Notes from Glade 2012
Reported by voodoobass
Submitted 15-08-12 20:43
After coming back from a festival the size of Glade and being tasked with a write-up, it’s always quite tricky to know where to start. With a projected attendance of 10,000 people (the vast proportion of whom showed up despite the somewhat inclement weather, which I shall get to shortly), it’s a bit like reviewing a small town, with music, and despite best efforts to the contrary, one can only be in one place at once!
The last time I attended Glade was back in 2006 – the weather was absolutely glorious and my enduring memory is of one of the best festivals I had ever attended, so I was keen to see if the magic was still there this year, its second at new home Houghton Hall in Norfolk, some 270 miles away from my home in Devon. The fact that Glade was being held so far from where I live meant I was somewhat nervous about the weather ruining my fun. Glade’s had it rough with the British climate throwing some biblical type floods at it over the years, and my patience for mud, cold and damp is extremely limited, so I hoped that Glade’s assurances of free-draining, loamy soil underfoot would mean I didn’t have to do a 500+ mile round trip only to worry about mud coming over the top of my boots or having to get my car towed out at the end of the festival.
I wish I could say the sun shone all weekend, but in truth the weather was best described as mercurial, real four-seasons-in-one-day stuff, which made me glad I’d remembered to bring my favourite Moah snowboarding jacket. Now into its eighth festival season, it seems to have actually outlasted its manufacturer as I can’t find their contact details online anymore, although they still have a website up. Shame, as I want another one, so here’s hoping it’s just a hiatus and they’re not gone for good, and this speculative plug works…
Anyway, things were looking promising on Friday morning, but by the afternoon the sporadic sunshine gave way to epic amounts of wind and rain, which lashed at the festival site as thunder rolled overhead and lightening crackled ominously close to the metal flagpoles.
At one point, a twenty minute downpour caused a good two inches of standing water to cover the main site, so as soon as it eased off I returned to check up on my tent in the crew camping area, where several unfortunate neighbours found their tents had blown away or been totally demolished by the gusts. It was lucky I returned when I did, as my flimsy pop-up affair was looking as if it was about to take off as well, and it was only my drinking water supply and coffee-making equipment that was stopping it from following the others. However, after triple-pegging each corner and attaching the guy-lines to the security fence I felt there was nothing more I could do to secure my dwelling, so with some trepidation, off I trudged into the mud in search of ale, in order to make the best of things and get the party started.
Speaking of mud, I was pleased to see that in the half hour or so that I had been tying my tent down the majority of the standing water had already drained off, leaving the main festival site impressively dry underfoot, but high pressure areas near gates and a couple of the stages remained muddy throughout, so the website’s promise of ‘No Mud!!’ was certainly somewhat optimistic, although the main campsite was uphill and didn’t suffer as much as artists and crew. Wellies were a must until Sunday when the weather eventually came good for the day, reminding the crowd that ‘Yes! Occasionally the climate in England can be fairly decent!’
Of course, shortly after the festival finished the heavens opened and didn’t close again until morning, meaning leaving on the Monday morning was a slightly hairy experience, my car leaving the car park sideways in a low-speed power slide as I did my best to negotiate the sludge in a vehicle meant very much for on-road use. However, I managed to get through the worst of it, and it must have looked quite impressive as I even got a few cheers as I eventually managed to slither out of the quagmire and onto the main road without needing to be pushed out, unlike the poor sods in front and behind me! So yes, there was mud, but looking on the bright side it was definitely not as hardcore as other festival mud I’ve had to deal with. Here in Devon the mud is orange and puddles take up to three weeks to dry. Norfolk mud ain’t so bad!
Anyway, the festival experience isn’t all about assessing the quality of mud, oh no, there is music and DJs and all manner of craziness at these things too, so let’s talk about that for a bit.
Tickets to Glade aren’t at the bargain basement end of the market by any stretch of the imagination, so it’s good to see that no expense was spared when it came to production. With fourteen super-crispy Funktion One-based rigs providing sound for the festival the audio experience was crystal throughout, with only Saturday’s severe winds causing any kind of issue with the sound quality in front of the outdoor stages.
For me the highlight of the festival this year was the woodland area, the jewel in Glade’s crown. Yes, for once, Glade was actually held [partly] in a glade, and what a beautiful glade it was. The tall trees provided shelter from the winds which occasionally made the main site hard work, and the atmosphere created by the soft green lighting and wisps of dry ice floating through the trees was nothing short of magical.
