TFSF Festival recap

TFSF Festival Blog: How trance thrives


This past week I’ve been in a state of trance and like many others still trying to find the words to explain last weekend. The music sounds better. I’m getting goosebumps again. I’m going through some older sets that kickstarted my love for trance. Listened to Magik 1-7 in order, went back to my trance classics playlist, and I’ve been chair raving all week. Most importantly, time re-connecting with others again with calls or texts not via FB or other social media platforms. I know it’s hard to describe but it truly felt like a disturbance in the force. TFSF Festival was hands down the best experience and event we ever had. It was like falling back in love with trance all over again for me <3


Somebody asked me a few years ago if I would ever do something like this and I said “That’s pretty much impossible, I just promote artists and club shows. A few days before announcing the TFSF Festival, I was still confusing myself with all the TFSFX makeup shows + TFSF11 show plans and how to fit them all in less than 6 months. The simplest solution was to merge everything into 1 event, and why not make it a festival with all headliners. The question remained - how could I make it different from all the others around the world?


That’s where I thought about what I loved most deep down. I’ve seen pretty much everyone 10+ times over the years and seen them evolve with their sounds and enjoy their sets, but what I loved were their tracks. So I started asking the main room target acts if they would do us a favor with a Producer Set, and it was pretty much instantly approved. And if they were willing to do it, we might as well require everyone else playing to do it.


Leading into the event, there were so many obstacles and doubts. From pre-sales tickets to artists making it and all the other event logistics. It was a struggle until the doors opened. Within an hour, you started to notice that a majority of the people inside were there for the music above anything else. It slowly started to seem like a giant family reunion united together for our love of trance. That’s why we’re truly an actual TranceFamily after all these years.


So much planning went into the lineup talent, set times, layout, and of course music format: Producer Sets. Once everyone started arriving you started to wander from room to room and began greeting everyone, recognizing about 30-40% of the crowd, while I recognized closer to 70% of people for the first time ever. It felt like going to a college reunion with everyone you haven’t seen together in 10 years.


Before the show, I made some last-minute decisions for the event that pertained to both fans and industry with the intention of removing some things that I believe were not adding value to the event itself: This includes some things industry-wide that have gotten out of hand over the years, some good and bad.

  1. No one was allowed on stages all night, including myself or any photographers. To me, when DJs started using those as highlights, that’s all people wanted to share on social media, which I’m guilty of myself. The first few people that I kicked off were bewildered as the crew usually goes on stage, but I held my ground and by the middle of the night, everyone seemed to get the memo.

  2. Set times were based on the flow of building up each room and balancing everything so you could catch a little of each artist.

  3. I’ve been saying for a long time, we need simplified formats that don’t waste time or resources in regards to riders. I didn’t even look at the riders and made the green room beer + waters plus artists with a few drink tickets for artists. Moving forward, artists can ask for anything that the bar has all night long, and I’ll just get it plus some beers + water.

  4. Guests or additional crew no longer walk in with the artist for COVID safety reasons, and it’s just easier for everyone to get wristbands at the front than endless pings to me. For the time being, we have to check everyone’s proof of vax including the artists, but guests can cut to the front of the line and security will simply check their ID and proof of vax.

  5. The production vision was to put as many lasers as safely possible inside The Midway. Due to budget concerns, the rest was scratched including all the CO2, confetti, 3D art and any other ideas. That ended up being a blessing in disguise as just lasers are 10x better with trance.


As you can tell post-show, everyone was at a loss for words and couldn’t express how amazing the night was. DJ’s were spending a ton of time in the crowd not the green room. Everyone bounced around the stages and it only took you 30 seconds to get from one room to another. There were pretty much no pictures from the stage unless it was the DJ vantage point, few videos in general, and just smiles in pictures enjoying the moments. It was like three hours into the show, everyone seemed to forget about their phones and just enjoyed the moment. I remember taking one video, then realizing the lasers looked 10x better in person + no one else was taking videos. On the flip side, we took a ton of pictures with everyone. Usually I get ping after ping but I didn’t! It felt really librarating. The way I saw it, the dance floor connected via bluetooth again instead of 4G. You had to be there for the connection and it wasn’t shared with the rest of the world. As many there recall, I spent most of the night on the dance floor and went to the front middle as often as possible. Many people were definitely shocked to see me and didn’t know I danced. That’s where my heart was, and for those that know Bob and Mary, they can tell you we used to fight over the front spot for years at Ruby Skye. The last time I spent the entire night on the dancefloor had to be well over 10 years ago!


