Reviewed: Let It Roll
Attending the Let it Roll festival was an exciting opportunity for me as it featured almost every current drum and bass artist around. Held in the baking hot sunshine on an abandoned Soviet-era airfield outside the Czech capital, Prague, this festival was not for the faint hearted. It was one of those occasions when hardcore ravers from all over Europe gather together to enjoy their love of Drum and Bass, Neurofunk, Breakbeat, Breakcore, Liquid, Jump Up and everything in between. Truly an experience and brilliant 23rd birthday present for me.
Apart from attending Sunbeatz DnB festival in Ibiza for 3 years running, this was my first festival abroad. This was completely different though as in Ibiza all the nights are held in clubs. So, I guess you could say, that it was my first open air festival. And what a fucking difference it makes. For years I have marveled over videos online of the legendary Defqon.1 festival, wanting more than anything to attend a festival that sells out in a matter of hours simply because of the incredible stages, sound systems and laser light shows. As an avid lover of Drum n Bass, Let it Roll was set to be even better.
Set about half an hour away from the iconic city of Prague, in a quiet little town called Milovice, the festival is surprisingly accessible with plenty of amenities nearby and even a Tesco to stock up on well needed water, food and booze. Although the festival does have loads of food stalls selling everything from pizza, Chinese food to local Czech cuisine, we opted for the money saving option of bringing our own food. The bars were what you’d expect from a normal festival, although pints were a steal at €2 per drink. The money-operating system was slightly confusing, with the festival currency being BOLTS. The exchange rate was about €2 per BOLT, which entailed converting GBP to CZK Koruna, then Koruna to BOLTS. Although this did take a bit of getting used to, everything at the festival with the exception of cigarettes could only be paid for on an electronic wristband that could be topped up before the festival, or on site via credit or debit card. After complaining about the initial hassle of this, I realized that the ease of not carrying cash about was actually a bonus. There was also a really awesome scheme that included a cup exchange, which meant for every cup that was handed in, you could exchange for 1 BOLT, the equivalent of €2, which meant that we felt like we were getting a lot more back for our money.
The atmosphere at Let it Roll was extremely friendly, with a mix of mainly European people, and only around 20% of the tickets were sold to locals. The majority of festival goers we met were from Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Belgium, Britain, The Netherlands and France. The eclectic mix of people meant that there was a diverse range of personalities all coming together over their love of music. I can honestly say that it opened our eyes to the amazing range of culture offered by a diverse crowd of people. Although we can learn so much from our lovely European neighbors, deep down people are people are people, and we are all the same despite our cultural differences. It was so enlightening to meet people from other cultures uniting in their love of music, and I must say that this is one of the main things that going to a festival out of Britain has taught me. And I loved every second of it. During the minutes before we boarded the train to Milovice, we met a lovely Slovakian couple, Frederika and Palov. We instantly clicked when we found out that Frederika had lived on the same road that I grew up on, in Sheffield, England. I guess it’s not such a big world after all. Making friends before even entering the festival was a godsend, as they helped me to negotiate my way around the booze aisle as well as the taxis trying to overprice unsuspecting tourists. It was lovely to bond with people so quickly, and after setting up camp together, we soon realised that everyone at that festival was just as friendly.
Now on to the main reason we had trekked all the way to Prague, the music. Let it Roll had one of the most impressive line-ups that I’ve ever seen, with nine stages and hundreds of acts lined up over the 3 days. There was even a pre-party on the Wednesday night with one of the stages, an old airplane hangar with a huge rig inside, open to all the eager festival goers. This stage was open 24/7 and didn’t shut until 4pm on the Sunday. Whereas our festivals usually go all weekend, Let it roll was a bit different as the main days were on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The first night on Thursday hosted an array of artists, with all stages apart from the main stage open. The highlights for me personally was the hospitality night on the factory stage. Big name artists in liquid DnB featured including S.P.Y, Netsky, London Elektricity, Danny Byrd and Wilkinson.
The Madhouse Stage was absolutely sick, holding thousands of people under a big blue marquee, the feature was a huge Optimus Prime-style robot that looked out onto all the ravers from behind the DJ decks. On Thursday night, Critical Music, an independent record label based in north London owned and run by DJ and producer Kasra took over this stage to provide some awesome DnB artists. All time favorites Ivy Lab were my pick of the night, providing dirty DnB mixed with just the right amount of Neuro. Other acts played on the label that night were Kato, Hybris, Rido and Foreign Concept.
After all the excitement of the previous night, the festival gives people a chance to relax and chill throughout the daytime. By that I mean that they don’t start the main acts until 6pm with some of the smaller stage open from 4pm. There is one small stage open for midday as well as the 24hr Hangar. So people aren’t left without music, but the main shows don’t start until the evening.