Deeper amongst the trees were strange art installations including ‘Polyphant’. Made from thousands of shiny ribbons which fluttered gently in the breeze, walking through if you were feeling in any way altered was a most bizarre experience. The Feast Of Fools stage surprised me no end by playing classic ‘90s industrial metal (‘Psalm 69’ by Ministry, what a tune!) to blow away the cobwebs on the Sunday morning – an amazing but welcome blast from the past and definitely not the sort of thing I’d expect to hear at an event like this!
Further still into the woods one found the Bathing Under The Sky saunas and hot tubs, which looked quite inviting, however my lack of bathing suit and overall bashfulness about whipping my kit off in public meant I decided to resist the temptation. Well, that and the fact it cost about a tenner, and with my limited budget I needed all my spare money for the delicious ale (£4.10 a pint really starts to mount up after a while) and food.
The main forest attractions were of course the Liquid and Meteor stages, two of the main highlights of the festival. Liquid got stuck straight in providing classic forest-party psy vibes, and the Meteor stage was a true piece de resistance of set production. Dug deep into a natural amphitheatre, the sound quality was phenomenal as bass bins were fitted beneath the wooden floor and the steep walls stopped sound bleeding to and from the other areas. A UFO-shaped DJ booth and meteor-shaped lighting rig loomed powerfully over the bowl-shaped arena; the effect at night was simply amazing, qualifying for one of the best outdoor sound arrangements I’ve seen in the UK to date. However I didn’t spend as much time as I’d have liked down there as it was hard to get in during headline slots and I was doing my utmost to catch as many different acts and styles of music as I could.
After spending most of Friday drinking ale in the forest and enjoying some chunky tribal sounds round the Liquid stage, I fuelled up on some excellent Jerk Pork (no sniggering please) with rice and peas courtesy of the lovely ladies at the West Indian food stall, then made my way over to catch the first of the acts I was looking forward to seeing on the main Glade Stage, Californian act Pretty Lights aka Derek Vincent Smith.
Whilst not a huge name in the UK (yet), Pretty Lights has been making big waves in the US and Australia with a lavish stage show (featuring, as you might imagine, rather a lot of lights) adding atmospheric flavour to his deep, emotive, yet anthemic musical style which I once heard aptly described as ‘Dark Side of the Moon meets Dubstep’. However after misjudging my timings a bit I ended up catching the last 25 minutes of A-Skillz and Krafty Kuts’ tub-thumping set, which finished on a classic Moving Fusion track – either ‘Atlantis’ or ‘Warhead’, if my trainspotting goggles were on right.
Although righteously earth-shaking, this kinda ruined Pretty Lights for me, as the energy differential was too great – 175+ bpm D&B to a slow half-time 140-ish just didn’t work for me at that point in time despite the 5-10 minute break while Derek set up his gear. All that drum and bass and spicy stew had given me a load of excess energy so after ten minutes or so of sumptuous chords and powerful illuminations I had to wander off in search of something a bit more upbeat.
Unfortunately I didn’t make it back to the main stage for several hours meaning I also missed Robert Babicz – one of my prog/tech house producers at the moment – and Vitalic’s set, although having already caught him once or twice in the last couple of years, I was able to live with it. However, I did manage to catch Marc Romboy, Stephan Bodzin, and Sven Vath in there, all of whom ripped it up nicely.
An honourable mention must also go to the Gouranga! sound system tent, a bright, airy geodesic dome with subtle but very well-chosen visuals projected onto the ceiling. A simple concept, but it worked really well, and often felt like it was daylight inside despite it being dark outside, which I thought was a neat trick, with the ‘Sunday-morning-in-Shoreditch’ style tech house providing the perfect foil to the dark intimacy and low-end pressure of the nearby Overkill tent, home to bass warriors like Si Begg, Dillinja and Raiden.
RAJA RAM & THE TWISTED SOUND SYSTEM @ ORIGIN STAGE
Other noteworthy acts I caught over the space of the weekend were The Chicken Brothers from Liverpool whose wonky glitch-hop meets electro-swing stylings (yeah, that’s what I thought too… but it works!) had me dancing like a loon early on Sunday morning in the Roller Disco tent, Vent at the Meteor stage, Steve Thorpe and Foamo in the Bassment, Metaphra at Inspiral, Raja Ram and the Twisted Sound System on the Origin stage, Tom Real, Headflux, and Neurodriver as well as Harderfaster’s very own Andy Force on the Liquid Stage. Sadly I didn’t always have my printed line-up to hand and very few of the stages had set times posted, which always strikes me as something of an oversight meaning there were a couple of acts who impressed me but I was unable to work out who they were.
