"Reverze is the Cirque du Soleil of hardstyle!"

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A fully packed Sportpaleis and Lotto Arena. Pounding beats. Dazzling lasers. 20.000 people going nuts. Sets by acts as Da Tweekaz, Coone, MANDY and Mark With A K. This is Reverze, the perfect example of why hardstyle can’t be ignored.

“Reverze is one of our all-time favorite events,” say Kenth Kvien and Marcus Nordli of Norwegian hardstyle duo Da Tweekaz. “You start the new year and just know that it’s coming up. It makes you all excited. You want to make new music, you want to make special edits. You want to do so much cool stuff because you know that the Belgian people are anxiously waiting for this event. I mean, it’s sold out. If you check TicketSwap you’ll see there’s like two tickets available out of 20.000. People just don’t want to miss this.”

Roots

“Reverze was born in 2005 at Sotto’s, a big club in Zottegem,” remembers Reverze founder and Bass Events co-owner Marijn Venmans. “It had a capacity of 3000 people and the party was sold out immediately, which was pretty unique in the club scene at the time. The first slogan of Reverze was Switch to Difference. That was a statement: we wanted to bring this hard dance, a new upcoming genre - a sound coming from The Netherlands - to the crowds, to compete with trance and other genres that were popular at that time.”

“Jump was very popular, so I wanted to organize a night with a mix of the Belgian jump sound and Dutch hardstyle. It was initially planned in a much smaller club but there was an urban promotor who threw R&B parties there weekly and said to the owner that “if this party will take place here, I’ll quit with my urban nights”. That’s when the owner backed out. I was insulted and worse: I had my DJ’s booked already. Cosmic Gate, Marcel Woods, all pretty big names. We had to move to somewhere else. It was a very exciting undertaking to move into unknown territory. We promoted the event as if our life depended on it. 3000 people, it was insane. We even had to round up family members to help at the bar because we didn’t anticipate this big of a crowd at all.”

“What I will never forget is that the floor of Sotto’s was pretty flexible - they had stages that could come out of the floor - so it was trembling when you jumped on it. With 3000 people starting to pound, you get a small earthquake. The vibrations. The goosebumps. The whole club shaking. It intensified everything that came next.”

Coming up

“There was a time when Jim TV was very popular and Reverze was making waves in the party scene,” says Koen Bauweraerts, better known by his hardstyle alias Coone. “I rode those waves. Reverze played a big part in me getting my name out there. No other genre can touch me in the same way as hardstyle does. It’s cool, the melodies have a certain content and feeling, an us-against-the-world feeling. I really love the rebellious side of it. It’s my mission to make hardstyle big all over the world. Luckily, I’m not the only one. I hope the genre keeps evolving. There is still room for improving the sound.”

“The creator of Reverze himself came over to Norway to recruit us in 2009,” say Da Tweekaz. “He brought DVD’s of Reverze. We saw the footage and thought: holy crap, what is this and why have we not been here before? We played live in Belgium for the first time in 2011 at Lotto Arena. It was so cool, and we’ve been here every year since.”

Power

“Hardstyle is electronic dance music with a lot of kick and bass,” says MC Villain, named Michael Brons in real life. “Millions of people listen to it. It has become a way of living. I always describe it as hard on the outside and very soft on the inside.”

“Hardstyle is a way of letting go,” states Venmans. “I would define ‘hard’ as ‘intense’, a lot of energy. It’s all about connecting. It’s a scene and a community for people who want to go nuts. Hardstyle keeps evolving. Every generation attracts a new kind of crowd. It’s our and the producer’s task to adapt. The quality of the music also improved. You don’t need to buy hardware anymore to make electronic music. You can make a track just with some software on your computer. That also means a lot more DJs and producers, challenging themselves to get ahead.”

“The power of hardstyle is that it doesn’t get commercialized,” says Mark Carpentier, better known as Mark With a K. “The radio does not play us. It kind of stays in a niche. The people say it as well: “this is our music, our style, stay away from it, because it’s our community and if you don’t touch it, it will stay strong.” Hardstyle has grown more popular, but it’s true power lies in its dedicated fanbase. Music goes in flows, in movements. People always go looking for the extreme in every style. I see it evolve in a positive way, as long as there are enough young DJs and producers eager to make a name for themselves.”

