It takes a special kind of festival to make rain feel iconic.
A certain standard of DJ too: as Courtesy shimmied through the final hour of her ‘sunrise slot’ at digital, the lack of any actual sun couldn’t kill the vibe. The Sunday morning crowd were radiant at the open air stage as Courtesy served up buoyant 90s hardcore and trance alongside unreleased gems. The clouds that had gathered above had become increasingly ominous (a contrast from the searing heat of the weekend). As they grew angrier, the Copenhagen DJ appeared to summon the rain with the build of Kay Cee’s Love Simulation (Trance Club Mix). The mood was already loose but the downpour propelled the vibe further into delirium. The track kicked into gear just as the skies opened – this was heavy, soak-you-through rain – but a cluster of dancers couldn’t tear themselves away.
Considering Nachtdigital is essentially one endless three-day party, there’s a sense that you’re always missing a special moment like that one. For a long time, the festival was a low-key word of mouth favourite for those living in and around Leipzig, and then Berlin. Celebrating its 20th event last year with a line-up including Jeff Mills was a milestone for the event, which usually favours its core crew of regular DJs alongside a sprinkling of on-the-radar bookings. While this was my first year at Nachtdigital, it was easy to spot the reason for its cult following – its bright eyed charm captures the magic of an event still in its loved-up early years.
The setting itself helps. Located in a holiday camp in the German countryside of Olganitz, the action orbits the large pond in the middle of the site. There’s nothing particularly flashy about the three main stages which circle the water, but it’s the little touches that add flair – the main stage dancefloor is essentially a beach, which contributes a little messy glamour, you can splash around in the water to music while listening to glorious eccentricities pump out of the daytime beach stage, and the tent has wiggy decorative flourishes, this year in the form of boxy TVs as the backdrop playing what looked like chewed up VHS tapes. This year’s extracurricular entertainment was ‘techno safari’, where dancers trekked the winding farm roads of the village following two Love Parade-style floats carrying DJs and dancers dressed up like wildlife. It was a welcome dash of silliness, with Job Jobse dishing out absurd bangers – surely the only time Darude’s Sandstorm and Katy Perry’s Roar have been dropped in close succession at Nachtdigital.
Other musical highlights included Objekt’s dark turn into jungle, Sevensol’s euphoric grooves, and Jan Schulte’s vibrant final blowout on the beach stage. As Schulte’s feel good oddities rung out over the lake, it seemed Nachtdigital’s mission was complete. It can be easy to feel fatigued – or even a little jaded – by today’s unending turnover of dance music events. But Nachtdigital breathes life into the format.