Article | Onlythebeat

FreakNight 2013: A Learning Experience Even for the Seasoned Vets


The moral of the story for this year’s FreakNight for me is “You can’t judge a festival by its lineup”.  I’ve always been something of an apologist for USC Events in the past whenever people are swift to judge our Seattle events company.  They definitely face a lot of challenges as a company in this region but overall they always deliver a great experience and FreakNight 2013 was no exception.  I’m guilty of a bit of elitism myself from time to time but I always remember to put my faith in the Seattle scene and the company whose primary focus is throwing us a great party.  Maybe you’re wondering why I’ve written such a long-winded preamble about USC Events as a whole but there’s a reason with regard to a topic that I want to touch on before we dive into the event itself and that is this idea of “the lineup”. _06A4562_MG_2054 In the days leading up to FreakNight 2013, after the set times had been released, people took to all the major social media outlets to try and unload their Saturday night tickets because they looked at the names on the lineup and decided that Saturday wasn’t worth the money.  In the final week before the event, USC released single-day tickets at the box office in response to this attendee attitude.  To be fair, when I looked at it on paper, I even put some thought into the possibility of skipping Saturday night because I just wasn’t that stoked for a lot of the names on the list.  I wanted to catch Claude VonStroke, Otto Knows and Sebastian Ingrosso, I had some interest in Dirtyphonics but other than that the other names just weren’t really artists I’d ever pay money to see.  I saw posts all over Facebook saying “Take note: USC Events” as if there was a lesson to be learned by the lack of trance artists in the Saturday lineup.  This in particular was a sort of despair that I could relate to as I read the full lineup.  “Right, I forgot, the Seattle crowd only loves bass music and mainstage bangers”, I thought to myself bitterly. AJApuya2 copy206foto-1202 copy As I wandered around, I was struck immediately by the amount of production that went into this year’s FreakNight in comparison to years past.  The extension of the festival to two days was something I approached with apprehension.  It seemed so bizarre that FreakNight should stretch over two days after doing a single night in years past.  I wasn’t really sure how to wrap my head around a multi-day festival that wasn’t in the height of festival season other than to dive right in. jasonwoo_dejawoo_FNpreview1-15 copy206foto-1177 copy206foto-1346 copy It was evident right from the start that USC Events had stepped up their game.  The issues with waiting in line from last year were totally gone and I got from my car, to the will call office, through security, and inside the festival in 20 minutes at most.  The main stage (Twisted Big Top) looked absolutely fantastic.  Pretty much every aspect of the sensory experience had undergone an upgrade.  What they had last year, they had more of this year and some particularly striking additions were all of the lasers. _06A2112_DSC7553 You wouldn’t believe what it costs to rent each one of those for a night but they really start to bring the sensory experience together in a massive way.   I was struck by this errant thought at one point that USC Events was starting to take a page or two from the winning playbook of iconic companies like Insomniac and ID&T in terms of crafting an experience that goes beyond “a party”.  Not to mention they are definitely making steps in the right direction in terms of safety. _06A0380IMG_0696 I saw the same water fill stations, manned by smiling volunteers, that we saw at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas this year.  Refilling my water bottle was an absolute breeze and I was pleased to see that the re-usable bottle I got from USC for 10$ was much higher quality than the Insomniac one I picked up at the Speedway last summer!  The team of roaming volunteers made for a much safer environment and they were visible all over the festival, they were courteous, and they were very approachable.  Finally, USC's movement The Message is a great step in the right direction toward promoting responsibility and safety at events.

