Awakenings: how the Dutch techno institution stays on top of the game

One artist who has remained an Awakenings staple since the early days is Chicago’s DJ Rush; although he can’t remember exactly when he landed his first booking with the brand, he says it could have been 2001 or earlier. Rush recalls playing “really nice events” for different promoters in Amsterdam, but felt like “I was before my time” in some locations. “I started to feel, ‘Hmmmmmm, not much techno in The Netherlands’,” he admits. “This is what I was thinking, then I was proven wrong. I was later invited to play Awakenings, and I started to think, ‘OK, do I want to do it, will there be good party people attending?’ I was shocked, it was amazing. The energy level was top. It felt so underground, and I felt like I fit in.”

Rush plays the indoor Area U when DJ Mag visits this year’s three-day summer festival, joining artists like Adam Beyer, DVS1, Richie Hawtin, Dax J, ANNA, Daria Kolosova and DJ Seinfeld across the weekend. While the lush greenery, luminous ferris wheel and smaller, more intimate stages like the lakeside Area L and the tin-roofed Area H add a cosy feel to the festival, two gargantuan stages make it clear that this is still Awakenings terrain. On Friday night, Kölsch closes the modern-art-installation-style Area V, topped off with fireworks, while Saturday night sees Joris Voorn play The Matrix-esque Area W, where he finishes on Paul van Dyk’s ‘For An Angel’ — amid more fireworks.

The same energy, sparked by Robert Hood, Amelie Lens, Honey Dijon, I Hate Models, and many more, is due to happen on Sunday. But following weather warnings, Awakenings cancels its final day, moving the majority of campers to Beekse Bergen safari park for several hours, where there is free food and shelter. “It was devastating, to be honest, and one of the most difficult decisions we have ever made,” Shannon Schrader, who heads up PR & Communications, tells us. “But our utmost priority is the safety of our visitors. We did everything in our power to have a green light, but the risk was too high. We cannot, and won’t, gamble with people’s lives. We learned later that lightning struck in the field a few hundred metres from the festival grounds, so it was definitely the right decision.”