Vertical Dimensions Festival 2017
In one of the deepest pockets on the southern coast of Malta, the sleepy town of Zurrieq played host last weekend to a utopia for all psytrance fans, the second ever Vertical Dimensions Festival.
Running from Friday morning to Sunday evening, this festival showcased some of the deepest and most intense psytrance you are likely to find in the Mediterranean, performed by DJs who have graced stages in Spain, Germany and the UK and travelled as far as Macedonia to play to an expectant group of die-hard fans.
Taking place within an ideal venue, with wall art across the interior, a perplexing light show and performers amid it all, meant that at some points one didn’t know where to look and as such, it was easy to become completely immersed in the event as a whole. An orgy of visuals and sound consumed you.
However, this was more than just a demonstration of raw and exciting music that doesn’t get the representation it needs in this small island, it was a real coming together of likeminded people.
This was what made the whole event so unique and enjoyable, even for an outsider to this scene. There was a sense of togetherness that was contained within the small venue that was almost as enchanting and immersive as the music itself.
Filled with a variety of interesting characters of all ages and backgrounds, with a small camping section found in a cactus field in to the rear of the club, many of the attendees arrived on the Friday morning and stayed throughout the weekend until the Sunday, consumed by the event, escaping the complexities of everyday life and committing themselves to the spirit of psytrance for this one weekend of the year.
The venue was perfectly set up for such an event. The guests were allowed to freely roam the grounds, with people scattered across the venue, some awake some asleep, and with homemade food of a vegan and non-vegan variety provided by a stall outside (which was not charged to attend and could keep all profits), as well as a rolling fire outside in the evening where festival goers conversed and zoned out. All combined made for a compelling atmosphere and meant all needs of the festivals guests were completely catered for.
But who was behind this psytrance paradise?
The event was organised by Clive and Jean. These guys are no strangers to the Maltese underground music scene and have hosted events on the Island for nearly two decades. Starting off in Axis, when the genre was still in its youth, they brought some of the biggest underground DJs worldwide to the island.
Since then, they’ve grown older and wiser but kept their passion and dedication to bringing out true DJing talent and always avoiding selling out or buying into sell outs, keeping the music purely organic and searching out underground talent wherever they can find it.
I was lucky enough to speak to them in a backroom of the event, with the pumping base from the sound system penetrating the walls. I asked them what inspired them to put on these events and the answer was simple, yet powerful – exactly what you might expect from people behind such an event.
“Since we were kids, all that’s mattered is whether it is good psytrance or not. When we are looking for music, we are always looking for something special. We put together a group of artists who all make a unique sound. The artists we brought today can play chillout trance, but they can also play music that takes you on absolute journey. This is what trance is, it’s music that takes you somewhere.”
The artists we brought today can play chillout trance, but they can also play music that takes you on absolute journey. This is what trance is, it’s music that takes you somewhere.”
When asked whether they saw themselves as pioneers of the scene, they refuted the term. Rather they compared themselves to “teachers”, sharing their passion and passing the knowledge on to whoever wants to listen, learn and get hooked in the same way they are.
They admitted the scene was small, but growing and although it is slow progress, they are contented with purely staying true to themselves as well as of course, the music. Their goal is to move towards bigger and more frequents events, with better venues and even workshops on site. More generally, just keep the momentum going, attract new artists from across Europe and energise the scene to the best of their ability.
“There are many challenges. People aren’t pulling in the same direction and being on such a small island, it takes time to grow. But we are always concentrating on quality over quantity and staying underground, as when you start growing you start getting unwanted attention and we don’t want to be in the limelight. We want to keep it the way it is, friends attending with their friends, friends opening the stalls and friends cooking. It’s not about numbers, it’s about the love.”
These statements resonated and reflected in the whole dynamic of the festival. This event meant so much more for the organisers and the attendees. This was a real community. The event was a time to express their own selves through their shared love for the music. A coming together of an underground scene in what is sometimes a very restrictive island for niche genres, but thanks to people like Jean and Clive these underground movements can never truly be silenced.
Words by: Will Macmaster