Makes you wish the festival season was only beginning...

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Liverpool Old Speke Airfield

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Liverpool Old Speke Airfield

While it falls right at the arse end of the festival season, Creamfields is nonetheless marked out as something of an essential occasion for anyone with more than a passing interest in ‘repetitive beats’. Maybe it’s because it’s refreshing to see underground dance music treated with the respect that it deserves, rather than ghetto-ised into one tiny tent; maybe it’s because the English [a]Homelands[/a] was such a wash-out; hell, maybe it’s even just for the novelty of seeing drum’n’bass celeb Goldie try out in goal for the celebrity five-a-side. Whatever, Creamfields 2000 managed to keep the threatening grey skies at bay and fight through to become one of the events of the year.

Incredible, then, how inauspicious these occasions can begin, the first sound greeting you being the nasal tones of Judge Jules from the Radio One Sound Stage. Much better is the warm funk of Groove Armada, setting the proverbial touch paper alight before voodoo-beat merchant David Holmes plays a rare techno set in the Boutique Arena, grinning fiercely with that glint in his eye.

Over in the main arena, and our Lord and Master, Sir Paul of Oakenfold has just taken to the decks and is, well, pretty inaudible actually. Not that ‘The Biggest DJ In The World’ lets that dampen down his curiously camp ‘performance’ Djing – arms spreadeagled, head aloft, drinking in the adoration. It’s strange that he never seems to be spending any of this time actually mixing his records, but there you go.

Time to escape to chez ‘Bugged Out’, which boasts a stupendous line-up. Felix Da Housecat is playing now, giving The Aztec Mystic’s ‘Knights Of The Jaguar’ what will be the first of many, many airings this evening, the tent heaving with clued-up techno and house heads. Death In Vegas, however, are not half as busy. Perhaps mis-scheduled, their darked-up goth-beat is as great as usual – it’s just that at 9.00pm, the crowd here are in search of more adrenalised offerings. Like. . .

All Saints? Placed on the bill in one of Cream promoter James Barton‘s more whimsical moments, the `Saints are hampered by a poor sound, and give us desultory versions of ‘Walk This Way’ and ‘Pure Shores’| before departing. “That was crap!” mutters a disgruntled punter. Well, when you put it that way…

No festival this year would be complete, of course, without a healthy dose of two-step, and luckily, MJ Cole is here to dish it out in spades. The stubbled UK Garage don even gets away with an arse-quaking re-rub of ‘Re-Rewind’, the snarling bass and stilted breakbeats pointing out the link between this groovy hybrid and its thundering, hair-raising predecessor over in a small but packed Metalheadz Arena.

Even old MJ can’t hold a torch to the real stars of this event, however – the one and only Basement Jaxx. Their live show now honed to perfection, they belt out an edgier, darker version of the set that wowed Glastonbury. ‘Yo Yo’ is ferocious, the slingshot house beats sailing out under Blue‘s demonic exhortations, while the cheeky Eminem-sampling `My Name Is. . .’ raises a football match winning cheer,before the flamenco ‘Bingo Bango’ leaves Darren Emerson an impossible spectacle to follow.

Laurent Garnier, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. His set isn’t bangin’ techno from the word go, but the crowd stays with him, lapping up the sensuous emotion of ‘Greed’ and the sheer fluid grooves of ‘The Man With The Red Face’. Their patience is justly rewarded, however, when Garnier announces “we’re gonna take things a little harder,” and a mind-melting ‘Crispy Bacon’ sends the tent into orbit. All that’s left is for techno dons Dave Clarke and Richie Hawtin to finish everyone off, pounding out a steady stream of skin-flaying, hypnotic techno that makes you wish the festival season was only beginning. Ah well – only nine months until Homelands!