Tuesday, May 27, 2008

gatecrasher summer sound system - the review.

"Whether it be sheer cheek, lack of intelligence, commercial greed, or laziness, this must be the only major UK festival not to make sufficient plans so that their own customers are not left severely short-changed."

So how would a seasoned Glastonbury patron cope with a more commercialised, dance orientated, festival?

No alcohol allowed to be brought in to the main arenas, you say?
Having to pay just to find out the set times?

Is this what the average
UK festival goer has to put up with…?

Arriving on site Saturday afternoon, it's a mixed start. Fully expecting to have to pay through the nose for an official program as the only way of getting hold of the set times and site map for the weekend, the £10 price tag is still jarring, and depression soon kicks in when the extent of how bad the stage clashes are become apparent.

Justice or Soulwax? Chemical Brothers or Zane Lowe? Pendulum or DJ Yoda? Dizzee Rascal or Hot Chip?

No point in agonizing over such issues all day, so we instead forsake seeing Adam Freeland or Does It Offend You, Yeah? in favour of firing up a barbecue.

When we do eventually get into the Arenas our first port of call is Digitalism, who bash out their electro with just enough energy to get us dancing for the first time. Pogo, I Want I Want and Zdarlight sound great, but otherwise the source material is a little to dull to prevent the set from lagging in between.

No such problem for The Prodigy, naturally, who are able to draw on two decades of material for their headline set.

Not helped by strong winds hampering sound quality, they only succeed in matching expectations, rather than exceeding them. Whilst Out of Space and Smack My Bitch Up are the show stopping festival anthems you would expect them to be, a lifeless Firestarter falls flat.

Roni Size – Reprazent on the other hand happily tear up the Drum and Bass Arena with an hour long set that barely leaves the audience opportunity to catch their breath. It's a welcome expelling of energy that had been lacking in the patchy early performances, and feels like a genuine thrill.

From there things can only get worse, which they do in spectacular style as 25 minutes of Pete Tong's inexplicably boring set are endured before an escape plan to see the end of Audio Bullys is hatched, who whilst hardly revolutionary are infinitely preferable to Tong.

Then it's a case of sticking around to see the air-horn wielding Kissy Sell Out prove why he's one of the most eccentric DJ's on the scene. Mixing inventive beats with intensely danceable hooks, and throwing the odd shot of surrealism into the mix, he's a genuine highlight. Any DJ that will throw R.E.M. and Wham – Last Christmas into a club set has got to be worth their salt, surely?

From there a snacking approach dominates as a visit to TC in the Drum and Bass Arena is a lifeless affair, we prove too sober to enjoy the minimalism of Vitalic, and are just too plain wiped out by the time we sample the actually very accomplished trance DJing of Ronald Van Gelderen. At 4am then, we retire to our tent for the night…


…where we would end up staying for the next 13 hours. A mixture of sporadic sleeping, entertaining visitors to our tent and general laziness would mean missing the likes of Plastic Little, Skream + Benga, Annie Nightingale and Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip.

Eventually we emerged, and set about attempting to beat paying £4.50 a drink by successfully finding a spot along the perimeter fence we could lob our wine box over.

Once inside, the (hardly torrential) day's rain had meant that the Live Stage acts were being cancelled, meaning no Hot Chip performance, and that disappointed crowds had instead packed out Dizzee Rascal's tent making it impossible to get in.

Dejected, it was a case of waiting until the tent cleared out so that Freq Nasty could spin a highly enjoyable warm up set to the fantastic Dj Yoda's Magic Cinema Show.

Thoroughly entertaining, Yoda mixes live an eclectic range of DVD imagery and music ranging from Super Mario Brothers through to Chemical Brothers and back to the Rocky theme. It's just about the most inventive live music proposition out there and the only fault is that after 50 minutes the decision is taken that we have to leave to go see some major headliners.

Developments have reached their disgraceful nadir though, as it transpires that main headliners Chemical Brothers have also been cancelled due to the weather, so instead we put up with 10 minutes of Mark Ronson's over-running DJ set in preparation for Zane Lowe.

Ronson may actually be a good DJ one day, but as he still has a commercial reason to rely on playing out rancid songs from his awful Version album, you sense that day won't come anytime soon.

Zane Lowe meanwhile, immediately goes about proving why he's the very best party DJ out there. Mixing up genres as he is known for, his choices of tracks are 10 out of 10, his inventiveness is 10 out of 10, and his technical ability as a DJ rates pretty damn highly too. It's a show-stealing and raucous affair.

Next comes the difficult decision to miss Soulwax and a rescheduled Pendulum, to instead crowd into a brim full tent to see Justice.

Remixing, cutting and mashing together the already brilliant material from their "†" album couldn't really go wrong, but live they've continued to improve how they reinvent the material so that the crowd is teased and punished by relentless waves of insanely danceable music, which reaches it's climax with three false endings and the destroy-all-in-path Soulwax remix of Phantom pt.2. It's a down-right logical end to the best set of the weekend.

The final five minutes of Soulwax's alright-sounding set are caught, before Paul Oakenfold headlines Gatecrasher's own tent with a moderately pleasing trance show.

Tiredness and sobriety are again setting in though, and managing to drag ourselves to Simian Mobile Disco's 2am live performance is partly rewarded by a proficient and lively set that is sadly unable to stop the pain of the weekend mounting up, and 40 minutes in the decision is taken to retire for the night.

Overall though, the inexplicable event management must be questioned.

Whether it be sheer cheek, lack of intelligence, commercial greed, or laziness, this must be the only major UK festival not to make sufficient wet weather plans so that their own customers are not severely short-changed by what was – realistically – an averagely wet British Sunday afternoon.

Festivals like the constantly drowning Glastonbury show Gatecrasher to have complete contempt for their paying guests, and the public should respond with that very same contempt.

1 comment:

critic said...

should have seen luciano.. sounds like you missed all the best stuff on saturday (i.e dirty disco arena)

other highlights of the weekend included.. logan d and freq nasty.