Axel Boman (all photos by Oasis Festival)
It all began at the airport. I'd made the mistake of being in possession of a tatty passport and making a living as a journalist. The blokes at border control were eyeing me with suspicion. I was tired and sweaty and repeatedly saying "VICE, yeah, I work at VICE" over and over wasn't helping my case. It looked like I was going to be politely nudged back onto a plane to Stanstead there and then. This is it for me, I thought. Still, the prospect of a bank balancing decimating panini was heartening. Eventually, something changed. The lads behind the perspex began to smile. Is this your first time in Morocco they asked me. Yes, I told them, yes it is. They told me to enjoy my stay. This was it. I was in Marrakesh.
I'd fled the EU for a brief weekend in North Africa to spend a few days sat by a pool, eating chips, really. Which I did. Very happily. I also found the time in my hectic schedule to board a shuttle bus each evening and make my way to the fanciest festival I've ever had the privilege of attending: Oasis.
Being a bit of a wuss, I've managed to avoid the traditional festival experience. I've never got trench foot. I've never eaten a bean burger while watching an impromptu Levellers set. I've never sat on a blanket surrounded by drained cider cans and flaming portaloos. The closest I've come is being surrounded by a good 20,000 pilled up Parisians in a park losing their shit to Ben Klock's mechanistic techno. Even that terrified me. No, the luxury festival — that's the life for me. Oasis was about as luxurious as it gets.
Unless there's somewhere out there that offers a masseuse for every attendee and serves caviar by the pint then it's hard to imagine a more opulent setting for three days of top notch dance music than a five star Moroccan hotel-cum-set-of-high-end-villas on the outskirts of Marrakesh. There were palm trees and swimming pools, souks and lamb burgers, cocktails and ping pong. It was a beautiful place for beautiful people to be seen being all beautiful somewhere beautiful.
I'd made the trip to investigate the differences between the European festivals I was used to and an African experience. Oasis — founded by THUMP contributor Marjana Jaidi — was the perfect place to ruminate on that. Given that it was it's first throw of the dice, it was inevitable that there'd be slight teething issues. These though — the wristband payment system was a tad annoying, for example — were nothing I'd not experienced in Barcelona or Berlin or Paris or Turin. The differences were inextricably linked to the setting, which I'll come to shortly.
Musically, it was an absolute treat. We arrived on the Friday night and were immediately greeted by Michael Mayer playing a set of typically melancholic, spacey, sparse techno. Despite being a Kompakt fanboy for over a decade, I'd somehow never seen him play out before. As I stood overlooking the crowd, a beer in my hand, surveying my first non-European sunset I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. DJ Tennis followed with a punchy set of big room house which sounded fantastic by the swimming pool-cum-dancefloor of the main stage. Agoria disappointed slightly, Tini B2B with Cassy was fantastic, and Ame proved why the Innervision sound is still so pervasive on dancefloors the world round in 2015.
tINI in the mix
A kaftan clad Axel Boman started our Saturday night off with a low key bang, thumbing through a selection of semi-balearic favourites old and new, including Sueno Latino's seminal "Sueno Latino" and Young Marco's future classic "The Best I Could Do (With What I Had)". Boman never fails to disappoint — he's genuinely one of the best DJs in the world right now and there's probably no better place to see him than by a pool on a balmy Morocan evening. Sorry to brag. We hopped over to Ellen Allien after who went full techno and blasted through two hours of raw, chunky cuts before handing over to the main man: DJ fucking Harvey.
As you may have gathered by now, we're obsessed with Harvey William Bassett here at THUMP. The world's best DJ was on stunning form. We got the best Harv you can ask for: Balearic Harv. As usual with him, we knew about two of the records he played over his four hour set. Which is never a bad thing. God bless, you Harvey — truly the greatest living Englishman.
Sunday evening was dominated by disco. Gerd Janson started things off poolside with a typically bouncy set of boisterous boogie, low-slung italo, what I'm pretty sure was Todd Terje's remix of "How Do You Do" by Hot Chip, and what was definitely "Love Is Gonna Be on Your Side" by Firefly. Chicago icon Derrick Carter took control for an upfront selection of campily soulful house before Carl Craig closed the festival the only way Carl Craig knows how to: really fucking well.
Now back to the festival itself. Oasis is tiny. This is a good thing. There are two stages and neither looks like it could accommodate more than about two hundred people. In actuality I was joined by around 2000 revellers from around the globe, arriving from around 25 different countries. The lack of choice, in this instance, was a massive plus. Rather than the aimless wandering round fields that we're used to, the Oasis attendees happily skipped between stages, navigating narrow pathways with ease and pleasure.
People danced. Like actually danced. Unbelievable, I know, but I witnessed people dancing to DJs who played music made to be danced too. So used to the normal crowd of droll fist pumpers was I that there were moments when the sight of a throng of revellers getting down to Tini or Pachanga Boys was actually a bit shocking. It was a good shock though — like finding a quid down the back of the sofa, or noticing that your local offie's gone back to selling six cans for a fiver. Dancing at festivals? whatever next, a PM who allegedly fucked the head of a dead pig? Wonders, truly, will never cease.
Oasis exuded an air of calm. I never once felt crowded or uncomfortable. I wasn't stuck in a queue for a warm beer being rabbited at by a bloke from Hartlepool who'd spent a fortnight's wage on speed and paracetemol. I was free to explore, to relax, to soak it all up.
What did I learn? If I'm being honest, I had too much fun to really learn anything. What I came back with — apart from the hint of a tan and a massive longing to go back — was the feeling that Oasis is exactly what a dance festival should be: fun, inclusive, gorgeous, and perfectly curated. It was prepared with dancers in mind. Take me back. Please. Take me back.
Derrick Carter and Carl Craig