King’s Day is a Dutch national holiday that sees the great and good of the dance music world descending on the Netherlands to help celebrate the monarch’s birthday. Instead of the street parties and reserved afternoon tea that you might find in the UK, King’s Day celebrations in Holland take the form of a plethora of daytime raves, festivals and club shows, with one such annual event being Oranjebloesem. The yearly knees-up takes place at Blijburd Aan Zee in Amsterdam — a reclaimed natural peninsular that serves as a stunning city centre beach for a meticulously programmed festival of house and techno, with a particular focus on live electronic acts.
As DJ Mag walks through our hotel before we head out to the festival site, the scale of King’s Day celebrations becomes immediately apparent as we see Skream loitering around the hotel’s foyer in a onesie, and catch sight of Dubfire eating a hearty lunch in one of the hotel’s restaurants. As we make our way to the festival site we’re greeted with the quintessential Dutch scene: A sea of bicycles neatly parked outside the festival’s entrance, accompanied by thousands of party-goers dressed in the orange (the national colour), soundtracked by the distant thrum of house and techno permeating from the half dozen stages that rise out of the festival's beachfront locale like sand castles.
As we navigate the festival site for the first time, to the north Bicep are in the throes of a daytime set that sees the Northern Irish duo dispatching their usual fare of posh, Waitrose trance alongside deep, tribal grooves to a heaving mass of thousands. Further back — in a natural sand amphitheatre — Âme’s Frank Wiedemann is playing a live set to another bulging crowd. The Innervision’s don is in his element, delivering a winding set of friendly daytime techno cuts. The German selector’s live setup is on the minimal side and consists of a laptop running Ableton and a couple of midi keyboards, as a three thousand-strong crowd surrounds the bamboo and wicker stage.
Taking over from Wiedemann — for what turns out to be one of the festival’s highlights — is Kompakt co-founder Michael Mayer, who plays the day’s most robust techno set. The iconic German selector and label don is dispatching a salvo of recently released Kompakt cuts — including ‘Out Of Time’ by Sasha featuring Poliça, and Laurent Garnier’s recently released ‘1-4 Doctor C'est Chouette’, both of which do some serious damage. A trip over another sandy embankment sees Amsterdam’s fastest rising stars Dekmantel Soundsystem weaving golden-hued disco with sculptured cuts of house, both of which are perfectly befitting of the festival’s panoramic views of Amsterdam’s Markermeer. To our left is Optimo, who are closing their set with a bevy of hypnotic disco cuts as the duo combine charged grooves alongside body-shaking house and techno.
The only real criticism that can be levelled at Oranjebloesem is its length — due to pressure from local authorities the festival has to finish at 8pm, which is just a bit too early for our tastes. Thankfully, at least, queues for ammenities like drinks, toilets and food are all small and well organised. And everyone who DJ Mag meets on our travels, from festival security to bar staff, are friendly and attentive.
With only a few hours to go, we head to one of the festival’s tented arenas where KiNK is about to take to the stage for his headline performance alongside live vocalist Rachel Row. The duo don’t waste any time in taking the crowd under their spell with a stunning rendition of Row’s ‘Follow The Step’, which sees KiNK adding his own production touches via an array of controllers, keyboards and effects controllers — basically the producer’s entire studio. The rest of his set effortlessly flicks between live PAs from Row and gut-busting cuts of rave-flecked techno from KiNK. The revered Bulgarian maverick fiddles with panels, knobs and buttons, delivering body-rocking house and techno with the kind of showmanship it deserves. Oranjebloesem’s King’s Day celebrations come to an end in a frenzy of contorting kicks, fuzzy effects and Row’s angelic vocals. The perfect end to the perfect day.
Photos courtesy of VAAG & Tim Buiting