This year we were present at what’s called the Mecca of the harder styles, the most sought after festival of the genre for quite a few years already.
Defqon.1 had its first edition in 2003 and since then has become bigger and better, and it is now arguably the biggest and best event of its kind and where Q-dance goes all out in terms of lineups, production and stage design. It is currently held for three days at Walibi Holland in Biddinghuizen.
Personally, this was my first Defqon.1 so I’ve decided to go all out with my first experience and try things that not many people opt for. I chose an hotel package and went for the Premium ticket via the Q-dance Travel packages.
The first day was all about The Gathering, which is a welcome to the visitors that have a weekend ticket. The entrance wasn’t all that smooth – as a Premium guest I quickly got my bracelet but the Premium fast lane wasn’t well signaled and while looking for it I eventually entered via the normal entrance, which fortunately did not take too long at the time. The fact that the staff at the entrance told me that was the only entrance for everyone didn’t help. I also did not get a locker voucher, as described on the ticket, and when asked for them, the lady from the reception stated they didn’t have any more vouchers for the day. I also did not receive the “premium gadget” (which was a limited edition pin this year). This wasn’t described in the Premium perks section of the ticket, so I wasn’t aware we’d be getting one, thus didn’t ask for it.
During The Gathering, the BLUE and BLACK tents were open, with one focusing on Hardstyle and the other one on Hardcore, respectively. Kicking things off at the BLUE was Brennan Heart who started strong with hits like Fight For Something which sounded absolutely crazy through the BLUE’s powerful sound system. The way the BLUE was built immediately stood out – Q-dance has built upon their well known “floating lights platforms” above the dancefloor, something that’s rather impressive for all the mechanical elements used to move the lights and that you cannot fully grasp if you’re not there in person.
Mid way through the set I decided to come out and check all the other stages. After a walk around it was time to check out the BLACK, where AniMe was playing. The BLACK tent wasn’t a worse stage comparing to the BLUE, but did have a noticeable poorer light system (which was still composed of quite a few moving parts, regardless). The night continued at the BLUE to check out a bit of D-Block & S-te-Fan and meet other party goers. After this, most of my time was spent on the BLUE. Ran-D was up next, but something started to get rather strange during his set – the organization lowered the sound… At some point this was rather noticeable and when asking around, other people noticed the same. Regardless, his set was flawless, as expected from such an expert.
Then, something new at Defqon.1 came – The Spotlight, a 30 minutes showcase with Phuture Noize where he played both old and new tracks and did an amazing show, in his own and almost cinematic style, accompanied by the epic light system of the stage. At this point the lowered sound didn’t really matter and everyone was really into the music. This was, in my opinion, a really good addition to Defqon.1, but I’m a huge Phuture Noize fan, so it is debatable if it is worth highlighting a particular artist.
The UV also played a small, but nice role during The Gathering, as there was a quick light and fireworks show there. It was short, but great!
The second day came with temperatures rising as high as 31 degrees! Rather uncommon for an event that’s know to have rain at some point almost every year. The free water taps were everywhere to help alleviate this heat, and getting water in the taps at the Premium toilets never had any lines. Free sunscreen was also given.
After waiting quite a bit in line to get some merch, the UV stage was calling to check out Retrospect, who put on a solid show. Half way through it was time to check out the Mainstage: RED, with Adrenalize & Devin Wild playing. The main stage was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen, and rumors of it being small were quickly debunked when grasping the monstrosity Q-dance had built!
Right after it was time for one of the best things Defqon.1 can provide – artist meetups! Getting up close and personal with some artists was an absolute privilege. I got the chance to meet Deetox, Sound Rush, Ophidian and Prefix & Density.
As the day progressed, I went to check out several other artists, from which I highlight Deetox (who presented her Revival album), Jay Reeve, Zany (presenting his new album, DNA), Frontliner (who returned after an extended absence from Q-dance events) and Da Tweekaz at the UV, Digital Punk and Rejecta at the BLUE and Activator (who was playing a really aggressive set!), Luna and Pavo at the MAGENTA. The Premium deck was a good place to check out the performances at the BLUE stage – you had the best view in the house for the light shows and plenty of room to dance if you so wished.
