Having quickly risen to become one of Europe’s most energetic and invigorating parties, Belfast’s favourite electronic music festival and conference AVA turned five last weekend, celebrating their birthday with another packed programme of house and techno’s heavy hitters and rising stars.
The Northern Irish party has always thrived on providing its local scenes and DJs with a platform to shine, and this year was no different, as acts sourced both locally and further afield shared the spotlight across each of the four stages in the old B&Q warehouse that has become the festival’s iconic landmark.
First up though was the festival’s conference programme. Following an edition at London’s Printworks where RA dived deep into the career of house don Mr. G and Night Czar Amy Lame reacted to heated questions amid the backdrop of club closures across the capital, AVA continued to explore hot topics of industry culture, with talks from Horse Meat disco on London’s current LGBTQ+ scene and The Black Madonna speaking on activism within the industry amongst the highlights of panels from artists, agents, labels and innovators.
Friday night saw favourites like Len Faki, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Avalon Emerson, Mall Grab and Palms Trax each take control across the 5000 cap space. One of the standout sets came from Radio 1 resident HAAi, who matched the intensity of sweaty festivalgoers’ audacious attempts to storm pass the barriers of the Boiler Room Stage with a devastating blend of sub-low techno and ragga-inflicted bounce, cutting through episodes by Clouds, Randomer, Lords Of Acid, and what sounded like a corrupted version of Minor Science’s ‘Volumes’. Elsewhere, Nez, our official DJ hero of 2018, inflicted his familiar brand of analogue anarchy, this time rightly unloading to ravers in The Warehouse after his classic Garden debut last year.
Saturday’s showcase proved even more thrilling, with Honey Dijon, Daniel Avery, Rebekah, Ben Sims, Randomer and Call Super among the 30-strong lineup. An afternoon set and Boiler Room debut from Hyponik favourite Sally C proved an early crowd favourite, whilst Ben UFO and Willow were also scheduled before sunset. Both selectors came in predictably versatile, and their sneaking in of cuts like Scratcha DVA’s ‘Step 2 Funk’ and Joe’s ‘Rut’ proved a welcoming shift to the punishing techno dominating the soundsystems. With sundown commencing though it was back to business, as Copenhagen’s Courtesy took no prisoners out on The Loading Bay, hammering out the darkest shades of techno and electro she’s become so reliable for.
Most attendees could be found gathered at the main stage for the closing moments of the evening as Daniel Avery and Special Request took to the floor. Whilst both were more than able to make the floor shake, it was Paul Woolford acting under his rowdy alias who was really able to pull it apart, pushing rave euphoria to maximal heights with timely drops of Praga Khan’s ‘Injected With A Poison’, Prodigy’s ‘No Good’ and the stadium like chants of Kernkraft 400’s ‘Zombie Nation’.
Arguably its biggest edition to date, AVA Festival’s fifth anniversary proved once again just why it’s become so integral to Ireland’s dance music scene. With news of the party set to move due to a redevelopment of the s13 venue, it’ll be interesting to see how they choose to expand on what is already one of the most spirited parties in Europe. In any case, we can guarantee that every raver of Belfast and beyond will be eagerly waiting for the announcement.
Featured Images: Grant Jones, Lewis McClay (The Hype Factory)
More info on AVA Festival available on their website.