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A buzz seems to have developed around Malta in recent months, especially as a destination for dance music festivals. That said, the people behind Glitch Festival, which took place for the first time at the beginning of September, have been helping grow the island’s electronic offering for a great deal longer than that. Inspired by the Dutch electro scene, Glitch’s promoters started out by bringing over acts like Bangkok Impact, Orgue Electronique, DJ TLR and Alden Tyrell in the early ’00s. By doing so, they launched an underground scene of their own that has been in rude health ever since.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given Malta’s size, everything revolves around a single venue: Liquid Club, in the town of San Ġwann. (The club’s influence is so great that anything to do with quality house and techno is referred to as the “Liquid scene.”) The Glitch team, who run Liquid, have hosted everyone from Laurent Garnier and Helena Hauff to Gesloten Cirkel and Space Dimension Controller, but for their first festival they decamped to the other side of the island, to a place called Buskett Roadhouse. That may sound like a local tavern of ill-fame in Twin Peaks, but it’s actually an enchanting, 2000-capacity open-air venue in the heart of one of Malta’s few wooded areas. Roadhouse, with its bowl-like shape and backdrop of trees and hills, had an instantly welcoming feel. Fatima Yamaha was playing when I arrived around dusk on Wednesday, smiling broadly as he served up joyous, buzzy techno.
Glitch did a good job of getting the crowds down early on both days. Carl Craig followed Yamaha on Wednesday and was in full-on festival mode, shifting between much-loved older cuts like Oxia’s “Domino” and even finding room for a mix of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” Midland, the main teatime draw on Thursday, played a wonderful, percussive set that touched on Cajmere & Gene Farris’s “The Biz,” Mood Hut’s sunny “Better” and Mr G’s mix of Mike Grant’s “The Struggle Of My People,” a staple in Midland’s sets for a long time now but one that never gets old. Tom Trago followed, his breathy electro well-suited to the balmy evening. It was Virginia’s set, though, that really stood out. Her live vocals and instrumentation caught the attention of a crowd that until then had been largely content to wander and lounge about.
Both nights finished with all-out, pounding techno. I preferred Dave Clarke’s darker, more physical fare to Ben Klock’s effective but robotic schtick, though I suspect that puts me in the minority. Klock’s set on Thursday rounded off two of the most blissful, hassle-free days I’ve ever spent at a festival, which bodes well for Glitch’s future. You could tell this was an event run by people with experience, a team who matched passion and knowledge with a bulging rolodex and flawless organisational skills. I also can’t think of many better holiday destinations in the world. After such a successful first edition, it would be a huge surprise if Glitch didn’t go from strength-to-strength in the coming years.