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Festival Reviews

All of the following articles were originally written for and can be accessed in full here

Glastonbury 2010

For those who didn’t manage to get a ticket, I’m sure this time of year annoys the hell out of you. Not only are you constantly reminded about what you’re going to be missing from the point at which the tickets are “sold out” but also your mate’s 56 year old aunt is going to recapture her youth at Ray Davies’ Sunday tea-time slot. Once the festival is on, NO ONE is around back home and the clubs are empty, and then once it’s finally over, there’s constant references to it on the radio, the TV, and, worst of all, from friends and their “remember when” conversations.

Some people wouldn’t buy tickets because at the time they didn’t know the line-up. But the line-up is only part of the experience, and although it’s usually pretty stellar, there’s so much more to it than that. Frankly, if you can’t envisage the silhouette of a spindly old hippy carving shapes in the horizon at sunrise, or the sounds of bongos don’t echo in your brain, you haven’t really done Glastonbury.

The best piece of advice about Glasto lies somewhere in the programme: “Make a list of all the acts you want to see, scrap it, and see something else”. With all the best intentions, I aim to begin tonight’s festivities with Two Door Cinema Club at The Old Queen’s Head. It’s half an hour before the start, and we’re shoulder to shoulder. A collective “sod this” and off we go to the “Wow!” tent in the dance village, for “Beardyman”. I’m not sure who or what I’m waiting for, but so appears a scrawny, bearded fellow, who after a brief “How are ya?” drops straight into it, entire songs, all him. Surely he’s using a backing track? Surely? I’m stunned. I turn to mouth the occasional “WTF?” to whoever wants to know as his vocal chords tear through an eclectic compilation, including ‘Superstition’. He’s only human, so midway through, his encyclopaedic vocal range is accented with the help of some trusty technology. “I assure you, this is all me. I’m extending my face for the next bit… as I’m sure many of you lot will be this weekend.” The rabble sniggers in agreement with a collective “haaaaar”.

It’s also Annie Nightingale’s party at the Pussy Parlure, and seeing as we’re already in the dance village, it’d be rude not to go really. It’s a seedy looking place, a “Speagal” tent built to look like a nightclub – complete with a massive queue to get in, and a one-in-one-out door policy. We’re even being told to behave by the stewards. I gulp my gin and juice and have a nice chat with two seemingly nice girls who don’t seem interested to go in, but more than happy to wait outside and amuse the queue with west country slurs and, well, I’m not quite sure what they’re going on about. Situated by the ‘Parlure is ‘Cube Henge’ formed of lights that flash in sequence. Slightly over from that is a DJ booth in the shape of a pineapple.

It’s intense in here. I was freezing in the queue and now I’m sweating through my white floaty prairie dress (why can’t I ever dress rave-appropriate!). There are mirrored walls and a sticky dance floor to boot, sweat is dripping off the open windows and revellers are gasping for air. All the boys have peeled their shirts off, and the girls are winding their hips in short or bunched up dresses to allow some sort of air. Heavy, heavy basslines and dub-infused drones protrude through my veins. All the usual naughtiness. A1 Bassline throws on a set of mixed emotional undertones – combining dark, lingering drones to his trademark ‘wobbly’ bass line and takes us on one hell of a rollercoaster during the set, building up and dropping and generally teasing us into submission. The dubstep duo Nero continue the madness, but their remix of ‘Be Sincere’ provides a truly beautiful moment to pause, breathe and appreciate.

Another strong piece of advice is: once you lose your friends, you probably won’t find them again. I know this all too well. Thankfully, I manage to locate, somewhat by chance, another group of people I know. As we’re all situated near to the park, we wander over. The park area is like a funfair, with a giant maypole taking prominence at the top. It also hosts a main stage, the Stonebridge bar, and The Rabbit Hole, an Alice in Wonderland-themed, Through the Looking Glass setting, decorated by tree lights and populated by mad hatters and the like, with wonky beats to accent the mood.

In a small tent to the side, some bloke is banging away on the drums, another passionately playing the piano, and a seashell horn is being passed around. We join a merry rabble of strangers, and have our arms round each other slurring out ‘Hey Jude’ like pissed relatives on Boxing Day.

