Digweed: raving in Amsterdam

By the

April 26, 2001

I’d like to start off this piece with a disclaimer: I’m not a big rave or techno fan. I’m from New York City, where plenty of my friends are deeply engrossed in that culture, but for some reason, I never really caught on to it. I’ve listened to it and can really appreciate it, but it never really grabbed me and made me want to go out and buy a CD. That is until now.

Over Easter I had the luck to travel to Amsterdam and it was there, one cold Friday night that I had my first “real” rave experience. One of my friends Adam, a musical guru compared to me, told me that a DJ named John Digweed was playing at a club called “Melkweg” (translates to Milky Way in English) and that we had to check it out. Now normally I don’t listen to Adam back in D.C. when he tells me to check out this show or that show, because quite frankly, I usually don’t have enough time or interest. But here I was in Amsterdam, it was a Friday night and the prospect of going to a club jam-packed with hot Dutch women sounded like a great plan to me. Plus the music was supposed to be good, right?

Wrong. It was better then good; it was phenomenal. From the moment we stepped in the club, we could tell the place was bumping. The entrance hall was jammed with people, everyone’s head was bobbing to the sound of techno blaring though the walls, and people were calmly sitting there, sipping their “protein” drinks and taking their “vitamins.” The scene was really chill to say the least. There is a totally laid back feeling in Amsterdam that is unlike any other place I have ever been. People just seem to be happy, all the time. Anyway, after checking our coats and buying a refreshment, we proceeded into the first big auditorium. A DJ was spinning some pretty phat beats with a deep bass sound and it seemed like the crowd was really into his stuff. The room was totally filled and all that you could see was the movement of gyrating bodies and smoke in the air. This was a really sweet club.

We figured that this must be Digweed so we chilled in the room for a while to listen. But eventually, I needed to cool down, so I went for a walk into the main hallway and began to explore some of the other rooms in the mammoth club. The place didn’t end. Everywhere you turned there was a different room with a different DJ spinning. And in the center of it all was a huge bar where hundreds of people were ordering drinks. It was total chaos. People were strewn across each other all over the floor and the sound was deafening, you couldn’t hear yourself think. All of the sudden I found myself in a huge auditorium with twice as many people as the first one. “Oh sh*t??this must be Digweed,” I thought, and indeed it was.

The atmosphere was off the hook. Picture a thousand people all packed into one room where there was hardly enough space to stand, all sweaty as hell and moving simultaneously to one rhythm. It was like an enormous Village B party gone synchronized, one humongous grind. But much cooler cause it was in Amsterdam.

As I said at the top of this article, I am not a rave expert, but I could immediately tell why people consider Digweed to be one of the top DJ’s in the world. I have never in my life seen a crowd, at any show, for any type of music get this excited by, or hang on to every sound, like this crowd did with Digweed. It truly seemed, for lack of a better word, like they were in a trance. Every single beat that Digweed threw at the crowd had them, myself included, completely hooked. My friend Adam said to me later that night that as a musician, he was inspired by Digweed because he had never seen anyone before with that kind of ability to initiate crowd response.

John Digweed has a style that is unlike any other DJ I have seen (although there are few). He doesn’t go nuts up on stage, he doesn’t yell or wave his hands or say anything to try and motivate the crowd, he just has absolute musical control. I mean the guy could have had that crowd doing anything he wanted through a simple alteration of the sound. Every time one beat came to a climax and another one started, the crowd would completely explode into an indescribable state of euphoria. Every transition was flawless. Nobody stopped dancing, not ever to go to the bathroom, or to get a drink or to rest??at all. The music sustained them. Digweed is a true master of his art.

Since I’ve been back, I have tried to download and check out as much of his music as I possibly can and there is a decent amount out there. He’s produced several CD’s with his good friend and fellow DJ, Sasha.

Digweed has a unique style, mixing organic trance and more mellow sounds with harder techno beats and providing the perfect amount of highs and lows to keep you grooving all night long. One of his better known discs is Bedrock, a true testament to the fact that Digweed has really reached the top of his profession, as each track presents a new sound, incorporating his older stuff with a new, harder, edgier element. Whatever your tastes, a raver or not, I recommend that, if you have the opportunity, give this guy a chance.

Digweed is a regular at the famous New York venue Twilo, so if you are in the area this summer, check it out.

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