EMERGE Festival Belfast Review

The biggest event of its kind went down a treat

This August bank holiday saw the first ever EMERGE festival land in Belfast, Northern Ireland with a stacked lineup of electronic music giants and in-demand talent. The freshly formed August Bank Holiday festival is a byproduct of two seasoned veterans in Northern Ireland’s music scene; Shine and Belsonic. Between them comes a track record of throwing memorable parties with some of the biggest names in the game, so we were eager to see what would happen when they joined forces to create the largest event of its kind to happen in the country.

The festival took place at the wide open green space of Boucher Road Playing Fields. Situated just a short 10 minute drive from the city centre, it’s the ideal spot for a festival and provided a perfectly sized home for EMERGE’s open air main stage, two tented arenas and smaller covered VIP stage. Easily accessed by public transport, car or on foot, the venue is no stranger to hosting events, having been used for musical concerts and performances countless times in the past alongside community sports matches for locals and residents.

However, when the festival ended and thousands of ravers were all trying to get into the city at the same time, this did put a lot of strain on public transport, with queues at the local train station and long waits for taxis/ubers. We’d love to see a shuttle bus implemented to help get ravers home/to the after party for next year.

Attentive, welcoming and helpful – staff were quick on their feet to serve and always available throughout both days for any assistance needed. An army of bar staff helped keep queues to minimum though the addition of an extra bar or two for next year would help divide the masses.

With the festival age restriction being a minimum of 16+, we saw predominately a younger crowd between the ages of 18-25, but one which was full of energy, positive vibes and smiling faces. No trouble throughout the weekend, with people from both Northern & Republic of Ireland in attendance, as well as others from further afield.

Probably the most extensive range of food outlets we’ve seen at a festival. No matter what you were craving, EMERGE had you covered. Whether you were after sweet treats like doughnuts & crepes, a classic burger & chips, or pizza, burrito, thai, you name it they had it.

Each bar was well stocked with a selection of drinks including beers/ciders, spirits and the ever-popular festival drink; Hard Seltzer. Prices were reasonable and pretty typical of a festival this size :

Madri Excepcional/Aspall Cyder : £7
Coors/Rekorderlig : £6.50
Spirits : £6
Seltzer : £7
Soft drinks : £3
Water : £2

Production and Sound
Production across all three stages was some of the best we’ve seen at a festival. In both the UFO and Shine/G-Town stage, the lasers and spotlights were jaw-dropping, with cheers from the crowds virtually every time they came on. Rigs were placed throughout the tent, not just at the front, which made for an epic and immersive experience. Giant panels were also placed behind the DJs, displaying trippy visuals and EMERGE/DJ logos.

The main stage set up was just as spellbinding, with 5 huge LED screens surrounding the DJ, linked to a camera set up in the booth. Space themed visuals were blended with the camera footage making for a hypnotic effect. Co2 cannons were also a common feature and crowd favourite.

Sound across the UFO and main stage was spot on. We know how hard it is to get an outdoor stage to sound good, especially with electronic music, but Magic Kite nailed it. You could hear all the details and plenty of punch in the low end – just what you want at a festival! The L-Acoustics installation was on all stages including PA and DJ monitors. With 76 speakers used on the main stage, including 32 subs, it’s safe to say it was pumping!

There was also an L-Acoustics K2 rig on Shine/G-Town stage, and L-Acoustics KARA rig in the UFO tent. We would have liked to have heard the Shine/G-Town stage louder, with the systems cranked up to what they’re capable of – at points you could hear the buzz of the crowd over some of tunes. That said, we were pleased with the sound overall.

For a festival in it’s first year I could not have been happier with the result and feedback. Seeing the excitement and hearing the ideas for the future of the festival from the EMERGE production team had us walking away already thinking of ways to make the audio experience bigger and better. Bring on EMERGE 2023!

Steven Montgomery, Project Management & System Design at Magic Kite

DJ Sets

The titan of progressive, Cristoph, has been setting the prog world on fire for many years now – with seminal releases on labels like Defected, Knee Deep In Sound, Pryda Presents, and recently his own imprint – Consequence of Society recordings. We were excited to see what he had in store, especially after his live stream at Creamfields the day before featured 100% his own tracks.

Boy, did Cristoph set the stage alight. Building the performance across the 90 mins, we heard a mixture of unreleased IDs like “Trigger” and “Seize” (my favourite) as well as fan favourite records like “SFB“, and his “Sweet Disposition” remix, which had the whole crowd singing along. A standout moment had to be hearing “Epoch”, Cristoph’s second release on Pryda Presents back in 2017. The bassline and melody on this one just grows and grows, we had this one stuck in our head all day.

