“One stage, one story.” Under this resolute motto, the team behind Paral•lel festival has welcomed a dedicated crowd limited to 1000 guests to the Pyrenean foothills over the past three years. As a media partner since the very first edition, we at Monument have been following closely how the small Spanish festival has evolved since its inception. From barely managing to cover the stage with a simple tent, poor shading and some of the basic services not working smoothly in the first year, in its third instalment it seems like the festival has come of age, and taken good note of the things that needed improvement.
The change of location represented an improvement as well, having even more stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges. This year also saw the first sold out edition, illustrative of how the festival has become a point of reference within the scene, both in Spain and internationally. “However, what you really get in the end as a small festival organizer is the warmth and love you receive from the people”, Felix Beltran, one of the festival’s co-founders says. “It really pays off to see everyone having a good time and smiling as soon as the first artist starts playing. That is the most fulfilling feeling you can get every year.”And indeed, there were a lot of smiles, warmth and love among the visitors that had found their way up to the scenic mountains north of Barcelona between August 31st and September 2nd. Looking around you on the dance floor you could find someone blowing soap bubbles, dancing with eyes closed, or barefoot – everyone seeming to be in a very good place. For many of this year’s visitors it wasn’t their first time at the mountain festival, which has managed to establish a base of regular visitors coming back for “the Paral•lel feeling”. Among those you could bump into on the dance floor were also many of the artist that played at the festival – this year or before – such as Alfonso Pomeda aka F-on, Luigi Tozzi, Valentino Mora, as well as Antonio Giova and Valerio Gomez de Ayala aka natural.electronic/system. The latter have had a spot on the line-up every year, and in many ways encapsulate the sound Paral•lel stands for. As one of the visitors exclaimed to us in the middle of the dance floor, “therapy” encompasses quite well what you get when visiting Paral•lel: Three days of a meticulously curated program showcasing some of the most interesting artist representing the deeper facets of techno.
Upon arrival that special feeling emerged once again that only very few festivals are able to invoke. The enthralling surroundings of captivating mountains in combination with music that feels like a massage for the mind. That together with a crowd that is respectful to one another as to the environment creates such a special feeling that we have only experienced to this extent at Paral•lel. Returning this year felt like attending a family reunion, seeing all those familiar faces once again. Even people that have not met before seemed to feel connected to one another, which could largely be attributed to the joint passion for the music that many attendees shared.
This passion was also reflected in Wata Igarashi’s determination to deliver his live-set, which he struggled to complete on Saturday due to technical difficulties. Spending hours on Saturday night and the following morning, the Japanese native made sure all the gear would work during his second chance, which he got during the so called ‘Epilogue’ of the festival; on Sunday afternoon. And he seized that chance! Starting out subtly and trippy, the sound engineer later filled the air with sharp acid lines, making people whistle in euphoria. In that moment it felt like everyone was connected in the celebration of the magic that can happen when everything is just right – not only technically speaking.
On Saturday, Valentino Mora performed an excellent early day-time set, flawlessly mixing one track into the next, subtly building up the energy on the dancefloor, which allowed the crowd to slowly get warmed up for a day filled with phenomenal music. His set continued the ‘Story’ part of the festival program, which was kicked-off by Aimée Portioli aka Grand River a few hours earlier. It is part of the underlying concept of Paral•lel to tell one story over the course of the weekend, arranged in three segments; the ‘Prologue’, ‘Story’ and ‘Epilogue’. This concept allows for a sense of organic coherency to emerge during the weekend as a whole, quite similar to the concept of the renowned deep techno festival; Labyrinth, held in Naeba, Japan.
One of the surprises of the weekend was Livity Sound’s Forest Drive West. The Brit played an incredibly diverse and refreshing set, one that is hard to come by in many ordinary clubs and festivals. Made up of Bristolian influenced hypnotic, mind-bending sounds, his track selection swept the crowd off their feet. The performance created such an abundance of energy in the crowd, keeping people exceptionally drawn to the dance-floor for it’s entire duration. Following British native was one of the curators of the festival; Refracted. The latter set himself up for quite a task, playing a 4-hour primetime slot from 20:00 until midnight on Saturday after the stunning performance by Forest Drive West. Refracted struggled to build on the energy that unfolded in the hours before he took control of the DJ booth. Seemingly, it took the crowd some time to process Forest Drive West’s set and get into the rhythm of the more psychedelic techno the Spaniard was exhibiting. Mixing-wise the performance was solid, but at times it was difficult to grasp the vision the artist had for his set.
This year’s line-up included as many as four live sets, a format that fits very well to the festival. It was in the day-time sets and the live sets that the festival’s concept of combining music and nature found its complete expression. Aside from Patrick Russell’s dj set, Sunday’s program included only live sets by TM404, Luigi Tozzi and Tobias., whose closing set left us stunned by the complete mastery of sound the German techno mainstay demonstrated. Another heavyweight, Dasha Rush, closed Saturday’s program, and even though her set wasn’t short of the boundary-pushing sound she has become so appreciated for, the more club-oriented set she played did fit as well to the surroundings as the live- and day-time sets did.
Bunker’s Patrick Russell as the only DJ act on the final day delivered an absolute resounding performance. One which left the crowd in a state of bliss. Four hours of flawless hypnotism, showcasing a mix of older tracks – such as Plastikman’s Marbles – and more recent releases like Härdstedt’s Högre Mark. Russel’s set seemed to fit perfectly into the sound and concept that the Paral•lel team have been building ever since the first edition. A type of sound that is somehow able to engage itself with the mesmerising surroundings and can create a spiritual connection between listener, nature and music. As Dino Sabatini once so eloquently put it: “DJs are modern-day shamans”, Russel truly exemplified how an artist could function as a shaman by transmitting something with the help of his surroundings. To transmit something to a group of individuals that helps them connect to themselves, each other and the environment they are in. To create a connection between those three that evokes such strong spiritual feeling that can’t be appropriately expressed in words.
Photos: Amr Mohsen, Didiac Ramirez and Kai Schlüter