Reviewed: Equation Festival (Vietnam)
The second edition of Equation Festival at Son Tin Camp (Vietnam) ratifies it as one of the new electronic music festivals to be considered in Asia. The crew behind the event are comprised of the Savage Club Management Team (Hanoi), Fragrant Harbour Records (Hong Kong) and Cliché Records (Hong Kong) – well known for their taste and eclecticism when it comes to selecting artists. The festival is a result of a boat party among a group of friends and artists from Hong Kong which has inspired the project in Vietnam. The crew try to capture the essence of that party for a wider audience, offering performances by artists based in Asia in an idyllic natural environment, away from the hustle and bustle of the Vietnamese capital. The event was held at Lake Son Tinh Camp (an hour drive from Hanoi) and lasted for three days with a friendly, close-knit atmosphere and surprising musical quality and variety. Three stages ran intermittently during the 24 hours, offering musical styles for all tastes on an exceptional sound provided by Funktion One.
Min8, a native artist from Hanoi, was in charge of kicking off one of the main stages, Journeys, which was mostly dedicated to House and Disco. With a mix of tribal sounds and slow house beats, the set got people dancing as the weather improved and the sun began to rise through the clouds. Journeys continued to impress with its Disco and Funky sessions and the pace was in crescendo as the sun went down and Kreshik, Jauge and Johán animated the dance floor.
At nightfall, the ‘Universe’ stage, dedicated to Techno, began with the performances of Phred Noir and Quan. The latter was undoubtedly one of the greatest discoveries of the festival. Native to Vietnam, the artist was discovered by the public in the first ‘Boiler Room’ held in the country, last January 2017 in Hanoi, becoming the first Vietnamese artist to act on the platform. Quan played a spectacular Live set, using modular synthesizers and sequencers, offering up dark and ambient Techno which kept the audience dancing during his 2-hour slot. The music and the dancing continued until 9 am, with another highlight performance in the form of Answer Code Request, a well-known Berlin producer with releases on Ostgut Ton and Monkeytown Records. Samo DJ and S.O.N.S. made sure the Journeys stage was keeping up, with two sets of Hard House and Acid full of energy these two enlivened the sunrise over the lake of Son Tin Camp. The arrival of the sun gave rise to the ‘Tea Tent’, dedicated to ambient and experimental music (and located in a chill out space full of cushions and pales). This was undoubtedly one of the festival’s major assets, providing an ideal space for those who wanted to finish the night with relaxing music, a concept that is sincerely missed in many festivals of this kind.
The second day was set for success with a killer lineup and a massive weather improvement. The Yoga workshops also helped, as people began to overcome the hangover and prepare for a day full of very interesting performances. The Journeys stage started with a lot of energy, where the Chinese Sweet Talk and the Taiwanese Yoshi Nori hit us with disco funk and house. Around 5 pm, Alex From Tokyo took over the cabin of Journeys with a very progressive set. Starting fairly relaxed with vocal songs, Disco Funk oddities and groovy themes, the set impressively moved through Lo-Fi and Hard House. At the same time, the Universe scenario reopened with the performance of the Hong Kong DJ Ocean Lam. This girl did not hold back, passing through House to Electro and Detroit Techno while the night took over the environment. This was followed by the sets of the Chinese Hu Yang and the Vietnamese Dan Lo, who in addition to being a resident DJ of ‘The Observatory’ in Saigon, was among the food stalls making tortillas with his wife for the attendees at the festival!
After their sets, we prepared ourselves, as they had warned us, for one of the highlights of the festival: San Soda b2b Andy Hart. The DJs gave a master class on a back to back set, not only because of their musical selection, full of African and Asian influences but also because of the energy they transmitted and the camaraderie they displayed in the booth. The set certainly lived up to the hype and four hours, for many of us, was certainly not enough. At about 6 o’clock in the morning the Journeys stage closed, despite the requests of the fervent audience for the B2B to continue. That being said the closure gave way to two of the most amazing and peculiar performances at the Tea Tent.
The artist Romi from Oslated Records delighted us with a live set of ambient and downtempo that amazed all the listeners. The performance had an added peculiarity in that the artist expressly requested that the booth be lowered from the stage to the floor, performing the set sitting down while he pivoted around his machines and moved into the audience from time to time. His ability with the Octatrack and his palette of ambient sounds made it difficult to distinguish which sounds came from him and which came from the forest surrounding the festival – a perfect atmospheric scenario. After the French artist, Rifain from Fragrant Harbour Recs played a magnificent set, in which there was room for everything: tribal songs, ambient, space funk, chanson française and a wide repertoire of indie and slow house that launched the last day of the festival.
The morning of the third day began with a set from Nthng of Lobster Theremin Records and resident at Red Light Radio in Amsterdam. Nthng stretched the early birds with a set full of energy to finally close the Universe stage from 7 am to 9 am. Meanwhile, Mohammed Al Hamza took control of the Tea Tent as Paulo Martinez started playing on the Journeys stage. Despite the accumulated fatigue, the energy did not seem to wane among the festival attendees, who were dancing away under the sunshine. The remainder of the final day provided very diverse sets, notably Europa, who surprised us by putting Punk, Old School Hip Hop, Dubstep and Jungle tracks in one of the most varied sets of the festival. Hibiya Lane, renowned DJ and former owner of the aforementioned club The Observatory acted twice, closing the ‘Journeys’ stage and playing at the Tea Tent once the festival was over. This closing performance held high expectations as everyone, including all the organisers and crew assembled, showing once again the close and familiar atmosphere that the festival tries to promote.
The festival was a success and surprised me time and time again with its quality of programming and organization. There were some technical difficulties to be ironed out, but this is to be expected of a fairly new festival on this side of the world and did not taint my experience. Most importantly the festival created a unique atmosphere and proved its track record for sharing with us an intriguing and exciting selection of artists from the Asian music circuit and is certainly one to watch in years to come.