- 05 Jun 19
AVA Festival celebrated its fifth annual event over the weekend. Peter McGoran reported from the action on Saturday evening.
It’s like something you’d see in other cities but would never picture happening in your own. An abandoned warehouse repurposed in order to bring together passionate music lovers in Belfast and beyond. A home-grown festival which is not only bringing international dance artists to Belfast, but helping to raise up the wider Irish scene.
This is AVA (Audio and Visual Arts) Festival. First cutting its teeth as a one-day event in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter in 2015, this dance music festival has grown year after year to become a fully-fledged weekender. Beloved by everyone from casual punters, serious technoheads, and the tastemakers at the likes of Mixmag and Resident Advisor, AVA Festival reflects a city, and a country, which is more outgoing, more confident in its musical output, and which has an insatiable appetite for dance.
Taking place in a former B&Q Warehouse, now called S13, the festival has four stages in operation across two days, as well as an international music and arts conference. Working commitments mean I only make it up for the events of Saturday evening. I arrive just in time to catch the end of Krystal Klear’s set on the Main Stage. Having leapfrogged the top of the Irish dance scene in the last few years, Dec Lennon is already drawing a sizeable crowd into the expansive centre of the warehouse, which acts as the Main Stage. His set paves the way for fellow Irish groove technicians, Brame & Hamo. They're already fresh from providing a ferocious looking B2B with Mall Grab the previous evening, but their tailor-made hour-long set sees them roll through a litany of soul-infused house tracks.
As if often the case, the main party’s taking place outside. The now legendary Boiler Room is being broadcast from the B&Q’s old Garden Centre, with Ben Sims closing out the day’s affairs. There’s punters in the back getting lost in the relentless intensity of techno, while those of us who find ourselves in the front are utterly fixated by his wizardry behind the decks.
Once his set finishes, the crowd races across to the Red Bull Stage, beautifully situated at the end of a slope in the warehouse’s Loading Bay. Birmingham-born, Berlin-based musicmaker Rebekah takes to the stage at half 8 and soundtracks the twilight section of the festival. Her unique type of dark, brooding, industrial techno is so completely compelling that not a single person appears to leave the arena for the full hour, while everyone who hasn’t made it through the security gauntlet is crowding around the side of the stage.
Rebekah is followed by British DJ Randomer. His is a set mixed with thwacking bass, pulsating energy and an exquisite light show. The intensity of the music, tunnelling through the narrow passage of the Loading Bay, is truly something to behold. I’m not the only one getting lost in the moment. There’s no hope of me leaving the Stage for the full two hours that Rebekah and Randomer are on. These sets are the highlights of the day.
As soon the Red Bull Stage wraps up, I make my way back to the Main Stage, where Daniel Avery is manning the decks. An artist who has truly perfected the process of sounding as good live as he does on wax, Avery’s closes the Main Stage with a set which veers between him building cosmic, euphoric soundscapes and tearing it down again with stomping, earth-shaking drops. Magic stuff.
AVA Festival been called the ‘Techno Christmas’ for locals, but I think a more accurate depiction came from a friend of mine, who remarked after the festival ended that it had reached the level of St Patrick’s Day in terms of the importance it holds in the Irish social calendar. Surely one of highest accolades festival could ask for.