Reviewed: Epizode Festival
At the end of December, for 11 unforgettable days, the third edition of Epizode Festival played out in Vietnam and once again helped drive the local Asian scene forwards in more ways than one. Traditionally, trance, EDM and other big sounds are popular, and underground music only exists in small pockets. But Epizode is a huge offering with more than 150 DJs and a huge amount of locals. They are given debuts and really impress, while the fact people from 79 different countries around the world all attend also means the local tourism industry is given a huge boost so everyone wins.
The accommodation is one of the many magical parts of attending Epizode. It takes in various boutique bungalows and small hotels that are all well appointed, with spas and pools adding to the inherent charm of the region, which has green-blue seas, lush white sand beaches. The weather is warm and sunny most of the time and even when it pours with rain it doesn’t stop Ricardo continuing to play for nine hours, getting his kids involved in the mixing at the end of his set and driving the crowd wild. What a moment.
Epizode is not the first festival of its kind in the region, but none other has made such an immediate and global mark. Part of the reason for this is the execution – the sound, the DJs, the setting are all top notch. The art installations around the beaches and jungle clearings of Epizode also help give it character, and the fact you can head off on day trips to explore the small, culturally rich island and local national park is also a boost.
The festival rose from the ashes of the famous Kazantip in Crimea with the same team behind it, and this year welcomed the likes of Binh, Thomas Melchior, Craig Richards, Dubfire, DJ Stingray, Goldie, Nina Kraviz, [A:RPIA:R], Pan-Pot, and many more. The sets are all scheduled on different satges on the beach, including a new one for this year, the Shell Stage, and are all open air and bathed in sun, or with amazing views of the sea. Of course, that means some stunning sunrise and sunset sets which really stick in the mind from the likes of Zip, Seth Troxler and Craig Richards.
But on to of these sets, there are plenty of announced sets, where DJs finish in one place then pop up somewhere else and immediately get the crowd going again. Peggy Gou was one of our standouts and got her hardcore crowd lapping up her every unpredictable twist and turn. There, as always, were plenty go giraffes and cat cut outs in the crowd to make her feel more at home.
To make a festival last beyond year one you need to have an atmosphere, a certain feeling amongst clubbers that unites them beyond the dance floor and wants to bring them back. And that comes from the global crowd, who are all shapes, sizes, colours and creed. They are all keen to get involved and the whole festival has a real community feel. Infrastructure, toilets in particular, are also vital: you can have the best lineup, the best art-objects, a stunning sound system, but if there will be long queues in front of the dirty toilets then that will sit in festival goer’s mind. Thankfully the organises know this and all are taken care of in style.
Epizode is a particular complex project as it last the best part of a fortnight. It is ambitious and all consuming for the people behind it as well as those who attend. But as well as the music it is proving to contribute to the emerging music scene and become a winter music hub for clubbers and industry people. Only two years ago, it had around 1,000 people. On the second year, the growth was massive, with many A-names on the lineup and hugely multiplied visitor numbers. This year regional acts are nearly doubled, the program was enriched with day activities, like yoga, diving and much more, and the team also organised a huge Asia and Australia tour to present Epizode in different countries before it kicked off. All this means it’s time you jump don board and had an utterly unique musical and holiday experience somewhere like you have never been before.