Regarded as one of Europe’s top festivals, the 19th edition of Mysteryland took place on the 25th August 2012. With a crowd of 60,000 people entering through the gates, organisers ID&T – the brains behind Sensation, amongst other great events – had prepared a visual and audio feast.

However, as I’ve experienced with almost every festival I’ve been to in the last few years, the pre-festival excitement can quickly be dampened by poor transport links and/or ridiculous waiting times. Thankfully Mysteryland didn’t have any of these problems; after a short 20-25 minute train ride from Amsterdam’s Central Station on one of the many additional trains that were arranged to accommodate festival goers we were met at the station by a fleet of shuttle busses to take people right to the festival gates. Priced at – if memory serves – 12 Euro (approximately HK$120) for a return train and bus journey, this was hands down the best and most efficient transportation to a festival I’ve ever experienced. Within minutes of getting off the bus we were inside and ready to explore what Mysterland had to offer.

Arriving early to make sure that we got our bearings was crucial as the stages were reasonably spread out over the 163 acre site, and there was no better place to do this than atop the pyramid like hill that looked over the entire site, and most notably, the infamous Q Dance stage. The production behind these stages never fails to impress, and this year the focus of the stage was the giant Lion’s head that was a sight to behold in the day, and really came to life after dark; If you haven’t seen the closing fireworks show check it out HERE worth it for Carl Douglas’s Kung Fu Fighting and in sync fireworks alone.

First on the list was Tommy Trash in the ‘Big Top,’ Mysteryland’s main stage, this year housed in a massive tent which worked out well as the giant LED screens that were installed from behind the DJ all the way over the crowd wouldn’t have been nearly as effective in the daylight. It also provided great cover from the rain that had been threatening all day and came down hard in the early afternoon. Perhaps it was the rain that delayed the start of Tommy Trash’s set, but it did give us a chance to catch the end of Deniz Koyu’s impressive (and no doubt impromptu) last 15 minutes as he filled in. With releases such ‘Tung,’ ‘Bong’ and ‘Follow You feat Winter Gordon’ Deniz Koyu has quickly established himself as a producer with a unique sound, and is worth keeping an eye on over the next year. Next up was Tommy Trash, a personal favourite of mine at the moment, and the Australian wasted no time in getting the crowd moving with his signature bass driven sound. His set included a range of his own productions and remixes that are tearing up dance floors worldwide, such as ‘Cascade’ ‘Ladi Dadi (Tommy Trash Remix)’ ‘The Veldt (Tommy Trash Remix)’ as well as his recently released single with Sebastian Ingrosso ‘Reload’ that has emerged as one of the most popular tracks from the summer festival season.

As the rain had stopped we decided to move on from the Big Top, but not before catching Dutch favourite Hardwell’s opening track, the massive ‘Spaceman,’ supported with live vocals from Mitch Crown who was MCing the Big Top for the day. While I’ve never been a fan of MC’s over electronic music, it always add an additional element when you hear a vocalist perform their own track.

After leaving the Big Top we decided to take in the majority of the festival, checking out the performers at some of the smaller stages, and taking cover from the occasional rain shower. Walking round the festival it was evident that there was a much different vibe to that of the two major USA based festivals I had recently been to, a more mature crowd meant that there was greater familiarity with the various genres on display. However, in parts it did seem that the crowd was a little more reserved than I have become accustomed to of late, although this is something that I have witnessed at other European festivals. 

Getting back to the music, next up was US sensation Porter Robinson in the Dirty Dutch tent. The tent was situated in a large ditch, with one packed set of stairs to get in or out, and there were a significant amount of people attempting – and failing – to navigate their way down the slippery slope. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love to see someone slide down a hill on the seat of their pants; to the guy wearing the white (and now half brown) shorts, thanks for the laughs.

Porter Robinson is one of my current favourite live acts, his genre weaving, constantly evolving set was a highlight of my EDC weekend and he delivered an equally impressive performance for his European fans. His crowd pleasing hits such as ‘Say My Name,’ his remix of ‘Bromance’ were complimented with a range of Porter’s own edits and some unreleased tracks, all brought to a climax with the beautiful ‘Language’ that is surely one of the tracks of 2012. The Dirty Dutch tent was set up slightly differently than I had pictured from outside – with the DJ booth on the side rather than at one end. Although there was a truss smack bang in the middle of my view of the DJ booth (how nobody was climbing up this is beyond me) the set up worked well, with other LED and moving head laden truss ‘arms’ on either side of the DJ booth complimenting the large LED displays.

As I’ve mentioned there was such a diverse range of genres on display at Mysteryland, and this was never more evident to me than after Porter Robinson when we decided it was time for a little Deep House; and there are few better in this genre than Seth Troxler. Playing on a much smaller, open air stage right by the water not long after sunset, this set filled with deep, melodic and sexy house was the perfect way to regain some of the energy expended in the Dirty Dutch tent.

After what seemed like no time at all we left to catch the headlining performance at the Fools Gold Clubhouse, by none other than head honcho A-Trak. Well regarded as one of the best technical DJ’s you are likely to see the former five time DMC world champion delivered a seamless performance, criss-crossing between musical genres, slipping in acapellas, dropping custom samples and loops… even finding time for a bit of mic work. I’ve been lucky enough to see A-Trak three times this year and each time he’s impressed me more than the last, his years of experience honing his craft really shine through and each time he is able to read the crowd perfectly. If you can ever seen someone cooler in a bowler hat, let me know.

The impressive fireworks display from the Q Dance Stage lit up the night sky and closed another edition of Mysteryland. I would recommend this festival for anyone who is lucky enough to attend. Thanks and congratulations to ID&T for putting on a great event. With Mysteryland rolling out to Chile later in the year, and their signature Sensation Events across the world including Europe, USA and Asia (Bangkok and Taiwan) there is sure to be a not-to-be-missed event near you soon.

Review by John Stephen

Photos provided by Mysterland


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