The day ended with The Endshow. This is a moment where Q-dance showcases the astonishing light and fireworks show they have at the RED. The Premium decks provided a really good view to all the action, from there you could grasp all of the stage and light/fireworks details, and even the small mistakes – like one single firework that didn’t fire to the same side as all others. The rest was flawless so no experience was ruined. This show really highlighted some of the design choices made for this stage.
Sunday was the busiest day for me, and thankfully the weather got more festival friendly, with a temperature decrease of almost 10 degrees and cloudy weather half of the day. Some acts I’d highlight are Degos & Re-Done, E-Force & Luna and the 10 Years of Thera show at the BLUE, Mad Dog at the BLACK, Frequencerz pres. Get Wack! at the UV, Geck-O at the MAGENTA (who had a very well thought out set), Prefix & Density at the INDIGO and Ophidian & Ruffneck at the GOLD.
The Frequencerz pres. Get Wack! performance was one of the finest things that happened during the weekend as it showcased what Q-dance can really do when they put all they have into making a good show. The stage control room had twice the people it normally had and the light show was absolutely out of this world!
During Prefix & Density at the INDIGO I reached the conclusion that the sound system there was perfect for the raw and powerful kicks showcased by the acts booked for that stage. It was rather impacting witnessing this set from the front center.
The weekend ended at the RED, witnessing the final show. It is quite similar to The Endshow on Saturday, but this is a goodbye: we get the usual “have a safe trip home and see you next year” message followed by the Q-dance sound, which gives anyone goosebumps immediately.
In the end, and now back at home, I can say the experience was extremely positive. The general environment of the festival is astonishing, when you’re inside you witness another world entirely. Most people are there to party, for the music, and to get along nicely with others. The relaxed security didn’t seem to decrease safety in any way. The organization coped well with the heat with free water taps and free sunscreen. Stages had a really good sound system and there wasn’t much “sound bleeding” from one stage to another, the only exception being on the far left of the UV, right next to the BLUE, but its sound system was enough to cover the BLUE’s when in full blast.
As for the Premium, it is definitely worth it. The Premium decks have the best view in the house to appreciate the light shows, the toilets have no lines and are quite clean for festival standards, bars have no lines either and the Premium deck at the RED even has two floors, a covered part and a token machine. But the question is if it is worth the extra 140€ comparing to the normal weekend ticket. I like to think of it this way – you are paying for 3 days of Premium access, which amounts to about an extra 46€ per day, which seems reasonable for the perks you’re given. However, given that you’re paying the extra, the staff should always have the locker voucher and premium gadget for everyone coming in… In addition to this, the staff could be better briefed on how to attend to Premium guests and point them in the right direction for the fast lanes. Both the normal and Premium entrances should open earlier as well for day visitors so that most people can get in on time for the first sets in the morning.
Another helpful thing when having the Premium is, if you love many sub genres of the harder styles and prefer circling through stages throughout the day, you don’t need to bother with going through the crowd and find a spot if the stage gets too packed, you can simply get to a Premium deck and witness the action. You’ll find that if you don’t commit to a stage all day and come back later, you’ll have troubles getting a good spot at the front or a spot where you have space to dance.
Another interesting thing was the stage switch on Sunday, which gave the festival a very interesting dynamic and was easy to get used to. The bad part of this was the fact that the light panels ended up pointing to the BLACK stage when it was the BLUE for the day. However, the Floorplan stated this change clearly and it was well publicized in advanced, so the error on the panels was a minor issue.
Many stage elements, and even artist intros, fit the overall vibe of the festival and its theme: One Tribe. And the UV stage represented the tribe’s sword! It had very simple but impressive stage design. There were other cool elements on smaller stages, such as a huge tent serving as a DJ booth at the MAGENTA, and the gears that actually turned on the GOLD’s decoration.
For me personally, it’s been about a decade since I started dedicating myself almost exclusively to the harder styles and heard about Defqon.1. So it was a decade of wishing and waiting for this. It was a dream come true, the top of my bucket list knocked down. Hopefully I’ll return next year with a similar, or even better package.