High on Redbull and Drunk on Music

What happens if you are sober at an electronic musical party?

Sober October. That is my motto; a little piece of lifestyle invented by myself years ago and still standing strong. For some of you a month of drinking no alcohol might sound like hell on earth, whereas others normally only drink on their birthday and New Year’s Eve, or not at all. Personally I am neither, but I do like a drink now and then, especially in certain social situations. An electronic music festival (in Europe) is excatly the situation where everybody is under the influence of something; be it booze or drugs.

Getting invited to a party where mainly electronic music would be playing in October was not an excuse to give up on my non-drinking principle or a reason to decline the party invitation; it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to find out how you would experience a party where everybody is out of their minds on some substance from a sober point of view: losing count of the number of cans of energy drink you already downed in order to keep your own body fueled with energy.
The "Museum aan de stroom" or MAS - Source: www.mas.be (Photo by: Sarah Blee)The “Museum aan de stroom” or MAS – Source: www.mas.be (Photo by: Sarah Blee)

The start of my sober night out dancing wasn’t too bad as the party would take place in het MAS: “Museum Aan de Stroom”, the awesome establishment shown in the photo above. Its wicked architecture, location and panoramic view were not the only things that triggered my curiosity, but also the fact that it is an actual museum and the exposition halls would be part of the the event. The museum is located in Antwerp, Belgium, and I honestly think that Belgium is the only country awesome enough to host a dance event in a museum. At least I can’t imagine “het Rijksmuseum”  inviting 3000 people on liquor and pills to come dance next to Rembrandt’s masterpiece: “De Nachtwacht”.

The muesum has multiple floors full of collections that each tell their story about the city Antwerpen, topped up by some temporary expositions. It is a little bit less than a half-hour walk to get from the Central Station to the building and these were already a fairly interesting 25 minutes. When I had been strolling through Antwerpen on my own for two hours, waiting for my friends to arrive, I had already noticed that the city was covered in detached traffic signs. Due to construction work, many signs are temporary and therefore easy to remove, apparantly an activity many visitors have taken up as a hobby. Finding our way to our destination for the night, we passed yet another deserted traffic sign, left on the sidewalk by its captor, right next to  what looked like the base of a statue. As me and my housemate did not yet have many pictures together to decorate our house with and loose traffic signs seemed to be a part of Antwerpen’s culture, we decided to proudly display the sign on top of the pedestal by means of a tourist picture.

With my housemate AND the sign

With my housemate AND the sign

As you might be able to spot on the photo above, the sign never really made it into the picture as a police car happened to drive past, spot the sign and use the first side street to turn back to us, blue lights flashing. Oh dear. The amount of dissapearing and reappearing of traffic signs has probably activated some special sensor on these officers in order to fight the great crime of sign-displacement. And there we were. Only in Antwerp for one night and caught with the evidence in our hand, which we had effectively only displaced 10 metres, although this was probably hard to believe as the sign was already far from its original spot when we found it. The party hadn’t even started yet. We waited a bit uncomfortably until the police officer was done checking our passports to see if we did not already have a criminal record. After he found all our records clean of earlier attempts of traffic-sign theft, the man turned out to be pretty well tempered. When he asked who had taken the photo (on the statue base), the friend who had taken it replied and asked if he should delete it. The officers laughed and answered: “No, I want to add an extra photo of how you got caught. And so we ended up with this lovely unclear photo of a police car shining bright blue light onto our faces, taken by a police officer in Antwerp. This party can only get better.

Caught by the Antwerp Police who deserve a thumbs up

Inside the museum

A little delayed by our encounter with the Antwerp Police we finally made it to our destination. Beams of light were shooting from each of the windows, inviting us in with their enchanting colourfull madness. The music was already beating loud on every second floor, while the floors in between hosted a bar where the music of the floors below and above blended into some weird kind of remix. But for those who think that 22:30 is too early to start to start lose yourself in the beat, peace and quiet could be found in the expostion halls. As most people came to the party to dance their ass off, hardly anyone could be found  in these halls, and believe me, time flies when you are pretty much alone, admiring expostions about power and food of the future, as well as behaving like a child…


Playing Around

Finished playing, it was time to explore more. I thought it might be time to join the party animals on the dance floor, when another distraction caught my eye. On each floor, next to the stairs, the museum had tiny rooms with glass doors where acoustic performances took place. From acoustic guitar shows to the reciting of poetry, it was all there, organised by different local cultural associations. It was fantastic how local artists got the chance to show their talent in this way on a huge party like this. The size of the rooms added up to the experience, because in a small room, just a few people can make a crowd; dancing, sweating shouting. This I even got to experience from an artist point-of-view as one of the perfromers was kind enough to lend me and my housemate his guitar and mini-stage (a table), where we performed a Mumford and Sons cover and felt what it was like to have a room full of people singing along.

Three minutes of fame

Getting out of the small room, still in my performers euphoria, the beat soon made its way into my head, I started dancing, closed my eyes, lost myself in the music and forgot where I was. That was not an uncommon appearance as I was probably one of the few people who could get back into reality just by opening my eyes. The display of 3D visuals on banners above the dancefloor added to the experience only made it easier to get lost and I was genuinly suprised by how long I was able to stay on my feet without them aching or me complaining or stressing out in my sober state of mind. I absolutely enjoyed every minute of music and would probably not have stopped dancing if nobody had told me that there was a surprise performance in one of the exposition halls that I had thought to be closed by that time. The band “Oaktree”  played their intense music for half an hour amidst old rulers of different parts of the world in the “power”  hall and it was a welcome to change to sit down and get carried away by their innovative sound before getting back to dancing the night away again. The combination of a DJ with a harpist, a percussionist and a singer who also played an exotic flute now and again was an interesting novety on its own, but the unuasal setting added enormously to this sensation.

Oaktree in the “Power” exposition hall. Photo is phone quality, sorry!

As we had arranged a Flixbus back home at 04:30, this was the time to stop dancing. Even though I had no idea how time had passed so fast and I felt like I could have gone on forever, bouncing on my sugar and caffeine rush while everyone around me was fueling their body on whatever they thought was necessary to get them through the night, it was a good time to go home. I had danced the night away with my friends and it had been good, better to go home with a feeling like that than spending the last hours exhausted.

The night has passed well and the experience was probably not as different or interesting as one had hoped. However, for personally it is nice to be aware that, even though I possibly ingested  a week’s worth of sugar, being sober at a dance party is not so bad. It is cheap and nice to remember everything the way it was exactly the next morning for a change. I also believe that my perception of things was different, I was more aware of my surroundings, the sounds and people around me than when I’ve had a drink, but not in a negative way. Finally, I believe that if you are thinking of going to a party sober for the first time, a party like this is probably the place to go. It had so many different corners to explore if your mind was ready for a change from regular dancing, that was amazing. The setting and panorama view through the windows also gave many extra inputs that a regular club lacks. I mean, how often can you lose yourself to dance, open your eyes and look at a city and its harbour in a 360 degree angle?







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