Amid discussion across the nightlife industry regarding a lack of ticket sales, interest and the actual attendance of ticket buyers post-Covid, the party spirit is very healthy at The Crave Festival. Taking place in The Hague’s leafy Zuiderpark for the first time since 2019, a smorgasbord of the finest electronic music is served up across five stages. However, we have to get to the festival first.
The journey to Amsterdam isn’t the smoothest. It turns out that maintenance work at Amsterdam’s busy Schiphol airport means only one runway is being used when they usually have seven in operation. Needless to say, this presents the organisers of Crave with a headache as several flights are either delayed or cancelled. As a result, Mama Snake, Leon Vynehall, Lena Willikens, Awesome Tapes and Ben Sims are all affected. A post on the festival’s Instagram Stories charmingly, and optimistically, reads: “Unfortunately, the situation at Schiphol is beyond our control. The vibe is amazing as always.” Logistical issues aside, we find ourselves sharing a festival transfer with Berlin techno maven Rødhåd. He played London’s newly reopened KOKO the night before and is a little tired, but is using the adequate soundsystem of the sleek black Mercedes to test out the masters of a forthcoming release. It’s the perfect way to gear up for arrival, easing ourselves in as traditional windmills and modern wind turbines slip past across the flat expanse.
If Crave was unlucky with transportation, they have lucked out in terms of the weather. We’re told there was rain in the morning, but the weather is glorious now and some sunburnt faces are testament to that. Turning immediately left as we enter the festival, the loop of the park site brings us to the Intergalactic FM stage. Legowelt is throwing down his trademark brand of pumping bass via a live set, the decks nestled in between red, blue and green shipping containers. We pass by the main stage where Jeff Mills will be playing later, before making our way over the lake using the floating art installation The Crossover, which also serves as a bridge complete with lifeguard chair. People in hammocks swing lazily across from the cavernous Resident Advisor stage, in contrast to KiNK who’s also playing live and giving it everything he’s got using his weapon of a track that is East Wind featuring DJ Valentine. Over on the PIP stage, Rotterdam’s David Vunk is paying homage to The Hague by sporting a rare 90s ADO Den Haag football shirt. His yellow and green torso shakes as he plays X-Cabs Neuro from 1995 slowed down. Another loop of the festival site and we find ourselves back at the Intergalactic FM stage where another local, I-F, is rousing a crowd where a few are wearing t-shirts from the Dutch label Murder Capital. Heading over The Crossover bridge once again, this time we stop off at the HÖR tent to witness Estella Boersma banging out an uncompromising techno set that culminates with the inclusion of Underworld’s euphoric Born Slippy. We also manage to catch a bit of Or:la’s set on the RA stage just as she sneaks in the insatiable 1981 classic Sharevari from A Number of Names.
We make our way to the main stage, also surrounded by shipping containers, for the final set of the night. Rødhåd is bringing his frenetic set to a close before the mighty Jeff Mills steps up. Fittingly, just behind the decks an Underground Resistance record bag sits among various pieces of luggage and flight cases, the UR logo unmistakable. As the handover looms, there’s a reverence for Mills by all and he’s given plenty of space to work his magic, while any filming nearby is discouraged out of respect. KiNK also comes to catch a glimpse, as well as Dutchman Deniro who was playing on the same stage just a few hours earlier. Immediately, The Wizard gets into things as smoke machines billow and night begins to fall on Zuiderpark. Wearing a white jacket, black formal trousers and black dress shoes, Mills goes to work on the Roland TR-909. Seeing a master like this live is something to behold, as the 909 claps and kicks rain down on a receptive crowd. It’s now pitch black, and the night sky is punctuated by intense strobing coming from inside the open doors of white, stacked shipping containers that surround the main stage. It wouldn’t be a Jeff Mills set without hearing The Bells, which the crowd laps up during a flawless two-hour set of funky machine music.
Despite chaos at Schiphol, the team behind The Crave Festival have taken it in their stride to deliver a festival that doesn’t compromise on quality. Heading back to the hotel with a melee of bike bells outside the car, we share a ride with Hunee who has just closed the PIP stage during the same time Jeff Mills was playing. While we missed Hunee’s set, it’s clear from his grin that it was one to remember.