With a focus on ambient and hypnotic techno, Orbits Festival took place in the surroundings of São Gião natural park in Portugal. Monument visited the intimate festival, that attracted approximately 800 people in its premiere year.
When our shuttle bus veered down the road surrounded by burned trees on Friday afternoon, and finally revealed the green oasis that would be the premises of the coming weekend, everyone cheered. The storm that had forced the organisers to cancel the whole Thursday program only seemed like a fading memory.
The frowns of the weather-disappointed first guests transformed into chills, when Fjäder kicked off her hybrid set, enhanced by her singing. Orbits-curator Jacopo then continued in the booth, and the dance floor was suddenly full of people enjoying his unique selection. After Sebastian Mullaert‘s easy-vibed live, the mood drastically changed when Aurora Halal took the stage. After a fantastic start, her set shifted promptly towards something that, in my opinion, would be a better fit to a Sunday night in Berghain, but the dancers did not mind.
Starting with Deep’a & Biri‘s track Voltage, Peter van Hoesen then steered the vibe back and crafted three hours of the finest deep techno that was masterly seasoned with experimental and spacey vibes, during which the night turned to morning as the sun rose. At 7AM Chris SSG wrapped up the second-turned-first night program, and when dropping Donato Dozzy‘s track Cleo, as my colleague Victor put it, it was hard to recall a moment as many people would have been dancing and smiling to an ambient track.
Saturday begun with a smooth pace, with Burnt Friedman literally becoming a burned and fried man surprisingly playing his live on the dance floor, in the direct and scorching sunlight. The first half of the Saturday program was perfect for getting the day started, taking a dip in the picturesque lake conveniently located next to the stage and just generally re-charging for what was to come. Perhaps, the dance-floor bass could have kicked in a bit earlier, but finally Jane Fitz‘s strong set, which the artist was also seemingly enjoying, got the Saturday night rolling.
The highlight of the festival were the three hours we got to spend with Evigt Mörker, who served an interesting combination of live and DJ-set – not a hybrid, but one at a time. The subtle and hypnotising live was a beautiful prologue for the DJ-set he started right after. It was an exceptional set, the strong connection between the crowd and the artist was distinct and constantly grew towards the end. The final moments felt like a finale of a football game when own team is winning; deafening cheering, tears, high fives, and hugs were shared among the dedicated crowd mainly consisting of connoisseurs of exactly this techno niche.
As Retina.it‘s hardware arrived late, Evigt Mörker and Blind Observatory had to take the stage earlier as scheduled. Then, at 3AM, the Italians started their live, creating a unique atmosphere I have never experienced before. Thinking back these 1,5 hours, I recall a gentle blur consisting of the amazingly fine and strong bass, Retina.it’s experimental signature sounds and the focused duo making their magic, backgrounded with melty visuals projected on the round-shaped canvas at their back. Probably many would have preferred the original set time, but after the cannot-stop-dancing treatment Evigt Mörker put the crowd through, the smooth sequel was a welcomed accident.
The energy lasted till Sunday, Hydrangea‘s well-focused set and the b2b of comrades Marco Shuttle and Efdemin were the highlights of the final day. The three-hour b2b session was another good-viber that managed to lure even the most tired festival-goer back to the floor. That set could have been a great (scheduled) closing act of the festival, as some of DJ Deep‘s varying track selections felt a bit out of the place regarding the hypnotic concept.The dedication the team had put into organising the festival was easy to see. It was, actually, hard to believe it was the festival premiere, as most of the basic needs, such as seamlessly working bar, clean toilets and conveniently located camping site, were fulfilled. Also the visual dimension was taken into great account, and the lanterns and light installations came to life after the sunset, providing food for the eyes for those in need.
All of this helped to foster the warm, open and easy-going festival atmosphere, that was of course also thanks to the great crowd and artists that were enjoying the sets among the people and guaranteed the lack of I’m-more-important-than-you atmosphere. The one-stage policy was once again proven strong, as the program built linearly and no act was competing with another.
When leaving the festival area on Monday morning, everyone seemed to be in agreement that the past weekend had been a fantastic kickstart of Orbits Festival. The more time passes, the less I can wait for the next years edition that will hopefully include longer DJ-sets, perhaps with a slightly stronger sound system and a three-day only program.
As a conclusion, the general feeling was an exact repetition of what my friend Alberto stated after Wata Igarashi‘s set on Sunday morning: “I am so tired, but so happy.”
The YouTube playlist above features tracks that were played during the three days of the festival.