a great day at the dutch drum and bass fest
the breakbeats echo in my skull even now...
Today in The Molly Zone…not an interview…a recap of a festival experience!!
Because I spent a significant portion of my teenage years reading NYLON Magazine and tracking what outfits Kate Moss paired with her wellies at Glasto, I’ve always wanted to go to a music festival in Europe.
So when my husband and I were planning our honeymoon last year, I was like, ooh, we are going to be in Europe during peak music festival season, does anything overlap with our dates? One festival in particular did. And after first confirming that it made no sense to re-route our train so we could go see the Black Eyed Peas play a Roman amphitheater in Nîmes, France (☹️) I went ahead and purchased two tickets to a festival called Liquicity, in Geestmerambacht, the Netherlands, a short train ride outside of Amsterdam.
Now would be the time to say that Liquicity is an electronic music festival, and not any type of electronic music festival — a festival specifically celebrating the subgenre of drum and bass. I will lift the Wikipedia definition of "drum and bass" to say that it is a genre of dance music with fast breakbeats, heavy bass and sub-bass lines, samples, and synthesizers.
"Molly, do you even like drum and bass music?" you might ask me. And I would say to that, "Well, I like music, so I don’t see why I wouldn’t like drum and bass."
We got two day passes for the last day of the fest, a Sunday, for what to me seemed like a reasonable 157 American dollars total.
Before we set out to Geestmerambacht on that Sunday, we made a pit stop at an Amsterdam smartshop to pick up some treats to enhance our experience. I cannot remember exactly what we picked from the menu but they had an evocative name like Unicorn Dreams or Laughing Prism or something like that. The store offered up a selection of holographic ravewear and blacklight posters, a soigné rendition of the Spencer’s Gifts of my mall youth. It looked like the inside of a lava lamp. I had a great time there.
Oh shit I just looked up the store on google images and the name of the shrooms is DOLPHIN'S DELIGHT. God bless.
Now I had watched the Liquicity aftermovie from 2019 as "research" before we left, and because the interviews and DJ-yelling in the video was in English, I had gotten the impression that this would be a sort of international festival, with people coming to enjoy the drum and bass from all over Europe. As we took a train and then a shuttle to the fest grounds, I realized this impression was false. Everyone around us was speaking Dutch, which was fair enough for it being a festival located in the Netherlands.
My husband and I had made a goal that morning to make new friends at the festival, a goal which now seemed like a tall order. Almost as tall as Dutch people.
We walked through the camping area to get onto the main grounds, munching on the Dolphin's Delight. It was 3pm. The usual flotsam and jetsam of fest camping — EZ-up canopies and coolers and ragged, deflated tents — felt familiar, and so did the Day-3 barely-hanging-on energy that I recognized from my own multi-day fest experiences. The only new sensation was of course the drum and bass music, already pumping through campers' portable speakers as we passed through. The sun was high in the sky and it was very warm.
The grounds of the fest itself were small but richly appointed with visual delights that doubled as practical structures (places to sit, places that provided shade). There were three different main stages: one with a pink-and-blue circus tent style enclosure, one a little more open-air and hung with a disco ball, and one a structure with a translucent roof that diffused the hot sun, with huge fans hanging at intervals to cool the dancers within, almost resembling a greenhouse. A large water feature in the center of the fields sprayed a continuous burst of refreshing-looking water. Permeating the air: the unmistakable sound of drum and bass.
One thing I love about shrooms is their inherently anti-logistics nature. Mushrooms do not care about your to-do list. And yet we did have one logistical thing to accomplish, which was to acquire a plastic card that would serve as our currency at the cashless festival. Wait, there were logistics and there was currency conversion too: the festival's standard of money was 1 "LIQ", equivalent to 2.75 euros, and most food and drinks were priced somewhere between 1 and 3 LIQs. Again, not the most friendly to shroom brain but we figured it out somehow. I was tickled thinking about how unbelievably pissed American people would be if they had to convert their money to Coachella Bucks or Lolla Cash or whatever. We might not be that far away from such things.
This leads me to what is undoubtedly my favorite part of the festival: THE CUP SYSTEM. At most American fests, you just buy giant tallboy cans, or cocktails in plastic cups, and then you finish them and throw them out, and maybe spot a recycling bin if you’re lucky, and at the end of the night the ground is a plastic graveyard. Not at Liquicity!! The bars offered draft beer, wine and cocktails in sturdy plastic cups. You put a deposit down for your cup and then every time you wanted a new drink, you traded it in for a freshly filled one. Then at the end of the fest, you could get your deposit back.
