WE Love Homelands 2003 declared the festival season well and truly open in fine fashion.
33,000 party people "formed orderly queues" outside the well chosen Matterly Bowl in Hampshire on Saturday May 24th to brave the expected gloomy skies predicted by whether Guru Bill Gilles.
Although wellies & pac-a-mac's were in full effect by lunchtime it became obvious Mr. Gilles's prophecy of mud & misery was no more than a misguided guess and as the day progressed the sun broke the clouds to help warm the thousands of little skyward reaching palms.
Six huge big top tents (arenas), two gigantic bars - both equipped with Saturday night fever style lit dance floors & a pyramid shaped open air Radio One stage fashioned what turned out to be the most successful Homelands festival to date.
In a time when dance music has lost its way & garage rock reclaims the ears of today's youth what can we expect from a predominantly DJ based festival?
Homelands 2003 combats this challenge in a very interesting manor. Cooking up the most eclectic & international roster featured in the festivals short history.
Live performances from the likes of De La Soul, The Streets & Groove Armada provide a solid line-up in the live arena. Mike Skinner and side kick Calvin conduct the baying audience through the thrills and spills of their Mercury nominated Original Pirate Material. De La Soul bounce through their imminent best of release while Groove Armada treat the crowd to old favorites 'I see you Baby' & 'At The River' plus the best tacks from their current album Love Box including heavy Dub thumper 'Super Stylin' all delivered in conjunction with some pretty amazing visuals.
The Radio One Pyramid hosts the likes of Timo Mass & Judge Jules who broadcast their sets live to the nation. As the sun sets behind the R1 pyramid through squinted eyes you could almost be on the terraces of Café Del Mar or any other famous Balearic haunt as some very pretty weather and some very fat Bass whip the crowd into a disco frenzy.
Somewhere else, Grand Master Flash is reminding some of the younger performers how noble DJs slay a crowd. Sat on his stool, mic in hand, talking the crowd up he effortlessly spins through a myriad of total classics one after the other. Peaking with an outstanding version of his furious five anthem 'The Message'.
Current media darlings Audio Bully's manage to squeeze two shows into the day, a stonking live performance and also a DJing torrent late on at the Radio one pyramid. Derrick Carter & Jeff Mills represent for the US of A Derrick taking the Bacardi bar to new limits with an eye watering four hour throb-o-thon while Jeff provides techno heaviness to wrap up the evening in Arena 2. DJ Lottie, Pete Tong & Rodger Sanchez make mixing house music all look a bit too easy. While the drum & bass tent (aptly named 'Movement') pounds with very low frequencies.
The likes of Oakey, The Chemical brothers, John Digweed & Sasha provide the glamour as Arena one progresses into what feels like a Superstar DJ tag match. Arena 1 attracts the more mature and maybe nostalgic clubber but the atmosphere is cozy and the tunes are sweet.
I could go on forever
For a fifteen hour experience there is too much to tell. I am always amazed by how much quality entertainment gets squeezed onto the bill of almost all of the current British festivals. An eclectic mix of styles and genres, programmed to perfection, tell a tale of how dance music is growing up in the public eye. Beats hold hand with guitars as the remixes of the day play out.
'Clocks' by Coldplay gets the remix treatment in the VIP suite. While The White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' blows the roof clean off. These are extraordinarily exciting times.
All photography provided by: www.paulunderhill.com