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Zoukout 2011: Smaller Acts Take Centre-stage

As I made my way from Beach Station to Siloso Beach (a good ten-minute walk away), familiar sounds were being blasted from handphones and mp3 speakers all around me. Among those were the classic Avicii tracks, “Levels” and “Fade Into Darkness”, as well as various iconic tracks from recently dethroned but ever-popular trance producer Armin van Buuren. It was not hard to guess who the majority of the crowd at Sentosa were there to watch at the eleventh instalment of Asia’s mega dance festival that is Zoukout.

 

But as the night went on, heads were turning and people were flocking to specific stages, all out of curiosity. It was almost as if an extremely powerful human magnet had suddenly been switched on by a few acts that, though not as prolific as the main acts, were taking their respective stages, and possibly the whole of Siloso Beach, by storm.

 

One of the earlier acts that got people grooving was Ladytron, who captured the early batch of the crowd at 9pm with their combination of haunting vocals and a deep tempo. Gui Boratto stepped up to the occasion as well, spinning his distinctive style of minimal techno and progressive house. The tempo was slow but certainly steady, and the seemingly unending repetition of riffs and beats kept the crowd swaying and swirling in unison, but each appearing to be in his or her own world at the same time, taking in the hypnotic sound together with the visually captivating lights and visual effects.

 

But sometime after one in the morning, something caused the partygoers to flock to Arena A with such intensity that I almost thought I got the time for Avicii’s stage wrong. Dutch House producer Chuckie was hitting it up on the tables so hard that I actually witnessed a minor exodus from the other arenas as they all tried to get closer to the stage. Chuckie, focused on remixes and live scratching, played his game to perfection. The crowd went bonkers with every seamless transition and introduction of a new beat, even grabbing the attention of those chilling out at the back ends of the arena as they started to get off their butts and shake and gyrate to the pounding tempos and riffs.

The highlight of the night was yet to come though. If anyone could step up to Chuckie’s high standard, it was certainly none other than the child prodigy producer Avicii. Taking over from Chuckie at Arena A, he did not keep the crowd in suspense for too long by immediately throwing out “Fade into Darkness”, which naturally sent the crowd to cloud nine with its uplifting piano riff and deep vocals. When Avicii took the stage, it was already three in the morning at Siloso Beach, but it certainly did not seem that way, as the crowd were partying as if they just entered the arena. Throughout the entire set, Avicii kept the crowd in high spirits, and not a single tired person could be found all around the arena in the presence of the pumping beats and awe-inspiring melodies. The crowd were completely in sync with him, and sang out all the lyrics with perfection every time he threw out his own tracks, such as “Levels” and “My Feelings for You”.

 

Without a doubt, Arena A was the arena of choice, as after the likes of Chuckie and Avicii came a name that could equate to royalty in the world of trance. Armin seemed unfazed by the fact that his set was preceded by two fantastic sets, and immediately got down to work, showing that he is, once again, the unequivocal king of trance. Releasing his steady stream of popular tracks, Armin injected his form of audial ecstasy to the masses, making sure no one would succumb to the effects of fatigue. After all, as witnessed the last time he was here, his mere presence automatically prompts everyone to get on their feet and pump their fists to the classic and yet never boring tempo.

 

This year’s Zoukout, albeit slightly different in feel from the previous instalment, did not fail to impress. From evening all the way to sunrise, the crowd is able to enjoy quality dance music in all its various unique forms, and with the high-profile acts exceeding their previous standards, and newer acts surprising the crowds with their impressive sets, it can be said that Zoukout is an event where all producers and DJs shine, improving on themselves and pushing their form of magic further to create an ultimately surreal experience that cannot be found anywhere. Zoukout has conquered Asia, and if the standard continues to improve at the rate its going, Zoukout will soon appear on the world map as one of the best dance festivals in the world. Watch out Europe!

– Bjorn Teo

 

Photo Courtesy of Charles Loh

 

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