‘Deindustrialization’ – a word commonly found accompanying ideas or phrases such as “urban decay” or “degrowth” – one that had affected the venue for Belfast’s AVA Festival which was once a thriving superstore for a major household name who would pull out of the site due to the recession of the late 2000’s.
Over the years it would have many uses from car shows to a skatepark, but yet nothing could manage to make the place feel anything more than a relic of a by-gone era – that was until AVA took up residence here in 2018.
From that point on, what was once urban decay was renewed. The festival took an empty warehouse and over two night’s would resurrect it into one of Ireland’s most rammed venues, packing five-thousand people into the space. This once forgotten space would now live on forever in the hearts and minds of the nations house and techno community.
The first stage encountered by most festival goers was the Boiler Room stage, taking residence in what was once a massive greenhouse, a stunning location for any performance. From the off, it’s clear that taking the old, and reinventing it, much like many of the analogue synths on show, is what this festival is all about.
This idea was glaringly obvious throughout the festival and each of its three indoor stages, each of which is a masterclass in design and planning, follow this mantra.
The first act that stood out was Ireland’s own Myler. You could sense a variety of influences leaking into his set from Aphex Twin to Ben Klock, he really impressed on the Boiler-Room stage. He had the room bouncing throughout each and every transition, drop and sharp-cut.
Following Myler, techno legend Ben Sims would take to the decks providing a slightly less heavy but certainly high energy set that allowed the senses to recover from the previous set. He used his finely crafted knowledge of techno to deliver a rousing set, one that each punter was hoping for. The peaks were many and the rests were few.
Palms Trax stood out with a soul enriched, raw moombahton opener that had the room hooked to the jungle style beats, before descending into the darker styles of house with a stompy, bass enriched set that left you shook to the core. Unlike the joyous exaltation of The Black Madonna after him, Palms Trax instead went for serious and stern focus, resulting in a tense set – but a pretty banging one at that.
The Black Madonna, one of the bigger names on the bill impressed next. She’s been a big booking for many festivals in the past few years and did not disappoint in Ireland again. It’s hard not to warm to her as she radiates brightly from the stage. Her sheer enthusiasm for not only the music but the community she performs for is clear as day. Her onstage mix of Chicago Techno, 80’s Disco and House was a tribute-filled, educational journey throughout the heritage of each – a set not to be missed.
With the venue closing soon due to redevelopment by another household brand name, who knows what the future holds for AVA Festival in Belfast? But if it’s anything like this year, be prepared for another instalment of intense visuals, mind-warping sets and yet another bill that will keep your inner raver happy for yet another year.