Creamfields '07 - Daresbury, Halton, Cheshire
If you consider yourself as the kind of guy/gal who has their finger positioned firmly on the pulse of the music scene then you'll not need me to tell you that dance is the new black. Over the last couple of years, the genre has uprooted the (mostly) tired and safe indie scene and taken centrestage, so to speak, once again, sowing its seed with other genres along the way. Creamfields, which has - along with Global Gathering - always been a notable event on the calendar of any dance fan, boasted a line-up this year that was bigger, badder, and - perhaps most importantly - more diverse than ever. The question is, was it worth the trip?
Unfortunately, the day got off to a grim start with the shambles that was the trial of entering the site itself. I'm all for tighter security, this festival being the only one I've come across that has employed metal detectors when searching ticket-holders, but maybe it would be a good idea to establish some sort of queuing system? It was every man for himself as a huge swath of people, all eager to get the party games started, trod over each other to gain passage to the arena. Due to this, I (and, I imagine, many a paying customer) missed Mark Ronson's live show on the Main Stage; it was a good job I was only curious to see the super-producer's live show, as I would have been really disappointed had he been one of my must-see acts.
Therefore, I was happy as a bunny when Kelis took to the same stage, and I'd managed to grab myself a cider in time to watch the show. Although her albums are patchy, the R'n'B diva has notched up enough essential singles to make her one of my priorities of the weekend. Milkshake, Bossy and Trick Me followed the opener Millionaire in shaping a set that consisted of sharp and slick urban masterclasses in the 21st Century pop single. The fact that Kelis performs them with a flirty sass, mooning the audience on at least one occasion, makes her appearance all the more admirable.
David Guetta's brief fifteen-minute showing on the Main Stage, before his later appearance in the Subliminal Sessions tent, was less inspiring. 'Insipid' might be the word? The reliance on a male vocalist/MC spoils what might otherwise be danceable, if clunky and commercial, beats. What follows is the complete polar opposite to Guetta's cheesy dance, James Murphy and his LCD Soundsystem erasing any icky aftertaste with their electro punk-funk fusion. The new tracks, particularly North American Scum, are received with as much fervour as the old stand-bys, Tribulations the high point of a set that seals LCD's status as a top dance act and a fab live band. Oh, and cowbell! Yay!
Next up on the Creamy menu was dance's new golden boy, Kissy Sell Out. After hearing rave reviews, I took it upon myself to venture to the ever-so-trendy 'MySpace presents Futurism' tent. Unfortunately, for reasons I'm still not clear on, Kissy's set had been cancelled. The glass was half full, though, as MSTRKRFT were midway through their set in a neighbouring tent which was hosted by Chibuku and Annie Mac. In fact, as their playlist reached its close with remixes of Goose's Bring It On and Justice's D.A.N.C.E. (a track, whether in its original or remix form, was everywhere all night), 'half-full' swiftly became 'spilling over' as the cooler-than-thou duo raised the roof, turning their appearance into an early highlight of the festival.
A wee bit dehydrated from that troublesome dancing lark, it was time to head to my fave festival destination, the Strongbow Cider House, for some apple-related refreshment. Perfect timing, really, because Uffie and DJ Feadz had just started entertaining the sizeable crowd in this tent. The pint-sized Frenchy was doing her thang, which translates as 'attitude-driven girl-rap backed by beeps and bleeps', and particularly thrilled when she pulled out her ace, the Justice track Tthhee Ppaarrttyy which she features on. It only seemed right that, during a festival that was seemingly dominated by the Justice boys, I left Uffie's set prematurely to bypass Groove Armada completely and returned to the Futurism tent to await the duo's own set.
Ditched by friends who had opted to see Tidy Boys in the hard-house area, I was nontheless revved-up and suitably attired (glowsticks, neon face paint, ya know, the usual 'nu-rave' dickhead accessories) to be at one with the rest of the audience, a packed-out tent feverish with anticipation. I managed to catch one song from the continually impressive New Young Pony Club, this being the new-wave throwback The Get-Go, before the lights dimmed and the Church of Justice's sermon began. Opening with the imposing Genesis, it wasn't long before some technical problems caused a couple of false starts. However, when the Parisian heirs to Daft Punk's throne got going, their was no doubting the murmurs that these two are the saviours of dance music. The yellow glow of their symbolic Justice cross proved a focal point for an entirely up-for-it crowd who, despite saving their best moves and cheers for the aforementioned disco monster D.A.N.C.E., mashed it up good and proper for the unsettling Stress and 2006's hit mix of Simian's We Are Your Friends. At the end of their hour, it was clear that Justice and their cross are going to be converting many more of the dancefloor faithful into the next decade and beyond.
Entirely satisfied by this highlight performance, so much so that I would have been happy to hit the sack afterward, I still forced myself to return to the Main Stage to catch a twenty-minute slice of headliners The Chemical Brothers' set. It was a shame the reputable and, of course, prolific Brothers clashed with Justice as I've been meaning to catch them for a long time. Sadly, I seemed to walk in at the wrong time, this portion of their mix devoid of any of my favourites (no Galvanize, Star Guitar or Block Rockin' Beats for me!) and offering me the rather standard Believe instead. Still, nice visuals and light show, boys!
My final big choice act of the night was 2 Many DJs, and yet these left me feeling a bit cold as well. I stayed for the majority of their set, leaving towards the tail end after the first hour failed to capture the zany ambition of their bootleg mashups, As Heard on Radio Soulwax.... There were a couple of inspired moments, such as snatches of the Eurythmics and David Bowie amongst more contemporary dancefloor classics from the Gossip and Bodyrox. However, it all felt a bit 'straight', nothing coming close to matching their renowned pairing of Dolly Parton and Royksopp. Much of the instrumental dance music they played was just fine, as lively and driving as anything heard all weekend. When you're expecting greatness, though, and you're met with merely 'good', you have to ask what it could have been. Also, there was a stretch of five to ten minutes when the music stopped so security could deal with the flood of people who managed to get up onstage and dance (harmlessly, albeit) next to the superstar DJs themselves. A lack of music in a dance festival tent is never winning, and the boos emanating from the crowd spoke for themselves.
Sticking around to watch ten minutes of poster-boy-of-cool Tiga and his sexy electro was not enough to cure my lethargy; I cannot even critique the man's performance as, by this point, my total softcore rave stylings had ensured I was done for, 6am end be damned! Before leaving, me and friends chilled on the grass listening to various music leaking from the bowels of various tents. However, come three in the morning, it was time for us to hop on a bus and head to the train station (which happened to be closed, another story in itself).
And so I can add Creamfields to the list of festies I've survived, the only losses being perhaps a few brain cells. Although the lineup was a fair cut above average and performances, on the whole, did not disappoint, the festival itself was something of a kiddy's pick 'n' mix. As referred to, there were some organisation and technical issues, although the sound systems were mainly brilliant. Drink prices were the most reasonable I've encountered all summer, bars were well staffed and efficient, and - thanks to the big man in the sky - the weather made all the difference. For every couple of nice people you'd meet though, and there were some lovely folk, you'd also get a ruffian or two. I've never felt less safe at a festival and, when the whole point of a rave-up in a field is to cut loose, this isn't a good thing. Of course, the clientele isn't something Cream itself can be responsible for so it's a shame that the yob minority, at times, put a dampener on things. Toilets, however, are the responsibility of the peeps behind the festival and there's no excusing leaky urinals that end up being a more daunting prospect than a portaloo. If the balance is to be set right, then Justice needs to be served. In all tents and stages. All night. Please?