A State Of Trance sets up in Rotterdam for a colorful edition

Armin van Buuren A State Of Trance
© A State Of Trance

A State Of Trance returned to the Netherlands in a new location and under a new format. An opportunity for me to renew the experience after 4 years. Undoubtedly, it’s the festival I’ve experienced the most in recent years before turning the page and exploring other styles and communities. This 2024 edition was a chance to turn the page for good. After 6 months in Bali and over two years of living in perpetual summer, I had the bright idea to return to Europe expressly for a festival. The weekend was primarily a battle against the cold and jet lag 😅.

As always, a comprehensive recap is published on Guettapen. Here, the goal is to provide a more personal and distinct perspective on this event. For context, I’ve attended every edition of A State Of Trance in the Netherlands since 2013, starting with the last one in Den Bosch before the move to Utrecht in 2014. I didn’t miss a single edition until 2020, and I also participated in ASOT Miami 2018 and ASOT Tomorrowland 2019.

This year marked both an end and a renewal. An end because I now feel a disconnect between myself and the Trance scene, and a renewal because the festival shifted its focus this year to a new location and other styles, such as Melodic Techno. In fact, I spent the weekend at the stage dedicated to this style. It perfectly symbolizes my desire to turn the page. It’s time for me to definitively turn the page. But before that, let’s revisit this unique festival.

A State Of Trance Area 1
© A State Of Trance

How does A State Of Trance continue to endure?

A State Of Trance is a well-established and influential brand in the Dance Music scene. Despite facing challenges due to lockdowns and the explosion of Melodic Techno (which, let’s admit, draws significant inspiration from the Trance genre), A State Of Trance hasn’t uttered its final words. It rests on two solid pillars that will be difficult to shake.

The radio show that has stood unwavering for over 20 years

On one hand, we have the commitment of the Trance community, especially the fans of Armin van Buuren. This strong commitment stems primarily from the weekly radio show A State Of Trance, which has consistently delivered episodes every Thursday from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM CET for over two decades. It deeply engages the community, sometimes bordering on fanaticism. In the audience of A State Of Trance, you can find behaviors akin to a cult or religion. Occasionally, these behaviors can be quite intense: fans compare the number of photos taken with Armin each year and are willing to do anything to secure front-row spots at concerts… but it all remains good-natured.

An ecosystem conducive to the evolution of the festival

On the other hand, A State Of Trance is part of a massive ecosystem that fosters limitless creativity for the event. Beyond the radio show and the festival, A State Of Trance operates as a sub-label under Armada Music, widely regarded as the largest independent Dance Music label. Co-founded by Armin van Buuren, Maykel Piron, and David Lewis, Armada Music wields unparalleled influence in our scene. A State Of Trance and other sub-labels form the Armada ecosystem, allowing them to be at the forefront of discovering emerging artists in the genre and showcasing talented DJ-producers on radio and during events.

Beyond the label, the festival’s production aspect is handled by ALDA. It’s none other than the company behind Amsterdam Music FestivalArmin OnlyI Am Hardwell, and SAGA Festival. Co-founded by Allan Hardenberg and David Lewis, who also manages Armin van Buuren, this production company brings to life the wildest ideas of the festival. ALDA is now part of Insomniac, the group behind EDC, which provides substantial financial support. They collaborate with the creative agency TWOFIFTYK, co-founded by none other than Sander Reneman, Armin’s tour manager. It’s this colossal ecosystem that makes an event like this possible.

Opening Up to New Horizons

A State Of Trance Area 3
© A State Of Trance

However, winds of change are in the air. New super-productions have emerged, notably including Afterlife and the entire Melodic Techno scene. And the A State Of Trance teams haven’t turned a blind eye. This year, an entire stage was dedicated to this style, featuring artists like ColynARGYCoeusSpace MotionMiss MoniqueHI-LO, and Joris Voorn. While A State Of Trance has long championed the Trance genre, there’s a flip side to embracing a style to the point of including it in the concept’s name. It becomes challenging to detach from the associated image, and this desire to explore new realms reflects a longing to connect with fresh communities.

A Functional Format Despite Some Limits

But this isn’t the end by any means. Last weekend, A State Of Trance took over Ahoy Rotterdam for a vibrant edition. It showcased both the festival’s potential and its limitations. The move from Jaarbeurs Utrecht didn’t rattle the organization. The production was top-notch, efficient crowd management, and an exceptional show ensured an excellent experience. However, certain boundaries were reached. The Friday ticket sales were lower. Beyond the loyal fans, it’s evident that the festival struggles to reach a new audience. The appearances of Morten and Maddix in Area 1 didn’t quite convince, resulting in a much sparser crowd on Friday. For the first time in the history of A State Of Trance, attendees could even move from other stages to the Mainstage during Armin van Buuren’s set that evening.

Yet again this year, the festival showcased remarkable ingenuity in its production. The stages were original and spectacular, with one exception: Area 5, which felt hastily put together. Was it a time constraint or budget issue? Regardless, it’s unlike A State Of Trance to neglect a stage in this manner.

Fascinating Conferences about A State Of Trance

ASOT Hotel Ruben de Ronde
© A State Of Trance

A significant addition this year was the ASOT Hotel. A complete hotel was made available to festival-goers for 2 days. Attendees could stay at the hotel and, more importantly, participate in a series of activities and conferences during the daytime. With our press pass, we gained free access and attended a set of conferences on Saturday. I won’t hide that the battle against jet lag and the weariness from Friday night made it challenging, but it didn’t diminish the quality of the talks and speakers. The program included discussions on the evolution of the A State Of Trance brand, the festival’s creation process with TWOFIFTYK, a panel on mental health featuring Armin van Buuren, and a Q&A session with the A State Of Trance Radio team.

For me, the most captivating was the conference with TWOFIFTYK, during which they unveiled their festival creation process—from graphic identity (logo, colors, fonts) to stage design and visual elements aligned with this year’s theme. And that theme was none other than the city of Rotterdam. The only downside to this day was that the audience attending these conferences wasn’t composed of journalists and professionals, as one might expect. Instead, it consisted of die-hard festival fans (yes, them again), which made the Q&A sessions somewhat awkward. Some were there solely to catch a glimpse of the artists up close. This contrasts with other events like Amsterdam Dance Event, where conferences are geared toward professionals.

Does A State Of Trance Continue?

Nevertheless, it was always a pleasure to return to the Netherlands, despite the rain and fatigue. We always have a great time at A State Of Trance. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with long-time friends, gear up for the upcoming summer festival season, and give our ears a break with real music before returning to the garbage served on the radio. This was likely my last edition. It’s time to turn the page and explore new experiences. The list of festivals to experience remains long, while still attending the traditional EXIT Festival and Tomorrowland. Unfortunately, this means missing out on other events. A State Of Trance is now part of my past, but the adventure was beautiful, and the memories are countless!

The next festivals on my list are no small feat. On March 8th and 9th, I’ll be heading to Belgrade for Illusions Festival, an audio-visual concept in the Serbian capital that I hold dear. And at the end of March, Tomorrowland Winter returns to Alpe d’Huez, promising what will likely be the most intense week of my life. The program includes music, skiing, interviews, DJ sets, afterparties, and maybe even some sleep!

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