“Somebody left a wellie boot there.” I’m hysterically laughing at this bloke telling everyone who will listen about the cast off boots while walking in the ankle-deep mud on my last night at Creamfields UK. Any festival veteran knows about Creamfields, the UK electronic music festival that stuns year after year with the most stellar lineups. This year was no exception. Forget Tomorrowland, Creamfields is everything you wanted in a music fest, at a third of the cost.
So how did I end up here screaming “Nice one BROVA” in a crowd of crazy muddy English, Scottish, and Irish festers attempting to buy me pizza while I’m lost trying to find my glamping spot? (I’ll come back to this moment). Well, after attempting to plan the pilgrimage months prior, I had completely given up on even making it across the pond. I couldn’t find anyone to tag along. Many of the DJ’s on the lineup I had not seen and were absolute bucket list level for me. Faithless, Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada, Skream, Wilkinson, Darren Styles, Benny Benassi… the list impressively went on to culminate in the one allusive and exciting once in a lifetime set: Eric Prydz HOLO.
You see, I’m blessed. I have been documenting for music festivals for quite some time now, and have been hitting raves since I was 18. I’m reliving the 20’s I missed, building a career in an industry that I love so much… but missed many of the heavy hitting headliners I had yearned to see. Many of whom no longer tour the US. Here was my chance not only to see so many in one location but to visit a country on my short list. My ancestry is English and Welsh. Most of my favorite musicians came from the UK. I had dreamed of visiting the Ministry of Sound, London, Manchester, and obviously Creamfields to get an accurate representation of what many fans had told me was the UK version of my favorite music festival, Ultra in Miami.
Seven days prior (yes, I said SEVEN days prior), I received a message from a good friend of mine Ray. “Jen, why are you NOT going to Creamfields. I found this flight. Look.” Now, typically I am a responsible consumer. Planning a trip in seven days is a daunting task. I suppose my heart wanted it that badly. I literally could not say no to the astronomically cheap fare to Gatwick. Unbelievably, everything fell into place so quickly. Before I knew it, I was booked into Gatwick, with a four-hour layover before a short pre-festival jaunt to Ibiza. I found an amazing camping partner who I had spoken to for years prior online, Lena and her husband Dominic. Anjuna fam is incredible, we really are all we need! She had upgraded to a glamping tent and was happy to split with me. It was absolute insanity, and magic that everything came together within three days of planning. I still can’t believe it.
I spent three days with who I would call my “YOLO” catalyst Ray, and explored the White Island as any electronic music enthusiast from the early 2000’s would have wanted. Ibiza was stellar but much different from what I had imagined. So much beauty, so much consumerism, and quite frankly, daunting for even an experienced solo female traveler. Had it to do all over again, knowing now the sheer energy and drive necessary to accomplish Creamfields, I would have chosen Creamfields and then Ibiza… but would never have shared that Cafe Mambo sunset with Ray. (Still to this day the only sunset that has moved me to tears. Thank you, Ray). I flew out at 1:30 A.M, shared a smoke with Fedde Le Grand (apparently this happens in Ibiza) and attempted to sleep the short hours for my flight into Manchester. Seriously exhausted from Ibiza itself, I booked a hotel for 7 hours to get some much-needed shut-eye before my train left for Warring.
Upon arrival, I headed to the box office and picked up my tickets. Armed with the smallest amount of luggage I have ever carried for a Euro trip, I headed into the festival gates. After walking for literally over an hour, I finally reached the Dreamfields Glamping area. Note to self: this is going to be a marathon.
Well, guys, marathon or not, this festival is LEGIT. It’s energetic, grimy, muddy, rowdy, and even dare I say it, a bit ratchet… and I loved every minute of it! I have stronger legs than I have ever had from walking the mud-fields daily back and forth from camp. Dancing in wellies took some getting used to. My shins will never be the same. #worthit. Every single set was absolutely stellar. I rarely walk away from a festival feeling that the set caliber was impressive in every single moment. Creamfields can’t be beaten in that respect.
I started my Creamfields with bronchitis but toughed it out for Darren Styles in the pouring rain. I felt so terrible for my camp mates whilst I coughed all night. I suppose you get used to the English weather. It’s the UK, after all. I was more than prepared for the rain. The Dreamfields Glamping package is absolutely incredible. The beds provided were insanely comfortable and rivaled most nice hotels I have stayed in. The showers, restrooms, and amenities were literally at our doorstep, as was a good friend of mine who literally stayed across our tent. It’s funny how life works out, as Keith was the first person to really convince me to give Creamfields a shot. How truly ironic.
