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RISE FESTIVAL 2023

  • Laura Liendo
  • 18 January 2024
RISE FESTIVAL 2023

RISE FESTIVAL EXPERIENCE 2023

There’s a ski holiday and then there’s a ski holiday with three main stages, five indoor venues and one warehouse afterparty space all full of electronic music. This is Rise Festival and when the chance to attend its 9th edition in Les Deux Alpes in France, with a lineup including the likes of Bicep, Sonny Fodera, Hybrid Minds, Sigma, Jungle (DJ set), LF System, Hannah Laing, and Chris Stussy, landed in my inbox, I grabbed my snowboard and started packing.

I arrived in the breathtaking Les Deux Alpes and couldn’t fail to be impressed by the winter wonderland on show. Rise Festival had the place locked down with around 7000 up-for-it festivalgoers from over 35 countries creating a buzz of excitement throughout the resort. My room in the welcoming Chamois Lodge came complete with spa access to ease those aching legs after a day on the slopes. A week later I was still impressed with the spectacular view of the Alps from my window.

Rise Festival began on a much smaller scale but over 9 years has grown to become the world’s biggest, independent ski and music festival. However, it still manages to maintain that intimate feel, as if you’ve stumbled across something magical hidden away in the snowy mountains. It is in fact, incredibly well-organised with easy transport, equipment hire, and ski or snowboard lessons simple to arrange via your booking with Rise. The stages are strategically placed to take full advantage of the stunning surroundings, all within walking distance except my favourite, the Pano Stage 2600m up the mountain and only accessible by cable car.

After a night to settle in I met our amiable hosts for dinner and a few shots to warm up, together with some fellow journalists on the trip, before we headed over to the main Alpine Stage. With LED screens forming a vivid frame around the stage, the visuals jumped out against mountains that loomed behind in the darkness. The stage was packed and a bit of rain failed to dampen the enthusiasm. Headliners Bicep didn’t disappoint, with ravers bouncing and cheering every drop. When perennial favourite ‘Glue’ rang out across the peaks it was a special moment.

The fun doesn’t stop when the main stage closes at Rise and we filed out with the crowds to find some action. We rolled into Avalanche, one of the many afterparty venues in the resort – there are plenty of extra-curricular parties taking place in the various chalets too if you know where to look – where rising star Ryan Arnold was steadily filling the room with his chunky house party set. The place was rocking by the time we moved on Arena, a cavernous indoor space where LF System were putting the dancefloor through its paces and left a baying crowd asking for more as the lights came on. Not bad for my first night.

Monday morning and it was time to hit the slopes to clear the hangover. With a full belly thanks to the Chamois Lodge breakfast buffet, and my snowboard under my arm, I took the cable car up the mountain and enjoyed decent snow, exhilarating runs and spectacular views. However, my snowboarding skills were a bit rusty and I soon found myself flat on my back with what felt like a cracked rib. I nursed myself back down in the cable car and hit the spa to recover.

The evening’s entertainment began in cheesy fashion. ‘Hommage au Fromage’, saw us in a packed restaurant basement with the wine flowing copiously to wash down a ‘raclette’ cheese wheel melted by a heater, various meat, potatoes, bread, and salad while a live guitarist played suitably cheesy pop hits. It quickly became a raucous but good-natured affair.

Hybrid Minds at the Alpine Stage for some perfect festival D&B. The alcohol, crisp mountain air, and ebullient crowd combined to ensure my snowboarding fatigue was a distant memory. With everything close by I took the opportunity to check out Chris Stussy at the Muzelle Stage who was dropping his trademark groove-led house to a rapt audience, then after the main stage closed, Reboot DJs who kept the party going in fine style at Arena.

The next morning there had been a fresh dump of snow, adding to the general air of excitement. I fuelled up at the breakfast buffet and took the cable car back up the slopes, taking things a bit more slowly this time. Everywhere I looked were people working off their hangovers and having a good time. I couldn’t help but be struck by what a great combination music and skiing make, and Rise Festival has got it nailed, seamlessly blending rhythm and adrenaline to create an unforgettable experience.

