AVA Festival '17 symbolised the euphoria and cultural importance of dance music | Soundspace

AVA Festival ’17 symbolised the euphoria and cultural importance of dance music

Standing in the industrial shadow of the cranes that were used to build the worlds most famous ship, T13 Belfast prepares itself for another weekend of glorious weather, tunes and ‘yeos’.

AVA Festival has come a long way since its conception. What began as a simple idea to showcase Ireland’s very best has evolved into a two day concept that is being hailed as one of Europe’s smartest young festivals.

Partying, education and togetherness. A celebration of progression and sound. There was a real feeling of change this year. From conference talks on the progression of Ireland’s licensing laws to Jeff Mills attempting to make contact with extra terrestrials; there was a determination that surrounded AVA, a motivation to push it even further.

AVA is so much more than a festival. It’s an example of what can be progressively achieved. Be it licensing laws, electronic music being viewed as culturally valuable or the introduction of a day focused on live performance, concepts such as AVA are pushing the boundaries of what a festival can do, and in Belfast that has never felt so important.

Throw in some internationally renowned names, Ireland’s best electronic music talent and a more than up for it crowd and you have a recipe for an incredible weekend.

This was AVA Festival 2017.

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AVA Pro & Jeff Mills opening keynote

AVA Pro was a wonderful way to introduce yourself to the weekend. Taking place in the Bullitt hotel, the networking event saw industry specialists from PRS, Native Instruments, This Greedy Pig and more come together to discuss important industry topics over bacon rolls and coffee.

From here we were whisked off to the ‘titanic’ T13 Belfast. Last years edition of the conference boasted Juan Atkins as a guest speaker, alongside others such as Bicep and Dave Haslam. Any thought that it might not have been topped were quickly eradicated as techno pioneer Jeff Mills took to the stage for the opening keynote, alongside project collaborator Guillaume Marmin.

Mills is an interesting character. He opened up about the inspiration behind his project, Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind, explaining that it is almost a follow up to the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. An encounter of the third kind is making contact, the fourth kind is when you and the alien become one. This was Jeff’s intention. “You have been abducted”, he says. “You are now in control of the aliens.” He wants the audience to feel like themselves and the alien have become some sort of hybrid through immersive sound and lighting.

The overall topic of the opening keynote was that of the importance of collaboration. How things can be achieved by being humble and accepting that a fellow professional might know more than you on a certain topic. Mills and Marmin explained how lighting can be viewed as a type of language to humans, how “we have a certain dialogue with a light blinking” and how a “strobe light in a form of communication in itself.”

Our attention soon turned to science fiction and how the genre is full of fiction and theory. “Sci-fi is science for the average person”, Jeff says. “You don’t have to be an astronaut to understand it.”

Things then took a very interesting turn. Mills stated that “in this century we’re going to be on different planets, for sure.” According to Mills, the time it takes travelling to space is going to be drastically reduced within the next hundred years thanks to advances in modern technology.

There may have been a few surprised faces in the audience, but I don’t believe that is simply by what Mills was talking about, it’s the way in which he said it. He’s certain this will happen, and after all, why not? If history has taught us anything it’s to never underestimate the power and determination of the human mind.

Images by Luke Joyce, Grant Jones & Kenneth Kelly.

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