Highest Point Festival 2023: Thursday review

Highest Point is well and truly underway, scroll down to check out all of our thoughts on the first day's antics!

Thomas Hirst

Last updated: 14th May 2023

As the gates of Williamson Park swung open and Lancastrian festival enthusiasts poured in, a sense of excitement and anticipation filled the air. Thursday at Highest Point Festival promised to be an electrifying journey through time, where the sounds of the past mingled with the energy of the present. With an impressive lineup featuring renowned acts like Hacienda Classical and K-Klass, this day held the key to unlocking nostalgic memories and uniting generations of ravers.

While the weather forecast had initially cast doubt on the day's proceedings, the festival gods seemed to smile upon the attendees. Undeterred by any potential rain, a diverse crowd gathered, ready to experience the magic of this exceptional day of music. 

The presence of Hacienda Classical and K-Klass on the lineup guaranteed the arrival of old-school ravers, eager to recapture their youth and raving days. And boy, did they bring the vibe! Donned in what they may have worn to a rave 25 years ago, but still bringing unreal energy, the faithful punters were treated to a day that will have matched every expectation, if not surpassing them!

Dobbo was the first one to set up on the Main Stage, and from the very first note from his decks, he set the mood with Primal Scream's "Loaded"; soundtracking the first wave of festival-goers who entered. It was the perfect song to kick off the festival, and the energy was palpable.

Following Dobbo's opening set, K-Klass took the stage, truly setting the vibe as the park filled up. They provided the soundtrack for friends reconnecting, breathtaking views, flowing beers, and laughter echoing through families. Despite the mischievous rain during their performance, the presence of K-Klass, renowned for getting people dancing for decades, reassured everyone that things would be alright.

While Dobbo and K-Klass got the older heads moving, the younger crowd flocked to The Woods, a secluded area that is quite simply built for a boogie. The natural amphitheatre layout enhanced the sound, and everyone there was cutting some serious shapes. The DJs in The Woods, including Matt Thiss, effortlessly blended throwback tunes and new bassy grooves, pleasing everyone in attendance. It was a non-stop stream of bangers that had the crowd shouting along and grooving, without a care for what might have been happening elsewhere.

Back on the main stage, after K-Klass made way, it was the House Gospel Choir's turn to take the stage. They not only delivered classic house anthems with immense vocals (as always) but also, through their sheer energy on stage, set an example for how the crowd should be dancing to them. The sun setting behind them perfectly matched the mood, creating a memorable atmosphere, and channelling the purest of festival vibes. 

As DJs at The Woods and The House Gospel Choir wrapped up their performances, the main stage became a sea of people in an instant. It was time for the one and only, Hacienda Classical. As the grand orchestra ensemble took the stage, overseen by Graeme Park from his decks, the stunning vistas of Williamson Park came alive. With the sun setting over the Lake District in the backdrop, the view was breathtaking, and the sky painted an anticipatory blend of orange, yellow, and blue.

Graeme Park and his team wasted no time and had the crowd moving as one to the pull of violin strings. Anthems from the legendary club's finest days, as well as a few more modern hits, reverberated through the air. Tracks like "Renegade Master," "Good Life," "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life," and "Rhythm is a Dancer" blared from the stage, enhanced by orchestral arrangements that made these iconic songs sound even fuller, bigger, and better than ever as trippy, 90s acid house visuals reminded the crowd of the hedonistic Madchester scene. Tim Crooks served as the energetic hypeman, igniting the dancefloor with his searing Mancunian charm.

The unannounced arrival of Bez on stage was greeted with uproarious applause. Armed with his maracas, he commanded the crowd's attention, although not quite the man he used to be in terms of stamina (who can blame him) The Happy Mondays icon nevertheless made appearances throughout the set, ensuring that everyone was still rocking to the beat.

Joining Hacienda Classical on stage were DJ Rae, Melanie Williams, and Yvonne Shelton, long-time collaborators who delivered incredible vocals throughout the performance. Waves of goosebumps persistently swept through the crowd thanks to the sheer tour de force of bangers being projected from the myriad instruments on stage.

Friends were on shoulders, the young danced with the old, and those on stage laughed, danced, smiled, and delivered an unforgettable show. This is what Hacienda Classical is all about—a celebration of the founding era of UK dance music and the iconic club. Whether it was the era of their youth or a time they wished had been their youth, everyone came together to immerse themselves in the magic.

The encore brought an extra dose of joy as Bez's daughter joined him on stage, sharing the maracas. It was a heartwarming moment that showcased the unity and family-like atmosphere of the festival. Bez even took on the role of conductor, shaking his stick with enthusiasm, despite not quite knowing what he was doing. Smiles adorned the faces of everyone on stage.

The night concluded with a powerful rendition of Florence and the Machine's "You've Got the Love." Graeme Park and the entire ensemble signed off on a high note, leaving the crowd in awe. Within moments, a field that had been locked in a boogie just half an hour ago began to empty, signalling the end of the first day of Highest Point festival.

Despite a brief lapse of rain, the festival gods treated all in attendance to an incredible day of music, camaraderie, and 90s rave nostalgia. From the energetic sets of Dobbo and K-Klass to the vibrant atmosphere of The Woods and the grandeur of Hacienda Classical, Thursday at Highest Point delivered an unforgettable experience.

As the festival-goers departed, anticipation lingered in the air for the upcoming days. With memories of Thursday's fantastic performances still fresh in their minds, attendees will undoubtedly be eagerly looking forward to what the rest of the festival has in store. 

Bring it on Friday!




There are still some last-minute tickets available for the rest of Highest Point, so if you want to get in on all the amazing action mentioned above, then scroll down to the bottom of this page to secure your tickets!



Check out our What's On Guide to discover more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.









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