Arguably the most effortlessly cool duo in techno, Fjaak are a name who have consistently maintained their position at the forefront of the genre. Made up of Felix Wagner and Aaron Röbig, the pair are widely known and followed for their energetic, pumping sounds and their set at EMERGE was no exception.

Packing out the Shine tent, a sea of eager ravers crammed in to see the dynamic duo dropping tunes such as their 2018 hit “Keep The Funk”. The distinct looping vocals rang around the tent before the introduction of thumping drums were met with a huge cheer from the crowd. Other highlight tracks included “District 8” and a new unreleased ID.

Eric Prydz
Headlining the main stage on Saturday was none other than Swedish super-DJ Eric Prydz. Just off the back of his new HOLO show at Creamfields and Tomorrowland, with those videos doing the rounds all over social media. Shoutout to Liam (@punkette) who has consistently delivered amazing production for Eric.

Eric’s set was about 75% unreleased music, with EPIC 5.0 intro ID, Parklife ID, Loveland ID, Twitter ID and a brand new Emerge ID all getting an enormous crowd reaction. This is one of the reasons many ravers flock to see Eric play – he has so much unreleased music you never know what kind of set you’re going to get. That said, hearing “Rotonda” and “Not Going Home 2.0” Remix had the crowd in Eric’s palm, before the entire festival sang along to the festival favourite “Every Day“. Production and sound during this set was spectacular – we’ll never tire of those lasers!

Patrick Topping
The Newcastle native is currently seeing a meteoric rise over the last few years, built on his reputation for delivering club-ready anthems and curating a roster of talent with his own label “Trick” doing the damage around the world – including his very own stage at Creamfields. Taking over at 7pm on the main stage, Patrick had the sun down set, and he took it right in his stride.

Packed full of grooving house and tech, with his infectious smile beamed on the big screens. Hearing his brand new tune “Booty Shake” had the whole crowd moving, with the catchy vocal and bassline setting the playing fields alight! Another tune that’s been a big feature in his sets and across festival season is Dom Dolla’s “Miracle Maker” – a modern 90s rave anthem – unsurprisingly getting a big reaction too!

Patrick Topping talks about his set at EMERGE Festival

Mall Grab
Jordon Alexander aka Mall Grab has garnered a huge Irish following, after many stand out shows both in Northern Ireland and the Republic. It was no surprise that within moments of his set due to begin, the G-Town tent was wall to wall with excited faces, ready and raring to see the Aussie do what he does best. Building even more anticipation in the room, saw Jordy slowly ease in his opening tune with the tempo brought right down, leaving the crowd on tenterhooks guessing what would come next. Seconds later, we were able to make out the iconic melody of “Liverpool Street In The Rain” and the room erupted, in similar fashion to his entrance at Electric Brixton back in November last year; what a moment.

In true MG style, the set was littered with a kaleidoscope of sounds effortlessly blended together with pumping house to invigorating breaks and high-octane hardcore, all underpinned by his infectious energy behind the decks. Notable IDs include the VIP remix of “Love Reigns”, “Pool Party Music”, “Newcastle Hardcore (Profanity Mix)” & Special Request’s Splurgecore Mix of “Take Down Enemies”

Riot Code
Hailing from Derry, the enigmatic masked duo have made quite the name for themselves in just a short space of time. Starting the project during lockdown, the pair produced a flurry of unreleased tunes which received wide support from the likes of Paula Temple, Dax J, VTSS, Kobosil and many more. Since lockdown lifted, their unstoppable rise has continued with sold out shows and festival appearances, alongside an EP on 9999999999’s label NineTimesNine and teased future releases on Paula Temple’s Noise Manifesto and Dyen’s Reckless imprint.

Their EMERGE performance was everything we’d hoped and more. The atmosphere was electric, with Riot Code keeping the crowd glued to the UFO tent throughout the 60 minute rollercoaster ride of our lives. Laced with heavy-hitting unreleased gems from the duo themselves, including a fully charged edit of the tune on everyone’s lips right now; “Baddest Of Them All” which had the whole tent singing along.

What a weekend from start to finish. Shine and Belsonic have built a solid reputation over the years, and EMERGE demonstrated that perfectly. The production across all three stages was some of the best we’ve seen and it was amazing to share the experience with such a buzzing and energetic crowd; the Irish really know how to party.

The selection of DJs was exciting, mixing it up between genres yet not alienating the different crowds and the afters at Telegraph was wild. Some of the tents filled up pretty quickly, so perhaps some bigger arenas for next year would help house the masses, alongside some extras bars to spread the crowd and a shuttle service to the afters. We’re already looking forward to next year.

Words: Ben Lovejoy and Eliot Harris

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