Global Gathering has the honour of officially claiming my (camping) festival virginity last year. I’m pleased to say it went exceedingly well, leading to much excitement for this year’s event.
However, after seriously making up for lost time attending almost every festival under the sun (this would be my seventh this summer), I now have a lot more to compare it to. How would Global stand up against some of the biggest and smallest dance festivals across the UK? I was keen to find out.
After vowing never to set off past midday to a festival again following countless stressful late Friday arrivals, we’re on the road at 1pm – and straight into traffic. In absolute standard fashion, we arrive a couple of hours late, 5pm. This turns out to be fine; the weather is absolutely glorious and we're lucky enough to have VIP wristbands, allowing us to park right in front of the entrance gates.
Wristbands on, we make our way into the camp site. As you enter the VIP camping area it does make you question what exactly is so ‘VIP’ about it, but in fact it’s mostly the location you’re paying for. The main arena sort of runs around the perimeter, toilets and showers are never to be too far from anyone, and the area boasts its own private village of bars, food stalls, and a bench area. Very handy for a comfortable few minutes' time out.
By 7pm we’re set up and raring to go. Learning from the mistake of last year, we purchase a lanyard immediately. With such a monster line-up across the many huge tents and main stage, this is absolutely an essential purchase. At £8 it seems rather steep, but being a sucker for collectible memorabilia I’m happy to fork out!
The main arena is curved round in a kidney shape, with giant circus style big-top tents housing each label's acts. Through the centre are the food and merchandise stalls, with several large (cash) bars dotted around. The main stage is located at the far end away from the tents, which works very in stemming the tide of revellers moving between the areas throughout the night. It’s probably the best layout of any festival I’ve been to; you’re never more than a couple of minutes' walk from toilets, a bar, food stall, or tent, or just a nice patch a grass to crash on.
First act to see is US House maestro Afrojack. He takes to the stage at 8pm sharp, complains a little about changes to the staging which now rather bizarrely obscures his video background, then proceeds with a storming set of his own tracks and pumping remixes. With the sun glaring and bass loud, the atmosphere is fantastic, the perfect start to the weekend. After 45 minutes, in the spirit of compromise, we head to the Electric Tent to check out Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. A first for me, I’m hugely impressed. The housey, electro sound is not what I’m expecting, but carries the mood perfectly. A rather pretty crystal-like light formation is the backdrop, with dancers on either side, complimenting the mood. The tent is packed and the guys go down a storm.
With the temperature dropping slightly, a quick dash to the tent for an outfit change is required, plus a cheeky five minutes on the VIP benches to catch our breath. Before heading back to the Electric tent, we make a quick stop off in UKF Bass Culture to see what all the fuss over Andy C is. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of the weekend; the atmosphere is absolutely electric! Being a total Drum & Bass novice I have no idea what tracks are being played, but the whoops and cheers from the crowd as each one drops is totally infectious. Pretty sure I had a ridiculous grin plastered over my face the whole time in there. Feeling energised, it’s back to Electric for Jack Beats and Fake Blood. As reliable as ever, both guys deliver storming sets of classy house and electro beats.
Next is something we've been really waiting for; ‘A State Of Trance’ with Armin Van Buuren. Just in time to catch the end of the awesome Markus Schulz, we worm our way forward for a prime spot at the front. The video screen is ginormous, playing first the Privilege Ibiza trailer and then introducing the main man himself. The applause is rapturous, the bass hard, lazers fire up and you just know this is going to be something special. Armin is totally on form, delivering an energetic set of modern sounding trance. I would have like a few more ‘hands in the air’ euphoric moments, but really the lighting, video screen and cannons more than make up for it. It feels like there’s an electric current pulsing through the entire tent. Totally mind blowing, and I safely say the highlight of the weekend.
See for yourself here:
- Date: Saturday 28th July 2012
- Event: Global Gathering 2012 at Long Marston Airfield
- Venue: Long Marston Airfield
- Artists: Annie Mac, Jamie Jones, Andy C, Fake Blood, High Contrast, Sub Focus, Maya Jane Coles, Art Department, Heidi, James Zabiela, Gareth Emery, Shy FX, Nero, Skrillex, Above and Beyond, Seth Troxler, Jaguar Skills, Breakage, Danny Byrd, Zane Lowe
Friday night is wound up with five minutes of Skrillex (not my thing but the crowd seems more than pleased) some Plastician and P Money (again not my thing but makes a nice change to Trance and House), and a little Visionquest to end things on a Techno note.
