Chants started by a Canadian leprechaun echo around the Bowl for one man and one man only.
He’s not on for another half an hour but it’s obvious who the vibrant, colourful crowd are here to see.
The official number one DJ in the world, Hardwell… But can he deliver the goods? Can he really stand out from this amazing lineup?
Let’s find out…
The day starts at one o’clock for us on a sun soaked Saturday at the legendary Milton Keynes Bowl, which on July 11 hosted its now-annual British version of one of America’s favourite dance music festivals – the Electric Daisy Carnival, better known as EDC. The main stage, kineticCATHEDRAL, boasting one of the best mainstream EDM line-ups the UK has seen, lies at the heart of the bowl with the other three (neonGARDEN for underground, cosmicMEADOW for up-and-coming mainstream and circuitGROUNDS for drum and bass) forming the ribcage. There is literally something here for everyone.
Kove gives us a taste of what is to come today as the 24 year old opens with a high tempo. He maintains it throughout the first half an hour of his set that we see with the most notable track dropped No Problem by the legendary duo Chase & Status – it’s a beautiful thing seeing the keen couple of thousand or so going for it straight from the off.
The first act on the kineticCATHEDRAL stage is George Fitzgerald and he opens proceedings with the sound of the current underground; deep house. With the majority of the acts next on that stage mainstream EDM, this seems like a surprise inclusion and the crowd agrees for the first 15 minutes before he livens up proceedings, the highlight being Philip George’s Wish You Were Mine on the halfway mark.
Meanwhile neonGARDEN is hosting waFF, a young British star who is making it big on the White Isle. This set, and ultimately the staging, couldn’t be more at odds with what the rest of EDC is about but it just seems to work as waFF goes through his repertoire of deep house before moving to tech house 20 minutes in.
After this, it’s the final half an hour of Dirty South and is where the leprechaun is screaming for Hardwell. It seems a little disrespectful considering the set Dirty South played, the tracks connecting with the crowd including his remix of Zedd’s Beautiful Now and the anthem City of Dreams. He then turns everything down for the final 10 minutes and the tension builds as the expecting crowd waits…
iPhones appear from everywhere. Everyone wants to capture the first glimpse of him. He doesn’t do many UK gigs after all. The world has turned out to see the 27 year old Dutchman as proven with the variety of flags visible. He is supposed to be the best after all. And this set is the best.
Hardwell has the crowd under his spell from the first button he presses as the crowd beats as one under the influence of 125+ BPM. He’s not just playing his own mainstream EDM either. His set is a recognition of virtually every genre and modern era of dance music whilst he seamlessly blends it with his own finest. Who would have called him finishing with techno for crying out loud?!
The crowd deserves a special mention during this special hour as the most lively yet friendly ever experienced; it feels like we’re going for it with tens of thousands of friends as they create patterns upon us with UV paint. Even the political party leaders of the election couldn’t get enough!
Even though Hardwell’s set has sadly ended, the day is not even half way through. We grab a beer and head over to see Sigma at the circuitGROUNDS tent. It may be because of the magnificence of Hardwell but this set seems flat in comparison, even with the duo taking a cheeky swipe at Route 94 clashing by playing his most well known hit My Love.
A break and a well-earned pizza is consumed before we dive back in for the madness of Steve Aoki. He too plays a range of genres outside of his famed mainstream EDM, including dubstep and tech house. It’s his hits Turbulence and Delirious that get the best reception though as the girl on my shoulders bouncing around would agree.
Before there’s time for my shoulders to recover, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike are on and killing it with Tremors. A remix of Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams sends the crowd wild with excitement as everyone is roaring the lyrics back at them.
We then unexpectedly leave the main stage to its own devices for a little while as we hear that Sub Focus is going off at circuitGROUNDS. We arrive 10 minutes in and, sure enough, it’s rammed and everyone is going for it. All of the Torus classics are played along with notable drumstep remixes of DJ S.K.T’s Take Me Away and Janet Jackson’s Go Deep which are well received.
We stay put to see the first half of Pendulum. I’ve been waiting seven years to see them and they do not disappoint. A couple of Knife Party tracks are mixed with classics Fasten Your Seatbelts, Blood Sugar and Witchcraft, with the now worn out crowd summoning the final energy reserves for the final push.
Last but certainly not least, Tiësto is keeping up the energy that we left behind on kineticCATHEDRAL from earlier as he plays his new remix of Lean On and says shyly to the crowd ‘I hope you like it.’ This is a man that lets his DJing do the talking. It’s why he’s been around for so long.
The finale is emotional as it brings the curtain down on an end to an unbelievable day and, rather appropriately it seems, it has started to rain. We trudge back to the car, exhausted, thinking next year’s event can’t come soon enough.
Words by Jake Brigstock