Indigo Festival | 05.20-05.22 | Israel

Words by: Kevin Schwartzbach | Photos by Elad Segev

Indigo Festival :: 05.20.10-05.22.10 :: Open Air :: Northern Israel, Israel

Both the electronic music and festival scenes have been growing rapidly in Israel over the last decade or so, and Moksha Project has been one of the most prominent facilitators of each. Over the last 11 years, Moksha has developed quite a reputation amongst electronic music lovers here. Renowned for their underground nature parties - overnight dance parties located in remote wilderness throughout the country - Moksha outdid themselves with the 4th Annual Indigo Festival. With four different stages (including the Yellow Submarine Stage hosting open jams throughout the festival) and drawing over 5,000 people, Indigo is their pinnacle event and one of Israel's biggest multi-day camping festivals. As such, it is one of the few festivals in Israel capable of attracting big international names the likes of the UK's Simon Posford and Prometheus (a.k.a. Benji Vaughan), along with popular homegrown acts such as Madboojah Project and Activator. In accordance with Israeli tastes, the 40-plus act lineup was dominated by psy-trance DJs, but still offered a smattering of dub-step, house, minimal- techno and even a few non-electronic bands. There was also a multitude of extra-musical activities at the Galactic Village, including various workshops and holistic healing sessions.

With abundant psychedelia and good vibes all around, Indigo felt very similar to many American festivals. Though for all its similarities, it wasn't without its Israeli idiosyncrasies, the biggest difference being set time organization. Where most American festivals have all their major acts in the evening with some kind of break at night, headlining sets were split between around 10 pm and 8 am, with music around the clock. Indigo was also markedly less commercialized than most American festivals, with only a small row of independent merchants and minimal advertisements.

Nestled tightly at the scenic junction of the Jezreel and Jordan River Valleys just north of the city of Beit Shean, Moksha could not have chosen a better location for the festival. Taking a dip in Ganei Chuga's vast pools offered a refreshing refuge from the oppressive daytime heat, while the surrounding hills provided a majestic backdrop during our three-day journey.

Though there's some minor organizational kinks to work out, particularly the police presence and disorganized entry process, which was way too long for a festival of this size (Israelis really have zero concept of what a line is or should be), Indigo turned out to be one of the most enjoyable festivals this small country has to offer.

Indigo Festival Top 5

5. Younger Brother - Main Stage – Thursday - 22:30 – UK
With a new album dropping this year, Younger Brother, the first of the headlining sets, had weighty expectations to live up to. Unfortunately, Simon Posford, half of its two- pronged DJ cavalry was incapacitated for their set, leaving Benji Vaughan flying solo. Without Posford, who plays guitar as well as DJs during Younger Brother sets, it wasn't quite all it could have been – but still Vaughan managed spin out one helluva set. Not as intense as their full live band performances, Vaughan's set was reminiscent of YB's more down-tempo studio productions. The crowd seemed well versed in their material, shouting along to some of their more famous tunes such as "I Am a Freak."

4. Haltya - Main Stage – Saturday -12:00 – Finland
After two days had elapsed, that pulsating psy-trance template had become all too familiar. So by midday Saturday, Finnish DJ Tommi Sirkiä's (a.k.a. Haltya) novel approach to the oft-homogenous genre was as refreshing as the cool mist being sprayed from the Main Stage's canvas ceiling. Psychedelic only partially describes Haltya's melodious psy-trance productions. Funk and Latin influences abound, mixed with glitched-out drum breaks and of course psychedelic synthesized timbres; 'funkadelic' would be the proper nomenclature for the Scandinavian's music. These fresh elements were just what we needed to keep us raging on through the sweltering midday heat.

3. U.r.i.n.i.m.u. - Alternative Stage – Saturday - 15:00 – Israel
By far the biggest discovery at the festival, I caught the Israeli trance-fusion trio U.r.i.n.i.m.u. just before the close of Indigo 2010. The trancey beats spun out by Idan Margalit (guitar/DJ/keyboards) reached epic heights with the aid of former Ozric Tentacle's drummer Roi Brosh on an electric kit (amazingly it was his first show with the band) and bassist Elad Cohen. There's a compositional depth to Margalit's productions that the rest of the trance-scene here seems to lack. Tightly-knit composed parts mixed delicately with lengthy psychedelic improvisations, which draw from a myriad of genres. U.r.i.n.i.m.u. were highly reminiscent of many of those in the American 'livetronica' scene such as Bisco, STS9 or The New Deal. Of all their eclectic influences, Pink Floyd was the most salient given Margalit's sparse David Gilmour-like guitar and even a killer trance-remix of "One of These Days." Still basically unheard of outside their native country, these guys are poised for some international recognition. It would be great to see them playing some festivals in the U.S. sometime soon.

2. Madboojah Project - Main Stage – Friday - 0:00 – Israel
The brainchild of Shlomo Avratz (assorted string instruments) and Udi Ben Knaan (DJ), the Israeli-bred Madboojah Project is trance with an organic twist and one of the most unique sounds of any live act in Israel. On top of Ben Knaan's pounding trance beats, the guitar/lyra/rebab/bouzouki of Avratz, the electric violin and lush vocals of Tania Vinokur, the rocky drums of Idan Carmeli and the bagpipes (as well as other wind instruments) of Uri Miles gives their music a kind of East- meets-West feel. A sparkling rendition of "Amazing Grace" at the end of their set was one of the highlights of the festival.

1. Simon Posford - Main Stage – Friday - 8:00 – UK
In his fly feather-capped fedora, Simon Posford slyly crept onto the stage in the early morning heat. Really not much of a spectacle in the broad daylight, with no light show, turning knobs bashfully at the back of the stage, the three-hour Posford hodgepodge was all about the sound and the feel. Opening up with some light Shpongle material from his latest release, Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland, the down-tempo, glitchy beats surreptitiously metamorphosized into hard-hitting trance. Shpongle's music is hard to pin down – as any cutting edge music should be. Some label it a sub-genre of psy-trance, others down-tempo or ambient; I simply dub it electronic world music. Eclectic rhythms laid on top of eccentric time signatures coalesced in the air with timbres that have only ever seen the light of day in Posford produced tracks, mixed, of course with more organic samples such as a delicately plucked classical guitar.

Posford's live DJ sets are more of an exhibition than an actual concert. Those familiar with Posford's work know that all the subtle manipulations in the music were designed long before he takes the stage, as much of what he does live is just hit play and dance – to the point where he at times completely relinquished his reins at the laptop to grace us with some of his finest dance moves up at the front of the stage. But really, the ingenious creativity of his studio work more than makes up for his lack of involvement live. Aside from a raging, dubbed-out remix of "Gamma Goblins," the first half of the set was mostly the shamanic insanity of Shpongle, while the latter half of the set saw more of the heavy-hitting psy-trance of Hallucinogen.

Honorable Mentions

Israel's Ono Gana was the first set I caught upon entering the festival; a unique, acoustic trance experience with nothing more than a live drummer and two didgeridoos. The UK's Man With No Name and France's Tikal both played early in the day Saturday and were two of the best psy-trance DJs at the festival. The UK's Mad Professor offered a lengthy set of mostly down-tempo reggae and dub music Friday afternoon to chill out to. The obscure Israeli DJ Argaman was one of the most unique DJs at the festival, mixing elements of trance with classical and other genres in a very progressive way. Unfortunately, after raging full-on through the night Thursday, I physically couldn't stay awake through all of Prometheus's set midday Friday, but the little I did catch of his diverse set was some of the best music Indigo had to offer.

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