“The best DJs in the world!” – in a thick Dutch accent, the words ring out loud and clear across the Gashouder’s soundsystem. The 4,000-strong crowd roar back in agreement. To anyone who has attended Awakenings before, the instantly recognisable voice could only ever belong to one man, the techno institution’s founder and self-appointed hype man, Rocco Veenboer. The DJs in question? Adam Beyer and Joseph Capriati, who are up on stage playing their hearts out to whistles and cheers at the techno titan’s latest instalment. This isn’t the first example of Rocco’s exuberant outpourings across the long Easter weekend, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Emotions are running high on what is being billed as their 200th event and the second in a series of four sold-out parties celebrating Awakenings’ 20 years of events. All week, from the promoters to the DJs to the crowd, everyone is in a birthday mood. There are fireworks that whizz among the rafters to propel Sven Väth’s thunderous set ever skyward and red lasers ricocheting off the Gashouder’s discoball centrepiece for Jeff Mills’ daytime performance. The party’s ever-evolving light show keeps proceedings thrusting forward. All weekend long, via flaming torches, swathes of lights, and bursts of smoke, the cake and candles are fully out.