Review: Club To Club Festival (Turin, Italy – 2nd to 6th November 2016)

When it was founded sixteen years ago, Club To Club aimed to be an electronic music festival – the electronic music festival Italy still didn’t have. Today, it has dropped the ‘electronic’ label, broadened its musical scope, widened its geographical horizon and chosen to describe itself as an ‘International Festival of avant-garde and Pop’ instead.

Indeed, acts like the historical American experimental rock band Swans or the super group Junun – made up of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, and the Indian ensemble The Rajasthan Express, would hardly fit into the electronic category. But it is exactly their inclusion in the line-up that makes Club To Club a fully grown, first class festival with nothing to envy more well known ones. Club To Club offers a multi-faceted experience, where artists who differ in terms of musical style, background, and origin, are brought together under one roof, because they do have one thing in common: they all make fresh, cutting edge, quality music.

Experimentation is the key word, a concept that was brought to higher levels on the opening night on Wednesday 2nd November. In the breath taking 17th century Palace of Venaria, former residence of the Royal House of Savoy and UNESCO site, the most experimental sets found an usual place to prosper. Headliner Chino Amobi played what could be regarded as the punk of electronic music: violent, discordant, even disorienting sounds, all arising from non-acoustic instruments that startled part of the audience, but created, alongside videogame-like visuals of war-torn cities, an enchanting atmosphere, resulting from the striking dissonance between the extremely contemporary performance and the old beauty of the location, with its statues and sculpted immaculate walls.

Nevertheless, Club To Club is a festival that still wants to make you dance – and ravers were not disappointed by the sets of the TDC Palazzi crew in an adjacent tiny room covered in crimson wallpaper, and the closing techno set by Kraków-based DJ Olivia.

Very rave-like was also Laurent Garnier‘s 3-hour set on Friday night on the main stage of Lingotto, a former factory renovated by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano. A powerful set, although a bit too long for a festival, especially when scheduled to take place in the middle of the night. After more than four hours of club music which started at 10:45pm, respectively by Powell, Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker) and the above mentioned Garnier, it proved hard even for the die-hard fans to immerse themselves in the ambience of Autechre’s music – who performed in pitch black dark – which followed at 4am. Autechre’s performance was the much anticipated highlight of the night but the assigned slot did not do justice to it.

Luckily, the mistakes of Friday night were not repeated on Saturday. From the opening by Italian DJ Giad, to the closing performance of Motor City Drum Ensemble, passing through rapper Ghali, Junun, DJ Shadow and Jon Hopkins, the line-up was a perfectly constructed climax. DJ Shadow, in particular, delivered a memorable show celebrating the 20th anniversary of his Endtroducing….. and seemed to be sincerely honoured to play at the festival. Junun, too, were marvellous, with their blend of different traditions, and managed to get the attention of the whole crowd – not an easy task considering how huge the main room was.

Too huge perhaps. It might have been better to divide it into many smaller stages, as was the case back in 2014, especially when access to the other stage, the Sala Gialla aka Yellow Room, where multi-talented producer Arca dj-ed and sang on Thursday 3rd, proved to be difficult and time consuming. As the attendees were numerous, the Yellow Room filled up each time very quickly, forcing the audience either to queue for a long time to secure a place, or forget about watching the show.

A few faux-pas however, are part of the game when organising a 5-day festival with more than 45,000 attendees. Club To Club has still proven to be a festival you do not want to miss.

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