August in Milan can be rather depressive: intolerable heat, aggressive mosquitoes, few open shops and bars and hardly a trace of clubbing activity. Except for a few masochist folks, locals abandon town and don't get back until the beginning of September. That's why the annual Magnolia Parade Festival, set in a large green area on the eastern outskirts of the city, sounds like a ringing bell, bringing Milanese clubbers back to the business of partying.
Over the years, Magnolia Parade has grown to become one of the most respected music events in town, offering a wide variety of international and local dance and indie acts. As usual, the event was reasonably priced (15 Euro per day or 35 Euro for all three nights), and offered improved organization over previous editions: Quick entrance procedures, easy access to stages, loads of bars and chill out areas equipped with hammocks made for a relaxed festival experience.
On the first day, Thursday, the attention of the crowd was on Crystal Castles and the mash-ups of 2 Many DJs, both on the big stage. Promoters looked a bit worried before the Crystal Castles live, maybe remembering those minutes of stage madness during last year's Sonar, but this time the show brought pure (positive) energy, including screaming fans, blinking strobe lights and hard bass beats. Standing on a smaller stage, F.M. Einheit, primarily known for his percussion work with industrial group Einstürzende Neubauten, was delivering intense noise and metal; his deconstruction of sounds was appreciated by the open-minded audience and proved to be one of the most original performances of the weekend. On another stage Bruno Pronsato had just switched on the drum machine connected to his laptop when a black out left clubbers in the darkness. After what seemed like an interminably long time, Pronsato rocked the dance floor with deep, warm techno tunes, manually adding some vintage feel along the way.
Friday's main attraction was the live show of Bonaparte, which was something between a masquerade parody and an electro-punk show. There was no arguing with the reaction Bonaparte got from their crowd: It was all cheers and smiles. London's Chrome Hoof, with their ensemble of live instruments, delivered an innovative performance, ranging from chamber music to electro, with a big dose of psychedelic energy. For more standard dance aficionados, Ivan Smagghe energized the floor with a techno set made of huge builds and bass cuts. He got tougher and tougher as his set went along.
Saturday night was extremely packed, given the line-up composed of artists such as Booka Shade, Apparat and Turin's Motel Connection. First on stage, though, was WhoMadeWho, with their always enjoyable disco-punk show that closed with a cover version of Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction," which had the crowd singing along. Tomas Barfod then left the drums and ran to another stage where he was due to perform as Tomboy, spinning electro and house music that ranged from new productions to old classics like Green Velvet's "La La Land."
Apparat, next on the big stage, built an intense laptop set, composed of broken beats and quality electronic ambient tunes. Unfortunately poor sound and volume made his set rather uninspiring unless you were in touching distance of the crowd barriers. But Booka Shade's closing DJ set seemed to overpower those problems, encompassing everything from old house classics to minimal and techno. The crowd's greatest cheers, as you might expect, were saved for tracks like "In White Rooms" and "Body Language." Welcome back, Milan.