Reviewed: Creamfields Twenty (2017)
August Bank Holiday Weekend. It means a few things. An opportunity to tick-off those niggling DIY jobs around the house. Bad weather. An extra night of partying. And a guarantee that August’s pay packet won’t see the light of September. Like death and taxes, these things are inevitable. It’s also the last hoorah of the UK festival season.
This year a few wild cards were thrown into the equation. The increasingly popular Lost Village moved dates to set-up occupancy across this three-dayer. And a media circus surrounding the much-hyped Mayweather/McGregor boxing match gave people a real option for staying indoors.
Options. It’s good to have options. But when clubbing institution Creamfields are celebrating 20 Years strong there was only ever going to be one outcome. Their biggest festival to date with 75+ artists across 11-stages and 4-bumper days of non-stop action. Oh. Not forgetting the 70,000 lunatics having the time of their life. Sadly, we could only make the Saturday and the Sunday owing to other commitments. But it would still be a weekend that went down in history!
Saturday (Day 3)
Learning from the pandemonium of last year, we opt to sidestep congestion chaos and travel through the night. We do not miss out entirely, as Radio 1 soundtracks our journey with a live broadcast direct from Daresbury. Sets from Annie Mac & Danny Howard and later Maya Jane Coles’ breathtaking Essential Mix get us into the festival mindset.
Having beaten the traffic, the only race left is to pitch our tent before the arena opens and the music is switched on. It’s still a long way to go until our dancing shoes are on. Meandering through the various campsites we’re confronted by an endless sea of tents. We pass sites which would later become landmarks with which to guide us through the night: the tent daubed with “Anyone Selling Weed?”, the lasses seemingly continuously applying make-up and Steve the Scarecrow. Pitches are like gold dust – all the good spots are taken. Our late arrival means our Days 1 and 2 are everybody else’s 3 & 4! So we’re on catch-up from the get-go. But all the fresher for it!
So what have Creamfields done especially for their 20th outing? Well, they’ve added a second and third indoor structure to sit alongside the Steel Yard, which itself has been given an upgrade. The Warehouse is smaller and more unassuming, but equally as functional and plays host to Pete Tong’s AGPT on Saturday and Yousef’s Circus on Sunday.
More impressive is Nation. Nation was, of course, the Liverpool club which served as the spiritual home of Cream. Having closed its doors for good in 2015, Cream has resurrected it for this weekend only! It’s a like-for-like replica of the main room, complete with podiums, poles and disco ball sure to bring some nostalgia. But aside from these 2 exciting additions, both the North & South stages specs have been given a spruce-up.
Tent erected. Airbed pumped (at least for the time-being). Old acquaintances met, and new friends made. We’re in good stead, and it’s now time for some proper antics! The camping lark is all a good craic, but mainly we’re here to put some serious hours in on the dancefloor!
It isn’t long before we sniff out the metal framework of the Steel Yard – our playground of choice. B.Traits is providing the ammo. We could stay here all day if truth be told. But such is the variety on offer, we’d only be cheating ourselves. So we head to appropriately titled Horizon stage to catch Armin Van Buuren. He plays an uplifting, vocal-heavy yet commercially-accessible set to screaming fans. It not a piece of us, and – we suspect – probably a departure from his set the night before in the Armada tent.
Dusk is settling and we find ourselves at All Gone Pete Tong where Hot Since 82 has drawn a crowd who lap up everything he throws at them! HS82 hands over to The Black Madonna, and she wastes no time in picking-up right where her predecessor left off. The energy is palpable! And Marea is clearly enjoying it as much as the mobbed floor.
Next, we find ourselves in the midst of the Jam Packed mosh pit. UK hip hop hopeful J Hus is on host duties and underlines why he’s such hot property with his rendition of ‘Spirit’. He’s followed by our host, MistaJam who reels through a selection of classics whilst working the mic. Old favourites such as Benga & Coki – ‘Night’ get our seal of approval.
But the highlight of the night falls to Richie Hawtin back in the Steel Yard. We’re Hawtin fans.. we’re just not sure if we can class ourselves as Hawtin superfans. When he embarks on some of his concepts it is perhaps fair to say he is prone to lapses of self-indulgence. Going so minimal and so abstract he only appeals to the techy-philes and the geeks and risks alienating more casual partygoers. Fortunately, any such lapses are absent on this occasion. CLOSE is an audio-visual delight. Hawtin’s performance is nothing short of ridiculous. It’s a joy to watch one of the industry’s biggest pioneers PLAYdifferently. Truly the perfect way to end Saturday’s dancing. We look forward to seeing how the CLOSE concept develops from here.
It’s 4am. Is it time to head back to the campsite and attempt to find our tent? Not quite. In all the excitement we get swept-up in boxing fever, despite having earlier been skeptics. It’s McGregor and Mayweather time! Suddenly the temperature plummets. Teeth-chattering we are left wondering how we survived all day in shorts.
Sunday (Day 4)
Our already broken sleep is punctuated by campsite battle-cries: “GOOD MORNING VIET-NAMMM!” and “Are we getting on it, or what?” in a thick Scouse accent.
Already we feel too close to the end of the Bank Holiday, so today it about piling-in as much of the action as humanly possible. First port of call is the Circus arena. Loco Dice is on early doors having postponed his scheduled appearance from the previous day. We take a wander over to Area10 where an animated Claptone has got the early crowd rockin’! Such is the energy, even the stoney-faced stewards can’t help but bop along.
