VORTEX – PHOENIX FESTIVAL OF FIRE – Event Review – Words: Tom Meek
Arriving at this years installment of Vortex phoenix festival of fire late at night I couldn’t wait to go explore the incredible “Circle of Dreams” venue located in a forest setting just past the small town of Riviersonderend. Having been to this venue before multiple times I thought I knew what I was in for
but boy was I wrong. Vortex having made a smaller dancefloor for the Friday night arrivals did well to insure everyone was well practiced in their dance moves for the rest of the weekend on the Circle of Dreams dance floor. I helped my friends set up our outlandishly big tent and sorted out a few other creature comforts before we poured our first drink and headed for the Friday night dance floor which was placed conveniently close to our camp site.
On arrival at the dancefloor I was reminded of why I love the Vortex parties so much. Apart from seeing so many familiar faces of friends and acquaintances the energy and vibe was exactly as I expected from Vortex, warm (despite being below 5 degrees), jovial and fired up.
Grabbing my camera and doing a quick dash through the venue I found that there were plenty of exciting places to visit such as Psy-care for anyone needing some healing or just a quiet place to chill out. My next stop was at the food stalls and boy were there plenty of options to choose from. My stomach got the better of me so I opted for one of the amazing cheese burgers from Wahine food truck who make Polynesian beach food amongst other delectable meals.
By this time the music was nearing an end for the night with ScamAntrix taking control of the dancefloor after K-Fox had finished delivering the banging set that I had arrived to.
The midnight hour had hit and people were starting to fill up the small dance floor and fire pits placed all over the venue to keep all the late night revellers warm enough to keep on dancing ’till the music turned off at 4am.
Heading back to my camp for another rum and coke I passed my friends running the small Marley coffee stall, which had set up a temporary stand at the back of the dancefloor which was a pretty smart idea as they were buzzing with customers searching for some warmth in the dark.
After downing a double strength black coffee I made it to my camp where a quick round of drunken car jumping was played and many a strong drink were poured. Getting back to the dancefloor which we hadn’t been away from for more than 5 minutes I found that the music had become even faster which was amping up the already amped crowd.
Last act of the night was Saai who cranked the beats as hard as possible until the last minute of the night keeping the crowd bouncing along to the funky bass driven beats he was thrashing out.
Waking up at 9am in possibly the coldest tent I have ever been in I could see that a lot of people had come up early for the start of Saturday’s music. I got changed into an extra 3 layers of clothes and headed through the venue in search of anything warm and liquid. Again I found this at Marley coffee and once I had thawed off a bit more the music turned on and there was the rush of people heading straight for the dancefloor. First on stage was JukeBox who played some slower more relaxing tunes to get everyone ready for the next +- 30 hours of eargasmic music.
As more and more people arrived at the venue the more the music seemed to lead up to some sort of unseen event. With no signs of bad weather or precipitation of any kind Vortex had chosen the best weekend for this festival.
Jamal played an amazing set which really got an awesome response from the gyrating crowd.
I had barely noticed the daytime pass and before long K Fox was destroying the crowd with her psychedelic mix of progressive daytime smashers.
Next to hit the decks was iTone (Corona) who is no new comer to the Vortex festivals. He plays a very solid style of progressive which is always a serious crowd pleaser.
As the day turned to night the dancefloor had become one large writhing mass of bodies all stomping and flowing to the sounds bursting out of the sizeable speakers. Sad Paradise took over from iTone with his very unique style of progressive Psy Trance blending in with a techno Psytech influence which was the cross over into night. During the Sad Paradise set there was a live art piece being spray painted onto the back drop décor which in just a short space of time would begin to really spring to life.
Now if you haven’t attended a Vortex or have never been to this venue you wouldn’t understand the feeling of seeing this dancefloor at night. Vortex has always had the most amazing décor and stage set up with lots of eye candy all over the dancefloor, and Phoenix Festival of Fire was no exception.
With multi coloured flame bursts and puffs of thick white smoke the special effects were really out of this world.
Local Psy Trance super star Headroom came up next playing his world renowned high tech off beat style of psychedelic trance with his hand in the air controlling the crowd like a professional puppeteer. By now it was easily dark enough for the amazing projected visuals to really twist and tweak out on the spray painted art piece.
Long runner in the SA trance scene and abroad DJ Mark came up next taking us towards midnight with his big basslines and skilful progression of melodic sounds. Mark always hits the nail on the head knowing exactly what songs are going to get the crowd going and how to mix for a perfect transition into the harder night time music.
Which to nobody’s surprise was exactly what he did, with the kaleidoscopic duo act Technicolour taking control of the hordes of undulating bodies as they swayed and hopped their way through to midnight.
K-jos one of the resident Deejay’s at Vortex festivals took us into the early hours of Sunday playing some full on psychedelic madness which really helped the crowd stay warm. By this time the temperature had dropped well below 10 degree’s meaning you either had to cuddle up at a fire or get deeper into the dancefloor and deeper into the thumping basslines of the night.
I choose the latter and the next time I looked up it was no longer K-jos with his finger on the beat.
Looking towards the stage I saw none other than Bruce who has always been one of my favoured acts at any given party. He plays solid but groovy and very psychedelic songs from a great list of artists making his sets very interesting and often, quite a special surprise. Creator came on after Bruce ending the night time sets of with a bang, or should I say lots of bangs. Hard bass hits rang through the frosty venue giving me the most violent of shivers. I knew now that after that long night of stomping I needed to warm myself up and grab a bite to eat. Finding my way to the food stalls I saw long lines of hungry stompers queuing outside the various stalls. I decided on the healthy option of Oh So Peachy who offer a menu full of health inspired dishes.
Back on stage Bernz was chipping the ice off the early morning stompers with a full on blend of progressive with elements of ambient and techno which got the crowd ready for the four hours of Zen Mechanics.
Now for the set that everyone had been looking forward to. Zen Mechanics hailing from the Netherlands and more recently Australia, has been one of the biggest names in Psy Trance since he burst onto the scene in 2002. He released his first album “Holy Cities” in 2008 which made massive waves in the Psy Trance and EDM scene. He has played on our shores a few times most notably being in the Magaliesburg for a festival called Positive Vibrations hosted by Red Eye productions and Vortex who were debuting in Johannesburg, he has also graced the Circle of Dreams for an easter Vortex a few years ago. With the crowd locked in position for the full four hour set I had plenty time to snap some shots of all the animated faces lapping up the world class music that Wouter Thomassen (Zen Mechanics) was playing us.
After what seemed like the entire day Zen Mechanics set eventually ended leaving the crowds of people standing unsure of what to do with themselves. But up next was Connecto who always plays the perfect type of progressive day time psychedelic. I found Connecto’s set to be full of life and really gave the crowd just what they needed, more great Psy Trance.
Ending this marathon festival was Kai Mathesdorf who completely destroyed the dancefloor the only way he knows how, which is with an air of grace and full control of every little sound being pushed through the seemingly unstrained rig. Kai played until the very last moment and after the rig was turned off the crowd literally couldn’t handle it, they screamed for one more track for what seemed like an hour before the organisers found a sound engineer and arranged for one last dance in the circle of dreams.
Tom Meek (Mutha on the spot)