I would say Friday, for me, was the highlight, as it featured the best names and the acts that I was most excited to see. In all reality it definitely didn’t disappoint, instead it surpassed all expectations. To be honest I was spoilt for choice and split between the stages, but tried to pack in as much as possible. Friday daytime was so enjoyable because we found a rig called Forbidden Society, which was on the shredder stage, another smaller industrial looking stage with burnt out cars and a makeshift scrapheap metal man. Although I’d never heard of Forbidden Society, then have to get a shout out as the music was some of the phattest, dirtiest Neurofunk that I’ve ever heard. I really enjoyed it and would travel specifically to see that rig.
Starting the nighttime with a bit of Liquid Drum n bass to ease me into it, I headed towards the newly opened main stage. I enjoyed Hybrid Minds’ set for the first half an hour, then went wandering to find something a bit heavier. Discovering new artists is one of my favourite things about festivals, and this one was no exception. Walking around the festival we stumbled upon what sounded like dubstep crossed with Skrillex. It was quite unusual music but definitely had a banging beat. As we walked in to investigate further, the now familiar robot loomed over us again as we danced for duration of the set. The artists I later found out was Italian duo Was A Be who have only burst onto the scene in the last few years on Shogun audios label.
Next up was the legendary RAM Records take over on the factory stage. This was the second biggest stage at the festival. It was a large open air area that consisted of mechanical nuts and bolts, moving in unison with the music. The huge scaffolding framed stage was set out to look like a factory, complete with smoking chimneys, huge pillars and moving steam punk cogs, all colored in industrial yellow. This created an intense and surreal atmosphere that really suited the music genre and enhanced the experience even more. Obviously, Andy C’s independent drum and bass label, RAM Records (est 1992) are a huge name in Drum n Bass so they were bound to feature some wicked artists held on their record label. Sets were featured from artists such as Madface, Bensley, Loadstar b2b DC Breaks, Bad Company, Dimension, Teddy Killerz and Killbox (Ed Rush&Audio).
The opening show for the main stage was held at 10pm Friday night. And damn was it spectacular. The firework displays were second to none, and the lasers were absolutely out of this world. Throughout the night I got to skank my little arse off to high contrast (liquid), Drum n bass legend Andy C, Calyx & Teebee, world famous DJs Hype & Hazard playing all their usual tunes (Ready or not, Mr. Happy, Machete) followed by uplifting DnB from The Upbeats.
Somewhere amongst that time, I snuck off to see the absolute legends that are Black Sun Empire. And as always, they couldn’t have been any better. Performing on Shogun Audio’s night in, again, the Madhouse, they dropped tune after tune of purely awesome and dirty drum n bass. Some of the finest music I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the highlight of their set for me, was probably hearing some new material as they played songs from their new album ‘The white room’ released this year.
Saturday night was set to be big. After a whole day of blazing hot sunshine, thousands of sunburnt party goers set upon the various stages. With Jump-up all stars taking over the factory stage, artists such as original sin and sub zero were the highlights of my night. The main stage was also incredible as the astounding laser shows wowed me once again. The lineup, I’d say was a bit tamer on the main stage tonight and aimed more towards the mainstream music scene. Saying this, I enjoyed it a lot and spent the evening in awe of the lasers and bassist speakers that I have ever come across. That must be said, that the sound systems were second to none. Absolutely top notch sound quality the whole way through. The Europeans definitely know how not to skimp on the bass, unlike some of the mainstream UK festivals.
Featuring on the main stage on the final night was The Prototypes, Camo & Krooked, Sigma and Sub Focus. However, the highlight of the main stage for me were Delta Heavy, playing tunes which were just dirty as hell. They had the whole of the thousands strong crowd skanking their absolute arses off. Another thing about Europeans, they can dance! Never in my life have I seen moves that fancy, with so many people putting their all in and completely losing themselves in the music. It was such a beautiful thing to see. Other attractions on Saturday included an Eatbrain take over, featuring Malux, Coppa live, Synergy, Mob Tactics, State of Mind and Telekinesis. Then on the port stage there was a night hosted by Dispatch Records featuring Panorama, Onset, Safire, Kyrist, Alix Perez and Nymfo.
To be honest I wish I could have split myself into 2, 3 or even 9 so I could have caught and danced to every single act. But I guess it’s just another reason to come back next year. Let it roll is all about the music, it’s absolutely a no frills festival, with minimal amenities on site, hardly any decorations and on a completely flat plane of land, and only a few activities to do in the day. Despite all this, it is literally the most amazing experience that I could have ever wished for my 23rd Birthday. The sound systems are incredible, the line-up is everyone that you could ask for if you like DnB, playing act after act consecutively with no gaps in between leaving you guessing how long until the next set… The people are warm, kind, friendly and hardcore. Everyone is so into the music and it makes for a brilliant atmosphere and all round spectacular festival. It definitely is one to make the effort for if you like DnB, Breakbeat, Neuro, Dubstep or anything dirty with a beat. This year was the 10 year anniversary so it was a special one, but I can see every year in the future been just as good and hope to return next year.
Photo credit: Jakub Dolezal