Image

“We don’t fuss about not being included by the mainstream media or that when it happens, we get marginalized and caricaturized,” knows Venmans. “We have a no media policy, as we have our fans and don’t need the attention. Our fans are dedicated, and we want to keep it like this. I remember allowing a journalist once, and for his article he went looking for what he thought a typical visitor was instead of doing a decent interview with us or the DJs. After that, we decided not to get involved with the press anymore. I think it happens in every genre, that it gets ridiculed. We don’t worry about that anymore.”

All around the globe

“Reverze is one of the biggest hardstyle parties in the world. In Holland you have two comparable parties: they are in a bigger venue but regarding show and experience we are at the same level. In Australia, Mexico, Chili and Germany there’s also a big scene. At festivals, hardstyle is getting its own stages now. Last year Coone got the chance to bring hardstyle to the Main Stage of Tomorrowland, and this year it will be Da Tweekaz. It’s not as underground as it used to be, but still credible.”

“It was always my dream to be on stage at Reverze,” says Mandy Praet/MANDY. “Dreams come true! Last year I was here with Lowriderz. Everyone was really into it and it was also a bit busy, even though I played at 21:00. This year I play solo on a primetime slot at the Lotto Arena stage. I feel like everyone at Reverze is very dedicated, more than at all the other events. Personally, I feel like hardstyle is growing a lot. Coone playing Tomorrowland is a great example. A few years ago, people didn’t even know about hardstyle!”

“Reverze has reached its peak capacity in Belgium, because we choose consciously for Sportpaleis and Lotto Arena,” says Venmans. “It’s a unique venue, and Reverze has its roots there. Hopefully we can stay and throw parties for years to come. It’s fine. We don’t need to go bigger and we’re not going to add a day. But we do throw other hardstyle parties with Bass Events, like Flashback and The Qontinent. We also get requests from promotors abroad to organize Reverze in their country. But we are very careful. If we were to grow, it won’t be in Belgium.”

“I think Reverze has grown especially in terms of quality,” says Coone. “If you look at Tomorrowland’s first stage in comparison to now for example, it’s kind of the same story. Reverze has always been the biggest indoor hardstyle party in Belgium. The shows you get to see here, production wise it’s just insane. I call it the Cirque du Soleil of hardstyle.”

“It’s not only a Belgian crowd anymore,” knows Mark With a K. “People come to Antwerp from all over the world. It’s great to see so many people looking forward to it every year, myself included.”

“How Reverze has evolved show wise, stage wise, music wise… It’s really insane!” say Da Tweekaz. “The thing with Bass Events is they always want to take their productions to the next level. Remember the box that came out of the wall? That kind of stuff. You’re on the VIP deck and you’re like: holy shit, what is going on? It’s absolutely amazing and it’s so cool to be a part of that progress.”

You can put whatever you want in there

“We think hardstyle has always been a very open minded scene,” say Da Tweekaz. “We always try to implement whatever is fun to make and whatever is popular. It will evolve as music evolves. Sometimes we go with dubstep, psytrance, drum and bass or even Disney music. It doesn’t really matter because hardstyle is such a versatile genre. You can put whatever you want in there.”

“If I wasn’t a hardstyle DJ I would have been a hip hop artist,” says Coone. “I use a lot of urban influences. I have a few tracks where I found the perfect match. ‘Sniper’ with Dirtcaps. Or ‘Riot’, a record with E-life, who is a legend in Dutch hip hop. I also made a remix for Linkin Park. Mike Shinoda was a hero of mine. This all results in unique combinations. I would love to do a track with Eminem some day. (laughs)”

“I used to be a commercial DJ, so I played all-round music,” remembers Mark With A K. “I even produced all-round music under other aliases, but I always loved the harder styles. I used to play in Highstreet, a club in Hoogstraten, and even there I played rougher, a bit of German hard trance. I’ve always loved music with some punch. Then little by little I started to produce that kind of music, always going harder. Once you fall in love with it, it never goes away I guess.”

“Of course, the music needs to strike,” concludes Venmans. “But these days there’s a lot more to it: social media, image. You need to show charisma. If you can combine that with awesome music, you can go very far. D-Block & S-te-Fan, Headhunterz, Brennan Heart, Wildstylez, Da Tweekaz and Coone are still the guys who set the tone. But with DJs like Sub Zero Project, Sound Rush, Devin Wild, Sephyx, Sefa, the new generation came knocking on the door.”