...fairy girls and dreadlocked crusties stomped
under day-glo butterflies
...Underworld chose Glade for
their only UK live show
heard it was the closest thing to Glastonbury
for electronic music heads
Everyone remembers their first Glade. As a milestone, it's up there with your first kiss, first tune or first Asbo.
For me it was in 2005, at at time when the charms of its parent festival, Glastonbury, had faded for me like last year's windscreen sticker. Passing through that flowery arch for the first time brought back that thrill of discovery that I'd once felt years earlier at Worthy Farm. Being set on what is usually England’s hottest weekend of the year, it was a scorcher like most Glades (apart from the legendary deluge of 2007 in which the roads surrounding the site became waist-high rivers and ravers waded through knee-deep mud on site to carry on partying).
The Glade had all the party vibe that I felt its older, more bloated parent had lost at the time — no corporate logos, no attitude and a lack of tourists setting themselves up for the day on deckchairs in front of the Pyramid Stage. At Glade people remembered they were there to be the show, not just watch it. Fairy girls and dreadlocked crusties stomped under day-glo butterflies, while Chinese dragons and circus stilt-walkers traipsed around the site. And all without a single dodgy greaseburger stall in sight.
Each year since, it’s been a joy to see a new set of people experiencing the wonder that is the Glade vibe for the first time. But for the veterans, there’s always been that slight tinge of envy because we already knew every ripple and curve of that grassy slope which ran along the entire Wasing Estate site, even each individual stripy marquee seemed as familiar as an old shoe.
But now everyone gets to feel that thrill of the new all over again because the Glade, now in its sixth year, is moving to a new venue — Matterley Bowl, a natural amphitheatre in Winchester. This is thanks to West Berkshire Council wanting to reduce already draconian sound level limits after a complaint from just one person living five miles away from the original venue.
Ironically, it might well turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to the festival as not only does the new setting offer the chance for the Funktion 1 rigs to be enjoyed at the levels they’re supposed to be heard at, the challenge of transforming the Bowl’s relatively plain landscape has sent the organisers into creative overdrive.
One of the earliest decisions they made was to get away from the concept of one big top for each genre. Groundbreaking in its day, other dance festivals followed with the same concept. But the organisers got bored of this and wanted to get back to the more intimate settings of the early years.
So they announced they would be trying to return to a free party vibe with “a move away from big tents with more open air venues, more randomness, wrongness and loveliness, kicking late night tented vibes, longer sets from quality purveyors, more art and participation and loads of other stuff besides”.
They decided the best way to achieve this was to create new “villages” — the main ones being Avalon (drawing together the hippie psy-trance, ambient and chill-out crowd) and Carmageddon (combining the breaks, IDM, breakcore, dubstep, drum & bass and mash-up scenes with post-apocalyptic scrap metal artwork and fire sculptures).
Glade creative director Nick Ladd (who recently wrote an amusing Guide To Thriving At Festivals based on his own experiences) told Ravetalk: “There will still be a couple of big tents to house the big names late into the night but we like the tighter dancefloor vibes that more intimate venues build.
“So we have wound the clock back a bit. The inspiration for the two villages came from Glade fans who wanted to see their dance communities brought that bit closer together.”
And despite my own rift with Glastonbury a few years ago, there has been an interchange of ideas between the parent and child festivals that has revitalised both. Glade provided the inspiration for Glastonbury’s own Dance Village, one of its best innovations in years. And the radical artworks of Carmageddon have a lot in common with Worthy Farm’s new Trash City.
Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis even generously penned a ringing endorsement of Glade this year, which has clearly touched the organisers.
Nick said: “Resident Advisor [e-magazine] described Glade as ‘a dance-focused version of Glastonbury’ and I don’t think they are far off the mark – it’s way, way more diverse creatively than any other UK dance event.
“It’s one of the reasons Underworld chose us for their UK festival exclusive live show this year — because they had heard it was the closest thing to Glastonbury for electronic music heads. It was really cool of Michael Eavis to come out and say that — more than any other single individual he is responsible for British festival culture and so for him to say what he did about Glade was really amazing.”
Ah yes, Underworld. One of the other aspects of reinventing Glade for 2009 was to announce a killer headliner — and they really couldn’t have done better than to stage Underworld playing their only live set in the UK this year.
Nick also revealed a few more exclusive tit-bits about what to expect: “Squarepusher is working on an exclusive second show for a late night surprise somewhere. Plus watch out for the bootleg raves that pop up from an ice cream van...”
Nick would not be drawn on whether the ice cream van raves would have any justified or ancient connections but he did reveal that the lead singer of Glasto’s newly reformed headliners, Blur, had offered his services as a DJ.
“Check out Femi Kuti and the Positive Force. It’s something a bit different, I know, but when Damon Albarn found out who was in his band (some of the world’s top Ghanaian drummers), he phoned up to ask if he could DJ just so he could see the show. We didn’t have slots left but he is on the guest list.”
Damon isn't the only person who's keen to get to Glade. A campervan ticket recently changed hands for £492 (a markup of 993% over the face value of £45) after all the spaces were snapped up. The organisers say the remaining festival tickets are running out fast too.
“I think the last point on the thrival guide definitely applies to Glade — arrive early, leave late,” Nick added. “This is gonna be one of the best dance music events on the planet this year. This is life, not a dress rehearsal. Make sure you can say you were there – and there for all four days of it!”
Photos by: Matt C Wilton
Tickets £125 + £7 bf from www.gladefestival.com
Children / Teenagers: Under 12's free if accompanied with an adult. 13 - 15 year olds are allowed but must be accompanied by an adult - tickets cost £125 + bf.
Location: Matterley Bowl, Winchester, Hampshire
Entrance: gates open midday Thursday 16th July
Hours: Thursday midday - late | Friday midday - 4am | Saturday midday - 6am | Sunday midday - midnight [subject to licensing] Bars will be open 24 hours a day.