Over at the Stone Circle, there’s an ethereal vibe. There’s the sound of tribal drumming, figures weaving shapes out of the air and a hum in the air of anticipation and people letting go of reality and mundane life, as a Chinese lantern floats off into the distance to collective cheer. As the sun rises, the place is buzzing, everyone’s giddy as hell, appreciative of the hospitality of Worthy Farm and ready for the weekend.

LED Festival 2010

Apparently the organisers of LED didn’t think there was enough going on in London on Bank Holiday weekend, so they’ve decided to throw a massive dance festival on Friday and Saturday over in east London. If you thought every electronic dance act you could possibly reel off a list was on the bill for SW4, well you’d be wrong. Keeping the southerners south and saving them a slog all the way up to Creamfields, a showcase of all the acts in the entire world of dance music descended upon London this weekend.

They’ve kept everything shtum for this brand new festival, which makes it all the more intriguing. Headlining Friday’s main stage is the man that is invading the commercial world and counting his millions, (Guetta); Calvin Harris and Audio Bullys, who are making their way back onto the radar; and then an arena hosted by Tiga’s own Planet Turbo. Everyone seems to be most excited about Saturday; the Annie Mac Presents arena is probably the second most talked about aspect, after Leftfield, whose live sets are something you need to witness for yourself to know what the fuss is about. It’s all very exciting indeed.

It’s late Friday afternoon, and as we (finally) approach Vicky Park, so far east it’s almost off the London map, I can hear shrieking as I approach the ticket gate. To my relief, it is the fairground rides throwing drunken people around. Probably not the best place to stand gazing in disbelief that anyone would want to put themself through that. With the set up of the festival yet to be announced even on the day, it is hard to decide who to see and when. I knew the programme was wrong, as it said Tiga would be on at half 6, however, according to the man himself (his twitter account) he was on at 8. Not a huge problem as it is a small festival, but it does put my twitter habits into perspective.

Even though the festival is, erm, cosy sized, it is difficult to keep track of who is where and when, and I have blistered feet from my boots. Anyway, let’s go and explore a bit before catching any acts, (via the bar for a tin of cider). Whilst my friends are dead set on catching Calvin Harris, the music snob in me insists no, sorry. Somehow I drag them over to the Planet Turbo tent, which is moderately busy, and there are two guys on stage cool as anything, having a fag and taking it in turns to spin a few tracks and push a few buttons. Their laid back stance infiltrates the air and people seem chilled out, and are kind of just shuffling their feet and making shy movements. They give us a wave and head off. I’m baffled. Who were they?!

Someone suggests heading back to the main stage. “I’m not moving!” “But?” “No!” I want to see Tiga, end of. Ok maybe we’ll get another drink. From the bar just there though. So here we are at the front, a rather slight guy comes on in a haze of smoke to a massive cheer. On come the bassy, banging beats I came here for, the intimacy of the tent encloses the bass so it can be felt. He changes pace throughout, one minute throwing on something dark and dirty, the next, something more upbeat like ‘What you need’. Behind him the tantalising display switches from battenbergs to an assortment of other kitschy objects which contrast with the heavy beats rumbling around the arena. “Everytime I look into your eyes I see the future”. My friends are trying to inform me that they’re off to catch someone else (I’m not really listening). True to form, Proxy’s ‘Raven’ rounds off the set. He extends the opening chord to wind everyone up. They know what’s coming. Some crouch down in anticipation (which seems to be the done thing when the opening drone comes into force) and of course we’re all going crazy when it comes into full force. Away he turns – the hour is up. Sigh.

I’m heading back to the main stage, trying to walk in a straight line. Guetta’s on, with an impressive light show to look at, all green and flashing. Can’t really see him, but of course he’s knocking out chart bangers, some his own, a bit of Jason Derulo, a bit of a sing-along for the crowd. Oh go on then, a guilty pleasure if you insist.

Back in the Turbo tent, there’s been a bizarre turn of events. Lots of screaming again but this time it’s a bunch of burly men on stage, with masks on, who, in technical talk, are going absolutely apeshit mental. Even the keyboard/synths guy is banging away as if he’s on a drum kit. One of them peels back his mask slightly to have a smoke and drink his beer more easily. Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 apparently. Great name, the thrash electro influence not generally my cup of tea; but it gets to you in a way that makes people want to head bang and air guitar. No one is, of course, and I would, except I have the whole night ahead of me and it would make me sick.

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