As nights draw in and supermarkets prepare for Halloween [or even Christmas], the time to return to Leeds has soon come – for those lucky enough. A trip to Thailand… A bender in Ibiza… Whichever way you spent your summer, the August Bank Holiday will have surely had some impact, if you can remember it that is. This 4-day long party is everyone’s favourite weekend, as cities up and down the country exhibit the very best events of the year offering one final blowout before normality, and subsequently autumn, sinks in.
For anyone in Leeds, the likes of Richy Ahmed, Green Velvet, Darius Syrossian, Heidi and The Black Madonna graced our city playing at Back To Basics and both terrace parties at The Faversham and Mint Warehouse. Most Leeds students, however, could be found occupying the Caribbean-influenced streets of Notting Hill or enjoying the hedonistic surroundings of Shambala in Sheffield. But for all like-minded ravers, the end of August marks only one destination: a pilgrimage-esque commute along the M56 towards the upmarket Cheshire village of Daresbury.
Twenty years on since its inception, Creamfields has established itself as the go-to dance music festival on the British Isles welcoming raving revelers with any UK accent, and even some further afield. Along with various long-term residencies at numerous super clubs on the White Isle, the Cream brand has cemented itself in British dance music folklore. More recently subverting songs that propelled the brand’s success into orchestral renditions – Cream Classical. The global success of Cream, and continuation of the dance brand away from Merseyside, has been down to the annual music festival and it’s ability to attract the world’s best DJs.
Alike the typical British summer festival, Creamfields was no different: cans of cider littered the site amid questionable cigarette ends and dusted sealy bags, tent guidelines transformed into a crystal maze-like obstacle course for the more intoxicated punters and an ambient bass coming from afar reminded all that music really was the answer. From Glastonbury to Green Man or Kendal Calling to Creamfields, festivals of all kind present escapism from reality, a micro-society of lawless shenanigans where everything, and everyone, is accepted.
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While the community-like ethos may remain the same, each and every festival is different in its own way and with Creamfields the multimillion level production effort was its USP. Immersive laser shows and extreme pyrotechnics combined with the diverse array of arenas, which included the BBC Introducing stage, presented a multi-sensory raving experience for everyone involved. Throughout the weekend all varieties of dance music was on offer: house and techno, acid and electro, trance and disco – but too much EDM garbage was played, it has to be said.
Friday highlights included Jamie Jones’ Paradise party and Andy C’s Ram, but as all forms of music ended at 11pm there was a real emphasis to enjoy Saturday to the max. Opting for tech house then techno-orientated day, I witnessed the likes of Leeds’ own Knee Deep In Sound founder, Hot Since 82, and Mixmag’s DJ of the Year, The Black Madonna, spin the decks in the Warehouse stage. While the mixing expertise of these DJs resonated with much of the crowd in this oddly designed arena, built on a right-to-left slant, the sounds of Steel Yard from midnight to 4am were the optimum choice for any techno fanatic.
Described as one of his genre’s finest producers and mixers, Richie Hawtin’s UK Exclusive live ‘CLOSE’ set was something from another planet, a truly remarkable performance in the ultimate setting. Resembling a futuristic space station, Steel Yard’s production was to a standard that could rival Amsterdam’s Gashouder, infamous for it’s explosive fireworks and encompassing light shows. This huge scaffolding-made structure can be dismantled with ease and returns to Liverpool Docks for a couple of shows in November.
As a backdrop of real-time graphics relayed distorted images of himself to 10,000 raving onlookers – thanks to the sounds and the scenes: Hawtin evoked true emotion from the crowd, a feeling only present in live DJ sets. For the entire duration of his 2-hour headline slot the techno wizard utilised various forms of drums and synths, creating build-ups only possible from a DJ with such experience, finesse and ‘mastery’. Upon finishing his set, when lights shone onto the crowd the same facial expression was evident throughout – a look of bemusement, total dismay at the mixing talent just on show. This was quite possibly the best set I have ever witnessed.
Marco Carola, legendary Music On founder and arguably the best current DJ on the Ibiza circuit, is a household name in dance music. Naturally, his set was full of groove-enriched basslines and perfectly timed drops – but compared to Hawtin, it could not just do it justice. As one of the most established DJs of his generation, Carola’s ability was still appreciated, but all graphics, lasers and light shows had been geared towards the set previous. UK-based tech house duo CamelPhat closed proceedings and have been the year’s best breakthrough dance act, despite recently being pipped by Solardo for DJ Mag’s “Best of British” Award.
Even though all official listings stated that Loco Dice would fill this spot, it seemed fitting for CamelPhat to close Steel Yard. This year they have arisen to the upper echelons of contemporary house and techno, and this set showed their true versatility as DJs; dropping big room tech tracks synonymous with Loco Dice. Producing a set of this quality was a wide surprise, but valued by the depleting crowd who began to disperse after the 10 hour ‘sesh’ – either making their way back to camp or to watch McGregor versus “Money” Mayweather streamed live from the main stage.
Their chart-topping, award-winning summer anthem of ‘Cola’ was the last tune of the day/night and the pair opted to re-fix the bassline, transforming the disco house beat into a faster, techier number. Whether this remix gets released is yet to be mentioned on social media, but the production quality and talent on offer in Steel Yard that Saturday night will be talked about for a very long time. Joseph Capriati’s set on Sunday is also worth citing, and Tiesto’s less so, but overall: the last weekend of summer could have not been better spent than at Creamfields.
Image Credits: Creamfields