Creamfields Ireland, Punchestown Racecourse, Naas, County Kildare, 24th June 2000
When Homelands came on the Irish festival scene two years ago, no one was quite sure how the mixture of rural landscape and heavy bass would react. Sure, the whole thing worked in England, but then again, England was having its first flirtations with club culture when we were listening to Planxty. However, when Homelands in Ireland tapped into this generation's indisputable taste for dance music, the idea of Creamfields seemed like a natural progression.
The two most striking things about Punchestown racecourse were the peaceful atmosphere, given that ecstasy and/or cannabis were the stimulants of choice before alcohol, and the excellent organisation of the event. There were loads of porto-potties (and some actually had toilet roll!), no major queues for the bar, a portable pass machine, outlets for buying phone credit….
The several-different-tents-concept works well on a number of levels. Most obviously it means you can slip in and out of musical tastes and tempos as the mood takes you, but also it ensures that what happened at that festival in Germany won't ever happen, with the crowd constantly circulating. Of course, the very nature of dance music is a thousand miles away from the idea of a rock concert. There's not much jumping, no mass surge in any direction. It's about the music (man), and even though some DJs do have a certain iconic status, they don't induce the fainting teenage girls scenario to quite the same degree.
The crowd was made up of three predominant groups:
The 2FM stage had the biggest mainstream appeal and was actually the worst. Kelis wouldn't be my cup of, tea so I wasn't paying much attention though there was a rousing cover of "Smells like Teen Spirit". Moloko are a strange group. An Irish lead singer who no one's really heard of and a keyboard player who looks like he should've been in Madness. Roisín Duffy comes across as a weak imitation of Cerys Matthews, like a boozy housewife emerging from the local. But where Matthews is attractive and charasmatic, Duffy looks like she's been dressed by somebody's attic (on this occasion she's wearing polkadot pedal pushers and white knee high boots-girls, you understand), but she's also lacking any visible charm. The crowd went mad for their delicious "The Time Is Now", a song alone which proves the band's worth on some scale.
But shortly after, the crowd drift away and so do I. Back at the main stage as the natural light grows dimmer, are the brothers Chemical. As the opening seconds to 'Hey Boy, Hey Girl' break out, a sea of people drop whatever they're doing and literally run to the 2FM stage. But about 6 minutes later it's all going down hill. Oh yeah, they play 'Block Rockin' Beats', but something's not quite right. They've fucked around with the original mix to such an extent that it's… well, kinda crap. Dancing isn't an option, because they're cutting potential crowd shakers off mid tweak. Anyway it's all horribly disappointing and at a point where the Chemicals should be grabbing the majority of the Creamfields audience, the masses are drifting again.
Having not seen David Holmes in action, I can say almost conclusively that Basement Jaxx were the best thing about the 2fm stage. Complete with live stage set, latino dancers, Spanish guitars and Madman Swahili, the Jaxx proved their worth to anyone who ever though they were just a couple of blokes with earphones. Obviously 'Red Alert' was the biggest crowd pleaser, with the bootleg version of the massive hit tacked onto the end for their long time fans. The balearic sound of 'Rendez-vu' sounded fantastic as did 'Jump n' Shout' and the gothic 'Peepshow'. Even if you weren't a fan of Basement Jaxx, you couldn't have resisted their summery sound on a day where the sun was only making a guest appearance.
But it was the smaller tents that really shone. Given the mass of bodies spewing out of the Cream tent, it was clear that it had the biggest appeal among the glow-stick-wielding public. I caught a snatch of Judge Jules and his adoring 'tune' requesting fans, but the option of staying in that tent was in conflict with breathing normally and I value my life. The Kitchen tent held its own, ensconced between the pass machine van and the big wheel and quite a bit off the beaten track, though plenty of people were making the trek.
The Metalheadz tent was a bit of an oddity. In the afternoon, it was almost empty except for the die hard drum n' bass heads, but amazingly in the evening, when Goldie was on the decks, it was still only half full. Clearly D n' B isn't everyone's cup of herbal tea and those who wander in for a quick look realise that they haven't got a clue how to dance to this stuff and shuffle away feeling awkward. But it was the Big Beat/Bugged Out tent that proved to be the most consistently brilliant and crowd pulling of the day. Not packed out to the discomforting extent, the area was host to names like Felix da Housecat, Darren Emerson and Dave Clarke and, if the Bugged Out area had been Creamfields, itself it wouldn't have been missing much.
As regards the matter of the 50 quid tickets: The promoters will defend the hefty price by telling you that you're getting 70 something DJs playing one venue, but realistically who's going to be able to see the half of it. At one point, we were forced to choose between The Chemical Brothers, Darren Emerson, Agnelli and Nelson and Paul Oakenfold. But then when you consider that the price of a ticket to Witnness, with its weak line up and teeny-bopper brigade, is similarly expensive at least you know you're getting quality for your money at Creamfields.