“Take the horse. It’s Russia!”
That’s a scream we’re welcomed with once we get off the train station in the tiny village Bolshoe Kozino (it’s kOzino, not casino), 25 km from Nizhny Novgorod (which is itself a four hour train ride from Moscow). A lot of the youth happily embraces the opportunity to get to Alfa Future People - the biggest EDM festival in Russia - on the old-school carriage, so we have to settle down for a cab ride (and contribute to the local economy $2 each). Then we have to cross the village’s main street that was turned into a fussy food fair, with the locals offering drinks, food, masks, neon lights and trips to the local “banya” – a must in the country Russia.
We know we’ve left the never-changing rural Russia behind once we see a trio of ripped shirtless guys all covered in colorful dry powder: the Indian Holi festival is largely popular in Russia and found its place in Alfa Future People’s busy schedule. Then we see Hulk impersonator walking through the metal detector. We pass several camping sites and finally receive our red PayPass bracelets, that will allow us to get food, drinks and merchandise on this ambitious celebration of music, technology and sport.
So we begin exploring. Alfa Bank, who created the event to help us to “look forward to see new horizons”, didn’t put the word ‘future’ in the name of their monstrous festival for nothing. The technology buzz can he heard everywhere. The new GoPro camera is exclusively revealed right there. Friendly team of the Privet app, Russian version of Tinder, is bribing potential swipers with tote bags and Frisbees. You can take a photo on the Game of Thrones chair, in front of the Back to the Future car or get your face photoshopped into The Martian movie poster.
There’s a 3D zone, DJ classes, gadget exhibition and an army of people in the robot costumes wondering around – anything to let your geek flag fly high. And if you’re a geek with a muscle, then you’re in for a threat, too: pick beach ball, basketball, American football, football or a dancing competition (you can win a much-needed selfie stick!).
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One of the Saturday’s highlights comes early in the day: the biggest EDM name in Russia, DJ Smash, plays the main stage at 6pm. The stage itself is worth more than just a mention. It’s indeed very futuristic and, eh, human-like, with all the DJs making the crowds go crazy straight from the mouth of the huge white head, while being surrounded by the fire, smoke, go-go dancers and thousands of lights (there’s fireworks in the middle of the night, too). And while the smaller techno stages stay pretty empty until later in the night, DJ Smash plays to a packed crowd, which is understandable: by the now the mastermind behind ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’ banger has several generations of fans and he also produced the festival’s anthem ‘Future People’.
As the sun begins to go down, the main stage is taken over by Borgore, Israeli dubstep bad boy, who once again proved he’s more than capable of creating an irresistible mix of self-titled ‘gorestep’, slicing and dicing through genres and era-defying classics like ‘Sweet Dreams’ and ‘Take Me To Church’ and sewing all the parts into a buzzing Dubkenstein of the set. He finished the show with a triumphant a capella performance of ‘Decisions’ (originally sang by Miley Cyrus) while waving the Russian flag and shouting "I wanna eat the whole cake!" We’re not sure about the cake, but he surely deserved a shot of vodka or two.
Next came the man of the hour, Grammy-nominated poker-faced Frenchman DJ Snake. His set opened with the visuals of Eiffel tower and the sounds of a dark electric symphony that quickly escalated into his usual dance-hop spectacle. But before we could hear his earnest blockbuster ‘Turn Down For What’, we had to turn him down for an Infected Mushroom show, which showed that dance and rock is still a killer combination, with the piercing guitar solos and collective psy-trance euphoria on the vibrating Live&Bass stage.
Organisers noted that Deadmau5 requested additional cuts in the stage’s ceiling so that he could fit in his trademark mask. Although he spent most of his set with the mask off, which was compensated by the several Deadmau5 cosplayers in the audience. By the time British drum-and-bass triple threat NERO were done it was around 5C on the street (that’s what you get for partying near the Volga river) and the dawn was nearly breaking. Yet it was worth battling the cold for the opportunity to see Underworld’s futuristic fog and lazer-heavy performance that saw renowned Brits swimming around the stage in the astonishingly beautiful puffs of pink smoke.
That seemed like a perfect moment to rush towards the shuttle buses while taking in all the breathtaking imagery around us: the pink and orange horizon with the rising sun, a tidy church in the background (“When are they coming to shut us down?” was a common joke) and clouds of cinematic mist scattered across the huge field– not unlike the fake one we’ve just witnessed at the Underworld show. It is indeed Russia at its best, but with a heavy dose of top-notch European EDM swag.
Words: Mikhael Agafonov