Q-dance welcomed over 250,000 Weekend Warriors to the Holy Grounds for their biggest edition of Defqon.1 yet!
A little over a week ago, Defqon.1 opened the doors to the Holy Grounds, where 250,000 Weekend Warriors reunited to celebrate the golden sounds of hard dance music. Under the scorching sun and cool night sky, hard dance music reigned supreme with sets from over 350 world-class artists across 11 stunning stages. Throughout the weekend, Q-dance showcased its unmatched production quality in a festival that captured the hearts of fans from every corner of the planet.
As a first-time visitor, it took lots of planning and coordination to make it out to a festival overseas. When the initial dates dropped, I immediately knew that 2023 would be the year I finally made my way to the mecca of hardstyle. Years of anticipation and desire to attend finally became a reality, and the excitement kept growing throughout six months with every live stream that Q-dance put on. Finally, that fateful weekend came along, and it was time to dive into the madness of Def…qon…1!
On Wednesday, QSA hosted its annual meetup in Amsterdam. Many fans came together for a fun, intimate welcome party featuring talent from around the world, like DJ MayDay, Bass of Spades, and one of the artists on the official Defqon.1 lineup, Aradia. As an unofficial pre-party for Defqon.1, this event proved to be a great time as I got to connect with online friends, meet colleagues, and get a dose of the madness to come.
On Thursday, the Holy Grounds opened to welcome everybody with The Gathering!
When the festival grounds opened, the atmosphere felt electric as day visitors waited in line to enter and campers wheeled in all of their belongings. The excitement personified itself through the laughter and joy of Weekend Warriors despite the grey skies and rain. When I arrived, I started my Path of the Warrior at the ferocious BLACK stage with Outsiders and Korsakoff. Funny enough, I stumbled upon this set as I wanted to start my day off with Sub Zero Project, but I ended up staying here as the speedy tempos of hardcore took over my soul.
Once The Gathering was reaching a close, the rain cleared up, and Q-dance hosted The Tribute at the outdoor UV stage, where they paid homage to Ran-D‘s 2015 anthem, “No Guts No Glory.” Once The Gathering ended, the Wasted Lands opened up, the atmosphere became brighter, and wonder took over. Before heading back to my hotel, I spent some time at the Silent Disco at MAGENTA, where I saw Max Enforcer perform a classic set full of music I never thought I’d hear live.
From Thursday to Sunday, I fell in love with hard dance music all over again.
Stepping foot on the Holy Grounds was a moment years in the making. When I finally made my way onto the festival grounds, a wave of emotions fell over me. I felt proud that I was finally able to make this journey happen, and at the same time, I felt a sense of gratitude for all of the opportunities and work that went into making this dream a reality. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the moment of being at Defqon.1, but I did my best to get out of my head and live in the moment.
Q-dance unveiled the mighty RED stage on Friday during The Opening Ceremony with Phuture Noize. The stage was made from recycled material and included two samurais at the forefront, emphasizing the Path of the Warrior. At first glance, I wasn’t a fan of the stage design as it sacrificed broadness for height, which wasn’t my favorite decision. It grew on me over the weekend but ultimately didn’t feel on par with what Q-dance had put out in years prior.
Although Q-dance sets up the main Path of the Warrior, I took detours many times. On Friday, I opted to see Angerfist at the BLACK instead of The Spotlight with Rebelion. This was the first time I began to understand that everybody has a different Path of the Warrior.
Fresh Friday was the first full festival day and included a fun twist as psy trance, and hard techno came out to play at the ORANGE and GREEN.
I started my day out with Mexican producer K1. Donning my Joker-inspired Lucha Libre mask, I felt right at home as the INDIGO was packed with Latinos everywhere I looked, proving that our support is unmatched and the music runs deep in our blood. The rest of the day was dedicated to seeing artists I had never seen in America, including D-Block & S-te-Fan, Billx, Mutilator & Anderex, and much more.
One set proved to be the greatest of them all for me as I finally got to see the infamous and most polarizing act in all of hard dance, GPF. For 45 minutes, they took over the UV stage for “D:/CHILDHOOD/TRAUMA/GPF/LIVE/THEPIEPSHOW2023.WAV.” This act has experienced a lot of rejection in the scene from promoters and fans alike due to its extremely raunchy nature and unbearable sounds. However, they were the most fun set I witnessed all weekend long.
