Club To Club Festival review: Dancing cheek to cheek

Kit Macdonald
Crowds at Club To Club's main Lingotto venue, which hosted shows from Liberato, Helena Hauff and Ninos Du Brasil

I first visited Turin's Club To Club, which sits somewhere between Sonar in Barcelona and Unsound in Krakow on my admittedly fictional International Festivals Scale, in 2015, and found a generally high quality event that I felt was suffering a little from a lack of serious competition in the area. I returned earlier this month for the festival's 17th edition, and found something more expansive and adventurous, both in terms of line-up and venues. The latter change became apparent minutes after I arrived in Turin as we were whisked half an hour north of the city to Reggia Di Venaria for C2C's opening party.

Reggia Di Venaria is a Unesco World Heritage site and an impossibly grand baroque palace formerly used as a hunting lodge by the Italian royal family. I dipped in and out of Visible Cloaks and Bill Kouligas's noisy sets in one of its many grand halls, but after a complicated day of travel I found my psyche was far better suited to meandering around its halls and chambers admiring the lavish art and standing gazing out over the grounds while chuckling in awed disbelief, both activities the palace rewards in spades.

Another spectacular setting that was new to me, if not the festival, was Officine Grande Riparazioni, a cavernous venue formerly used for repairing trains (yes, that level of cavernous). Thursday found the place hosting the second of C2C's big opening events, with Kamasi Washington, XL Recordings founder Richard Russell's Everything Is Recorded and Powell and Wolfgang Tillmans' somewhat divisive live collaboration. Washington and his band's glorious show was unsurprisingly my highlight, and a fascinating discussion event earlier in the day with the Swiss art historian Hans Ulrich Obrist a few hours earlier made it very much the Los Angeles jazz virtuoso's day.

Friday and Saturday are the two main days of C2C, with various Radar Radio live streams and talks taking place in the festival hotel. I found them unattendable however, as I did two years ago, due to the twin oppressions dense throngs of music-industry types and sponsorship ubiquitous and bright enough (I think the only object I've never seen with Absolut branding in the lobby of the AC Hotel Lingotto has been a free drink) to trigger epilepsy. Turin in the autumn is a wanderer's delight, however, and after a day of strolling by the river I made for the festival's main venue, the huge Lingotto convention centre.

Lingotto has a main stage and a smaller Red Bull Stage, and many of the most rewarding moments of my weekend took place in the latter. Ben Frost's cathartic noise assault was in full swing when I arrived, but Chicago footwork producer Jlin, always an animated, grinning joy to behold live, put in one of the shows of the weekend immediately afterwards. The Italian producer Not Waving, whose sledgehammer-subtle beats and synth lines sometimes make him feel like an EDM producer it's OK to like, was deafening good fun, while the main stage was closed by the masked Italian pair Ninos du Brasil. I last saw Nicolò Fortuni and Nico Vascellari's whirlwind marriage of techno, samba, batucada and punk in the unlikely setting of rural Uganda, but it worked equally well in autumn in a Turin aircraft hangar, with the pummelling drums of “Novos Misterios” and “O Som de Ossos” high points in a set crammed full of them.

On Saturday night I returned to Lingotto's main stage early to catch a remarkably well-attended (given the time) show by Liberato, a trap producer whose identity is a mystery. It turns out I shouldn't have been surprised at the size of the crowd at all – Liberato has been one of the Italian music scene's main talking points thoughout 2017 on the back of just three tracks, all of them sung in his native Naples dialect, and should be a name to look out for internationally in the coming months.

With the exception of a predictably satisfying hour of techno and EBM at Helena Hauff's main-stage DJ set, the rest of my Saturday was spent at the Red Bull Stage zoning out to some of the most experimental bookings of the festival. The chops and drones of Actress were first up before a live set from the young Scottish producer Lanark Artefax that built in decidedly non-linear fashion towards a brain-melting, strobe-awash finale based around his spellbinding track-of-the-year contender "Touch Absence". Lorenzo Senni's rebooted trance and the astonishing gabber-revival theatrics of Gabber Eleganza's made for a relentlessly high-energy final couple of hours until my thoroughly frazzled brain called time, and I headed for home.

That was the end of the main part of Club To Club, but I had opted to stay in the city for another couple of days to take in a couple of the no fewer than eight all-seated Kraftwerk 3-D live shows that C2C had scheduled back at the Officine Grande Riparazioni. The shows ran at a rate of two per night from Saturday through Tuesday, and each had the Düsseldorf legends playing a different one of their albums in full as well as a panoply of greatest hits. I sat back and wallowed in the sumptuous A/V delights of Trans-Europe Express (Sunday evening) and Computer World (Monday night), and struggled to imagine a more pleasurable and therapeutic finish to a largely excellent weekend.

Photo credits: Main, 3 - Andrea Macchia / 1, 2: - Daniele Baldi / 4: Kit Macdonald