AVA Festival Belfast – Review – Interviews

AVA Festival Belfast – Review – Interviews

July 26, 2017 Off By Editor

AVA Festival 2017: ‘Irelands immersive talent gathers together for a weekend of dance music, culture and memories’

Katie Eve Senior

Benjamin Alexander

Vibrant, full of variety, everywhere you go there is something going on whether it be: a music workshop, conferences, vinyl stands or live performances. AVA Festival is in its third year at Titanic Quarter and with humble beginnings, the festival started as part of a business plan in Sarah McBriar’s (festival founder and visionary) final project in her MA degree and has now transformed into one of the most celebrated and commendable names in the UK music festival diary.

I first visited the festival last year as a volunteer. From the start, I was captivated by the collective family vibe that was created backstage, where staff members were identified as close friends rather than work colleagues and thus all worked perfectly together as a team to create a festival which the likes of Northern Ireland had never seen before.

Sarah had single handed transformed an open space into the world where electronic music enthusiasts could get lost whether it be: a conference or performance from techno god Jeff Mills, have a boogie in the Boiler Room stage or be entranced by one of the main headliners. Iconic Underground went to see what AVA 2017 had to offer…

We arrived on Friday the 2nd of June in Belfast excited for what the weekend will behold! We started off our weekend at AVA by attending the conference with Jeff Mills and Guillarme Marmin entitled ‘Close Encounters of The Fourth Kind’.

The conference would be a description of Jeff Mills debut performance with the French visual artist later in the day, lighting and the meaning of the performance would be a key feature. Also, the great Jeff Mills would also discuss his inspirations, work and advice for the next upcoming artists.

Interviewed by RA’s Stephen Titmus, he asked why the overall performance is named ‘Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind’ and Jeff Mills described his obsession with sci-fi as a child and most obviously his love of the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.

Revolutionary Jeff Mills revealed how the performance would sound more like a film soundtrack than a set, among other fascinating descriptions of the set his most captivating description of his performance he wants the idea of the audience entering into a spacecraft and meeting alien life forms.


Guillarme’s opinion on the lighting is he hopeful that it will create a new experience, immerse the audience and change perceptions of the world. Mills later goes on about his career, he discussed his orchestral performance ‘Lost In Space’ and gathered on his theory that there is no difference between classical and electronic musicians.

He, later on, answered questions from the audience, one of them being “What is your advice for up and coming artists”? Mills answer was,

“mix everything as much as you can, the best way you can find and discover something new”.

Memorable quotes from his conferences were,

“I’ve never played a perfect DJ set and I make music for IT’.


After Jeff Mills and Guillarme Marmin’s conference we walked inside the T13 arena and was amazed by the scale of the production, everything from the mainstage to the beautifully decorated chill out area was perfectly planned out. We both then went into a track deconstruction workshop with homegrown techno DJ and one to watch Myler.

Myler was demonstrating production techniques he used within his techno tracks ranging from software of choice, showing his procedures and workflows about giving his tracks a powerful sound. He did an in-depth analysis of software such as ‘Native Instruments Battery’ plus various other processing plugins. He discussed at length his thought processes from starting a track to completion. Apart from the technical malfunction with the laptop, the workshop was a massive success!

Next, we were ecstatic to see one of the founders of the iconic record labels R & S Records and legend Renaat Vanderpapeliere. Throughout the conference Renaat presented himself as a man of much wisdom, intuitiveness and humour, taking away the bullshit and getting strictly to point with the interviewer on certain questions he was answering.


His intimidating exterior was softened with his brash sense of humour. He discussed his career along with certain DJs he has worked with, his lifestyle and his opinion on the electronic dance music climate.

R &;S Records have been grouped alongside the Avant Garde and ingenious, knocking down musical boundaries which Renaat described himself as the type of person to try and find things out of the comfort zone, however, accepting that he has released ‘crap records’ and that you have to have ‘balls’ to admit when something is ‘crap’.

Renaat was then asked about recent DJs and his opinion on them, he shocked and amused the audience by saying

we have 5 million DJs on this planet, and there are only ‘50 good ones’,

later on adding to the funny conclusion of

‘my cat can make better music’.


Renaat took six years off work he then told the interviewer the reason he returned from breeding horses and taking a vacation was ‘artists like Blawan and Pariah’ Nicolas Jaar and Nils Frahm which he portrayed as ‘real’ artists, as he described the downfall which was DJ’s turning up to nightclubs in limos with bodyguards, thus bringing to light the phrase ‘Superstar DJ ’.

Lighter stories were mentioned of when Joey Beltram came to his horse barns and made a track, whilst Derrick May was scared away by his horses, with Renaat saying

‘you know what guys from Detroit are like’

The conference then finished with our operative Ben asking the question ‘do you still have the same enthusiasm for music as you did as a kid’, Renaat answering “yeah always, I have grey hair now but it will always stay the same…but my wife doesn’t get it”.

The conferences gave such insight into the realms of dance music that we were not aware of, combining music and knowledge into a festival is key for people to see a music event is much more than the stereotype of young adults running riot and not having any understanding of dance music’s history.

After the conferences, we were then entertained by the new up and coming Irish acts that graced the live stage. One of the key performances of not just the live stage, but the whole festival we felt was a DJ called New Jackson. Even though he didn’t maintain the biggest crowd, the merge of his transportive vocals and deep house/synth enthused backing he gave energy and creativity to his performance.

The small crowd he maintained felt alive with the sound. Other artists featured were Ryan Vail and The Cyclist DJ, both performances shook the foundations of AVA and created an energised ambience for the night ahead. We later went outside towards the Becks stage where we saw performances from Swoose and Cromby, Timmy Stewart and JMX and Fatima Yamaha. Fatima Yamahas electrified the Irish audience.

