Wednesday, July 13, 2005

5 Days Off: A Technolicious Feast

‘Tis a bright and sunny afternoon over here in Amsterdam, and I’m like a schoolgirl front-row at a Westlife concert, giddy with anticipation for tonight’s launch of 5 Days Off, a veritable technolicious feast of a very diverse group of DJs and Musicians from all over the Globe.

5 Days Off is the brainchild of Maurice Spijker, a dj, booker and promoter based in Utrecht. The format is based on the 10 Days Off concept that takes place simultaneously across the border in Ghent. The 5 Days Off festival is celebrating its fifth birthday this year, with visitors numbering approximately 5,000 in the first and more than 12,000 in 2004. This year will be the biggest yet, with the Heineken Music Hall added as a venue alongside the Melkweg and Paradiso. The Heineken Music Hall, one of Amsterdam’s biggest venues, will host electronic music giants Underworld on closing night. In addition, Spijker and the organisers have also added an exhibition in Montevideo/Time Based Arts in co-operation with the Nederlands Instituut Voor Mediakunst. All events take place indoors, which deeply satisfies my bourgeois sensibilities: cool beer instead of warm carbonated piss; clean, sparkling toilet bowls instead of putrid, shit swims; and 10 hours sleep in your own comfy bed instead of an insomnia nightmare in a half inch of water in a crammed tent.

According to Spijker, the festival’s main strong point is their refusal to book the Beatles and Stones of dance music, instead embracing more difficult, fresh artists. Its all about the underground baby. In an interview, he is quoted as saying, “The past has thought has thought us that if our line-up is too mainstream, the punters stay away. Johann Cruijff is right when he says ‘every advantage has its disadvantages’. The Underwater night hosted by former Underworld member Darren Emerson, two years ago at Melkweg, was a total disaster. There were far too few visitors”. Being far too kind to Emerson, he neglects to mention how he’s become a wasted, talentless fuck more interested in marketing himself as a ‘superstar dj’ than producing fine music. Me thinks that’s the reason why dance revellers shunned Emerson, Tim Deluxe and the other cheddar from the Underwater label. Fortunately Underworld are an exception to this underground rule.

Amongst the pioneers and proponents of beats and groove descending on Amsterdam this weekend are Mouse on Mars, Tiga, DJ Hell, Luke Vibert, LCD Soundsystem, Richie Hawtin, Gilles Peterson, Vitalic, Miss Kittin, The Hacker, Fischerspooner, Dexter, Chris Liebing, Speedy J and godfather of all things minimal, Michael Mayer. But the pieces de resistance for me has to be Autechre, headlining the Warp night on Thursday night, and 5 Days Off are one of only three festivals (the others are Roskilde and Glastonbury) that have them in their line-up this summer. All in all, this is the best line-up for ANY music festival I have ever attended.

But tonight I will be heading to the Melkweg, where Tiga, Jamie Lidell, Mu, Mouse on Mars and others will be playing across two rooms. Personally, tonight is all about Mouse on Mars, one of the first acts who turned me on to avant-garde electronics. Their 2001 album Idiology, containing the classic track ‘Actionist Respoke’, which was regularly played on No Disco, hooked me on to a genre that would lead me to later discover the likes of Aphex Twin, Plaid, Mu-Ziq and of course, Autechre. Mouse on Mars, aka Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma, are guaranteed to deliver a blinding set full of experimental beats and mad samples. And then we have Mr. Lidell, a grossly overrated white boy who reckons he’s Prince. Yeah, play that music whiteboy! I saw him during the Amsterdam Dance Event last year and he literally bored the punters into a coma. Since Dan is fighting the bad guys in Colombia, I’m going to pull out of my promise to bottle him of stage. It wouldn’t be the same without ya Dan!

I’m also looking forward to Tiga, who made a very favourable impression on me when I saw him play at Witnness (that’s with two n’s….corporate fuckspuds) a few years back. Hard to categorise, he’s sure to serve techno, electro, breaks, hip-hop and rock all on the same platter. And Mu should be interesting, if their cult single ‘Paris Hilton’ is anything to go by. These Japanese artists sample Japanese girls making chicken noises over raw electro-disco, whilst their video of that same song features those same girls carrying voodoo dolls of Paris Hilton against a psychedelic backdrop. Very subversive and very punk. Whatever drugs these guys are on, I want 'em too. And speaking of drugs, DJ Hell is also playing tonight but in Paradiso.

So stay tuned kids, as I post daily previews and reviews of this sick five day event.

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Where can I find the listings for the events which are part of Five Days Off? I keep ending up at some Belgian band's website...
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