Why If You Don't like Rampage...you are probably wrong
It’s March, which is code for ‘it’s the time of year in between Winter and Spring where not a lot really happens except you start thinking about Summer’ - in the world of Drum and Bass and Dubstep, however, March is arguably the biggest month of the year thanks to one behemoth event on the social calendar, Rampage festival.
Rampage boasts itself as the ‘Biggest Drum & Bass and Dubstep Party In The World’, and we tend to agree, certainly in Europe at least, but is it worth getting even bigger next year thanks to you buying a ticket? It might seem a touch commercial for Hugo and the Shoreditch boys at first, but this festival might just surprise even the edgiest of shufflers. We were there in 2018 so here is our rundown of what you can expect.
Long gone are Rampage’s formative years when it was held at the Lotto Arena. This event has grown in scope and scale, going from just one night to two and having Sportpaleis as its spiritual home, the largest indoor venue in Europe. It is ginormous and over the span of the event will see over 20,000 ravers step through its doors, simply incredible. It’s like the Champions League final of electronic music in there, minus the rivalry, twice the noise and a fraction of the number of Spanish fans!
Whatsmore, you get to enjoy all of the added perks that come with a modern sports venue too. Tired of queuing for a drink? Fear not, Sportpaleis has roughly 10 bars to choose from! Feeling a bit peckish? Why not pop down to the foyer and choose from one of the plentiful food vendors, you’ll need it because the night is 12 fucking hours long...and then you have to do it all again tomorrow!
You also don’t have to travel far as you would for many other super venues, which are often set in an industrial estate on the outskirts of town. A 20-minute ride on the 24hr metro from the centre of Antwerp takes you (and I mean this) literally outside the doors to the arena! Oh, and your Rampage ticket gives you free public transport for the entire weekend! Filling a 25,000 capacity venue is apparently easy if you are a Belgian, we arrived at peak time (around 10-11pm) on both nights in 2018 to queue for a maximum of 3 minutes before being let inside. An arena of such magnitude can often subtract from the immersive experience of the event, but Rampage packs enough sound and light production to match the size of the venue and bring everything together nicely.
Speaking of light production, one factor alone that makes Rampage a must-attend event is the sheer amount of effort that goes into making the rave a truly outstanding visual masterpiece. Epileptics beware because Rampage looks like what would happen if Optimus Prime dropped a caffeine tablet in the moments leading up to his wedding night! We’re lead to believe that the team at Rampage prioritise the lights over anything else when organising the event, and this certainly shows because you won’t find something that looks like this anywhere else.
The entire back of the arena, which is roughly 40 metres wide and 20 metres high, is a solid wall of LED lights that rapidly change second by second and set by set to match the theme of the DJ playing at that particular moment in time. For example, when Camo & Crooked played last year, their set began with enormous pictures of both members appearing from the darkness and then shattering into fragments of light as the first drop arrived, a truly magical sight to behold. There are also lights that run around the whole outer edge of the arena and an army of hanging rigs that change their position over the course of each night, making the rave go from feeling like being in a tunnel of sound to a huge expansive party as they do so. The music at Rampage is incredible, but the visuals are what really make it the unforgettable experience that it is because they push the boundaries of what is possible when you go to see live music.
And that brings us neatly on to the music - Rampage is a two-party state...Drum & Bass and Dubstep and both genres are well represented by their A-listers when it comes to performing at Rampage festival. In terms of DnB, you can expect to see the bigger artists from all four corners of the genre; in 2018 they had huge names such as Andy C, Chase & Status, Maduk, Camo & Crooked and SASASAS representing the well-known names even outside the genre.
However, Rampage is proving more and more that it is unafraid to broaden its palette; this year, for example, it will feature the likes of Alix Perez and Skeptical to play sublime minimal DnB, and Benny L to follow on from the fine job that Kings Of The Rollers did last year introducing Antwerp to...well...rollers. Drum & Bass is hectic enough let alone when you add 15,000 people in the standing area and add a light show impressive enough to put a 48-hour acid trip to shame. We remember seeing Pendulum play at Rampage and recount it as one of the best if not the best set we have ever witnessed, no thanks in part to the culmination of the music, atmosphere, sound systems and lighting all coming together perfectly.
We are less well versed in terms of Dubstep but the names that Rampage gets on its lineup are impressive enough to bring headbangers flocking from all over the world to party. We got blasted back to our teenage years watching the likes of Flux Pavillion and Cookie Monster rock Sportpaleis to its rafters last year. However, just like with DnB, Rampage keeps an open mind when selecting the lineup. Last year they had Canadian rhythm master Snails take to the turntables and this year they have Excision, an artist who is renowned for providing the most unforgettable visuals in live concert performance.
Taking his show and introducing it to the production at Rampage will be a moment in live music that will likely make a huge mark in the history books. One thing to be said on that note is that Dubstep allows for the visuals at Rampage to really hit their peak. The grinding robotic beat opens the door for production that is simply out of this world. Oscar will wholeheartedly admit that he is not a big fan of Dubstep beyond Reggae Dub and Medi, but even he said that the Dubstep shows at Rampage would stay with him for the rest of his life. What is also striking about the relationship between Rampage and Dubstep, is that Dubstep in the form it is showcased at Rampage, has reseeded in recent years from its golden hay day of the mid to late 2000s. Rampage, as a result, forms one of the few major European Dubstep events and therefore attracts a truly cultlike following, which only enhances the atmosphere.
Probably one of the saddest consequences of Brexit for the UK won’t be the unstable pound or the lack of credible leadership, it will be the social distance that will form between us and the people of Europe that you will find in a place like Rampage. The distant sound of Dubstep and the millions of festival wristbands worn on both arms might fool you at first, but the members of the Rampage crowd are truly lovely human beings. You’ll be riding the metro both nights being offered beers and singing songs with a mix of ravers from all over Europe.
We see Rampage as one of the ‘top 10 before you settle down and become boring’ raves to visit. You simply have to try it at least once. If you really don’t like large crowds, noises and extravagant lights, then perhaps it won’t be for you. If you don’t fall under any of those categories, we thoroughly recommend. But what’s that we hear you say ‘but this years' event is this weekend’, Rampage is also hosting a huge outdoor festival in the summer that you can take a look at by following the link below. Otherwise, we will see you next year!
Photo credits: Official Rampage