So here it is, August bank holiday again, it must be time to dig out my raving shoes, with a forecast of wall to wall sunshine predicted, and the promise of a long weekend everything was coming together nicely! Only one thing stood in my way, the M6 with bank holiday traffic.
After a torrid time with 2 extra hours added onto the normal journey, I finally arrived on site in time to catch the last 2 acts on the gigantic arc stage, as we walked through the site it was clear to see the majority of people had already arrived making the most of the weather, under the setting sun Danny Howard was whipping the crowd up into a frenzy, broadcasting live on radio 1, he played a safe set packed with crowd pleasers, perfectly warming the masses for the Friday night arc headliners, The Chainsmokers.
I however chose to go and experience the combined force that was Eric Prydz and Deadmau5. With the steel yard full to bursting point, the duo could easily of filled one of the two open air main stages, combining the finer points of both superstars musical outputs, to create an megalithic performance, I will be hoping for a full album to follow this promising deep set.
With my internal organs and every muscle bruised from head to toe by the punishing bass, I headed for my bed.
This year i had treated my self to a local spa hotel, only 15 minutes drive away from the site, the treat left me feeling super refreshed and recharged ready to smash the Saturday. With the sun belting down there are very few places as stunning as Daresbury park, with the main arena surrounded by an enclave of mighty trees you easily forget the real world is just outside.
Always looking to push the limits of staging set ups and venues, and with Creamfields 20th anniversary being celebrated, 2017 was to be no exception. Part of this years celebrations had brought the arrival of a couple of new ventures, the first of these I visited was a full scale rebuild of the famous Parr street home of the Cream empire in Liverpool, Nation. With the main room rebuilt, to the design and specifications of the original, I over heard quite a few djs over the weekend saying how much they were looking forward to playing it or just how spooky it was to look down from the decks. With many a famous face and Cream luminary from throughout the years stopping onto its stage, it was always a good venue to dip in and out of, and never short on atmosphere.
After a checking out 20 minutes of Martin Solveig's set on the much improved Horizon Stage, I visited the Warehouse Stage, the second big change in the skyline of Creamfields 2017.
Today's line up was curated by none other than the master himself, Pete Tong. I was interested in coming to scope out the venue, as one of my must see acts for the weekend was due to be performing here later, so I wanted to get a feel for the venue and see if I could find the sound sweet spot, the venue used to be a standard festival tent, but this year had seen the inception of The Warehouse. Made from scaffold and temporary sides, but featuring a corrugated tin roof, there was a real legit illegal rave feel and sound about the stage, down to the humming of the roof adding to the booming sub bass.
With the steaming hot weather and nothing but grass under foot it was easy to get round the site, taking no more than 5 minutes between any stages on site, I shot over to take in some of Nicky Romero on the Arc Stage, this stage has been a firm favourite of mine since it's inception, as the stage dominates the whole of your visual range, with the biggest screens you will ever see and a full arsenal of pyro to go with it, I usually really enjoy sets by Nicky Romero but today he really didn't hit the spot, it felt to me like the set was totally disjointed, almost like Romero had lost his direction a little, with stops in the set to change style multiple times it felt very very Americanised and seemed very much 'pre loaded' the set jumped From trance to EDM to Dubstep without mixing, just cutting off the flow by talking over the end of the record to hide the silence, it just didn't seem to flow,
I didn't hang around any longer, so decided to drop into the steel yard B Traits was mixing up a storm on arrival, but within 15 or 20 minutes again the Same issue was creeping in, not even masterfully mixed into the set but a clear break in sound followed by the standard 'Creamfields how you doing? Let me see those hands up' followed by another u turn of style and substance.
No matter what set I seemed to be dropping in on I just didn't seem to be enjoying it that much, I have to admit I was starting to wonder that horrible question in life, was I now too old ? Were my creamfields days behind me?
These questions were swiftly and definitively answered with the arrival of The Black Madonna, with the last 20 minutes of Hot Since 82's set starting to restore my faith and with the Warehouse stage bursting at the seams awaiting her arrival the atmosphere was electric, enter the unassuming heroine, with her set selection perfectly intersecting the genres ranging from house, disco, funk and techno, I would be a liar if I didn't say this was my favourite set of the day in fact the whole weekend, with positivity by the bucketload pumping out of the PA, The Black Madonna had Creamfields bouncing. You know someone is really peaking when they clash with headliners such as Deadmau5 and the Swedish house duo of Axwell and Ingrosso and the venue is still overspilling, with the pit full and I mean FULL of fellow performers to catch her set, its clear to see The Black Madonna is the set people in the business are talking about, if you've not had a chance yet please do your self a favour and make the effort.
