Air Festival has quickly become the pilgrimage for techno-seeking partiers in Indonesia, with no other festival quite like it. But as with any pilgrimage, the road to Air is a difficult one, involving plenty long dirt roads with horse drawn carts, packed buses, boat delays and cancellations.
So when one finally reaches the idyllic—though usually sleepy—island of Gili Air, where the festival takes place, there is a sense of accomplishment, and of course plenty of excitement for what’s about to happen: four days of partying until the early morning with the likes of Rampa, Dana Ruh, Audio Werner, and crowd favorite Ricardo Ferreira. Which of course is only the beginning, as Gilli offers breathtaking scenic island views, amazing snorkeling opportunities, and several beachside bars offering punters something cryptically called ‘a ticket to the moon’. It was completely unheard of in Indonesia.
Musically, the first night’s lineup focused more the Berlin-centric artists like Audio Werner and Dana Ruh, who delivered minimal tech tracks not quite suited for the beachside venue. However, local hero Trigan Young opened with a stellar breakbeat set, which set the tone perfectly for what was to come. Then around 5AM, the festival—within accordance to the call to prayer schedule of the Islamic island—took a completely different turn with Rico Loop. To say things got weird would have been an understatement, as the eternally eccentric Rico Loop delivered funk, ethnic and chillout and beat boxing, which might not have been everyone’s cup of tea at five in the morning, but was nevertheless an interesting booking and a funky way to respect the local culture. Afterwards, the festival continued with some laidback ethnic beats sunrise sets.
Saturday brought the festival back with a vengeance; from sunset to well past sunrise, the music was on point for over 14 hours. Especially when duo Peak & Swift delivered their all-vinyl rave classics set, dropping tracks by Faithless and the Bicep edit of Dominca’s classic “I Got To Let You Go’’, they had the crowd dancing their hearts out on the sand. As the night went on the DJs continued their assault of house bangers, which the crowd ate up lovingly. Up next was Shinedoe, her set was proper education in acid house and went on well into the night. However, it wasn’t until 7AM when things kicked into overdrive.
When most had expected to head back to their rooms for some much needed recovery, Ricardo Ferreira took to the decks on the second stage surrounded by jungle ferns and palm trees. Delivering a mammoth set that teased with trance and grooved with jackin’ house, not a single punter was left standing still. Going full force until 11AM, festival goers left the grounds with a sense of fulfillment, that they had experienced something that others can only dream about. Their festival-ready outfits disheveled from the all-night dancing, separated from their friends, barefooted and sunglasses on, all smiles from the memories of the night before. Small clusters of partiers settled on the beach for one last moment, enjoying a last laugh at some of the epic characters dancing off whatever remained in their systems or the drifters doing water yoga in their sequined rave underwear.
The third and final day continued the onslaught for the tired partiers, but true to form they continued to move to the beat. As the crowd grew to be a festival family over the weekend, the final day’s headliners seemed to follow suit as their sets meshed together. In the final hour before festival highlight Rampa took to the stage, it was just one massive back-to-back session between Sylvie Foret, Dave Aju and Ray Zuniga.
So when Rampa finally stepped up to the decks, it seemed like the whole entire festival had come to together for this moment—punters, island locals and even the hard working festival organizers were all ready to dance to Rampa’s blistering house set. It was easy to get lost in the beauty of the moment then, everyone dancing with the sand against their feet, the scenic beauty of two islands nestled against the coastline of Lombok in the background
The night ended with Rico’s unconventional madness, this time with the live bass guitar from Walker Bernard, and then morning was soon taken over by Ata, whose synth-heavy set was sprinkled with classic tracks.
As with any festival still in its infancy there were kinks with Air, and the added difficulty of being a remote island only accessible by boat only intensified things. However, Air handled it all with style and grace, and fans were already asking about tickets for next year.
We know we’ll be going back.
Photos credit: Duncographic