in Sydney and Miami. But uncertain how long it would take to get downtown or whether we would stand a chance of catching the Sol Republic party shuttle, we allowed ourselves plenty of time, so that we would be in good time for Markus Schulz.

As it transpired, we got there fairly painlessly – the queue for the shuttle was too long, but we grabbed two randoms from the back of the line and split a taxi four ways. The only downside to arriving when we did was having to endure almost the whole of Dash Berlin‘s set. It was better than the rubbish he served up at Stereosonic in Sydney last year, but it was still cheesey tunes, troused-up remixes and mashes of classics (please leave these great tunes alone). He destroyed As The Rush Comes, Big Sky and Lethal Industry alongside newer tunes like Andrew Rayel’s How Do I Know. If he has to do this, I wish he (and Armin) would stop calling it trance. It’s not. Why anyone would pay $75 or more to see him play in a large shed in Homebush is utterly beyond me. Ca$h Berlin.

So at 5pm, to much personal relief, Dash Berlin wound up his set by looping out and using various effects at the end of Till The Sky Falls Down, while milking the undeserved applause several yards from the DJ console – who says you can’t be in two places at the same time? And Markus Schulz appeared at the decks, to slay as many unicorns as you can within a single hour in mid-afternoon.

I thought the set was a little unimaginative – we got Loops n Tings, Nothing Without Me (Beat Service remix), Love Rain Down, Fortuna and The Fusion – just as you’d have predicted. It was good fun and very danceable, as well as a huge relief from what had gone before. Perhaps the time slot doesn’t call for anything unexpected or out of the ordinary … I just felt that although it was a good set, the man can do a lot more – as he had done, given the time he had, on Sunday at Space.

Once Markus Schulz closed his brief set, Jono and Paavo from Above & Beyond took over. I saw them recently in Sydney and really enjoyed their 2 1/2 hour set. This time they only had 1 1/2 hours and it felt to me as if they had simply removed the best 60 minutes of the Sydney set. I thought they were awful. There was some relief with Jaytech’s Stranger and their own Liquid Love, but for the most part it seemed like a trip through the worst of Group Therapy and the lowlights of Anjunabeats Vol. 10.

And I really have had my bellyful of the twee, sugary messages that they insist on putting up on the big screen. Maybe when they first started doing this, the innovation made up for the sickly greeting card sentiments of the messages. Two years on and it’s time they thought of something new. I suppose that with the switch from Trance Around The World to Group Therapy Radio, Above & Beyond no longer claim that they are a trance act. But booked to play at a celebration of 600 episodes of a trance radio show, surely they could have done more than just play a load of uninspiring trouse? Obviously not.

Now it was dark and time for the man himself, Armin van Buuren, to stand up and deliver a set worthy of the occasion. I thought he played a great set, given the context, playing to a US festival crowd. We’d have loved him to start at 138 and move onwards and upwards from there, but he needed to bring everyone with him, especially those who were wondering whether or not to stay after Above & Beyond. He played some pretty commercial tunes early on but progressed through the set and the last 30-40 minutes was pretty banging, as he moved towards the climax with his mash-up of Photographer’s Airport with his own Shivers. He closed with his collaboration with Ferry Corsten, Brute, setting the stage perfectly for Ferry to take things on.

But Ferry had other ideas and changed the mood completely. The crowd was now thinning out as people headed towards the main stage for the final final, very last Swedish House Mafia performance (until the inevitable reunion, of course). Ferry worked his way through uninspiring remixes of Rock Your Body Rock, Not Coming Down and Digital Punk. It left me cold (figuratively, not literally, as it was still hot and steamy at the ASOT600 stage, even though there was now space to dance).

Paul van Dyk had the honour of closing the stage and he took to it with gusto. Upping the tempo back to where Armin had left it, he took us through remixes of The Box, I Don’t Deserve You and The Ocean, as well as various mash-ups of many of his classics. I really wanted to stay to the end, but I knew that getting home from the festival was going to be a huge challenge if we left with everyone else at the very death. So we skipped the last 15 and managed to get ourselves back to South Beach by 11.30 pm and time for winding down, cleaning up and packing before a few hours sleep and our departure from Miami.

Once the dust has settled, I’m planning to write a considered review of the whole week. For now, all I’ll say is that I’d love to come again, but won’t bother with Ultra. The side-shows and day parties massively outshone anything an oversold festival could deliver.