The Glade Festival has always had a reputation for being one of the more hedonistic festivals on the circuit, and makes no bones about who it is aimed at.
Starting off as the renegade dance music stage at Glastonbury, the solid groundwork was done for it to branch out and become a festival in it's own right. But unlike many other festivals that take that step, Glade has kept to some strict rules, the most ambitious of which is to break away without compromise, and create their own festival without any outside sponsorship, keeping the spirit of Glade intact by staying loyal to those that made it great in the first place. In doing so, Glade set a benchmark for genre specific festivals after it’s breakaway from the Glastonbury Festival in 2004, and the result is a strict line-up of underground electronic acts.
The idea, of course, is to escape from the Big Smoke for a weekend, to relax in a lush green haven in the middle of the woods, where you can meet people on the same wavelength, listen to the music you love over a pumping sound system, and get suitably hammered while you dance til the sun comes up. Your only worry should be whether or not you can remember where you pitched your tent, but even that's not an issue, as you're bound to meet some people who'll welcome you to join their group until you've straightened up enough to find your bearings.
I've certainly never experienced such an amicable security team, and after being shepherded into our spot by the American Express lady, I've not even put the campervan handbrake on before our neighbour is at the window welcoming us onto the spot. A short walk through the shrouded woodland adds to the anticipation when we eventually try and find the source of the sonic booms, and the beautiful natural setting is already making it's mark on our opinions of the site.
It's obvious as soon as we make our first steps into the arenas, that there's a definite focus on the more alternative, harder edged techno sounds banged out by DJs and artists, most of which are only likely to make it onto pirate radio playlists, including some who's typical guage as to whether or not the sound system is working properly is when the first drop of blood seeps from the sound engineer's nostrils. Some of this music is disorientating enough, before you've even taken a sip of that strange concoction of leftover liquids you grabbed from the drinks cabinet and poured into the plastic bottle you grabbed off the front of your bike, but the worst mistake we made was to come out of one tent and sit down on the grassy knoll outside.
As soon as you hit the ground, your ears drop out of the top end soundfield and we find ourselves submerged in a sub bass soundclash from the adjoining tent that I'm sure is topping danger levels on the richter scale. But as we find out as the weekend goes on, the Overkill and Liquid stages only serve as a portion of this meal, and if you do get to the stage where you think one more subsonic thunk is going to cause your brain to explode and your guts to twist into a double knot, there are plenty more courses to devour, and some are pretty damn tasty.
Sancho Panza serves as a great half-way house between the harder tents and the main stages, where more minimal and melodic sounds provide the soundtrack for us while we check out the bar, and come to some agreement over the route we're going to take make the most of the inviting schedule.
The Pussy Parlure is unreal, but at the same time seems like an oasis of sanity at times. It looks so out of place from the outside, and then you walk in and you realise that’s exactly the point, with wooden beams, tabled booths all round the edges and a big hexagonal disco dancefloor. But at the same time the music is so different from the rest of the festival, that it’s good to come back to from time to time to break up the barrage on the senses that many of the arenas provide, especially during some of the headline acts’ sets as they make full use of the AV kits in the big tents.
With the event this year downsized due to the slow ticket sales after horrendous flooding the previous year, the compromise was to merge the line-ups of the Glade tent with the large open air Vapor stage and leave Origin - a smaller outdoor rig that’s kicking out psychedelic trance all weekend – as the only open air arena.
As we make your way down through the great market area, packed with clothes stalls and record shops, you are led down to one last marquee type tented area. This is the Inspiral Chill, the area dedicated for total release and relaxation, and situated right at the other end of the festival, is successful in taking you away from the thumps and thuds and into a world of clicks, bleeps, waves and washes.
So, with the music pretty well defined by the areas you inhabit, the freedom is there to wander the festival as your mood sees fit, but it’s the acts performing in the Glade and Breaksday arenas that set the tone for the festival as a whole, and the intention is obviously to keep the tempo up, and sustain the party atmosphere for as long as is physically possible. The Utah Saints and The Dub Pistols both deliver high energy sets, and as the Friday night goes on, the breaks sound dominates the turntables, with Finger Lickin’s Drummattic Twins and Plump DJs, along with Adrift Record’s Meat Katie providing quality opposition to the popular pull of a live set from Pendulum to finish.
Saturday’s madness is initiated early by Cassetteboy and DJ Rubbish, with a balaclava clad beat conductor and some heavyweight freestyle rhyming introducing some always weird but rarely wonderful stage antics to distract you from some clever sample arrangements. Birmingham’s Overproof Sound System provide one of the best live sets of the weekend with their dub bass and roughneck rhymes, before the evening sets in and the minimal Detroit darkness takes over the Glade stage, with Dubfire and Jeff Mills providing the really quality sets.
The breaks are still in full force next door though, with back to back sets from Jackal & Hyde, the awesome Stanton Warriors, and Aquasky leading up to great late night beef from Elite Force. With Autechre doing a live set in Overkill, and Phil Burridge providing the Sancho Panza vibe, being so spoilt for choice is only adding to the already dazed and confused state we’ve got ourselves in, and the cacophony of horns and whistles, neon glow sticks and heavy strobes all add to the atmosphere.
In the end, it’s only the cold chill of a cloudless night sky that does sober us up enough to find our way successfully back to our camp.
Sunday is much more about chilling out, and the Glade stage seems to have predicted the sunshine nicely with the perfect line-up of Quiet Village, Red Snapper and The Orb among the stand out acts.
Perfectly content with the weekend’s entertainment, nobody wanted to finish at 8pm on Sunday night, and for a mid-summer festival, this seems a bit ridiculous, so the only option is to find the Planet V’s food stall DJs to entertain us for the rest of the night, which they did very nicely thank you, along with everyone else who didn’t want the weekend to end while it was still light!
Just one more reason for us to leave this years Glade with satisfied grins on our faces.
Review and images by Matt Cook
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This review was also published by Virtual Festivals here
A full gallery of images, along with all the other events and festivals we attended this year and last year can be viewed here
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