The set finished off with the classic and minimal track that attracted audiences in his Dekmantel 2015 performance, ‘What’s a Girl to Do’. Myself and perhaps much more felt emotional when the audience sang along with every beat of the track in a delightful uproar. Belfast sure know how to start a party!

The T13 Arena was filled as Jeff Mills was about to perform.  His opening of intergalactic sounds and dark, ambient lighting felt more like a film production than a DJ set. He gave suspense as he opened us up to a portal that Jeff Mills and Guillarme Marmin had created, Close Encounters Of the Fourth Kind. The music then engulfed the arena as Mills blew the speakers with classic Detroit techno enthused with the sounds of the universe. I felt what Mills said in his conference that I had entered into a spacecraft and encountered alien abduction. The performance was intelligent, to say the least, certain parts of the performance visualising the sound of matter- the sound was responsive to the lighting.

On Day 2 Saturday, and after a hazy wake up from the night before we were in good spirits. The prominent and legendary Boiler Room stage would be on today which would feature acts such as Denis Sulta, Or:La, JC Williams and Saoirse.

The AVA’s boiler room from the two previous years has been a mixture of impeccable dance music. There was to be expected many shirtless men and glittery women all joined in unison singing ‘oi oi oi fucking oi!’

We watched Saoirse perform a memorable set when she dropped the track Armand Van Helden’s remix of Tori Amos’s ‘Professional Widow’ a random, drunken lad turned the fader down surprisingly in perfect timing, the young lad will now be known as a ‘boiler room legend’.

JC Williams then followed with a high voltage house and acid set that proves his skills as a fellow DJ and producer.

Other featured performances from Saturday was Cave Dj’s, Myler and Tinfoil. All performed on the Becks stage, there heavy, dark and industrial sets exploded with emotion on to an unknowing audience.

Rebekah was the final of the headliners who performed on the Becks Stage who performed a hybrid set. She has rapidly become one of the most popular female names of the techno genre, with fierce and bold soundquakes.

The final set for us to see was on the main stage featuring Berghain resident DJ Marcel Dettman, he finished off the festival with his tasty tech set that would round up the whole festival into one big warm and delightful melting pot.

Holly Lester Interview Live at AVA

We recently sat down to speak with Holly Lester at AVA Festival

Iconic Underground: Holly, you just played at AVA Festival, How does it feel?

Holly Lester: Amazing, it’s my first time playing this year and it was on the main stage, couldn’t really ask for a better debut set. The festival has been great so far, I was here yesterday too. Bobby Analog and Swoose & Crosby in particular last night were fantastic on the Becks stage. Very excited to see what tonight has in store.

IC: So who are you most looking forward to seeing tonight?

HL: It’s a hard decision but it’s going to have to be or:la or Jordan on the Boiler Room stage.

IC: And what is it what about AVA festival what makes it so unique that it really appeals to the music-minded fans?

HL: Well there isn’t really anything like this in Northern Ireland. This is the first of its kind, the first kind of underground music festival we’ve had. Sarah (the organiser) is fantastic. She’s really pushing all the local talent, people myself, Orla, Jordan who I mentioned before –  basically 95% of the lineup are from Ireland. It’s nice to be given that opportunity on such a big platform and there are no signs of the festival slowing down with two days this year.

IC: Do you have any more plans for DJ Gigs over summer or tracks you are releasing over the summer.

HL: I don’t release my music at the moment, I still am working on producing and waiting for the right time to release my records. I don’t just want to release on any old label.

I’ve been working away behind the scenes for the past year so, so keep an eye out!

In terms of gigs, in July I am playing for a party called Clockwork in Narrow Water Castle, which is this massive beautiful Castle in Warrenpoint.

IC: Where can we follow your pics events and Soundcloud where you fans want to keep track of you.

HL: You can follow me on the following links:





You can also check out my latest mix for the Twitch guys in Belfast below:



JC Williams Interview Live at AVA

Shortly After wrapping up his First Live Boiler room set at AVA, JC Williams sat down with us for a few words.#

Iconic Underground:  JC Williams, How was your set at AVA Festival?

JC: AWW Man, Unbelievable! Really buzzing off it like, Really nice to get the opportunity to play at Boiler room at AVA, I debuted my live set here last year then I got asked back to do Boiler room at AVA Festival.

IC: And what about AVA Festival, what makes it so unique for attracting this crowd?

JC: It’s such a great thing for the city, It really showcases the talent we have in this country, and that’s a great thing for the city. Hats off to Sarah McBriar for bringing across great internationals artists as well as showcasing local talent.

IC: We’d like to ask about upcoming tracks / Gigs you have coming up?

JC: Well At the start of the year I had a release on Frankfurt-based label ‘ Chiwax’ as well as that I have an EP Under construction what is coming out on Extended play, my home label which is run by T-Bone and JMX ( Timmy Stewart and John McIver  )

Gigs wise I’ll be performing my live show at Jika Jika on the 15th of July (rest of line-up TBC, As well as Sunflower Fest in Hillsborough on the 29th of July, then on the same night I’ll be playing Shine, Belfast alongside Ben Klock, Jasper James and More.

IC: Anything else you’d like to add?

JC: No Man, No, Just really nice talking to you and I had a great time at AVA Festival!

IC: Thanks, JC, We did too!




AVA 2017 topped off last year’s festival without a doubt we cannot wait for next year!

Words from Katie Senior & Benjamin Alexander