After a phenomenal night of sleep, day two appeared and was the Anjuna lineup day. I started my day with Skream, had a moment of personal reflection with Sasha and Digweed, danced it off with my Anjunafam at the rail for Above & Beyond, and then closed it out with an absolutely incredible true house set from my favorite house producer, Benny Benassi. (I wish this was the set he had played at Ultra for the 20th anniversary). When my legs couldn’t hold me anymore, I decided to pack it in back up to camp around 3:30 A.M.
The excitement was building for day three. The literal reason I pushed the button on Creamfields was closing… our lord Prydz and his magnificent HOLO. I had a jam-packed day that started with Faithless who, to be honest, was my favorite set of the festival with the exception of Eric Prydz. Watching her play after years of waiting was a dream come true. Her infectious energy is palpable. I hit all my trance faves including Aly and Fila, Cosmic Gate, and PVD, and then headed for Groove Armada and Fatboy Slim. Halfway through Fatboy, I made a choice to attempt to see Armand Van Helden, my other favorite house producer of all time… but was disappointed when it became apparent that he had switched with MK. I then headed in an hour early for Prydz to get a good spot and caught the most surprisingly excellent set by Kolsch. Not the opener I would have expected, but a very nice palate cleanser. Attempting to find my friends in the stage became a daunting task, so I made some valuable new ones. Most notably a very funny and kind gentleman named David from upstate New York who had come all the way literally to see Prydz HOLO. He had been to very few festivals and was luckily in the area to catch the set. We found out we had two favorite producers in common, Joel (Deadmau5) and Prydz and discussed their careers while waiting for the stage changeover.
I wish I had the capability to transcribe into words what I witnessed during Prydz HOLO. Tears were shed. Whoos were yelled. I stomped my muddy boots and moved my … well you know, everything! Even with bronchitis that had now clearly turned to pneumonia (yeah, I’m a badass… or an idiot), I danced my heart out to the most memorable and visually stunning set I have ever witnessed in my 20 years of Electronic Dance Music history. I would have paid any amount to see this show, and even after paying my credit card off (ouch) I still feel it was worth every penny, if not more. I never imagined I would be in the UK, surrounded by amazing people, all there for the same purpose. It was a truly unifying experience. He even closed with Opus, much to David’s excitement as he had never seen him play it live. (What can I say, I’m a good luck charm).
Complete pandemonium occurred leaving the fest. The mass exodus was intense. We waited and discussed the set while the crowd thinned out, while I cleaned some poor girls beautiful rose gold iPhone off from the thickest mud imaginable. (Rave mom to the rescue). We then headed our separate ways, and this is how I realized I had turned the completely wrong direction. Walking into Standard camping was an experience in and of itself. I looked up from my festival map and realized that not only had I not seen any of this before, but that I was immediately hoisted up into the air by some very nice, yet very drunken Irishman who really wanted to buy me a pizza. Right back where I started. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. (I never did eat that pizza, but got a lovely group escort back to my campgrounds). Musically the festival is incredible, but the crowd is what makes it… they are all so full of positive and boisterous energy.
Goodbyes are always difficult, and camping festivals are always more so because you become family with those you stay with. I would be amiss to not mention how much love I have in my heart for those beautiful souls who took me in for my first UK festival and made it the experience of a lifetime for me. Lena, Dominic, Lee, Mandy, Keith, Martin, David, Hannah, and Spencer… thank you for sharing such an incredible experience with this “damned American.” I even had the honor of staying in a beautiful home for my final night in Brighton with Lena and was given the most impressive history lesson, complete with a beer in an authentic English pub. The perfect culmination of a truly bucket-list trip.
Before Creamfields, I had no expectations of what a festival across the pond would be like. “It will break you,” my friend Keith said, attempting to prepare me for the journey. Well, it certainly did! I don’t think I can live another year without making this festival an annual pilgrimage. I’m heartbroken I have to wait till 2019 to dance in wellies.
Until next time England! I’m already eyeing the Creamfields weekender in December. I mean, when is the last time you have seen the Bassment Jaxx on a lineup!?!