Ok, so I like electronic dance music, more specifically Trance. When I started in the 1990's, the US was a bit behind in that department.
Still, with San Francisco and San Jose nearby, I've had some opportunities to see some great EDM/Trance DJs. Back in the early 2000's, they sadly played club music in the US that was nowhere close to the hits they had composed and were known for, but over the years, as Trance started becoming more popular, those DJs finally started playing their good tunes in the US too, and maybe from 2004 on, it's only been getting better. Popsicle Halloween 2004 was really the beginning of great music parties in the San Francisco Area, and thankfully things have gotten even better since then
As a matter of fact, after another 10 years (2015 and beyond) the good news is that Trance has grown quite a following in the US, and places like the SF Bay Area, and while Trance has been declared dead a few times in the last 10 years, it's still going strong here.
Trance Family SF is definitely strong in the area, we've been getting more big trance parties every year, including many top DJs that come visit us what feels like every other week now (as of 2018-2019), and through those events, I made many friends in Trance Family SF. Thanks to you all.
Over those years, I got the chance to meet a few of my favourite DJs, including Armin more than once, and my last hobby has been to work on lights for my shirt and pants (version 3) and (version 4)
this coveted picture took many tries, hard shot, and always people in the way :)
I had heard about untold after Armin's massive 7H+ sets there, and multiple DJs saying how much they liked playing there, and that it was their favorite festival, so I had to check it out.
With CV19, I'm sure it was not exactly as great as it could have been (including Armin unfortunately deciding not to play there this year, and playing in Bucharest 2 weeks later, sigh, why Armin?), but Untold was still plenty great for me. I agree that it's one of the best festivals I've gone to, and simply the best in some metrics (like having almost the entire town attend, including kids).
I took over 2500 pictures, almost 4H of video, and about 10H of work to put everything together and condense down to this blog post.
If you'd like to see more pictures:
I used the opportunity to do a 4 day tour of Romania between Bucharest and Cluj where the festival is held, and arrived thursday afternoon just as the early acts of the festival had started. By then, there was a monster 1-2H line for getting wristbands to get in (you could get them in other locations and earlier if you had planned), but thankfully VIP had a separate entrance with no line:
entrance with lines on both sides
and lines went way back
they required covid vaccination or a test every 2 days, thankfully they did accept my CDC vaccination card
I however never received my PDF ticket, so I had to go to a special place to get my ticket verified and a wristband, it was sorted reasonably quickly
The one rant I'll have is how Untold forces you to use their digital money on your RFID wristband. Maybe in the past, it was easier and faster to have contactless money, but in this day and age of contactless credit cards, it's absolutely stupid that they still force you to use it. It was cumbersome, didn't work for me (told me it failed when I added money, but it didn't fail, it took my money 3 times), and after it had a bunch of money, I still couldn't see it on my phone or spend it because the whole thing was broken and had to go to a special place to get it fixed. It worked eventually, but it was all pointless and a waste of time if I have contactless credit cards (which I do). And of course you also have to worry about getting your left money back at the end too. I hope they get the hint and switch to a dual system in the future:
Ok, other small rant, I'm not a fan of commercials on the screens in between sets:
Anyway, let's get started!
Security is something I really liked at Untold. They did it well on many levels:
perimeter security was quite good (hard to get in without being checked, unlike both creamfields and luminosity that gave me grief and had such glaring holes in their security, so they literally were only annoying to honest people)
I was wary of the entrance check, especially after the utter BS at creamfields, and also because my LED backpack was a bit over the allowed size, but they were super nice. They really only looked for big weapons and didn't waste time opening all your stuff looking for drugs that they wouldn't really find anyway. Of course, no attack dogs looking for drugs person by person like at creamfields. They asked me a few questions the first day about my outfit which indeed looks a bit unusual, and when they saw what it was, I was in 15 seconds later. That was super, thank you.
One way they kept the event safe was an impressive amount of police, army, and even firemen. It felt like the entire city was there to keep things safe. I thought that was great, well done!
Romania also has had less to worry about terrorism, which is nice. England was way over the top about it, and being a real pain to everyone
yeah, I didn't quite meet that, but they were nice enough to let it slide
nice that they were giving bands for bag ok'ed
they were also hiring :)
Another thing I really have to mention is how clean the place was, both because people were being more responsible, but also because they had crews cleaning continuously during the entire night. Well done!
The crowds and people attending are what makes the event truly special, and why I love festivals. The vibe is not the same everywhere, at creamfieldss, there were some nice outfits, but virtually no LEDs/lights/glow sticks. Luminosity, very few outfits even, but while untold wasn't on par with US insomniac events with the amount of wearable night lights, it definitely was for everything else.
Lots of places where you could get costumes, makeup, tatoos:
even small girls
Ah yes, did I mention children? Children were allowed, no age restriction as long as the youngest ones came with parents. How refreshing:
Multiple groups playing music, wearing outfits, and entertaining the crowds:
It was a bit light on LEDs (ha!), but I found a few, including making a new LED friend, Alex (Oleksandr Rozhok). We will slowly convert/encourage others to wear LEDs (I saw some LED shoes and glasses):
If anyone is curious, this is actually the crap I was wearing :) (not counting the 2nd computer and huge batteries in the fanny pack around my belt):
They have a pretty nice location, an entire park fenced off (solid perimeter by the way), and a huge arena. Nice grounds:
getting a good picture with this covettted sign turned out to be hard :)
lots of random decors, they were nice
I've only seen this level of decors at EDC, well done untold!
