DSNT are a techno collective and record label based in Belfast. They’ve released tracks from the likes of AnD, Sunil Sharpe and have a longstanding mix series that has seen appearances from Myler, Ossian, Remco Beekwilder, Ayarcana and many more relentless techno artists.
Over the years the group has gained a reputation for throwing some of the most intense parties on the planet thanks to their unrivaled production and massive lineups. With the focus thoroughly on the punter’s experience rather than making money, their ethos is an entire breath of fresh air in today’s electronic music landscape.
Two weeks ago they celebrated their sixth year in existence with a no nonsense show which featured Paula Temple, I Hate Models, Stranger, Sunil Sharpe and loads more. We traveled up with nothing but a disposable camera and train carriage worth of cans, here’s what happened.
Each and every passenger on carriage D winces.
The 3:20pm train from Connolly station to Belfast plays host to a group of 20+ individuals from Dublin and beyond, clad mostly in black and wielding an arsenal of cans. The two and a half hour trip really doesn’t feel that long, but for every head there not anticipating a rave later that night, each can being cracked open leads to a synchronised grimace.
Despite this, everyone manages to make it to Belfast and avoid early ejection to the mundane surroundings of Dundalk.
The smokers get time for a much needed rollie outside Central Station, a can or two more is cracked open and everyone attempts to find their bearings in the fresh surroundings of the North’s capital city.
The group parts ways temporarily as not everyone has booked the same hotels, while the majority didn’t book any at all. The stragglers go where they have the best chance of scabbing a spot on the floor after all is said and done.
Typically, it’s pissing rain and the brown bags covering Buckfast and Burger King do little to salvage the contents inside, making the 10-strong bunch of individuals who never checked in look even more suspicious as they all wait for the elevator to come down before making their way to an unfortunately generous member of the extended group’s room.
There’s no speaker, just a phone playing a YouTube suggested track too many; like any good pre drinks.
With the tricky period between train and rave now just a smokey, wet and drunk memory, the wayward walk to Queen’s Student Union takes us past Ulster Hall where Bicep played right after their album dropped last year.
With the usual gathering of Foot Locker, McDonald’s, Boots and more in close coordinates not to mention the smattering of grey that seems to be on every building you look at, the city’s strikingly simple outward features only serve to amplify its relation to the similarly indistinguishable uniqueness of electronic music.
Smothered sounding kick drums act as a better guide than Google Maps on a phone screen drenched in the rain. A corner is turned and Queen’s Student Union is finally revealed.
Descending down the stairs in what’s basically a pit of kicks, hi hats and laser beams is as spine tingling an experience as there is as regards entering a venue. Couple that with the fact that the clock has only scraped past 9 o’clock and Belfast techno royalty Nez & Dallas are already ripping up the main stage.
There are three rooms; The main stage; a dark, Colosseum-like room that doubles better as an arena than any sort of Student Union, Bunatee; A bar transformed into a hybrid rain forest rave and the Bar Sub; the back room soundtracked by anything from donk to gabber. The rooms are all curated by Belfast collectives; DSNT, Thursdaze and Bass Invaders, with each one sticking loosely to the sound each group pushes regularly throughout the city.
Despite the strong influx of international and headline talent, Belfast’s own Crock & Blark give the Bunatee a good seeing to in the opening hour, with cult hero Liam Kelly, AKA Acid Guy, serving up the very best donk and happy hardcore to a crowd looking like they’ve come straight from a fancy dress party. When we say anything goes, anything really goes.
Mark Archer takes control of the Bunatee and we’re given a chance to explore a little more. Constant reminders about wearing earplugs, starting with half and looking after each other decorate the walls, as well the trademark DSNT artwork.
Each room is beginning to healthily fill up and the diversity of the crowd reveals itself in unrivaled fashion. Everyone from glitter-clad girls, lads head to toe in Calvin Klein and then plenty more in Palace and its rarer counterparts begin to populate the respective dance floors.
Sunil Sharpe is now in full swing on the main floor, dishing out breakbeat tracks as only he can. He even deals with a faulty needle in the usual calm but frenzied manor we’ve come to expect from the island’s premier DJ. With everything going to plan, the window to steal into the greenroom is as open as it ever will be and inside we find the brains behind this organised chaos.
Oisín O’Brien is the mastermind/madman at the heart of the operation, and must be teeming with emotion, given that his brainchild has now reached the ripe old age of 6 years with a cast any promoter would be jealous of.