Their silliness shined brightly throughout their set as one member of GPF came in through the crowd on a giant penis boat, inflatable penises filled the crowd, and highly distorted piep kicks blasted through the speakers. They played fan-favorite tracks like “Cum Say Henlo” with S3RL and “Cummin On Your Face” with a hilarious “Chaccarron” switch. In addition, fans got newer tunes like “Greazy Frog,” their horrifying remix of “Miracle,” and a new take on “Activation” by Aversion. After packing out the UV stage multiple years in a row, Q-dance needs to fulfill the wish of fans and put GPF on the RED in 2024.
Saturday offered many more exciting experiences like Artcore with Ruffneck, POWER HOUR, and The Endshow.
On Saturday, Q-dance was kind enough to take all media outlets on a lovely press tour to highlight the beautiful stages and unique experiences Defqon.1 had to offer. We started the day at Artcore with Ruffneck at the GOLD and Speedcore Dating with Akira at the SILVER. Artcore was a lot of fun as we got to let out our creative juices through painting with pounding hardcore classics in the background. We got to explore the rest of the festival, including the camping grounds, Sanctuary Restaurant, and the Wasted Lands, which hosted a gym, carnival rides, and more food options.
After the tour, I took some time to recharge before making my way to the RED for the legendary POWER HOUR. After seeing this for years online via the live streams, I was prepared for the most chaotic 60 minutes of the entire weekend. It did end up being a lot of fun, but at the same time, it felt like it was just another piece of content. I’m happy that I finally got to experience a POWER HOUR, but it lost its mystique and aura to me. It ultimately served as a learning experience to always follow my Path of the Warrior, even if it goes against the majority.
Saturday was still full of unforgettable moments like the Defqon.1 Theatre with Sefa and The Endshow.
Instead of playing a set on one of the many stages of Defqon.1 this year, Sefa brought the Defqon.1 Theatre to life with 19 shows over the weekend. I sat with strangers and made new friends as phones were not allowed, an aspect I enjoyed. Sefa and three other performers played a show that took Frenchcore music to a completely new level. To outsiders, dance music is typically seen as surface-level or even “not real” music. However, Sefa challenged this notion by proving there is so much more to Frenchcore than standing behind the decks playing music.
For 45 minutes, I disconnected from the outside world to appreciate the pure magic in front of me. As opposed to the DJ being the star of the show, the crowd was the heart of the performance. The theatre was an extremely intimate setting, so I even got to create a core memory when I had the chance to share a moment playing the melodica together with Sefa. A truly epic experience ended as he disappeared into the back while the crowd sang the melody to his “Muzika” remix.
The Endshow signified the end of the day with a firework show that only Q-dance can achieve. The Endshow was filled with magical moments that featured unreleased music from Sefa and Atmozfears in addition to the Defqon.1 2023 anthem by Sub Zero Project and “Feel So Good” by DJ Isaac. Words don’t do this any justice, but you can check out The Endshow on YouTube!
Sunday was the most difficult day of Defqon.1 due to extreme exhaustion and unbearable heat.
Even though I felt exhausted, I woke up in a great mood, ready to take on the final day of Defqon.1. That quickly changed upon arrival at the festival as a scorching heat that fluctuated between dry and humid took control. Nonetheless, I pushed on and made my way to the Open Airbed Concert with JDX. For an hour, I sat down on our complimentary airbeds provided by Q-dance and took some time to recharge.
After the concert with JDX, it was time for Brunch at the RED, and unfortunately, it was a rough experience. Maybe my judgment was blinded by the heat and exhaustion, but this brunch was a major letdown. This paid experience cost 70 euros per person and consisted of less-than-decent food and complimentary champagne. The only positives from it were that the Hardstyle Pianist played an exclusive concert for attendees, and I got to take pictures in front of an empty RED.
