You’d be forgiven for never having heard of Nachtdigital. Until last year, we hadn’t either, and with good reason. A 3,000 capacity festival in the German countryside of Olganitz, booking largely obscure underground artists from Germany with occasional international appearances, isn’t going to be the talk of the town. Jordan Rothlein’s Resident Advisor review of the 2015 version tipped us onto Nachtdigital, and despite its very low profile, it sounded pretty perfect.
It didn’t take long to realise there’s indeed something pretty special about Bungalowdorf. Nestled in amongst the trees, and backing out onto a lake encircled by golden sands were three stages of immense charm. One, aptly named Open Air led directly onto the beach, with impressive visuals provided by Okinawa 69 and a weighty system. The Tent, at the opposing end was the biggest area gave a masterclass in simple production, using massive LED tiles to backlight the stage and illuminate from the ceiling. Finally Lake, a much smaller stage hosting occasional daytime sets, employed none of this grand invention, besides a glowing disco ball tucked into the side of the booth.
Probably the most striking thing about Nachtdigital is the fact the music doesn’t actually stop. Beginning at 19:00 on Friday, and ending at 15:00 on the Sunday, there’s 44 hours of musical programming without interruption. Everything is suddenly taken at much more languid pace when no closing time lurking, and even when hearing extremely heavy sounds, the mood was always tranquil.
The most refreshing thing about the festival however was that choice was negated and sometimes completely removed. Most festival lineups are oversaturated with talent and painful clashes, but Nachtdigital asks patrons to trust their programming vision. Often only one of the three stages would be open so, instead of rushing from venue to venue feeling pressure to catch big names, people were content to experience the new and unfamiliar.
Many artists performing at Nachtdigital 19 fit this bill. With the festival selling out within minutes every year due to its cult following, the organisers a freedom to push boundaries and though some familiar faces cropped up, much of the lineup was new to us. By and large, these acts played the best sets of the festival, stating with the inaugural set at Open Air from Onetake. A booker of Leipzig’s Conne Island, he expertly moved through the euphoric breakbeat of DJ Sotofett’s ‘Current 82 (12 Mix)’ to crunchy electro like Claro Intelecto’s ‘Piece of Mind’ as dusk settled. Moving into The Tent, Jennifer Cardini was already working the crowd into a frenzy, jubilantly ending her set with the epic ‘Loving (O.C. Edit)’ on Nous’klaer and setting the place alight.
Heading back to Open Air we dug in for a night with US crew No Way Back. Erkia, BMG and Carlos Souffront, were a pleasure under the starlight and incredible visual accompaniments, playing soothing music like Route 8’s ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’, before Derek Plaslaiko met the rising sun with a barrage of electro like AFX’s remix of (808 State) – ‘Flow Coma’ and MMM – ‘Donna’. Bryan Kasenic ended a superb alfresco takeover as the rain began to tip over Red 7’s ‘I Lost My Shoes On Acid’ and, as we headed back to avoid the wet and get some rest, Cobblestone Jazz – ‘Northern Lights’ rang out triumphantly overhead.
Saturday afternoon at Nachtdigital is awash with activities. Aqua sports, grown up painting, banana riding, and speed dating were all on Klub Animadiso’s menu, a small bar set up next to The Tent, which blared out pop music throughout. Definitely the most hilarious moments of the festival was served when the area cleared into a dancefloor. A closing combo of Robbie William – ‘Angels’, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and then Don Omar – ‘Danza Kuduro’ (for about the fifth time in as many hours) soundtracked an eight-person deep stage dive / surfing session. This constitutes a curveball, especially when for the last two hours you’ve been stomping around to the Signal to Noise Radio – ‘Detroit is Burning’ and Robotiko Rejekto – ‘Rejekto (Perfekto Mix)’ courtesy of DJ Richard.
Again the finest moments as Saturday rolled into Sunday were to be had at Open Air. Freerotation founders Steevio and Suzybee worked modular hardware and visuals in captivating unison and beauty. DJ Stingray stretched the bliss with Drexciya – ‘Running Out Of Space’, before characteristically racing up the gears with Boddika – ‘Electron’ and finishing up with Africa Hitech – ‘Out In The Streets’. In The Tent, Red Axes’ excellent live set fit like a glove and Robag Wruhme’s deep, melodic house glowed, but Soundstream closing the venue felt flat, weaving amongst classics without ever hitting the highs of his peers.
The Ambient Floor, an assortment of beds, sofas, candles and sofa booth on the outskirts of the campsite oozing horizontal music for 40 hours straight, was a refreshing pit-stop and testifies to the inventiveness around every corner of. Quickly, DI SO drew us back to the beach, air mattresses in hand, for two seamless, deep hours of techno. There was a warming calmness to the selections (S. Moreira & Xinner – ‘Through The Rings Of Saturn’) that felt right at home here in Bungalowdorf as morning sun broke across the lake.
Solar, and after Mr Ties down at Lake, then closed the final chapter on Nachtdigital. It seemed people travelled especially for Ties, and their liveliness provided the final burst of energy to see the weekend out on our feet, as did his singular DJing style. Like Soundstream’s set the night before, his selections lent heavily time-honoured sing-alongs (Toto – ‘Africa’, Donna Summers – ‘Hot Stuff’), but we found it to be more endearing, and the crowd were completely enamoured with the Italian veteran. Whether, by virtue of his spirited cult following, his seemingly endless supply of Italo warpers, the fact that he wasn’t wearing trousers, that his hair was dyed green or the delirium of sleep deprivation, as Ties closed with Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ (which he’d been teasing in for the last three hours), it felt there wasn’t a more appropriate artist to pen the epilogue in our sensational and surreal weekend in the land of Banananana.