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Night 1

So who did I see that really made an impact?  I was so impressed to see that Seattle managed to book some really different sounds in this year’s festival.  On the first night I spent almost all of my time at the Midway of Mayhem side stage where Laidback Luke’s Super You & Me stage was set up last year so I didn’t really get much of a sample of what was happening with the Bass stage or the mainstage acts.  To be fair, being nothing of a bass head myself, I’m not really qualified to offer an opinion about what was going on over there anyway.  I was pretty excited to catch the funky tech house grooves of Umek but unfortunately he didn’t really dive into that sound much in his set and it left me wondering if his much longer set at Foundation Nightclub later that night might have delivered the type of sound I was looking for from this Slovenian legend.     Gabriel and Dresden brought the trance with some mainstream sounds mixed in and it was definitely enjoyable.  Their set wasn’t what I would consider ground breaking but it was definitely fun and engaging.  Tritonal followed Gabriel and Dresden although it was only Chad playing a solo set because Dave was in Hawai’i.  The Tritonians were out in force and the crowd brought lots of good energy for Chad’s set.  I liked it as well although my friends and I had a joke bet going that he wouldn’t play more than one song from before Metamorphic I.  Turns out we were right, and the only sound we got to hear from that former trance Tritonal was the Seven Lions Remix of “Still With Me”.  That said, having seen Tritonal upwards of 5 times over the last 3 years, I knew not to get my hopes up that we might see a resurgence of any of the beautiful tracks from their 2011 EP “Piercing the Quiet” and I knew I was right when the second or third track of the set was Paris Blohm’s full throttle track “Free Fall” so I sat back and enjoyed the new not-so-trance Tritonal.     Cosmic Gate had my undivided attention right from the start when they played their mashup of Jerome Isma-ae and Ilan Bluestone’s “Under My Skin” with “Touch Me (Rui da Silva).”  Their set lost a bit of steam after the first few tracks but they brought it all back around by the end with that new John Christian remix of Tiësto’s “Flight 643” that everyone is playing followed up with their tracks “Fire Wire”, “Be Your Sound”, and “Exploration of Space”. We closed out the night with an explosive set from Ferry Corsten and Markus Schulz playing together under the moniker New World Punx. I’ve seen Ferry and Markus separately and both of these legendary DJs never fail to deliver.  The same was true with their collaborative effort as the New World Punx and they brought on a perfect close to night number one.   206foto_Saturday-2395 copy_06A4670

Night 2

I went in with the goal of exploring the festival as I felt much less concerned about sticking to a particular schedule given what I thought of the lineup.  I knew I’d underestimated the second night of the festival within the first few minutes of Otto Knows’ set.  Never having seen this Swedish talent before, I forgot how much fun it is to see happy house DJs. We danced our hearts out in a sea of smiling faces to that Swedish House sound and then ran off to catch some deep, dark and smooth bass from Claude VonStroke. The energy shift for me was a bit abrupt, going away from Otto’s high-energy house but after a few minutes I absolutely loved the gloomy atmosphere and the deep pounding bass notes that Claude was spinning in the Midway of Mayhem underneath a hazy web of purple lasers. 206foto-1240 copy206foto_Saturday-1832 copy We left the Midway in the wake of some tasty sounds from the opening of Jack Beats’ set in order to catch the legendary set of former Swedish House Mafia member: Sebastian Ingrosso.  I may be picky about what type of house I really get into but the Swedish House sounds always make my heart soar and with a set that included reworks of numerous classics like “Greyhound”, “One”, “We Come, We Rave, We Love”, “Don’t You Worry Child”, “City of Dreams”, “Reload”, and “Calling”, I got my craving for uplifting house music sated.  The only thing I could have wished for was the instrumental version of “Reload” at the end.  I fell in love with that song long before the lyrics were added to it and I think that they seem a bit forced.  I was hoping against hope that it was the instrumental version when I heard it start to wind up, especially since he didn't play the vocals of "One" or "City of Dreams" but then John Martin started in, "When night has become the day..." and I felt a little pang of Nostalgia for my Summer of 2012.  It would have been a truly perfect nod to the long time fans of the song if Sebastian had played it instead of the vocal version but overall, an absolutely incredible set.     I know that Dash Berlin, Afrojack and Destroid really blew some minds in the Saturday night crowd which was filled with smiling faces and great vibes.  Ultimately, I chose to go both nights in the end and I am so glad that I did.  Despite the way the set times looked on paper, Saturday night was by far the better of the two nights even though the Friday schedule was overbalanced with all the artists I prefer to listen to on my own headphones.  After this FreakNight, I know that I’m going to remember that a festival isn’t always about who’s playing but rather, who’s going.  We, in collaboration with the event promoters, make the real party happen.  So going forward, let’s all remember:

You can’t judge a festival by its lineup!

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Hit us up in the comments section below and let us know about your favorite FreakNight experience.  I’m just one very picky writer and I couldn’t be at 3 different stages at once to experience all the sights and sounds of FreakNight 2013 so there’re thousands of untold stories to hear about this event!  Share your story in the comments!