Today in Asia it’s hard to tell one festival from the one before it but five years ago there were hardly any at all. Singapore had its beloved Zoukout and Jakarta has been busy growing its now behemoth Djakarta Warehouse Project but almost everything else that has arrived in Asia as far as festivals go has been western brands like Ultra and Arcadia that saw massive potential in an untapped market of over 4 billion. While this is a great thing for the music industry in Asia as a whole, these festivals were lacking any kind of culture or identity that would made them unique to the region. In Taiwan, where theLOOP had spent 15 years cultivating an electronic music scene on the island, LOOPTOPIA was born after organizers decided that Taiwan was finally ready and deserving of a festival to call their own.
The difference between LOOPTOPIA and its Asian predecessors like Zoukout and DWP is that the latter two started over a decade ago and started small but LOOPTOPIA went all in. They dived right into their inaugural event with a two-day three-stage bonanza and a line-up of over 50 world-class international acts. That’s a lot of stress. Like an incredulous amount of sleep deprived days, weeks and months kind of stress because nobody was expecting the festival to turn out like it did but when 32,000 people poured in over the course of two days last weekend, a vibe took over that was akin to the kind of high an entire nation experiences when they come together to celebrate national pride. Flags billowed above the crowd and the moment wasn’t lost on anyone. One of the organizers sent me a message on Saturday night saying “the stars aligned” and knowing what I know about the execution of the festival, I replied “no they didn’t - it was years of hard work, passion, teamwork and love.”
The organizers later commented officially on the Monday following the festival: “The turnout of the festival blew our minds. It broke through everything we thought we knew about estimating a turnout. We had convinced ourselves to expect a moderate turnout and then the crowds just kept pouring in, it was more than we could have ever imagined. We are beyond overwhelmed and humbled with the result.”
I think it’s fair to say that this statement extends to the crowd. It was a monumental occasion for Taiwan and that kind of feeling is contagious. It was hard not to have a good time. Even people that don’t care for EDM but came out of curiosity or to simply show their support had a good time. And they didn’t just tolerate it, they danced… although this might be in part due to the bartenders very generous pours. It’s also worth mentioning here that the ratio of bartenders to festivalgoers felt like 3:1 and the lack of line-ups impacted the mood of everyone involved. In fact all the staff and “sercurity” were in good spirits which translated into positive interactions all over the grounds and I have yet to hear a service related complaint. While this is probably a direct reflection of Taiwanese culture, a nation known for happy, helpful and friendly people, festivals around the world should take note.
Modeled after festival giants like Tomorrowland and Mysteryland, LOOPTOPIA was the first festival of this size and style to take place on the island thus the lifestyle format is still foreign to locals. Nevertheless, despite blazing temperatures the grounds filled up early on day one and locals learned fast that a festival can be about a lot more than music as there was plenty to explore, loads to eat and green space was in abundance. Day two however was a little more sparse so maybe Taiwanese still have a thing or two to learn about pacing themselves but should all together make for an even better second year.
Overall LOOPTOPIA debuted with a triumphant first year and laid out the framework for years to come while also picking up a 5-star rating and reputation as a dance music destination in Asia. Having secured exclusivity at the Taoyuan Ranch, a site that can accommodate 50,000, the potential here is limitless and the festival is off to an outstanding start. The first year was very much about seeing what worked and what didn't in the market and surely we'll see a lot of changes and a lot of growth next year. LOOPTOPIA was undeniably an EDM festival through and through, and while a techno stage might be too far of a stretch for a place like Taiwan, future iterations could stand for something in between and accessible - a house music stage. It's our one request, please.
[photos via RUKES]