Our planned trip to the Michelin Guide-featured restaurant, Le Diable Au Coeur, situated up the mountain and only accessible via cable car, was cancelled due to some bad weather, but undaunted we found Casa Nostra, a stylish restaurant offering modern cuisine that went down well with our group. Then it was time for more music. This time, Sonny Fodera stepped up to the Rise decks at the Alpine Stage and didn’t disappoint his many devotees. We fancied something a bit more uptempo however and went to check out Sammy Virji at the Muzelle Stage. We had stumbled upon the set of the festival with Sammy clearly enjoying himself as he dropped a phenomenal mix of house, bass, and garage, with plenty of classics thrown in. The energy was infectious, and the place was literally jumping as the temporary floor bounced to the weight of 3500 ravers dancing.

Like everyone, we stayed until the final beat of Sammy Virji’s set then eventually found ourselves on the dancefloor for Hannah Laing at Arena where the bpm’s cranked up and the atmosphere with it. Now feeling the pace after an early start on the slopes I stomped back through the snow to a welcoming bed, trying to avoid the hail of snowballs that appeared from nowhere.

Wednesday morning and the sun and blue skies came out, really showcasing what a stunning location this festival is held in. The friendly PR team had given us an insider tip that Sigma were playing a surprise set up the mountain at the Pano Stage in the afternoon, so I took it easy before making my way to the cable car. At the top, the pulsating beats could be heard immediately and at the Pano Stage was a scene I’ve never experienced before. All around were glittering slopes and mountain tops with people skiing and snowboarding down to converge on Sigma and their MC dropping non-stop party bangers to a dancefloor truly outside in the heavens.

Alongside the dancefloor was a competition where people showed off their snowboard tricks and skills – I didn’t partake – and the whole place was going off. Despite the ski boots people danced on tables and the roar went up with every big bassline drop. Where else could you experience something like this?

Another unique, first-time experience landed in the evening as we entered Bongo’s Bingo at Arena. Packed with long tables and hundreds of guests, it was a surreal game of bingo that saw yet more dancing on chairs and tables, and guests competing to win prizes that ranged from Henry the Hoover, to a giant inflatable duck, to a large, pink, double-ended dildo. With the drink flowing it wasn’t long before a dance-off on stage turned into full frontal nudity eliciting a huge cheer. It was impossible not to get swept along by the absurdity and fun of it all and we left with big smiles on our faces, only to be caught up in the biggest snowball fight of the week. Yes, it’s immature, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some gleeful satisfaction in landing a long-distance snowball on your intended target.

We carried on, seeing Sigma for the second time that day, this time on the main Alpine Stage. They got the crowds going as expected but dropped too many of the same tunes as the secret set of earlier, so we ducked out and went to Muzelle where Irish star blk. was spinning back-to-back with Kettama. As expected, the hard techno beats were tough but had a quality groove that the dancefloor found irresistible.

After a good night’s sleep, I met up with our PR hosts at Le Diable Au Coeur for lunch. The food was as good as expected and we ate out on the terrace – I doubt I will ever eat in such spectacular surroundings again – where to the left, paragliders launched themselves off the mountain’s edge, and to the right, we watched skiers attempt a long, steep run in the distance, a cheer going up each time one took a tumble and slid down the slope. After lunch there was time to enjoy some more snowboarding before the evening’s music kicked off.

After dinner and a few cocktails, we were ready for Jungle to perform a much-anticipated DJ set. Known for neo-soul grooves with hip hop and nu-disco influences I was interested to see how this would translate to a DJ set. It was good to see a festival taking a risk with a headline act when there were other more musically obvious choices to be had. In the event, Jungle were as cool as you would expect. The pace was slower than previous headliners, but they brought a record box full of house and disco designed to make you dance and the crowd loved it.

With no programming on the Friday, I enjoyed the breakfast buffet for the last time and grabbed my snowboard for a final addictive run on the slopes. My time at Rise Festival had come to an end but as I stood on the mountain top surveying the view and considering everything I had experienced across the week, I had to admit that Rise Festival had exceeded all expectations. Full of energy, good vibes and fun, this symbiotic relationship between great skiing and quality electronic music has created a dynamic and immersive experience - not your normal festival, but that’s a good thing.

Rise Festival 2024 (7th - 14th December) is now on sale at www.rise-festival.com

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