It isn’t too long until our heads’ are turned, and we find ourselves lured back to the Steel Yard. Kölsch is in control and you could be forgiven for thinking it was peak-time. He drops Mark Knight’s ‘Yebisah’ before going a little harder. It might even be the hardest we’ve heard him play! The Dane throws up fists as he riles the crowd.
The arena has filled nicely for Beyer – and it’s still relatively early doors at 4pm. The time is an afterthought as the Drumcode boss provides some euphoric dancefloor moments with Frazier’s ‘Unknown Destination’ and his own new collab with Enrico Sangiuliano ‘Preset Heaven’.
Yet again, we could stay here all day. With reluctance we pull ourselves away. We frit through the Area10 tent for a second time, catching CamelPhat drop Eli Brown’s ‘Tech This Out’. Always chasing the buzz we’re soon off again. We’re caught off-guard as Hannah Wants ends her set with Lionel Richie classic ‘All Night Long’. We have no idea how she got to it, but fair play, the Sub- Aural tent is throbbing and spilling out the sides! Everybody is ‘avin’ it! Just pure scenes. How do you follow that? Well, if any man can, EZ can. Flame-throwers shoot up from the stage as the garage legend lays down his own rip-roaring set.
Not what we’re looking for right now, we head back to the Warehouse and finally feel we’ve found our spot. It’s an old favourite, Joris Voorn behind the decks. And he’s clearly having fun. It’s not a typical Joris track, but Armand Van Helden’s seminal Tori Amos ‘Professional Widow’ Remix has the crowd in awe. Within 2 tracks he’s completely switched the pace with his own ‘Ringo’. He does it so effortlessly it somehow just works. We check our watch and our stomach sinks. Time is getting on. As we approach the finale, there’s still time to squeeze in a fistful of legends.
We muscle to the front of the Horizon Stage where Fatboy Slim is imminent. A classical Disney intro coaxes us into an enchanted sense of false security. On the giant screen the theatre curtains part, and the grinning hell’s angel skull is revealed to cheers. “We’ve come a long, long way together. Through the hard times, and the good. I’ve got to celebrate you, baby. I have to praise you like I should” We offer our hand and are led down the garden path into Wonderland.
A-Trak’s ‘Heads Will Roll’ Remix has us jumping on the spot before the chant-along-ability of Zombie Nation’s ‘Kernkraft 400’. Norman is part of the furniture now. But that makes him no less a must-see. There appears to be some technical difficulty with his airhorn. Ever the professional, he doesn’t break sweat.
Nic Fanciulli’s remix of Gorillaz ‘Ascension’ is a welcomed addition to his usual repertoire before a mash-up of Hardrive’s ‘Deep Inside’ cut alongside Kanye’s ‘Fade’. Knowing time is against us, we take the short hop next door to Nation just in time to catch Jon Pleased Wimmin drop ‘Sweet Dreams’. Even Judge Jules can’t help but smile. It’s a moment. Sometimes it’s the ones you least expect which resonate the most. Keen to cram in as much as possible into the final few hours we move on again, ducking into the Pepsi-Max arena to catch a glimpse of Oakey rollin’ back the Generations. Here there’s a stronghold of loyal followers, and we feel we could get sucked-in if we stay. But destiny is pulling us elsewhere…
We return to the Steel Yard – as was our plan all along. It’s another legend who’s holding court – Sasha. He delivers one of the finest sets of the weekend. The veteran takes us on an uplifting journey from classic Der Dritte Raum through to modern day bangers like Skream’s ‘Motions’. But it is his own stunning remix of RÜFÜS DU SOL’s ‘Innerbloom’ which is the peak of proceedings.
We’re sticking around. Who else could we choose to close-out Creamfields Twenty than Eric Prydz? We’re joined by 9,999 others hooligans inside the brimming structure. He starts on ‘Every Day’. On the first drop CO2 canons erupt in tandem the entire length of both sides, engulfing the dancefloor. Okay, so that’s how they upgraded the Steel Yard for 2.0! Nobody was expecting that. But we know it won’t be long until we’re reaching for the lazers.
20 Years deep. And the experience shows. The whole show is just impeccable run. It’s a slick operation. There’s little queueing. The few queues there are moving quickly. Every worker is on the ball. Every act brings their A-game. Everybody plays their part. Frankly, this is how to throw a festival to the textbook. Competitors take note. Creamfields is the shining example of how things can be done. And how they should be. Others could do well to take a few pointers.
With a job well done, Team Cream will now turn their attentions to their other territories – with their 20th Year being their biggest expansion to date! With the Ibiza & Malta versions already behind us, next on the agenda is South America where they’ll take-on Uruguay, Chile & Peru. Then it’s on Melbourne for the start of the Australian summer, before finishing the tour in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Quite a schedule. And one which underlines the global impact and appeal of the brand. It’s a reputation well earned.
Back on UK shores they’ll roll-out their Steel Yard a final time this year. Setting-up shop at Liverpool’s Central Dock across 2 weekends in November, it’ll feature headline performances from EDM wonderkid Martin Garrix and Armin’s A State Of Trance. Or there’s the K-Klass led Cream Classical night, which we’re still will be all sorts of awesome. And we haven’t even touched upon the other big anniversary of 2017 – Cream’s 25th. Liverpool O2 Academy, Chester, Glasgow and ending with an all-star Weekender at Butlins, Minehead – take your pick!
But, for us, our heart will forever be in an isolated field in the Cheshire countryside. Until next year.