We expect there will be two camps of people at this year's Draaimolen. The first, well-versed regulars familiar with this effervescant gathering's music-first approach and heady, free party spirit. The second, are relative-novices, whom after seeing the eye-watering line-up for this year's edition booked a ticket with as much haste as their online banking would allow — perhaps without considering exactly what would be in store upon their arrival in Tilburg.
The reason for this split, and for some the fact Draaimolen may feel like it's come out of nowhere to suddenly being every underground electronic fan's end-of-summer-must-do, is due its long-held focus on providing an intimate festival experience - putting burgeoning talent and a varied, meticulously curated line-up to the forefront. Perhaps the Netherland's best kept secret, Draaimolen has been draping its forest setting with no frills, cutting-edge dance music since 2013; celebrating its 10th (!!) anniversary this year, the independently-run boutique festival has pulled out all of the stops (secret be damned) with an expanded programme of music, parties and art, across two days and six stages, from tomorrow (Friday, September 8) through Saturday (September 9) at Tilburg's MOB Complex forrest area. As a result, whether you're a Draaimolen veteran or an eager first timer — everyone heading into the woods this weekend, you'll be in for a big surprise.
To make sure you get the very most from your experience, we've compiled a list of must-dos for those heading to Draaimolen; whether it is the TOP SECRET b2b that is being guarded more closely than the KFC recipe, to a never-before-seen stage concept inspired by football stadiums. See you there!
1. Music is at the centre, but the art is out of this world
Draaimolen prides itself on going back to the basics, preferring to evoke the feeling of being at an illegal rave in the forest rather than the colossal arenas of Dekmantel or the open-air, sprinklings of Lente Kabinet — both taking place just an hour away in Amsterdam. Much of this is due to it's "music-first" approach, the Draaimolen attendee is typically not waiting at the bar, or manoeuvring a chill out spot or dancing on benches; all senses are typically preoccupied with the music on offer. Except, Draaimolen also has an incredible array of art installations and out-of-this-world stage designs that could rival the likes of Belgium's Horst; dotted around the MOB Complex are a number of handpicked, visually stunning pieces that - for those who know where to look - will ensure your festival is both a treat to the ears and the eyes (and maybe the soul.)
For 2023, the festival's Main Stage will feature some out-of-this-world visuals from artist Jack Anderson across a tall LED tower, while the monolith-like Aura stage (originally designed by Draai-favourite Heleen Blanken) and its surrounding forrest will also be draped in his designs which typically explore the contract between nature, technology and people. Creative Engineer Daniel de Bruin will be creating a brand new centrepiece for The Chapel Stage, while the festival's long-time collaborators Lumus Instruments - who started work with Draaimolen five years ago on small, indoor projects - will be creating a design for The Tunnel. Berlin-based conceptual artist Harm van den Dorpel, known for his technology-themed work will be displaying a yet-unknown piece at the festival. For those who will be heading to Blawan and Skrillex's highly-anticipated b2b in The Pit, keep your eyes peeled for a never-seen-before concept from Amsterdam-based duo Children of Light, who will be bringing a stage technique usually utilised by football stadiums and filmset “The project is about bringing the cosmos to you," the duo have said. We are inviting a star to let its light arrive, and then travel away from you in its own free movement. All is fluid - in constant motion.”
2. Hope you're ready to go into the woods today (and tomorrow)
You've probably already gathered by now, that Draaimolen is in the woods. It's not in the woods in the kind of way where there's a huge clearing with trees lining the outer rim, no — it's in the woods. Be prepared to dance next to tree trunks and weave around foliage as you explore everything it has to offer. The festival tends to avoid anything that it feels doesn't fit with its forest setting — including traditional fencing, instead opting to use natural materials: twigs, tree trunks, etc. to achieve its boundaries. All-in-all it gives the entire festival more of a feeling of being at a free party, than an actual festival; enclosed, intimate: you'll feel like there's no one else around.
Another advantage of the woods, particularly for this weekend? The expected 32-degree temperatures! Ensure you stay hydrated, but enjoy all the shade you can get beneath the forest canopy.
3. The party doesn't start, or end, here
This year Draaimolen has introduced a number of opening and closing parties; all easily rivalling the main event itself. The Opening Concert on Thursday (September, 7) will see a host of live offerings from the likes of Actress, Bruce and Kelly Moran at Tilburg's glossy music venue 013 Poppodium. Two after parties are also scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Tilburg's Club Smederij, a former train workshop in the heart of the city. For Friday, expect some full-throttle action from Darwin, JASSS, French II and Verraco — while it's closing on Saturday is, in true DIY form, an open deck welcoming all festival artists to play for the last dancers standing. Considering the variety of artists on the line-up, it's probably going to be one for the books.
Not got tickets for Draaimolen's opening ceremony and afterparties just yet? Head to the website and lock them in.
4. Be prepared for some Sophie's Choice-esque clashes
We're sure you've seen the line-up, we've told you it's across six stages — so, don't say we didn't warn you, there are going to be some gut-wrenching clashes in store across the festival's two days. Draaimolen has released its full set times along with a helpful stage guide on Instagram, and by the looks of it - from the word go - some choices are going to HAVE to be made. Those wanting to get in at midday for Eris Drew b2b Octa Octa at the Forest Stage, will also be presented with the option of NYC's WTCHCRFT, Verraco and the first of our BIG b2bs DJ Python and upsammy. JASSS b2b TAALIAH runs concurrently with Evian Chris & Torus, AND dBridge b2b Ehua. Saturday is no different, i.Jordan and SHERELLE will be happening at the same time as the big dubstep b2b Darwin and Mala — while Call Super b2b Pariah, Nicola Cruz b2b Oberman and Angel D'Lite b2b Ketia all go on at once.
The upside though? Many of the acts playing will be doing so more than once in various formats — so if you want to give one of the busier sets a miss for an alternative you won't be missing the action altogether. Plus? Who doesn't love a jam-packed festival and a heated debate with your mates followed by a post split-off debrief?
5. There's a TOP SECRET b2b
And of course, there's the secret b2b. With a line-up that already boasts some downright insane back-to-backs, the prospect of the Top Secret B2B - set to take place in the middle of the festival on Friday on the intimate Aura stage - is something we can't stop thinking about. The identities of the artists involved are being closely guarded by just a handful of Draaimolen organisers, so we truly will not know who it is going to be until the set starts. Expect a good chunk of festival chatter to be aimed towards trying to debunk who it could possibly be, we wish we could list our own suspects here — but we're going to leave all that up to you.
For more information on Draaimolen, and any last minute tickets, head to draaimolen.nu.
Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter