Gatecrasher Summer Sound System 2008
Turweston Aerodrome, Northamptonshire. 24-25 May
Matt Cook - 27 May 2008
And make no mistake, this is a special event in the history of dance festivals. 2008 marks the anniversary of 20 years of acid house, a scene that developed from the Chicago house and Detroit techno scenes in the mid to late 80s, marking a revolution in electronic music, and coinciding with the new wave of warehouse parties and illegal raves that caused a stir here in the UK. No-one could have predicted that this scene would still be going strong in 20 years time, let alone have spawned so many new styles of music, made celebrities of it’s DJs, and left such a legacy to the next generation.
What better way to celebrate then, than hand picking the biggest names from all these genres, enough to fill 20 arenas over two days, in a field in the middle of nowhere, with up to 80,000 ravers turning up en mass to fill their boots and get down to their favourite tent to help make this the party it deserves to be.
Arriving at this festival, you could see what it means to people. The acid house flags were flying, with the smiley face emblem plastered on clothes, tents, and even cars and campervans, all round the site. People dressing up in anticipation, getting themselves ready for the best all nighter on the calendar so far. Massive sound systems, pumping out enough bass to help lift you off your feet, amazing light shows and lasers, big AV screens, a fun fair and a huge Main Stage to house the headline acts that have helped push this music overground. In fact, so much music to choose from, there’s every opportunity to fill the entire night with some of the best dance music acts around…all we’ve got to do is find out who’s playing when and we can plan the night.
This proved to be more difficult than it should have been. Talking about who’s playing as we’re walking through the campsite prompted someone to ask us: “What colour programme have you got?...if you’ve got a blue one then it’s fake…”. It turns out someone had pre-empted the official sales of the £10 programmes by walking round selling some with completely made up schedules for the attractive price of just £5. Happy that our ones were black, we start trying to plan at least where we should start the aural onslaught, and head to the Electric Stew at the far end of the site, one of the arenas offering variety as well as quality. Adam Freeland’s big breaks sound was waiting, but the excitement of those first steps into the site, and trying to get our bearings from the different sounds booming from each tent, we end up snaking our way the entire length of the site, clocking the trance coming from the 'Crasher Arena, the hard house beats from Storm, and old skool sounds from Fantazia before settling for a much anticipated live set from Digitalism.
This is a great introduction to what we can expect from the weekend. The tent isn’t over packed, but already the party is in full flow, and the German duo fill the place with their trademark electro house that instantly raises the atmosphere and the crisp sound makes sure everyone is feeling and living every build up and break down they choose to send our way.
The main thing about the line-up is that, as long as you know what you’re in for, you will never be disappointed. This event isn’t for everyone, however, and even some of the tents within the festival won’t interest everyone. But the organisers of this Gatecrasher event make no attempt to spread the similar acts over different tents, and have no need to apologise for doing so. Whatever you want to listen to, whatever style you suddenly get the urge to consume, you know exactly where you need to go to get it. The sound is so big in these tents, that it’s inevitable your needs are going to change during the course of the night, but with their choice of hosts for each space, Gatecrasher provides a great template for you to adopt and make your own.
Next stop is the Dirty Disco Arena, which promises to be another tent worth returning to again and again on Saturday night. Dave Clarke’s in there, banging out much harder, darker techno and minimal grooves for us to latch on to, and with the likes of Josh Wink and Luciano later on to keep the theme running, we’re intent on coming back.
First though, we’ve got to see The Prodigy, and so does everybody else. The Live Stage looks massive, and the area reserved for the big guns over the weekend is a really good size, but the problem isn’t overcrowding or being too far away from the stage, it’s the wind. This site is on an airfield and although the rain has held off so far it is really blowing. Unfortunately, unless you position yourself to take this into account the sound gets thrown all over the place, and it’s starting to sound like The Prodigy are half way up a mountain. We find a good spot in time for some of the classics, and the encore of ‘Voodoo People’, ‘Poison’ and ‘Out of Space’ is exactly what we’re looking for.
To top the night off, we catch Roni Size starting an amazing line-up of acts pumping it out ‘til the close in the Drum & Bass Arena, with the pioneers like Fabio and Goldie alongside TC and Dillinja taking us right through to a great set from Randall to finish. With the nearest tent sporting the old skool sounds of Top Buzz and the Ratpack, the Fantazia Arena is by far the biggest cause of flashbacks all weekend. Great fun.
So, Saturday was a successful night and with the rain just getting heavy as we call it a night we still have so much more to look forward to, whatever the weather.
Well, if only that were true. We wake up Sunday to a mud filled campsite, grey skies, and a lot of bin bag jackets and wellies. All new arenas today though, so we can get to the tents, get undercover, and carry on where we left off early this morning.
The 20 Years of Acid House Arena brings us names from the past, and Terry Farley kicks things off nicely, with people like Alex Patterson and Kevin Saunderson there later on to teach us where all this started. A live set from 808 State is definitely a festival highlight.
Meat Katie takes us into the evening with some more big breaks in the excellent Home Taping Arena, before we look for a bit of respite from the repetitive thuds and let Mark Ronson weave some magic on the decks with his spin on the Gatecrasher theme. Mixing Smokey Robinson vocals over electro beats, and dropping crowd pleasers like Blur amidst his set is refreshing, and proves to be one of the most popular sets we see. Then it's off to another packed tent in the Metropolis Arena, with queues at every entrance to see DJ Yoda’s Magic Cinema AV set.
What we didn’t realise until we go to catch the start of The Chemical Brothers set is that the Live Stage has been closed down, and that none of the headline acts were to perform. Ok, so it had rained during the night, but surely not enough to warrant cancelling the entire show? And if it is that the main stage is flooded, then surely the acts will just be moved to one of the other tents, won’t they? Apparently not, and only Pendulum interrupt the Metropolis schedule to give any consolation to those who bought a day ticket for the Sunday.
With LTJ Bukem, Steppa and High Contrast following, the Metropolis tent stays packed for the rest of the night, but with the wind and the rain set in, and a mudbath underfoot, it proves a disappointing end to the weekend. The ups and downs of the festival experience were displayed in all their glory packing up Monday, with abandoned tents and mess covering the site by the time we left, and the only entertainment was watching Quechua pop ups tumbleweeding into the surrounding fields by the dozen. Lets hope the sun comes out for the rest of the season.