It pains me to say it, but I do not recommend this to attendees. It’s a great concept, but it felt like a cash grab at the end of the day, and Q-dance undoubtedly needs to reevaluate this experience and improve upon it. Brunch at the RED easily could’ve been better with shaded seating and a wider variety of cold beverage options, but that’s only a start.
Even after this, the day didn’t get much better, as the extreme heat affected me physically and mentally. I had to listen to my body, so I completely derailed my schedule and rested for about 3-4 hours. I found refuge in the VIP section of the main stage, which brought up the major issue of inadequate preparation for extreme weather and large crowds.
There were only three water stations on the official festival grounds and a fourth in the campgrounds. Even with such limited water access, Defqon.1 would not refill personal hydration packs or water bottles. Instead, Weekend Warriors were forced to buy Defqon.1 themed water bags to have access to the free water stations. Throughout the weekend, it was common to see people filling up at the sinks outside of the bathrooms due to this policy. These strict rules eased up on Sunday, but water should always be free no matter what – no catch.
The day was saved once peak heat was over and the Defqon.1 Legends came out to play.
A difficult day delivered a glimmer of hope once the sun descended and the heat dissipated. The mighty RED was closed all day but finally came back to life for the Defqon.1 Legends performance. Plenty of legends stepped foot on the stage this year, beginning with Ran-D, Adaro, and B-Front. For one hour, these three gave fans a rawstyle history lesson as they went through the most important records of their careers. To my surprise, they only played for one hour of the scheduled two-hour timeslot, but a major surprise came through.
Once Defqon.1 paid their respects to these legends of hardstyle history, Sub Zero Project took over the RED. Their set only lasted 20 minutes as they sped through their greatest hits, and after them came Warface. After 20 minutes of blistering modern rawstyle, the pattern became clear. There were 20 minutes left in the Legends timeslot, but who could it be?
After a glorious introduction, Defqon.1 welcomed none other than the wonderboy, Sefa! I will never forget how everybody’s face lit up with joy once his name came through the speakers. Like the other legends, Sefa played his top songs and engaged in the ultimate fan service by playing his “Muzika” remix, which he kept teasing fans with during his theatre shows.
After all this fun, a bittersweet moment came to fruition as DJ The Prophet took the stage for his final performance.
DJ The Prophet took over the mighty RED for From The Hard – “The Final.” He took fans down memory lane in an epic set that highlighted his illustrious career. This hour went by quickly, ending with a passionate and heartfelt speech from The Godfather of Hardstyle thanking fans for their support throughout the years and assuring us that even without him, there will always be music. While experiencing every single emotion possible, the one constant on my mind was his powerful quote, “There will only be one me, so try to be you.“
After ending positively, attendees embarked on the final stop of the Path of the Warrior, The Closing Ritual. I have no words to describe how magical this experience was, so I can only recommend watching it now on YouTube yourself. Q-dance once again proved their dominance in stunning festival production and put the cherry on top of a hectic but incredible weekend.
Despite the flaws I encountered, Defqon.1 was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
As an observer, I can’t help but feel that Defqon.1 might have become too successful for its own good. The festival grows yearly by welcoming more Weekend Warriors, but the accommodations don’t grow accordingly. The lack of water stations and shaded areas is jarring, the token payment system is inconvenient due to high prices, and VIP didn’t feel any different than GA as there were minimal VIP areas and little to no perks. Q-dance can fix many of these things and come back more prepared next year, so I do hope these issues are addressed. Q-dance, remember that you can always do more.
Putting this to the side, I enjoyed Defqon.1 to the absolute maximum. The Path of the Warrior isn’t just a marketing gimmick but a concept to hold close to in everyday life. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of life, work, and chasing our dreams. At times, it feels like there’s no room at the top for everybody, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything you work for will happen in due time as long as you stay true to your own Path of the Warrior.
Getting back to Defqon.1, hard dance was shown proper respect and love, which is rare in the States. I fell in love with hard dance all over again, and my motivation to keep doing my part to grow the scene and spread the sound grew immensely. I tip my hat to the team over at Q-dance, and my hope for a return to the States sometime in the future remains alive. However, I’m also confident that the local scene here can create something similar or even better. No matter what, I will never stop chasing my vision for hard dance in America.