From the start, the promoters behind Milan's biggest electronic music festival made it clear that the mantra of this year's edition of Elita would reflected its slogan: "Work hard, party harder." It all started from the press conference, two days before the festival's kick-off, where journalists, sponsors and music industry professionals were equipped with a plastic helmet, escorted through a large construction site, boarded on massive lifts and finally ushered to the last floor of an almost-completed skyscraper in the middle of the city. The view was precious, spacing from the centre's red roof tiles to the marble of the cathedral, and far away to the sunset above the Alps. Esperanza, an Italian electronic-rock live act, provided an energetic boost and kept our heads nodding for about an hour.
If this presentation felt exclusive, so did the festival's first day at the vintage Teatro Parenti headquarters, and at the chic Terme Milano Spa later in the night. It started with three hours of Mr. Scruff, the first DJ to test the theatre's sound system. His signature blend of happy funk, Chicago house and downtempo, in association with samples of his drawings on the screens, assured a lively and relaxed atmosphere all across the large dance floor.
A few of us then moved to the nearby elegant Spa, where a DJ set by Onra was scheduled to start around midnight. Given the exclusive location and the reasonable entry charge, invitations for this party had been incredibly sought after, with many hopefuls turned away at the door. For the 300 that made it inside, bathrobe and flip-flops were given at the entrance and the night passed between the outside heated pools, with the music ranging from hip-hop to reggae, delivered by Onra to a very chilled and wet crowd.
On Thursday people flocked to Teatro Parenti for the live shows of Walls and, later, Little Dragon. The theatre's foyer, free of charge, was also packed by 11 PM, and for the first time in seven editions of Elita, I heard foreign languages being spoken. It's a sign that the festival has been increasing in popularity and is finally capable of attracting some of the foreigners that were in town for the annual Design Week, despite the huge offer of (free) Design Week-associated parties across town.
Friday's lineup at Teatro Parenti featured indie-pop by Citizenz! and a groovy jazz/electronic live set by Connan Mockasin. Saturday offered some of the week's most enjoyable slots, first with ambient-glitch-dubstep courtesy of Koreless, then with Ghostpoet's trademark lo-fi dubstep. Throughout both of those sets, energy and excitement grew for the night's headliners, the Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, who were coupled with an orchestra on stage. Many expected a groovy show from the Germans, but volume was kept low, with Paul Frick asking the crowd to keep quiet several times because he couldn't hear the other instruments and coordinate the orchestra. Unfortunately, numbers on both nights were very low.
Friday's two club nights were the complete opposite in terms of attendance. Maya Jane Coles and Richie Hawtin delivered explosive DJ sets at Magazzini Generali, Milan's largest club. Regulars and irregulars packed the dance floor until the early morning, welcoming Coles's emotional house and techno and showing the usual affection for the Minus boss. Meanwhile, The Field, AKA Axel Willner, was playing at Bitte, a "social" club set to disappear soon due to new estate development. Willner started his show with two tracks from last year's Looping State of Mind, but it wasn't until classics like "Over the Ice" and "A Paw in My Face" that the packed dance floor erupted. As the night wore on, Willner got even more hypnotic and bouncy, despite the poor sound system and the far from perfect live settings.
On Saturday night, we took a short trip outside Milan to see Skrillex at Live club. Love him or hate him, everybody acknowledges that the guy builds up a real show. His DJ skills are undeniable, and the crowd got crazy, sweating and bouncing, hypnotized by his stage presence. His usage of filters is excessive, sure, but nobody seemed to care.
Sunday hosted Elita's closing. Much to our surprise, Teatro Parenti was already packed by 8 PM. Milanese heroes Tale of Us were delivering a heavy house set, the theatre feeling more like a sauna. Young and sweaty club goers were scattered all over the place, many sporting Circoloco and Space t-shirts, like we were partying in Ibiza. One by one, the bars ran out of alcohol. Jamie Jones began at around 10 PM, and soon started to deliver a selection that was lapped up by the heaving crowd. I'd just reached the centre of the dance floor through a maze of sweaty torsos and soaked shirts when Jamie launched the bass-driven "Gazebo" by Fairmont, which was instantly recognized by everyone. As the night wore on, he kept on a steady 4/4 groove, closing the festival with James Holden's remix of Nathan Fake's "The Sky Was Pink."