Moby, Leftfield, Public Enemy, and a very big puddle of mud

The British festival season has started: Laurence Phelan forgets his wellies
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The Matterley Bowl is a huge natural amphitheatre, surrounded by the luscious green slopes of rural Hampshire. Or rather, it was, until 40,000 ravers turned up for the Homelands festival last weekend and danced in the rain for 17 hours. Now it's just a very big, ankle-deep, muddy puddle. Homelands was going to be a perfect start to the summer, with a large percentage of the world's best DJs playing in 11 different arenas, live sets from acts on the traditional festival-circuit comeback tour and a reputation as the best event of 1999. Unfortunately, it started before the summer did.

The Matterley Bowl is a huge natural amphitheatre, surrounded by the luscious green slopes of rural Hampshire. Or rather, it was, until 40,000 ravers turned up for the Homelands festival last weekend and danced in the rain for 17 hours. Now it's just a very big, ankle-deep, muddy puddle. Homelands was going to be a perfect start to the summer, with a large percentage of the world's best DJs playing in 11 different arenas, live sets from acts on the traditional festival-circuit comeback tour and a reputation as the best event of 1999. Unfortunately, it started before the summer did.

Things began well, with Moby bringing everyone together for his early-evening slot under one canvas roof. Between energetic versions of his recent bluesy hits and a couple of heavy metal rants, he treated the crowd to some of his early anthems. The familiar piano riffs of "Go", "Everytime You Touch Me" or "Feeling So Real" evoked a nostalgia for a time before corporate sponsorship, live Radio 1 broadcasts and reliable sound systems, when dancing in a field was a revolutionary act. For those minutes to be anywhere other than in that huge tent with thousands of dancing strangers, was unthinkable. And not just because it was pouring with rain outside.

Leftfield repeated the trick, teasing the crowd with lengthy build-ups to classic tracks from Leftism and the pounding bassline intro to their Guinness anthem "Dusted", thousands of people were theirs to control. But then, they did come on after Ian Brown. In 1989, Brown was in the best band in the world and it didn't really matter that he couldn't sing. But now that Oasis are doing a perfectly adequate Stone Roses imitation, Brown's own inept parody of former glory is utterly redundant.

It is impossible to catch all the acts you'd like to at a festival. I would've liked to have heard Darren Emerson, David Holmes, Fabio & Grooverider, but I did manage to catch some of Reprazent (whose new album will be stunning, judging by their live performance) and Public Enemy. Comeback tours are invariably a disappointment, but it's hard to understand why PE ever went away. Their stage presence is as formidable as ever and the old classics they played still sound incredibly fresh and furious. But by this time the rain was pouring through the roof of the main tent and, I actually would've preferred a bit of mindless house music to an hour of black separatist rants.

By 2am I was one of the many thousands trying to escape. The first train back to London left at 6am so there was a certain forced humour among those wrapped in customised bin-liner blankets and gathered around the hand-dryers in the toilets of Winchester train station. All traces of euphoria or togetherness had long since evaporated. Yet it's a testament to the power of that primal urge to gather in a field and dance to repetitive beats that few people said they'd never go to a festival again. And I suspect that most of them, now they've dried out, will have added, "... without checking the weather forecast first."

Comments