There were games and attractions:
I even got to play a bit :)
Of course, plenty of things look better at night
I'm told that if you aren't sober, the pictures move :)
They had a bit of fireworks every night, but they were really only visible from the Arena, where I never was during the short time they were shot. They were definitely not EDC caliber, but that's fine
As far as amusement rides, go, they only really had a couple, and you had to pay for them, so creamfields and EDC were ahead there. Still, 2 is better than nothing :)
took a ride for some pictures, but they weren't EDC level great
nicer at night
VIP was Ok, but maybe not super necessary. I only found a VIP section in the main arena where I spent almost 0 time:
they had massage chairs, and they were nice :)
the VIP area was ok, but it was a side view, not great for nice pictures
and they had the annoying uber VIP within VIP, areas you coudln't actually go to. In the end, I didn't bother much
Smoking... OMG everyone smokes in Romania. They had almost as many cigarette stands as beer stands. IF you bought enough and won some golden ticket, you could go on some fancy ride. They were nice enough to let me ride with a group of 2 and it was very cool. Lucky were the few who got to ride it:
Here's a video of 5 degrees of freedom:
The Main Arena
I actually spent very little time there (again, sad that we didn't get an Armin mega-set), but it looked good when I went, just the music wasn't my favorite, except when Paul Van Dyk played.
all kinds of artists, including singers (not just EDM)
Main arena had the best lighting by far, it was impressive
There is one issue with the main stage, it's fantastic, but they have huge structure on top and behind the sound booth that totally blocks the view, that just doesn't make sense and really prevents seeing the stage from the other side, kind of sad:
even a bit sideways, the stage view is blocked
but nice lasers :)
I spent most of my time at the fortune stage, but the nearby was the daydreaming stage was definitely trippy. The music was "interesting". I'm sure it was great if you were high :) Since it was playing trippy stuff, it would have been great to add psytrance there.
the sound engineer was running the show from the middle of the crowd, sweet!
The beginning of this video has a bit of the music played at Daydeaming, with a OMG remix of bohemian rapsody:
There were 7 stages total (I think some years, even more). Some were not for me, but some others were cool, like one that played good drum and bass at times (I missed most of it, it was too far of a walk from fortune). Nostalgia was not why I was there, but quite cool too:
a random DJ stage outside the arena
The event opened quite early (14:00 or so), but most stages only really started at 20:00, so I was there in time for the start of Trance at the fortune stage where I spent most of my 4 days due to the really good lineup of trance DJs:
the fortune stage had quite decent lighting
great to see solarstone again
cosmic gate was next
always happy to see JoC, even if he didn't play my most favorite set of his
Bryan Kearney, although tech/hard trance isn't my thing as much
That was it for Day #1, I didn't go to bed too late (left a bit after 03:00), although I ended up missing Alex M.O.R.P.H., he wasn't shown on the schedule and I missed him :(
Day #1 summary video:
Men-D was a Cluj local, interesting and very different music
Aly & Fila B2B Paul Thomas, and interesting B2B
GO was next, energetic set as always
Paul Van Dijk closed the night in the main arena
Even though it was 05:00 by the time PvD ended, some stages kept playing:
I ended up leaving as the nostalgia stage was still playing probably until sunrise
Day #2 summary video:
gret to see Ruben de Ronde again
The biggest treat of day #3 was Susanna singing live, and she sang a lot for us, that was lovely:
The local trance DJ, Roman Messer was next with an excellent set too:
and bogdan finished the night
Day #3 summary video:
Saved the best for last, Day #4 was over 12H for me, and really good, Gardenstate started with an excellent 2.5H set:
Markus was next
Will Atkinson did one of his hard/tech trance sets, not my favorite as much, but still some good tracks
And then, a really powerful Craig Connelly B2B FactorB, awesome:
Craig was focussed :)
Craig almost went crowdsurfing :)
De WLT (Dana) finished the night, good set too
After the last set, I ran out about 10mn early as I had to hurry back to my accomodation, pack my stuff quickly and get an uber to the airport to get a flight taking off for Paris just 2H later (only flight every 2-3 days, Cluj has a small airport).
Day #4 summary video:
Untold is truly special, it is very much a festival of its own kind, and while not the same as EDC Vegas, definitely on the same level in many ways:
many stages, but unlike creamfields, they all had proper sound and attention to detail with people who really cared to do as great a job as possible (the 2 trance states at creamfields had terrible sound and pityful visuals)
decors and attractions, many of them, definitely on par with EDC, they probably cost a bit less, but it's not about money, it's about the atmosphere, and that atmosphere was great
the people, the performers, they were definitely on par with EDC (creamfields had exactly 0 for comparison)
security done right, I wrote about that above, thank you. I really felt it was all about having a good time
super clean, as said earlier, they really worked hard on keeping the event clean in real time
it's a whole city festival. You definitely hear the music multiple kilometers inside the city up to 06:00, anyone trying to sleep at home probably needs earplugs. Not sure how they get away with it, but thanks to the residents for allowing this (of course, many also attend the event at probably reduced prices, which is only fair)
allow use of contactless credit cards
add psytrance to the daydreaming stage
several DJs were changed but not reflected in the untold app (schedule was not updated), and the online web schedule was hard to find, please fix that, I missed sets due to the incorrect times
email@example.com never answered the question I sent, weeks in advance. Use a ticket system?
more VIP benefits? VIP seemed a bit useless outside of main stage
Untold was a great experience, and I'm sure it wasn't even a 100% of what it was supposed to be due to covid restrictions and artist cancellations, but honestly I was thoroughly impressed and really enjoyed it. The best part was that I was able to sleep literally 5mn from the festival entrance, that beats EDC by so much where my bed is over 1H away.
To all the organizers of untold, and active participants: thank you.
Love you too Alex, thanks for all the glow sticks and great vibes!