Let It Roll Timeline: The story of drum & bass’s most important festival
This week sees the release of Let It Roll Volume 2: 43 tracks, 21 exclusives, yet another reason why we should all be paying serious attention to the world’s largest and longest standing drum & bass festival.
The exclusive tracks run the whole gully gamut from Agressor Bunx to Changing Faces via the likes of Icicle, Aphrodite, Feint, A.M.C, Signs and loads more, creating an instant and authentic snapshot of the event which dates back to 2002 and has welcomed pretty much every talented soul the scene has spawned since day one…
As the event prepares to host its winter edition later this month and they’ve already got us salivating for summer with the first phase of a three-phase line up, the album Let It Roll Volume 2 is the icing on the cake. We caught up with Suki, Let It Roll founder – and one of Czech Republic’s sharpest DJs – to learn more about the festival’s history and how it’s become the unique beast it’s become in recent years.
2002: Let It Roll is born….
“Before this was hosting an open air festival called Reggae Meeting which was very focussed on the Czech reggae scene. I then started working in clubs and began to host Let It Roll. They were my biggest indoor events to date and my very first sold out ones. It was all local talent and developed a fantastic loyal following.”
2004: First international booking
“It was my big dream to bring international artists to the Czech Republic and Mickey Finn was my very first. It was our first show at a much larger venue – Abaton – which was double the size of previous clubs we had hosted parties at. We actually lost money on that one though. It was a bit frustrating but this is the game promoters play and we learn very quickly!”
2004-2008: More acts, more people, more madness….
“From there were developed pretty quickly with landmark shows every year… One year we had Aphrodite headlining one stage and Top Cat headlining the second stage which was reggae and breaks. We got 3000 people which was a really big thing. Then we had a Roni Size show and then in 2007 we had Shy FX and Pendulum who were huge at the time. They couldn’t be bigger. We got 4500 people – it was in a new underground venue, a really old smashed warehouse. After that we thought the brand was strong enough to do an open air….”
2008: First Open Air Festival
“It was very small, only 2500 people. Future Prophecies were our headliner, they played live and it was really special. We also had a lot of breaks with acts like Freestylers on the bill. This marked the start of our time at Piskovna Oplatil where we stayed for six years. A very nice, natural location in the middle of Czech Republic; a meadow surrounded by woods with a lake nearby. Beautiful and scenic… But small and complicated for production. As the festival grew we had to take the camping further away – around 2km further away from the party along a big road which wasn’t very safe for the festival goers.”
2009: Noisia and Chase & Status
“Looking back this was an incredible line-up and guys like Noisia and Chase & Status weren’t even headlining at the time! I think we paid them a couple of hundred quid at the time. We always try and bring all the subgenres and all the eras of drum & bass together: present, past and future artists. They represented the future back then… Now they’re the biggest acts ever.”
2010: Rain, rain and more rain
“2008 was our only good year weather-wise at Piskovna. This year was the worst. The meadow was full of mud and after the first night I couldn’t see how it would open the next day. We had to get some heavy machines in drain the mud. The crowd was great – they didn’t care and enjoyed the night. Even in terrible conditions the atmosphere was still amazing. We also improved the venue after that – we made it a little more waterproof with loads of stones and used big tops to cover stages.”
2011: Let It Roll Island
“In 2011 we moved to the peninsular by the meadow. It’s like a semi-island so the whole event was surrounded by water. The owners only allowed us to do for one year. It was great. The festival was surrounded by water. That was a special year for us… So we had a Baywatch theme running throughout the weekend.”
2012: Rise Of The Robots
“Our final year at Piskovna. And our first year where we established the main production theme of the festival that still exists now: robots. I’ve always had themes and strong production in all my events but this was the year we decided on one theme forever. I’m a big fan of sci-fi so we develop the same story every year. There are connections between each year – 2016 was the present time of the robots where they explain the source of their power. This year we’ll be going back to the past and find out where they came from.”
2013: Military Manoeuvres
“We moved to Benesov which was much closer to Prague and allowed a lot more international fans to get here and easier for DJs to be driven here. This was the year we saw more international interaction and was a big turning point for us and a really big line-up. Because of the new venue we could also increase the amount of stages and include the Underworld area where more local crews and smaller international acts could play.”
2014: The stage gets bigger…
“In 2013 we started using our own stages and building them from scratch and 2014 was the year we really got into this way of working. Previously we’d use a classic stage but then decorate the hell out of it. But from these years onwards we design and build them from scratch. The real construction takes a little over three weeks with the scaffolding, cover then lights and pyrotechnics in the last week. But we plan it for the whole year. Lots of health and safety has to be implemented. It takes a couple of months.”
2015: Move to Milovice
“And so we arrived at our latest venue. We were supposed to stay at Benesov and host the event for three days. The local mayor said it was cool so we started selling tickets for three days. Then the council told us it had to be two. So that’s why we moved to Milovice We were selling tickets for three days so couldn’t go back on that promise and we didn’t want to! But that was such as last minute change. Only four months before the festival. Very late and very stressful! I was so happy with that – it’s improved the festival. Benesov was great but the airfield has so much more scope and freedom to expand and do things differently every year.”
2016: The opening show levels up and BEC begins….
“The big thing for me last year was the opening show. The previous opening shows were five minutes or so. Last year it was a much bigger deal with June Miller doing the soundtrack. We have a team just focused on the opening show now and they smashed it last year. It was a beautiful thing because when we tried it in the days before there was at least something that went wrong…. The video, the lights, the sound. The Friday night was the first time it worked together. But I had faith. When it finished I was just like ‘wow’. I had my parents there, too. It was a very special moment.
“Also launching BEC last year was very special. This is our payback to the scene. This is how we bring each other together and provide a place and a framework that helps us think about how we all improve and make this scene even better. Drum & bass has given us so much – let’s give back as much as we can. It’s one of the only times a lot of different people around the scene can get together and face challenges and work to make drum & bass even bigger, better and more exciting.”