Photography: Let It Roll
There are certain festivals around the world that build their own universe and community that’s so unique, detailed, focused and loyally attended that they are impossible to repeat… And the experiences they create are even harder to forget.
In the UK there’s likes of Glastonbury and Boomtown. The US has Burning Man. Canada has Shambhala. The Czechs have Let It Roll; an event of such mechanical, magical and musical magnitude it will have you plotting how to get out to the next one before the one you’re at has even finished.
Slightly larger in size, even richer in musical variety, way more eye-popping production details, the expansion of the Beats Evolution Conference arena and some of the best sets we have genuinely ever heard; Let It Roll 2018 was a categorical banger and, without a doubt, the best one yet. Here’s why…
It felt like we were all in it together
With temperatures seldom dropping from 35 degrees until the evening (and the nights so hot you didn’t need much more than a t-shirt and shorts) this year’s event was a certified scorcher. With central Europe nearing drought conditions due to the current heatwave, the ground was hot, the air was dusty, the site was desert-like. Throw in the festival’s sci-fi theme and it felt like Mad Max but staged under robot rule to a soundtrack of the most futuristic music imaginable.
While heat is always more desirable than a rain-ridden soggy sesh, at this level it can cause all kinds of other dangers; but we rose to the challenge. Behind the scenes the event made every effort to make sure Let It Rollers had enough water on site while on the ground strangers shared water and fanned each other’s dusty faces down while raving.
There’s always a strong feeling of unity at Let It Roll due to its genre-specific nature; you know that everyone around you shares the same musical spirit, but this year that vibe was compounded even more by the adversity of the weather. Whether that was between strangers or within groups of friends, you could tangibly feel a togetherness and see people looking after each other which added to the whole experience.
The DJs pulled out more stops than you knew existed
With the event being D&B specific, DJs always know they can really dig deep, take the crowd in any direction and splash out on as much dubplate freshness as they liked at Let It Roll. But it felt like this year the DJs took that to a whole other musical level. This is a rarity at less specialist festivals as DJs feel they have play favourites to keep the dance on-side and know that a great deal of the crowd won’t appreciate technical and clever mixes, but at Let It Roll it feels like every DJ is going in and pulling off ridiculous mixes that they know everyone in the crowd will devour.
This is standard for every Let It Roll but once again it felt like another level this year. Every single act we caught went in and delivered absolutely sublime sets. With over 300 acts scheduled over the three days, everyone will have their own persy favourites; but anyone who witnessed Break in the sprawling Madhouse big top tent on the Saturday night will agree that he played the set of his life (and, quite possibly, the festival) with untold amount of dubs, technoid rollers and sweet splashes of dub all capturing the pure essence of the original D&B melting pot. Mefjus was insanely on-point a few hours later too as he shut down the mainstage with a heaving assault that flipped effortlessly from emotional techy grit to suicide halftime and weighty doses of classic hip-hop bangers.
Other DJs who delivered exceptional sets include Ekko & Sidetrack and The Insomniax who opened the Madhouse stage on the Thursday night with a ball-busting b2b stand off that ensured everyone kickstarted their Let It Roll with the gusto it deserves. Fixate slapped everyone silly with junglised shock-outs, Nymfo took us to the darkest corners of his psyche, Spectrasoul opened the mainstage with a heart-wrenching selection, Dub Phizix and Strategy dug deep into roller country, Cyantific went all classical on us with supreme standards like Shy FX’s Feelings, dBridge and Skeptical took us to another planet and left us there while Bop took us to a whole other cosmos (and brought us back in tiny little pieces) Meanwhile the likes of S.P.Y, DJ Hype, Camo & Krooked, Kasra & Enei, Noisia, QZB, Alix Perez and so many more just straight up tore us a new one. These are just a miniscule amount of examples; apologies to hundreds of acts we’ve missed out. EVERYONE played a blinder.
That opening show, though…
We all know the Let It Roll tradition by now; Friday night at 10pm is the sole preserve of the opening show. No other DJs play on any other stage for half an hour as the full mainstage is opened with a sense-shocking display of light, sound design, pyrotechnics and serious sci-fi. This year was no exception. In fact it was the most intense and wildest as the soundtrack was conjured by some serious heavyweights; The Prototypes, Muzzy, Rido, Abis, Mefjus and Joe Ford all provided tracks to the latest chapter in the Let It Roll story in which the robots and mankind begin to show signs of unity (we think… It’s hard to concentrate when you’re being battered by sonic science and lasers imported from 2089) With pretty much every Let It Roller on site in attendance, it’s the one time you appreciate the amount of dedicated people who’ve trekked across the world to attend this one of a kind event.
Beats Evolution Conference added a whole new level to the activities
The daytime at Let It Roll is a traditionally chilled affair as local acts play on select stages, sports and games are held in the sprawling airfield spaces and large shaded areas are prepared for ravers to recuperate and debrief from the night before. This year Let It Roll also provided additional food for thought as the Beats Evolution Conference (BEC) took place on site during the three days.
Opening the day before the festival in the NOD Café art space above Prague’s famous art deco venue The Roxy, Beats Evolution Conference is a meeting of D&B minds of all levels and corners of the industry. It’s held with one sole aim; to develop the D&B industry and give aspiring individuals opportunities to learn and create opportunities with masterclasses from the likes of Nomine and Technimatic, panels and demo listening with highly respected labels such as Get Hype, Shogun Audio, Diffrent Music and Medschool.
After a day in the city centre, BEC then set up camp on site and held three afternoons of sessions for any Let It Roller to enjoy. Live Q&As in which the audience could participate in included Ekko & Sidetrack who gave an insight into how they’ve developed their profile globally over the last three years, SaSaSaS discussing the influence of MC culture in D&B and the current musical climate (and giving away a signed pizza for the best question), Maduk telling the Liquicity story and Rido, Abis and The Prototypes explaining how the incredible opening show came together.
BEC also held talks on running your own club night, the importance of diversity and an insightful panel from the festival’s own recycling team who run their own recycling plant on site. BEC closed on Saturday evening with a full house attending a rare one to one with Camo & Krooked where even acts such as Signal sat in the front row and asked questions. This goes well beyond your standard meet and greets that festivals hold, this was a chance to hear from some of the most unique voices in the game and learn something new. Education and raving don’t seem particularly compatible but Beats Evolution got the space, pace and tone just right so Let It Rollers felt engaged, entertained and just a little more enlightened.
It’s all in the detail….
Let It Roll has always been renowned for this with its sci-fi production theme but every year the event seems even more fine-tuned in all its operations. Its post-apocalyptic buses invited labels such as Titan, Get Hype and DIVIDID held legendary parties across the site, daytimes were kept vibey with water fights, surfing and weird but addictive planks on barrels to try and balance on, Kryptomedik and Blofeld led a procession across the site to the main stage when it opened on Friday and the food stalls went up several levels with decent cuisines from every corner. And it’s little touches and consistencies truly make a festival, build its universe and ensure its community keep coming back for more. Impossible to repeat, even harder to forget, we’re already looking forward to Let It Roll 2019.