I rounded of the evening with another solid 90 minutes delivered by mr consistency himself, the curator of the day's line up in the Warehouse Stage, Mr Pete Tong, never one to disappoint and fresh off the back of a string of festival appearances with his now world famous Ibiza prom performances with the heritage orchestra, Tong really seems to deliver the set with a spring in his set and the vigour of a man re enthused, tonight was just Pete and his decks, getting back to business keeping the warehouse stage bouncing into the small hours.
Sunday again greeted us with wall to wall sunshine, the line up was looking great and I was ready to go again. Soon after arriving back on site, we decided to check out the options and grab some food, there was a good mix of all the usual festival food offerings, with the prices quite reasonable, the pinnacle of what we found was an amazing stall selling dessert calzones, a calzone pizza style offering made from a crepe turned over and crimped enclosing brownies, marshmallow and caramel cooked inside! Pure indulgence and full of sugar, just what had been needed!
It was whilst sitting down enjoying this that another of this years great additions came into earshot, a couple of street performances, I saw two of them on the Sunday and both were great entertainment, the first was a samba band, bringing a taste of Rio carnival to Creamfields complete with flamboyant dancers heading up a parade, picking up revellers and impromptu dancers as it snaked its way round the market stalls and food stands in the central hub of the festival, the other wandering performers I caught later that day were a brass rave ensemble, a 5 piece brass band trumping out all the dance classics and floor fillers, I'd never noticed these kind of acts at Creamfields before, and they really made a big difference for me, they were very unifying and really put smiles on faces!
After dropping into the rebuilt 'Nation' stage to catch a storming 20 minutes of Cream icons K-Klass it was time for Sister Bliss to take to the horizon stage, performing under the name Faithless sh set, she threw just the right amount of hits and samples of the bands classic hits to send the crowd into regular melt down. As soon and a thunderous rendition of Insomnia had finished I jumped straight into the Mk10 arena to catch an afternoon performance by none other than the hollywood star Idris Elba, I have to say I wasn't expecting what I found, very presumptuous of me but I was expecting a hugely obvious premixed 'memory stick' set which has become all too synonymous of late, especially with many of the house hold names popping up all around the world, mainly big hitters in America riding the EDM crest, but Elba delivered a very workmanlike shift! Working off vinyl and with a sterling choice of tracks old and new, this was a gem of a set definitely up there in the weekends highlights, i was starting to put my finger on it, the reason my apathy had struck, there was a clear divide between the quality of sets being delivered by 'real' djs, reading the crowd and tailoring it to keep the vibe high. and those delivering 'preloaded' sets.
I have to admit I was only planning on popping my head in to see what style Elba was playing but stayed for the duration. Before I knew it the sun was startling to lower in the sky, and it was sub headline time, Saturday's line up runs until 4 am so the acts are spread wide, but due to licensing laws Sunday has to wrap up at 11 so this means the clashes are almost unbearable at times, this year I went for Fatboy Slim, the weather did play a big factor in this decision as having spent lots of Saturday in tented venues I almost felt I owed it to my skin to spend some time outdoors in the sun, a decision vindicated within 5 minutes, opening with a ear bursting version of 'Eat, Sleep, Rave Repeat' the tempo never dropped, and before I know it another 90 minutes had gone, there was only one way to round the weekend out, Tiesto on the Arc stage, with a barrage of fireworks, lasers and flames, the set was awash with hands in the sky moments, in fact the first 70 minutes were as close to perfect as a set could be, a mix of hardstyle trance and plenty of old school nods, even dropping a fresh remix of 'Sweet Dreams' by Eurythmics, unfortunately there followed a 15 minute period where a lot of the momentum Tiesto had worked so hard to gain just dropped off, this was a hard grafted set, plain to see as the main man slid between stations working a 4 deck set up, it was very clear that there were no gimmicks here just hard work, no jumping up on the mixing desk and recording snap chat feeds, just serious concentration and enjoyment, and so it came to what was rightfully reserved for the last track of the festival 'Adagio For Strings' a thumping 7 minute rendition of the song which arguably sent this man on his skyward trajectory, under a 5 minute display of fireworks the set and the festival drew to an explosive close.
All in all 2017 was one of the finer years I have attended, even through my own questions and indifferences with a few sets, the new additions, boundary pushing staging and of course the blistering bank holiday weather! (We don't get to say that very often) really rekindled my flames for the end of summer rave! The finest of British club culture institutions! Happy 20th birthday Creamfields.
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