We all know that feeling of post festival blues. They usually kick in on the Monday morning, when you make the final rise out of a tent which has served as the most familiar of homes, during what has surely been some of the finest five days of your life. This feeling intensifies as you load up the car and begin your journey back to normality - the impending return to day to day life. But then as your brain cells begin to replenish and you start to piece the previous days and nights of events back together, those festival blues creep away and you’re left with the fondest of memories. You don’t get much fonder memories than those of Houghton Festival.
After a mesmerising introduction into the festival world last year, it was no surprise that its second edition was an instant sellout after tickets were released way back in February. Craig Richards curates the mouthwatering lineup, a DJ and artist who needs no introduction, most known for his longstanding residency at the revered Fabric club in London. Throughout his 18 years at the centre of Room One, he has invited and played alongside a whole host of some of the finest international DJs globally. He therefore has no trouble conjuring up the strongest lineups the UK festival circuit has ever seen in the house and techno circuit.
Thursday serves as the warm up. A chance to find and catch up with friends in the modest sized campsite before having a wander round the main arena. Adam Shelton and Cassy were testing out the waters, the latter working through a rather nondescript selection of pumping beats, spiced up with an excitable David Morales rework of Jaydee’s '92 classic ‘Plastic Dreams’. This festival was set to span music from several decades.
Friday arrived and with it, so did the sunshine and the 24 hour music license, which provided non-stop music right through to the early hours of Monday morning. Omar and Voigtmann stole the show in The Clearing, one of the new stages to hit Houghton this year. Set deep into the woods passed the favourite Pavillion, The Clearing provided a more intimate alternative whilst retaining its connection to the woodland.
Nathan Fake later took over the Derren Smart stage, where he expertly performed a live set complete with some of his finest productions. Hair raising euphoric techno synths climbed across thumping basslines, complimented by a smokey light show that mirrored an image of a fire blazing stage - a stimulating illustration for the Norfolk born artist clearly lapping up the chance to play at such an event in his home county. Of course he ended with his excellent ‘The Sky Was Pink’ to the delight of his fans, which remains a true masterpiece of music since its release in 2004.
The mornings were mostly spent in Terminus and as night turned into day many made their way back up through to the top of the campsite to catch Francesco Del Garda, an artist known for his sunrise sets compiled of gritty bouncers and sultry vocals.
Saturday night brought with it a masterclass from the veterans. Sonja Moonear performed her first set of the weekend in the Pavillion. Her raucous baselines and impeccable mixing made sure that the harsh rain conditions wouldn’t disengage. Zip then took over the Magic Carpet with his deep groovers that lacked only a little volume in a sometimes rather quiet arena. Not long after, Ricardo Villalobos stole the show back at the Pavilion for the aptly placed Sunday morning sunrise set. Those who had been privy to the outrageous back to back from Ricardo and Craig in the previous year had hoped for more of the same and were certainly not disappointed.
Maybe its the strong friendships the curator has with the artists he invites to his festival, but they all absolutely bring their A game. Ricardo was no different. Five hours of magic weaved through classic gems including a lot of his own material, layered across each other in a most playful fashion that transformed the tracks altogether. He was clearly in his element, graciously working through his unreleased remix of Los Updates' 'It’s Getting Late', reintroducing Floorplan's 'Never Grow Old' and an epic ending with 808 Bassqueen topped with a weirdly interesting accapella of two girls talking about virgins. The crowd yet again left the Pavillion speechless.
Margaret Dygas continued Sunday morning over at The Old Gramaphone but it was soon time to head back up to Terminus for some more of Craig Richards, this time playing with Nicolas Lutz. The pair are by now used to teaming up having performed previously at the festival before, as well their all night sets in fabric. The flavour as always - deep, futuristic, spacey groovers.
Those of us who finally got some proper rest woke up on Sunday to the soothing sounds of Texan band Khruangbin, before making the trip back up to Terminus for one final time. Sonja was back in action and more on form than ever before, clearly relishing the opportunity to close the finest stage of the festival. When midnight struck and the rather unpopular security shut it down, we were left heartbroken. As was Sonja it seemed, who kept two records in her hands poised and ready for the security to break the rules. It unfortunately never happened.
The last few hours of the festival were spent flitting between Helena Hauff’s bangers, A Love From Outta Space’s dreamy techno grooves and Doc Martin’s deep, grooving bass. In what seemed like no time at all, the clock struck 2:30am and it was all over.
If only this festival could go on for just a few more hours, or in fact a few more days. This is a festival that nobody ever wants to leave, yet again serving as the finest festival of the year, particularly in the underground circuit.