It is rare for a festival as renowned as Nachtdigital to remain such an enigma in the age of social media. Many large festivals share every detail online for months in the lead up to the date, leaving little to the imagination. Nachtdigital on the other hand gave little away on their website, Facebook event, or in the interview below, during the lead-in to their 21st edition, Nachtdigital Flex.
In hindsight, this “substance over style” promotional approach was very refreshing.
Job Jobse, a yearly attendee/resident recently called Nachti, “paradise”, a description that could not ring more true with myself after attending its 21st edition.

A winning quality of Nachtdigital is its willingness to book and program upcoming talent alongside established big-name acts. On top of this, female performers were as common as males, making a welcome change from the gender imbalance which is all too common on the festival circuit. The program for the Tent on Friday was a perfect example of this diversity, and it is where we spent the majority of the evening as Sofay, Mozghan, Violet and Optimo blessed the crowd with a superb opening night of music.

As with all stages at Nachtdigital, the Tent had a distinctively DIY feel. Décor was limited, lighting subtle, and there were captivating visuals, provided by a series of screens positioned above the stage.

Each set flowed smoothly into the next: Sofay showcased why she is one of the most exciting talents on the scene with a well-paced set of leftfield techno. San Francisco-based Mozghan followed on with chugging, psychedelic, voodoo vibes, before the increasingly renowned, Violet played a set filled with a combination of breaks and acid.
It was fitting for such a musically diverse evening in the Tent to end with Optimo. Few DJs push the boundaries of what we define as “club music” quite like them; on this occasion their selections ranged from Kiss – I Was Made For Loving You to Kenny “Jammin” Jason with “Fast” Eddie Smith – Can U Dance to A Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It? Their set was greeted by jubilant cheers, broad smiles and flailing limbs with little rest inbetween despite the heat.

The end of Optimo’s set saw us head to the Ambient Tent in order to catch the second half of Nina & Ben UFO’s. It was brilliant to see DJs given the chance to showcase a different side of their record collections in such a serene setting. This area also provided a welcome respite for ravers wanting a rest, breather and shade from the scorching sun. It’s beds and sofas also provided the perfect opportunity for a nap as tents were unbearably hot in the +30degC weather.

It was clear from the lack of set times that the music was only one aspect of this festival experience. Music could be heard from every part of site, at any time of day, making it unnecessary to remain in front of a stage for hours on end. Instead, festivalgoers at Nachti are encouraged to hang out with friends, swim in the lake, join a aqua aerobics class, or simply explore the site.
If a track caught your ear, you were always within a 5 minute walk of a stage for a spontaneous boogie. This was the case on Saturday morning as Make Me played one of the best sets of the festival, and slowly drew those at their tents back to the Open Air stage through the selection of brilliant tracks such as DJ Oni & Una – We Lift Our Hands At The Sanctuary and Dope On Plastic – Wave Dub.

After another rest and a game of Quirkle with a friendly German Scientist (shouts to Dan!), I made my way to the Lake Stage in the afternoon to see DJ Dustin. Tasked with perhaps the toughest timeslot of the weekend, transitioning from Saturday afternoon to evening, DJ Dustin produce a masterclass in house music and one of the best sets of the weekend, as his upbeat and hands-in-the-air selections perfectly matched the sunny weather.

Saturday evening was again filled with brilliant music from the likes of Burnt Friedman, rRoxymore, and Objekt.

However the best performances were produced by Sevensol and Map.ache during the KANN label showcase at the Tent, and Courtesy on the Open Air stage in the early hours of the morning. Playing solo sets, rather than as Manamana, Sevensol (DJ set) and Map.ache (live), both acts showed why they have been regulars at Nachtdigital for the past 10 years. Of what I saw, their mixing was spotless, with both Sevensol and Map.ache playing the mixture of big room house and deep house, an unreleased track from the new Map.ache LP being a highlight. Here’s to hoping we see more of both DJs in the UK over the coming months and years!

Courtesy aka Najaaraq Vestbirk, stole the show on Sunday morning with her exciting brand of techno, acid, electro and trance. Her mixing was fast, unfussy and precise from start to finish. Najaaraq produced one of the most memorable moments when she dropped Kay Cee’s Love Stimulation (Trance Club Mix) as the heavens opened. This was a change in musical direction that perfectly matched the sudden change in weather, and drew a reaction from the crowd that will live long in the memory.

The remaining hours of the festival were spent winding down, chatting with friends and soaking up the sun. It was beautifully soundtracked by Kinzo Chrome and Jan Schulte, who was playing his final set of Nachtdigital Flex. Schulte played across all stages over the space of 48 hours, showcasing the depth of his record collection and across the course of his 3 hour set at the Lake he kept the mood fun while slowly winding things down.

Despite it’s popularity, Nachtdigital has kept to a capacity of 3,000, shunning a change in site or cashing in, in order preserve its atmosphere and community feeling. It has the friendliest and most fun festivalgoers I have ever encountered. No stage feels overcrowded, and the sound, production etc, are as good as any other festival, with a bit of added character from the homemade feel. It also never takes itself too seriously, a rare trait in the scene – the Techno Safari, Rave Cave and risqué track selections being a perfect example of this. Nachtdigital is a truly unique festival experience and a summer highlight for anyone lucky enough to attend.

P.S. Oh yes, Richie Hawtin played…

Written By: James Acquaye Nortey-Glover

Listen to some of the musical highlights in via either Spotify or YouTube in the playlists below:

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