One of the highlights of the dance music calendar in Northern Ireland, the Belfast-based AVA Festival has also grown in recent years to become one of the largest and most beloved dance music festivals. from Europe.
The secret to its success is easy to see. Year after year, AVA has brought together the biggest names in international electronic music, put them alongside emerging and established local talent from Northern Ireland, and welcomed them to an event that takes place against a backdrop of installations. incredible artistic and inspired light shows.
AVA has surpassed itself every moment in its five outings since 2015, starting as a one-day festival six years ago before quickly becoming a full-fledged weekend welcoming over 6,000 people in 2021.
The setting this year is the Butcher Road Playing Fields in South Belfast, which offers more than enough space to host the festival’s expansion.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding live music due to Covid (AVA was canceled in 2020 and postponed from June to September in 2021), organizers have clearly spared no expense to give AVA its unique setting.
The main stage is inundated with TV screens, while the secondary stage The Nomadic is a sort of makeshift greenhouse area that looks amazing and everywhere you look the place is dotted with large shipping containers. freight, a clear homage to AVA’s industrial base begins in T13 in Titanic Quarter.
As for the music itself, it is a choice of good acts. One of the best things about AVA as an annual event is that it’s a good point of reference for finding out who you want to listen to in local and international electronic music.
On Friday night, German techno duo Fjaak continue to beat the beat on the main stage, as a crowd of afterworks filter through. like a round arena.
Audiences move in and around the performers’ backs, giving them the kind of closeness on which Boiler Room sets thrive, but also far enough away that all Covid security considerations are taken into account.
Friday night is made of enviable clashes, with loyalties shared at 8 p.m. between the artist from Derry OR: LA on the main stage and the Canadian groove technician Jayda G at the Nomadic. The two are winning massive crowds, with this review settling on Jayda G – her infectious glee at her own performance is enough to convince anyone.
The rest of the evening is left in the hands of German producer Helena Hauff on the main stage, and Glasgowians Optimo in the Nomadic zone – which looks set to erupt under the force of the crowd.
Helena Hauff offers a dark and atmospheric setting, with a light show that will never be entertaining and a crowded audience that makes you endlessly grateful that the live music is back, but I find myself seeing the first night with Optimo, who launches the likes of Prodigy and ABBA and countless other crowd-pleasers as a whole so no one can consider leaving.
Things end at 10:45 am sharp, taxis are left in the gods’ knees, and everyone is saving the energy they have for round 2 the next day.
The sun makes a blessed appearance on Saturday afternoon as the crowds return to the area. A pinch moment arrives early in the day, as local DJ Swoose takes the main stage and is introduced by none other than – you guessed it – Julian Simmons.
The TV favorite gets the crowd working, asking if we’re ready to ‘strut around in our funky stuff’ (‘Yes Julian! We’re screaming!) And tells us to clap each other for coming here and dancing and supporting the music. local. If that doesn’t set the right tone for the night, I don’t know what else could …
On Saturday, a fantastic lineup of Irish hip-hop and RnB artists will also perform on the smaller Grasses stage. It’s a welcome addition to the festival, as Irish urban music is going through a sort of underground golden age right now.
Gemma Dunleavy’s triple hit (listen to Up De Flats and thanks later), followed by Aby Coulibaly, followed by Dublin rap heavyweight Kojaque, means hundreds are crammed into this small stage for much of the early evening. . Hoping that this addition to the festival becomes a permanent feature.
After that, it looks like everyone rushed to the main stage for the end of Bulgarian producer KiNK’s Boiler Room set.
For those lucky enough to get close, his technological arsenal, quick hand movements are enough to make you dizzy (he’s been doing this for over 30 years and looks like an accomplished professional), while his unrestrained dance shows he’s as much into it as anyone in the crowd.
It gives me a pretty good excuse to park near the main stage for the rest of the night. The closing of the festival is a family affair, with a beautiful energetic back 2 back set from artists Cromby and Sally C, followed by an even bigger finish from the DJ and producer of Belfast Hammer.
The closing set brings together everything from deep house to Mousse T’s Horny, while Hammer’s iconic and hypnotic track Dahlia will always be a secret weapon to release for a closer late-night and weekend festival.
There will always be something moving about seeing a local event like AVA become a success story that has gained international attention and that was even truer this year as it fought the odds of Covid and managed to organize its biggest event to date.
May he reign for a long time.
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