Looking back at the show now, I was reminded that trance isn’t just a sound or a genre of music. It isn’t tied to a bmp or a specific mold of melodies + basslines. All these subgenres were labeled when people felt they needed to explain their music to others. In the past we’ve tried to recreate that atmosphere with classic nights, open-to-close sets and stacked old skool lineup and it never works because the dance floor isn’t the same. You really have to open your mind and embrace the music. I remember when EDM started to take off at shows, the rave scene felt like the people entering the scene weren't about the music or the culture so they simply didn’t pass on the traditions and ways. PLUR disappeared overnight and it may still be around with the kandi kids but it’s in no way the same. Just like we couldn’t describe last weekend, trance is something you have to feel and experience. When I first entered this world of music, the rave name given to me was “Energy”. When two people in the crowd remembered that name and asked me “Did you name the mainstage after your rave name?” it gave me one of the biggest smiles of the night. Only people who met me in 2008/2009 knew that was my name and how much it meant to me. Plus, I had no idea they were coming that night until I saw them on the dance floor.


When the people rave about the night, here’s a list of the things I noticed that were back to the old skool rave days :)

  • People were there primarily because they knew the musical talent on the lineup

  • There was a sense of PLUR back in the air

  • Most people forgot about their phones and danced all night long from stage to stage

  • Artists were wandering through the event all night, and the green room was never really packed. Heck the complimentary waters ran out faster than the complimentary beers

  • People were wandering around all night long to each room


The next day, I got so many individual messages instead of tags on Facebook that it gave me a sense of appreciation again. Social media really killed our scene deep down while we were thinking it was a way to show the world how awesome it could be. TranceFamily may have started as a simple Facebook page, but it was more about staying connected with those online and watching live streams together than promoting music. Before Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, there was Ravelinks, TranceAddict, PlurLife, and so many other sites used for connecting to the underground world of music. The music may be one of the driving factors to go out and socialize, but what separates a rave from a concert or festival is the connection on the dance floor. Thanks to everyone who came and made it so special, and please send me all your pics or upload them here so I can archive them all :)

https://www.dropbox.com/request/IYb6MyNH9fXMb8nfF3vP


I still am making my personal outreach as I really only responded to others that have reached out directly to me. This past weekend was the first time in over a month where I had “free time” to just rest, but I already can’t wait to make next year better with everything I have planned. It will be the same exact format and add maybe 250 extra tickets. Having the extra space on the dance floor felt great for sure. The original plan was to have 3-5K people and two days next summer, but after last Saturday, I was reminded that it’s about one night. Raves were never back-to-back nights until festivals figured out they could keep the stage build and charge people twice as much within two days.


I know we’ve had shows back after this long wait and many other places around the world are experiencing a new appreciation for music, but I highly doubt they got close to what we experienced this weekend.


Here’s a list of things to remind people of in general:

  • Videos and social media killed the “connection” with the dance floor and have forever been a lost art. Pictures tell a different story throughout the night. The moments should be captured by others, not yourself.

  • Tiggerlovesyou was the original rave photographer here in California. Let’s bring back moments over videos

  • Reach out to people directly with pictures the next day. Not a tag on FB or telling the world.

  • Costumes or ways to recognize you from a distance on the dance floor

  • Agents, please let the promoter reach out to you. If we want that artist, we’ll let you know. Also, for most shows let the promoter get to decide everything from set time/budget/hospitality as we know our market. If you want to book your own show and tour, do it yourself by renting the venue and assuming risk. We like people that are easy to work with, not divas.


Looking ahead to the future, trance is here to stay in SF. Effective today, I will no longer be booking shows and fully partnering with Dreamstate for all shows. We’ve been working closely for the past two years and it’s time for us to move forward together with everything. I have never enjoyed the bookings side of things as Sony always did that, and I only did it for a few years. Working together we can do so much more to push the boundaries of trance, including more shows, bigger shows, all in the best interest of trance. Just wait until you see what 2022 has in store, and all these ideas that wouldn’t be possible without Dreamstate.


Can’t wait to dance with you all again soon.


Peace. Love. Unity. Respect.

Ulrich


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