Euronews Culture went to BEONIX Festival in Cyprus to check out the newcomer on Europe’s dance festival scene and find out if it will prove a future essential in music lovers’ calendars.
The late September weekend that straddles the autumn equinox is typically the point most partiers have already said their goodbyes to the summer’s outdoors festival season.
While the indoors Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) still beckons for October, a new festival offers a last gasp chance to embrace the joys of open-air dancing.
BEONIX celebrated its second year in the coastal city of Limassol in Cyprus from 22-24 of September. Nestled between the geographic and cultural borders of Europe, Asia and Africa, Cyprus makes the perfect location. Daytime temperatures were consistently around a sweltering 32°C – a far cry from the rainy shores I left behind in western Europe.
Last year, BEONIX’s first edition boasted two stages and a line-up of DJ talent including Carl Cox, Boris Brejcha, Deborah De Luca, Paul Kalkbrenner, Sasha, Sven Väth, John Digweed, and Adriatique.
2023’s return takes the festival to a new location and adds another stage to the offering.
It’s now in ETKO. The city’s one-time biggest winery went out of use over a decade ago, and the BEONIX team has put tons of work in to refurbish the location as an event space. Street art is plastered over the sides of hollowed out warehouses while imposing concrete megalith wine stores separate the stages.
Getting stuck in
One of the big appeals of the new location is the impressive Main Stage that the team behind the festival has put together.
An astonishingly large stage, the high-quality screen beams out trippy visualisers more like an IMAX cinema than any typical paltry visual set-up.
They’ve also gone all out on the audio quality. It’s one of the crispest sounds I’ve heard in a while from an outdoor stage. At the very rear of the stage, there’s a little bit of an unavoidable echo from the sound ricocheting around the industrial setting; but get amongst the crowd and you appreciate the rich unmuddied bass and cleanly balanced high end.
The two other stages include the Hangar Stage, a blissfully air-conditioned indoor space that resembles a mini Warehouse Project. When the Main Stage powers down, this is where punters can retreat to for heavier beats into the early hours.
The other, the Organic Stage – with a light set-up in the shape of Cyprus – provides both a chill-out zone and a selection of home-grown DJ talent.
This year’s line-up included headline sets from Maceo Plex, Paul Kalkbrenner and Black Coffee.
Friday kicked off proceedings with mesmerising live sets from Jan Blomqvist and Stephan Bodzin. The duo of Germany-based DJs put together excellent live mixed minimal and techno infused sessions. Blomqvist’s pop-infused set and Bodzin’s stripped backed melodies had the crowd in the perfect mood for Maceo Plex’s slick deep house powerdriver of a set. Accompanied by an unholy array of pyrotechnics, fireworks and fire-dancers; the first night was a fitting starter for a quality weekend.
Over on the Hangar Stage, Brazilian DJ ANNA – who recently remixed Bodzin’s ‘Isaac’ – provided an entrancing two hours of techno to raise the pulse.
Saturday had an inauspicious start. Punters had been promised music from 7 PM through to deep in the AM, a sudden announcement via Instagram informed the music would be contained strictly to the hours of 7-12 PM, “[by] order of the Administration” the festival explained.
Set-times were quickly amended with Kosta Kritikos and Kadosh resigned to half hour sets on the Main Stage. It was an unfortunate situation that organisers informed me was partly the result of difficulties in convincing the local government of BEONIX’s value to the area.
In only its second year, BEONIX is a rarity in Cyprus’ calendar. The country is still yet to boast a clubbing scene equivalent to similar European beach locations. Hopefully, it’s a teething issue that will be resolved in time for next year’s event now that the BEONIX organisers have proven their case that the festival is bringing a new cultural event to the country with economic benefits to accompany it.
The announcement nevertheless rankled fans with many accounts commenting the hashtag “#scamonix” on the festival’s Instagram.
Thankfully, despite the online criticism, the sentiment wasn’t apparent within the festival grounds. Techno powerhouse Innellea provided a huge set of the night, following Joplyn's colourful live set. Intricate rhythms pulsated through the crowds, proving the German DJs meteoric rise isn’t without warrant.
Saturday’s – albeit slightly earlier than expected – headline act Paul Kalkbrenner returned with another live set to the Main Stage. Illuminated above and below by a screen with a live feed of him behind the decks, Kalkbrenner brought his decades of experience to create a transformative set of techno that organically shifted with subtle seismic intensity.
While the Main Stage did shut down at midnight, it was a relief to find the party continued in full swing on the Organic and Hangar Stages. On the latter, one of the highlights of the entire festival was a snarling set by Oliver Huntemann. The Hamburg DJ schooled many of the other acts, using the dank warehouse stage as the perfect setting for his treacle-thick basslines.
For the final night of the festival, German/Nigerian artist JAMIIE kicked things off with a sweeping set filled with her trademark broad cultural cachet of samples.
As the crowd filled out for JAMIIE, she was followed by the inimitable Fiona Kraft. Kraft’s propulsive array of techno raised the energy of the arena, matched by one of the most extravagant pyrotechnic displays of the whole festival. She ended the set with a graphic in support of Ukraine, before ceding the stage to Black Coffee.
The South African DJ has collaborated recently with both Kraft and JAMIIE and his massive influence on many of the weekend’s acts was clear from his evolving set of house that brought the entire crowd into blissful ecstasy to close out BEONIX in 2023.
It’s been a whale of a time experiencing BEONIX’s second attempt. 5,000 people came to Limassol from across the world with dates already set and tickets on sale for the next edition.
Cyprus has lagged behind similar European summer destinations for festivals for too long, and while there are still a few kinks to be ironed out, BEONIX has proven itself as one to watch.