Reviewed: EPIC 5.0 at SteelYard, London
As soon as it was announced, we were at the front of the queue. Ever since a field in Daresbury late last summer, where Eric Prydz had rocked our world with a stand-out performance inside Creamfields’ SteelYard. This time it was going to be bigger. Better. It was going to be E.P.I.C 5.0. Supersized. Supercharged. And the bonus was it was happening on our own doorstep at Victoria Park. Months dragged on. And even on the day itself, the usually reliable tube was causing us a headache. Trains delayed. Services cut. Journeys curtailed. Heading east from Victoria was proving challenging. At one point we consider giving up and walking. The idea is shot down. Rightfully so. Patience will see us through.
We put the misery of the tube behind us. We’re spritely as we march from Mile End tube down Grove Road. It’s a scorcher, we’ve got May’s paycheck in our back-pocket and festival season is GO, GO, GO! We pit stop at a nearby offy and grab some refreshments to aid our lubrication. Us and a stream of revellers head towards Victoria Park, passing several traditional End East boozers on the way. High-vised Stewards offer directions, but we’re following our nose. And the reverberating bass. We debate stopping for a swift pint. But in soaking up the atmosphere, we’d forgotten we were running well behind schedule
It’s now a race to arrive in time to catch office favourite Cristoph. Accreditation confirmed, barcodes scanned, pockets emptied, sides patted-down. We’re waved through and break into a jog. We pass dozens taking a more leisurely approach and suspect we look a tad ridiculous. Running evidently isn’t our forte. But needs must. We make it! By God, we make it! High-fives all round.
That familiar smell wafts into our nose. Is it the scent of grass? Of inner city playing fields? Or is it something more primal – the scent of expectation? We don’t know. Maybe it’s a combination of all-of-the-above? It can only be some 8-months since our last UK outdoor festival. But that smell – YES! – we’ve missed it. The End of May Bank Holiday is the traditional curtain-raiser to the festival season, and we’re declaring it officially open for business right NOW!
The air is sticky. That stuffy heat synonymous with British summertime. Yet we’re standing in shade. Or rather shadow. Not the shadow of someone, but some-thing. We cradle our necks back. The indomitable SteelYard structure towers above us. Custom built to house 15,000 lunatics. We bundle in. If we thought it was muggy outside, then inside has the humidity of a greenhouse! We’re in agreement that later when it busies, it’ll turn into one giant sweatbox. The sadist in us can’t wait.
Cristoph has had an incredible 12-months. Not only did he have one of the defining albums of 2016, but an array of accolades went on to earn him a support slot on Prydz’s North American tour. It’s a match which fits. And a hook-up which is set to continue this summer in Ibiza. Far from taking his foot off the peddle, the Geordie producer has released on the likes of Circus, LNOE & Bedrock all since the start of the year.
It’s his forthcoming release ‘Feel’ on Pryda Presents which we are most excited about. As fortune would have it, we are treated to an added quarter hour of Cristoph. He ends on an old favourite – a track we’ve not heard in ages – Lifelike & Kris Menace’s ‘Discopolis’. What a beaut! It’s the catalyst we needed, and we submerge into full-blown festival mode.
It seems a tiny bit scandalous being cooped-up indoors at the height of the day. So we spend a few minutes basking in the sun then head to the bar. We spot numerous attendees wearing Armin Van Buuren & A State of Trance t-shirts. But equally, we see party-goers wearing Suara and Hot Creations merch. It underlines the universal appeal Prydz wields: champion of the main stage; purveyor of the underground. And it goes without saying, there’s plenty of Pryda-branded tees on display too. We head back into the cauldron to catch George FitzGerald.
Previously we’d only caught FitzGerald in considerably more intimate settings. So we were intrigued to see how his sound would translate inside this cavernous behemoth. If there had been any suggestion he couldn’t’ve carried it off, this was very quickly allayed. FitzGerald is truly a master at switching the tempo. He weaves from the classic house of KiNK’s ‘Sunshine’ remix to Hotflush techno both effortlessly and subtly.
Kölsch is the penultimate act. He plays his trademark melodic sound and treats us to recent cuts from Patrice Bäumel (‘Glutes’), Laurent Garnier (‘1-4 Doctor C’est Choulette’) and a euphoric number which tip-toes into trance territory. Whilst earlier there had been an abundance of space, by now everyone has piled inside. We’re getting close.
We’re getting restless. Treading water. And we sense we’re not alone. Kölsch, FitzGerald, Cristoph are all worthy of their billing, and we’re huge fans of all these guys – don’t get us wrong! On any other night, a line-up with those three names alone is a salivating prospect. But today was always all about Prydz.