As a result, the grounds were very tidy, because the deposit incentivized people to pick up any stray cups and return them for cash. The beer was also very delicious. At one point I bought a berry-flavored cocktail and it emerged from the bar as a full-on smoothie, a blended concoction featuring real fruit, like an elegant health drink you’d get at Erewhon! I was expecting it to be a club-style mix of bottom shelf vodka and berry simple syrup. After all, my drinking taste was forged in the bottom of a dumpster. The first drink I bought when I turned 21 was original format Four Loko from a gas station. As a full-grown adult in Las Vegas, I purchased something called an “Irish Trash Can” that was green and had a Red Bull floater. The berry drink was great.
We cycled between the three stages, trying to capture and understand the essence of the music…lepidopterists sticking a pin in the thorax of the butterfly known as drum and bass. There seemed to be subtle differences in the output of the various DJs, ranging from pop-y and melodic to harsh and esoteric. There was an undeniable reggae/dub element involved. And just like the house shuffle or dubstep headbang, there was a specific kind of drum and bass dance step, a sort of freestyle...clogging motion. Everywhere around me, the tallest person I’d ever seen was inventing a dance move I’d never seen before.
The best thing about the music was that it was fast. I am a fast music proponent and am constantly whining about the need for faster music in all genres worldwide. My favorite song on any given album is usually just the fastest one. So drum and bass skyrocketed in my esteem for its pace alone — I have since favored headliner Netsky’s live sets as a workout soundtrack because the speed cannot be beat.
A quick Liquicity fashion report: looks were quirky, but extremely casual. Tank tops, t-shirts and (male) shirtlessness were de rigueur, and pop culture IP was rampant: SpongeBob SquarePants, Rick & Morty, Star Wars, Pokémon. There was a higher percentage of barefoot people than you would expect in a public space; also slightly over-indexing were white people with dreadlocks. I saw a lot of what I'd call "epic bacon" clothes, harkening to an earlier and more innocent time of the internet: galaxy leggings, rainbow shirts decorated with pictures of cats and tacos, that kind of thing. The clothing did not have the Overt Sexuality I've seen at other festivals. Everything was optimized for comfort above all.
There was a magical quality to the way the sun essentially refused to set. I think sunset time was officially just before 10pm, so 6pm felt like 3pm. A haze of unreality hovered at the outskirts of our consciousness, and the varied drums and basses were insistent. The only fix was to hide in Liquicity's equivalent of a chillout tent, the only place on the entire grounds playing non-drum and bass music: The Sanctuary.
Inside this tent, DJs spun groovy low-tempo hip hop and lounge-style music to an audience of like three people, all sprawled on couches. The interior design answered the question: what if the coffee shop from Friends catered to people on psychedelics? We covertly watched one guy taking advantage of the flat table surfaces on offer by rolling spliff after spliff with surgical precision.
And we did manage to “make friends” with some Dutch people while we were chilling at one point — specifically a couple of pleasant Dutch teens who got into drum and bass while isolated during peak pandemic and were now enjoying it communally. When we asked them if there were particular DJs they came to see, they couldn’t pick any. They were here for “the lifestyle.”
We tapped out at 9pm, which felt suspiciously similar to 6pm, which was of course not much different from 3pm. We were completely satiated with both drum and bass. Grabbing tickets for the train home, we overheard someone speaking English and inevitably chatted him up. He was British and introduced himself as "Dave the Rave" and showed us every picture he had on his camera roll from his 2022 Glastonbury experience. (“Right, so that’s me on drugs.”) We emerged back into Amsterdam zonked but in good spirits, and walked back to the apartment we were staying in with breakbeats still rattling around in our noggins.
I left Liquicity with a true new appreciation for drum and bass. One of my favorite songs to play right now is "Gold Dust" by DJ Fresh, a song from 2010 that I heard at least twice at the fest. It wasn’t til I got home that I realized I actually first heard in the form of a dubstep remix by Flux Pavilion — electronic music is so neat in this way, that any song can become any other type of song with the right swapping of beat and meter, and it’s why I keep finding new pockets of the genre to enjoy.
Also, I’m not the most trend-oriented music listener but drum and bass also seems to be experiencing an uptick in “the scene” (??) — Yaeji’s “For Granted,” her first single off her upcoming album, turns very drum and bassy at the end, and Skrillex has been dabbling more and more in the dnb arts. I am sure we will be getting more drum and bass style music from, like, Billie Eilish or Charli XCX before we know it. Cool!! I’ve been steadily simmering in the dnb broth! I’m good to go!!
All in all, besides the music, Liquicity was an A+ fest for its vibes and accoutrements. If it had been the exact same setup with horrible music, I’d still have had fun because I got to eat a vegan kebab in the shade of a wooden sculpture shaped like a rocket ship. Not to be all ‘healing your inner child’ but music festivals really do scratch the same itch as going to the playgrounds of yore, complete with snacks, juice boxes, and the eventual need for a nap.
Tune in next week for an interview with someone who plays the VIBRAPHONE!!!