“It’s six years of losing money, being anxious and being stressed! You know what? It’s completely worth it. You see it all come together, you see like Mark Archer and Paula Temple come over and love it, they’re proper legends.
The whole crew behind it gives it one million per cent. We only broke even two hours before the show. My mate who’s doing all the lighting said to me. ‘You saved a grand and a half using us for the lighting instead of another company. What do you do then but get 120 fucking LED panels!'”
Despite the paper thin difference between making and losing money, even the green room is fully kitted out with Tanqueray, Buckfast and anything else that would tickle the artists’ fancy.
“It’s about trying to create an environment where everyone can be themselves, where they can be part of a big family of people. The whole PR network, the whole team that pulls this shit together, we couldn’t do that without everyone being a hundred per cent invested. Yeah, it’s fucking stressful and you lose a lot of sleep. The reason we do this is because we fucking love it!.”
What’s most fascinating about DSNT and their Lumen raves is perhaps the fact that the effort is so noticeable through the amazing lineups, artwork, production and basically everything that goes into it, yet still those behind it are right in the midst of it all, not necessarily upholding the weird sense of techno ambiguity.
“There’s a real culture of self justification; people trying to justify the rave music they do as art or trying to justify its creative integrity. The reality of it is is that the music inherently has its creative integrity, it doesn’t need a story as to why. It’s banging as fuck and it’s an emotional release for everyone. This is what we are, we’re not warming up, we’re not compromising. You go into room two, there’s fucking bangers there too, you go into room three and it’s harder fucking bangers again!”
I Hate Models is now in full flow, apologetically flooding the mainfloor with his earth shattering kick drums and apocalyptic melodies. It feels sort of like the world could come to an end at any minute, and forays into first Stranger and then Myler do nothing to soften the blow.
The Waterford native, who has been wholeheartedly adopted by the DSNT brand was the perfect person to talk to about the big birthday bash, even more so as he sips on green-bottled Buckfast.
“DSNT has been a big part of my career. I bumped into the lads maybe 4 years ago at an illegal rave opening up for Sunil. Oisín is my manager now and he has built my career over the last two or three years. I’ve been blessed to have him man.
We’re like a knacker version of Aphex Twin. It’s not giving a fuck, it’s out drinking cheap cider and Buckfast; there’s .5% more alcohol in the Bucky here and I like being able to see how much is left in the bottle!”
With the brief but entertaining synopsis of DSNT attained from the country’s leading rave DJ, it was back out to the full blown madness going on all around Mandela hall.
Stranger is wreaking havoc, tinging every corner of the room in Dutch rave nostalgia cutting from the likes of Energy Flash by Joey Beltram right into his new ‘Paranoid Dancer’ track that dropped on his Self-Reflektion label.
The hurricane of tempo continues to fluctuate from room to room as t-shirts begin to go missing in their droves. The DJ Producer is as up for it as anyone is in the crowd; his indescribable mash up of distorted break downs, cheesy vocals and no nonsense drums, all under the guise of the tinfoil-y stage, makes for one of the most unique atmospheres any fan of electronic music is likely to experience.
I Hate Models is sitting in the green room, looking like he’s been on a treadmill for the entirety of his set, such is the energy the Frenchman puts into his sets. Stranger is now foolhardily digging into one of those bottles of Tanqueray and The DJ Producer is unwinding on how pleased he was with his set. For a minute, it feels like we’ve hit a weird lull in the evening.
Cue Paula Temple.
The lasers, visuals and crowd all culminate together, creating a furor of raw emotion as the German dips into what seems like an endless pit of massive tracks, almost purpose built for the amphitheatre-like room.
Speaking of purpose built tracks, the R&S artist drops her staple track ‘Gegen’ but quickly leads into Myler’s Marshall Master’s edit that was released via DSNT’s Rave Tapes series. Once the ravey stabs kick in there’s no going back and the 6th birthday has well and truly peaked.
She ends up finishing at the modest tempo of 200bpm.
The palm trees are being waved wearily from side to side as the music finishes up and the breathtaking light show comes to standstill, the applause is as much for Temple as it is for the entire DSNT crew. No matter how good anyone’s set was they weren’t topping the cumulative effort that is apparent from each wall to every speaker, and that in itself is what makes the collective what it is.
The crowd dissipates into the misty post 3am Belfast night, while a lucky few dance from night to day at a secret rave.
It’s fair to say the train home looked more like a crowd in the middle of a Dixon set than DSNT, much to the comfort of everyone else on board.