ANDY FORCE & JAY OM AKA OMSPHERE @ LIQUID STAGE
On Sunday the weather finally started behaving as it was supposed to, and for the first time all weekend you could just plonk yourself down on the grass wherever you liked and not worry about getting wet, which lifted my spirits no end – in true HF style I’m knocking on a bit and although I am still a very long way off hanging up my raving boots I do find myself needing a nice sit-down from time to time! The sun was blazing which meant the Origin and Pyromid stages suddenly came into their element. High winds on the Saturday meant that much of the Origin rig’s power and depth was lost to the gusts, but with the breeze back to normal and only a mild aroma of wet hippy in the air, I was finally able to lose myself in the psy trance for a bit, no doubt helped by spending a good hour or so checking out the amazing visionary art in the Elixir Of Life visionary art gallery and meeting the people responsible for some of the most jaw-dropping visual art around. If you missed it, you owe it to yourself to check out the work for a fantastic insight into the world of psychedelic inner visions. Amongst my favourites were pieces by Robert Venosa, Android Jones, Emma Watkinson and Lara Aleda.
LARA ALEDA @ ELIXIR OF LIFE VISIONARY ART GALLERY
Speaking of all things psychedelic, I was very pleased to see the presence of the Kosmicare ‘psychedelic emergency’ service. Born out of the Boom festival in the US and staffed by trained therapists, Kosmicare provide a safe space for those having a bad time on the ol’ mindbenders and a comfortable environment in which to turn a bad trip round into a positive experience, rather than ending up in the medic’s tend where things will be a lot less pleasant – and in any case, medics are really best saved for the seriously ill or injured, they’re not specialists in psychiatric care. Most definitely a noble goal and big respect for being the first to provide this kind of support in an organised way.
Of course, the peak of Glade festival was in the burning of the Pyromid stage, a veritable pyrotechnic extravaganza which no doubt held considerable symbolic resonance for many present. As a way to close the festival, it was amazing, with multiple salvos of exhibition-grade fireworks punctuating key moments as the structure began to collapse in the ensuing inferno. However, it seemed to be a bit out of sync with the actual close of the festival – it could have been slightly better timed to occur as the music had completely finished across all stages, since as the show was starting, the party was obviously still in full swing elsewhere, which made one wonder if one was missing out on something special. However, this was just a small hatch and overall the festival was organised in a very smooth and professional fashion – I think the Glade team can afford to give themselves a hefty pat on the back for a job well done.
BURNING OF THE PYROMID STAGE
I would however have liked to see better recycling facilities and perhaps improving the cup recycling policy – a bigger reduction at the bar for re-using cups rather than having a separate ‘returns’ booth would have worked wonders, plus having separate bins for recyclables and food waste is usually a given at ‘eco-friendly’ events like this, so it was something of a surprise to see everything being chucked into the same bin.
I also have to express some dismay at fellow party-goers’ lack of respect for the beautiful woodland area. I’m not normally a confrontational person but I had to tear strips off a couple of people for simply dropping dozens of empty nitrous canisters at their feet to be trampled into the mud. Those things are solid metal, worth a bit to recycle but don’t biodegrade and will have a seriously nasty effect on the ecosystem. Simply putting them into an empty carrier bag and disposing of them properly can’t be too much to ask, surely? More upsetting still were the people choosing to ignore the many signs asking them not to enter the fenced-off conservation areas where there were rare ground-nesting birds, merely because they were too lazy to walk another hundred metres to the urinals. Fortunately, however, this type of behaviour was perpetrated by very few, and overall the crowd was friendly and well-behaved. The lack of obvious fence-jumpers and people there simply to cause trouble was a testament to the well-organised security who with only one minor exception (and it was a really nasty time of day to be working) struck me as friendly, firm and fair throughout, even getting into the festival spirit with face paints and inflatable parrots on the Saturday night. I can think of a few club door crews that could learn a lot from those guys!
As I left the embers of the burning stage, I stopped for one last boogie with the fantastic Sonic Manipulator. In a nutshell, space-prog-disco vs trance performed live by a singing robot – go check him out on YouTube, it’s the nuts! A fantastic end to a fantastic festival, Glade this year was a winner despite the adverse weather conditions. As I headed back to my tent to catch up with my friends, the heavens opened once again sending me scurrying for shelter and an early night, in order to be fully rested up for the morning’s mud shenanigans and five hour motorway slog. Rain and 540 mile round trip notwithstanding, this was a most worthwhile experience and a whole ton of fun. I really do hope the weather is better next year, but I have a feeling that rain or shine, I’ll be there with bells on! Thank you Glade!
Many thanks to Annabel, Rosie and Tom at Cypher PR. Images courtesy of Cypher PR, Skaramanga and Sowilo. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.