Overall this has been an outstanding night in every way. The weather has been more than kind; and the atmosphere across the whole festival is just perfect. We seemed to make friends in every tent, everyone buzzing off catching their favourite acts live. Each tent is busy, but not enough that you can’t get a decent and comfortable spot to dance. Everyone we’ve seen has blown us away. Hugely satisfied, it’s time for bed.
Day two, and in absolute standard fashion the motto of the day is ‘powering through’. Another day of glorious hot sun (exactly like last year in fact), the tent rapidly morphs into a sauna, making a nice long lie-in impossible. The only sensible course of action is obviously to start drinking, so that’s exactly what we do. Where Global possibly falls down is there isn’t an awful lot to do in the daytime.
Music starts around 2pm, getting going properly over the next couple of hours. I’m not sure this matters too much as the nights are SO intense, you need a lazy day to prepare for round two. After a lovely afternoon of drinking and sunbathing, it’s 6pm and time to step things up a notch.
Reluctantly I’m taken to see Friendly Fires on the main stage. Described to me as ‘Indie Dance’, they seemed a slightly odd booking for a through-and-through dance festival. In fact this turned out to be the second major highlight of the weekend. The lads put on an incredible show, bounding about the stage delivering their unique disco sounding indie pop (my take on it anyway) with real gusto. The crowd lap it up, with the sun illuminating the rainbow coloured, cuboid stage, it’s a special moment for sure.
Esteemed House label Toolroom Knights host a tent tonight, where we catch two of my personal favourites John Dahlback and Mark Knight. Both play a pounding set of bleepy House with enough samples to lure in the more casual fan. Ec-lectricity take over the outdoor stage where we watch James Zabiela; now this is some real masterful DJing. You cannot fault this guy’s energy and creativity, layering beats and doing what can only be described as scratching on an iPad?! It’s a smaller setup than any tent but a burnt orange sky as the backdrop and top class techy-house playing, it’s just perfect. Maya Jane Coles takes over the Global Tent where stay for a good hour. MJ is totally on form, and the mood is rather hypnotic due to the relentless beats and towering light box setup surrounding the DJ box.
With the addition of Saturday ticket holders, the atmosphere is a lot more bustling and busy tonight. Not feeling on top form, by 2am it’s time to call it a night. Again feeling more than satisfied, this has been another cracking evening of incredible music with more excellent surprises.
The only real negatives I could raise from the weekend are the alcohol situation, and the setup for leaving the site on Sunday. Unlike most festivals you aren’t permitted to bring any alcohol in with you, and then alcohol you buy within the campsite cannot be taken into the arena. This I understand is down to licensing issues, but never the less pushes the cost of attending up quite dramatically; this isn’t a festival to attempt on a meagre budget.
Leaving the site is also a bit of a nightmare. We drove off around 11am, and were on the main road off site roughly three hours later. Given the rural setting I’m not sure what else could be done to counter this problem, but after a heavy weekend partying it is absolutely the last thing you want to contend with. Some stewards to help direct the traffic rather than six lanes of cars feeding into one dirt track, four times, might be helpful.
Looking back over the weekend I have to say despite being my seventh festival of the year, this is most probably my favourite. In terms of line-up it really is unbeatable. The diversity amongst tents across both nights prevents any repetitiveness, and it’s the perfect opportunity to make some new discoveries. At any one time there is literally two or three acts on you’d be drying to see, guaranteed, so there is never a moment of boredom. The production across the whole site is mind-blowing; lazers, huge light displays, air cannons, the whole lot have been implemented perfectly.
Something I really noticed was the friendliness amongst everyone too, which I didn’t pick up on last year. For the most part everyone was respectful and just happy to be there. We didn’t witness anything in the way of ‘trouble’, which was nicely surprising.
Setup-wise the whole thing works well, is easy to navigate, and feels immense without being overwhelming.
Highly recommended for any dance music and festival fan, I’m happy to report Global Gathering has exceeded all expectations, once again!
Words: Chris White
Photo: Paul Underhill
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