Global Gathering 2008

Long Marston Airfield, Stratford-On-Avon.25-26 July

Global Gathering 2008

Photographer: Shirlaine Forrest29 July 2008

But despite an outstanding line up for its UK flagship event, including Kanye West, Mark Ronson and Tiesto, and the likes of Wild in the Country and Wax:On cancelling at the last minute, surely there must have been a few nerves over whether this year would be a success.
Arriving in Stratford for a festival is always a bit of a weird experience. The quaint little village is besieged with clubbers of all ages and styles. This year it was even more surreal as everyone who stepped off the train was treated like a drug smuggler, herded single file through a police check point with snifffer dogs. This lead to some complaints to the police, from the locals who are just on their way back from a jaunty day out

"I'm local; do I still have to get sniffed?"
"Afraid so maam, it shouldn’t take too long though"

On paper there was a sufficient amount of variety to appeal to all and as we walked around the site soaking up the rays it was evident that the production for this year's event was phenomenal. There were no less than ten different stages to choose from, while the camp sites were littered with rides, food stalls, amenities (including hot running showers) and our very own watch towers to make you feel at home.

Personally I had been looking forward to seeing hip-hop king Kanye West, but after speaking with other revellers it would seem that this wasn’t the case for everyone

'Don’t mention his name near me'
'I mean, what the f* *k his he doing at a dance festival'

In the end it was up to the individual to make a decision on whether this was a good idea or not. Kanye West was supposed to have had the main stage to himself due to the 'sheer scale' of the performance. This turned out not to be true, and with much of the promised hype missing there was no orchestra, dancers and very few special effects.

Critics in America have compared Kanye's concert to an "awesome sci-fi themed hip hopera". Im not sure this was the case here. Kanye rocked out all his big tunes while the Daft Punk ripped 'Stronger' was left for the finale, which was greeted with rapturous applause.

Kanye is what he is. A hip-hop legend. Over inflated ego (it was rumoured that he had a bit of a sulk as the Scratch Perverts warmed the crowd up for him) and body guards ready to pounce if anyone took an unofficial picture of him. To me there just seemed to be something missing. It looked as if many of the crowd left disappointed and I'm personally not sure it was the best decision to book a hip-hop star for Global. I approached James Algate the next day to see how he thought it went. His rationale behind booking him has to be applauded

"Live acts are now expected at festivals such as this", he explained. "There are only so many dance acts that can be booked until you start to regurgitate the same artists."

I have to agree; live acts broaden the appeal and bring in a wider audience. And in such a competitive landscape, this is the only way festivals such as Global can survive. Was Kanye the best choice though? Only time will tell.

The night ended in the Global tent with 14,000 other happy campers dancing out to Tiesto. His set was ok but seemed a little predictable to me. It would seem that the bigger the artist the more of an ego there is, only the official photographers were allowed back stage and there were strictly no interviews. It's almost as if they take clubbers and festival goers for granted. If it wasn’t for us then you wouldn’t have been voted second best DJ in the world. Maybe that’s worth bearing in mind before snubbing us lesser human beings!

Not everyone, it would seem, thinks this way. I was fortunate enough to have five minutes with Fedde Le Grande before he went onstage. I'm not a huge fan of his music but his set was perfected and when he dropped 'Put Your Hands Up For Detroit' the place went mental. After his set he was flying off to Ibiza to play at Pacha but he was so determined to play Global that he had one of the earlier sets so he could appear.

With Saturday's event not starting until 2pm we tried to keep ourselves amused with what little entertainment there was. Apart from the usual fairground rides there seemed to be very little for people to remain entertained. With the outside cinema closed it seemed the only option was to congregate besides the rides as this was the only place any music could be heard. Global – sort it out.

With so much variety on Saturday it seemed difficult to pick out what sets to follow. After being a fan of Sander Kleinenberg for many years (but not having seen or heard anything by him for the last two) I decided to see what was going down in the Global tent. Maybe it's just me, or maybe my age, but there seemed to be very little to get you excited about the whole thing. After 30 minutes of a lacklustre set I headed over to see Sander Van Doorn.

It's easy to see why he has been voted so highly in the DJ world rankings. Even for someone that doesn’t really appreciate techno/trance music it was difficult not to get caught up in the vibe. The energy put into the music and the enjoyment he was obviously having on stage became infectious, the DJ bouncing around like a headless grass hopper. It was a little too much for my energy levels and so decided to check out the VIP area for some much needed TLC. With each festival it’s the attention to detail that makes the event. In the VIP area there were free massages for all and plush toilets. And if there wasn’t enough love at the event already the Red Arrows flew overhead leaving a red heart shaped smoke cloud in the sky. 

Earlier in the day I had the fortune to be able to interview John Digweed. After being at the forefront of dance music for almost two decades (I don’t mean to say he's old or anything) John's appetite for making fresh music is still strong. John has played many other Global's around the world but is particularly found of Stratford and the crowd loved every millisecond. Halfway through his set, two guys climbed on their mates shoulders to unravel a flag. It was adorned with a picture of John's face and the Bedrock label, which whipped the crowd into a frenetic orgy. Next up Guy J but instead I headed over to the Global tent to see Etienne De Crecy. I would be back later though to see the legendary Zabiela.

To anyone out there that hasn’t seen or heard of Etienne De Crecy then shame on you. To be honest, until the weekend I was one of you. Performing in what appeared to be the disused set of the noughts and crosses TV show it's easy to see why the man has such a reputation for himself. Playing for only an hour it's difficult to get a feel for a DJ but this guy has got talent and stage presence oozing out of him.

James Zabiela has always been an inspirational DJ for me. After winning bedroom DJ of the year and seeing him rock out in Sankey's, Cream and Fabric it is understandable why the guy has such a solid fan base. His mix of breakbeats and house music is phenomenal. The room was full of pearly white teeth as it seemed impossible for anyone to dance to him without a grin on their faces. One guy told me it was almost as if he had dropped a tonne of horse shit on him as he had never experienced such filth. Personally, I was more than happy that this was a metaphorical statement as the smell of BO was bad enough.

As the sun began to rise the previous few days began to take its toll on me so we went to catch Plump DJs. The Plumps' take on breaks is always a refreshing and Eargasm led to them gaining a residency at the Holy Grail that is Fabric. Saturday's set though seemed a little low on energy. It may have been the sound system (a particular issue for me throughout the whole weekend, I don’t really want to listen to some pilled up Welsh birds talking about how good the dodgems were) or the fact that the crowd was beginning to thin out, but the set seemed a little distant. It seemed to lack the Fabric magic.

And so the weekend had finally claimed me. I could stand no longer and headed back to the tent to try and get a few hours kip before the journey home. Global 2009? I would have to say yes. Even with the few hiccups this year (Kanye?) I still think this is one of the better two day events in the UK. The Red Arrows for example go to show the thought process behind the whole event. They grabbed your attention like a massive boot to the nuts but also showed you that the £140 that has been drained from your bank account isn’t just being pocketed by some hedge fund manager. It showed the promoters were trying to think of ways to keep the masses entertained and we weren’t left to contemplate, 'What am I doing here?' There are always things that can be improved at these events. The twelve hour wait between the Friday and Saturday is a little overbearing, the sound levels were not to the standard I have become accustomed to and the extra £50 for VIP tickets isn't really worth it. I'm just not sure that a shorter walk to the camp site and toilets that Kim and Aggie would be proud of warrant such a mark up in price. However, Global is a truly varied and phenomenal event and one of the best UK dance festivals, without a doubt. Of course, wall to wall sunshine always helps too.

by Daniel Welton

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