Stone Techno is a festival like no other: where the industrial past converges with a forward-thinking, techno-fuelled present. Taking place in the mammoth Zollverein coal mine complex – a breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Essen, Germany – the festival’s latest edition showcased an eclectic array of techno greats, emerging artists, and genre provocateurs. In a space where chimneys once bellowed smoke and darkened the sky above, festival organisers The Third Room succeed in preserving this location’s influential history and identity, while simultaneously celebrating techno culture in its purest and rawest form.
Acts on the bill ranged across the spectrum of the ever-evolving genre, showcased across four distinct and unique floors. Each stage retained its original name and identity from its industrial past: Kokerei, Eisbahn, Salzlager, and Werkschwimmbad (a stage hosted on Saturday by Vault Sessions Collective and on Sunday by Amsterdam’s Eerste Communie).
This year marks the second edition of the Stone Techno festival – a concept that started as a sample pack collection, consisting of sounds recorded in old industrial spaces and sent to the techno scene’s most skilled producers. Since then, the event has grown into something of a movement, while still in-keeping this industrial heart. With each admission also granting access to an exhibition and the nearby Ruhr museum: Stone Techno felt like more than just a music festival – something closer to a multidisciplinary project, fusing musical, cultural, political, scientific and social elements to revitalise a space where industry once thrived.
Below, we’ve rounded up five of the weekend’s many standout performances in an attempt to capture the energy and spirit witnessed in Zollverein earlier this month.
Georgia-born, Germany-based DJ and producer Salome – real name Salome Gvetadze – delivered some serious heat on Saturday’s Kokerie stage. As revellers danced in the blazing sun, kicking up dust and the smell of hot concrete, Salome took us on an eclectic journey of techno, breaks, acid electro and everything in between. A particular highlight was the drop of Impulsive Behaviour by Killa in the Streets, which saw the growing crowd captivated by the sound system’s euphoric energy.
Vault Session’s Werkschwimmbad stage – the only fully-covered stage of the festival, a pocket nestled into the industrial belly of the coal mine – felt only fitting for D.Dan’s high-energy techno set. While the stage offered a brief break from Saturday’s sun, the Berlin DJ’s two-and-a-half-hour white-knuckle ride was anything but a respite. Dishing out all flavours of tunes – including some of his own tracks, like his remix of AADJA’s Falling In A Dream – to a packed-out crowd, D.Dan seemed to effortlessly tread the line between hypnotic and unpredictable.
DJ Gigola’s name originally derives from the ancient French word “Gigole”, roughly translating to “Dancing Woman”. And from her euphoric and eclectic Saturday evening set at the Salzlager stage, she lived up to her name. As one of the more freewheeling selectors of the weekend, DJ Gigola is no stranger to genre fluidity. Her set was an effortless transition between pop anthems – with remixes such as Gala Rizzotto’s Freed From Desire – to dance hitters like Sportbeton by the Berlin outfit BAUGRUPPE90. As the sun sank below the mammoth industrial structures surrounding the Salzlager floor, Gigola dropped an up-tempo remix of Rihanna’s Umbrella – as the crowd sang back in a burst of euphoric energy, it was clear she was not one to miss.
@the_third_room_t3r @DJ Gigola killed the dance floor at Stone Techno Festival 2023 🔥 #thethirdroom #stonetechnofestival #2023 #zechezollverein #essen #stonetechnofestival2023 #stonetechno #technomusic #technofestival #techno #thethirdroomt3r #djgigola #technodj #rave #ravetok #ravefam ♬ Originalton – The Third Room
After Sunday’s furious storm swept through the festival grounds, briefly putting all music on hold, there was fear that Narciss’ set may be called off. Luckily, that didn’t happen. Once the storm had passed, Narciss reopened the Salzlager stage with a bang. Delivering one of the most memorable moments of the weekend, their rapturous set embodied the feeling of making up for lost time. The weather hadn’t dried up the spirit of Stone Techno – in fact, it amplified it. As a wave of ravers flocked through the tunnel of industrial beams towards the stage, Narciss was there to greet the crowd with a selection of genre-blending tracks and unreleased heaters. Rounding the set off with Chase & Status’ rumbling and anthemic No Problem, a feeling of release and relief was in the air.
@the_third_room_t3r @Narciss 🖤🖤🖤 #stonetechnofestival #narciss #thethirdroomt3r #thethirdroom #essen #germany #stonetechnofestival2023 #zechezollverein #techno #festival #technofestival ♬ Originalton – The Third Room
Héctor Oaks b2b Helena Hauff
The festival concluded with a back-to-back set between Héctor Oaks and Helena Hauff. Both heavyweight DJs delivered serious heat that touched on the spectrum of techno: from heavy hitters to blistering 90s-tinged tracks and mind-melting acid-ish soundscapes. Psychedelic projections above the stage bounced off the shadows of elated dancers, many of which embraced as the sound system ricocheted across the venue’s industrial walls. It was clear the second edition of Stone Techno festival was special. Not only was this a valuable space to showcase some of techno’s greatest minds, but it was also a space to build community – giving a once-derelict piece of history a new and euphoric life.