‘Deep House’ took on a very literal meaning when I travelled to Dalarna, 280 km northwest of Stockholm, for Into the Valley Music Festival, a brand new two day celebration of electronic music. The venue? A dramatically beautiful limestone quarry 60 meters below ground.
The quarry itself, known as Dalhalla, is the result of a gigantic meteor collision that took place roughly 360 million years ago. An ancient catastrophe whose modern day result now illuminates an area of immense natural beauty, nestled below green forest, complete with a turquoise lake.
Although previously hosting a combination of opera, choral, jazz and popular music (past acts include Sigur Rós and Arcade Fire), Into the Valley, marked the first year that the amphitheater was re-imagined into an open-air club hosting a line up of world class deep house DJ’s from London to Berlin. Enthusiasm was high as festival-goers trickled in on Friday afternoon beginning the 10 minute decent it takes to get to the base of the valley. Confronted with a majestic aerial view of the 36 meter wide open-air stage and surrounding turquoise pool, many stopped to snap panoramas, selfies and GoPro shots.
The festival grounds contained three sections. The main stage ‘The theater’, a smaller tented stage ‘the box’ and a third more intimate indoor area ‘musikaliska gård’ or ‘music yard’ reserved for people willing to pay a little extra (about 50 euro) for plus tickets. Bars, food trucks and art installations scattered the grounds inviting attendees to interact with their environment while sampling freshly mixed cocktails, made-to-order crepes, sushi, gourmet burgers and more. In between sunny spells the crowd shuffled to disco inspired beats by DJ Harvey and Ben Ufo.
As the sun set into eerie moonlight, an impressive artificial light show commenced, building momentum around a much anticipated joint set by Dixon (critically acclaimed number one DJ-of-the-moment) and his label mate Âme. The crowd, as if by magnetic force, swarmed the main stage while the musical masterminds mixed and morphed atmospheric tracks with recognizable beats, among which a remix of Hayden James’s ‘Something About You’, caused a collective howl of approval from the audience.
Despite already drawing a fairly niche crowd of deep house connoisseurs, Into the Valley organizers discreetly filtered attendees further with an age limit of 23 and up, resulting in a notably tame crowd.
Stylish Swede’s in minimalist black garb and limited edition sneakers, merged with international ravers in neon outfits and the occasional wild card, a young man from Madrid unapologetically dressed in a voluminous wedding dress and fur coat.
The second and final day of the festival seemed to buzz around two very different acts both hailing from Chile. With a sudden cancellation from Berlin duo Tale Of Us, Ibiza favorite Ricardo Villalobos manned the main stage with an extended set of minimalistic techno reminiscent of his presence at Amnesia night club. Meanwhile, in ‘the box’ the crowd clamored for a glimpse of 25-year-old underground legend Nicolas Jaar whose cult following has exploded in recent years. A two hour set of his signature poignant and self proclaimed ‘blue-wave’ sound left the audience seduced. Remixes of Cat Power’s haunting track ‘Cherokee’ as well as excerpts from his infamous BBC Radio 1 essential mix (awarded best mix of the year 2012) stood out, as Jaar swayed to the music in between sips of red wine.
In its inaugural year, against a backdrop of unparalleled natural beauty, Into The Valley Festival managed to draw some of the most wanted DJ’s of the moment, as well as music lovers from Egypt to Australia, deep into the heart of the Swedish forest. In this remote location an urban club was recreated for an unforgettable 48 hours. Music-centric, unpretentious and fairly affordable (starting at 160 euro), Into the Valley is well on its way to becoming the late summer festival everyone’s been waiting for, but likely hasn’t even heard of.