As Kölsch brings his set to an end, we are left in limbo. This is the interlude. A few minutes later a pulsating heartbeat bellows from the PA system before fading out. There are several more false-flag starts. He’s teasing us. Toying with our emotions – manipulating our impatience for his own gains. This is the kind of technique applied by your Justin Biebers and Katy Perrys to build anticipation. But it works. Anticipation has reached critical. Then a red glow from the stage…
The lights flick quicker and quicker. Our heart races. Then a neon 3D cube appears in the centre of the stage. It’s time. The next 120-minutes is a whirlwind of aural and visual stimuli, drops and come-ups – both visceral and cerebral.
We note that pounding, siren-like bassline of Green Velvet & Harvard Bass’ ‘Lazer Beams’. And even though we’re pretty certain what’s going to happen next, that makes it no less specular! The lazers are quite simply phenomenal. They might just be the best we’ve ever seen! For the first time, the entire length of the structure is accentuated. It’s now we get an extended run of Cirez D material, and we’re in our element!
Prydz revived his underground alias for a handful of Mouseville E.P.s last summer and has hinted at more to come. It’s a small sample catering to more acquired, discerning tastes, but still bares all the hallmarks of Sweden’s most famous export. He rips through ‘BACKLASH’, ‘IN THE REDS’ and cult classic ‘ON/OFF’
It’s ‘Lillo’ which soundtracks a projection of the Milky Way out into the crowd. The stars orbit overhead. Right here, right now – in this moment – we feel centre of the universe. Prydz stands at the very epicentre, and all of time and space emanates from his core. He has assumed the role of deity. The creator giving sound, light and life to all. We take a moment.
The visual keep coming though. An astronaut floats above us. We reach out in a vain attempt to touch it. We’re getting spaced-out, maaaaan. The music breakdowns into the instantly recognisable keys of ‘Pjanoo’ and we’re floatin’! Eyes shut in bliss as we become one with the music. Next the chant-along anthem of ‘Every Day’ accompanied by a hologrammatic DNA helix which later morphs into a satellite.
If we have any complaints, then the epidemic use of cameras would be it. All too often our view is obscured. Or a bright light shone directly in our eyes. In truth, this was to be expected. Love it or loathe it, it’s become part of the culture. It’s a minor whinge. And we get it. The scenes we bear witness to are worthy of documentation.
We’ve reached the finale, and the finish line is in sight. But we don’t want it to end. It can only really be ‘Opus’ which Prydz ends on and we’ve given another moment that’ll last with us forever. The first drops sending the crowd crazy “This might just be the best track ever produced” we overhear. At this particular moment, we agree. In front of us an explosion of powder – like he split the atom himself – before the dust fragments mould back together, gradually forming a recognisable human face. Prydz’s face. The lights come up and the crowd roar. What. A. Show.
Next weekend the SteelYard will be passed into the capable hands of Field Day and re-christened ‘The Barn’, where it will play host to a rare headline appearance by Aphex Twin. We can only imagine the kind of scenes which will unfold. Sadly, we’ll have to settle for the live stream. We suspect attendees might be a little less zealous with the camera-phones on that occasion. But we’ll see.
We acknowledge that Prydz isn’t for everyone. If you’re the kind of person who likes dark, sweaty basements with a killer sound system and obscure, hard to I.D. music then this was obviously not the party for you. But in terms of the show – the spectacle – the bright lights, special effects, production, Prydz is untouchable. He’s in a league of his own. This was a 360o experience which brought music and technology together for a white-knuckled, adrenaline-pumping 2-hour extravaganza. The kind of show that makes Vegas seem small-fry. And that is why Prydz is the perfect fit for Ibiza’s newest superclub, Hï.
From 20th June to 22nd August he takes on the highly competitive Tuesday night slot – arguably the most stacked night on the island. For 10 weeks he’ll takeover The Theatre room, for what is set to be his first official residency (if you’re willing to turn a blind-eye to his regular appearances for Tonight in 2011!) Given the theatrics on display today, Hï & Prydz form a formidable pairing. A winning formula. It just might be the coup of the season. It goes without saying Kölsch, George FitzGerald & Cristoph will all be there. Plus there’ll be appearances from Dusky, Tube & Burger and Andrea Oliva & Friends next door in The Club room.
We’ll be there too, of course. And then there’s the small matter of his Deadmau5 versus set – a Europe festival exclusive no less – as the Friday night headliners at this year’s Creamfields. A coming together of 2 of electronic music’s biggest personalities. And a clash big enough to commemorate the festival’s 20th Anniversary.
It’s gonna be a great summer. And it starts and ends with Eric Prydz, Creamfields and the SteelYard. E-P-I-C!