Ok, so I like electronic dance music, more specifically Trance. When I started in the 1990's, the US was a bit behind in that department.
Still, with San Francisco and San Jose nearby, I've had some opportunities to see some great EDM/Trance DJs. Back in the early 2000's, they sadly played club music in the US that was nowhere close to the hits they had composed and were known for, but over the years, as Trance started becoming more popular, those DJs finally started playing their good tunes in the US too, and maybe from 2004 on, it's only been getting better. Popsicle Halloween 2004 was really the beginning of great music parties in the San Francisco Area, and thankfully things have gotten even better since then
As a matter of fact, after another 10 years (2015 and beyond) the good news is that Trance has grown quite a following in the US, and places like the SF Bay Area, and while Trance has been declared dead a few times in the last 10 years, it's still going strong here.
Trance Family SF is definitely strong in the area, we've been getting more big trance parties every year, including many top DJs that come visit us what feels like every other week now (as of 2018-2019), and through those events, I made many friends in Trance Family SF. Thanks to you all.
Over those years, I got the chance to meet a few of my favourite DJs, including Armin more than once, and my last hobby has been to work on lights for my shirt and pants (version 3) and (version 4)
in Clubbing, England2021, Festivals
Foreword and rants
I had heard about creamfields for a while now, but well, it was far, and it also conflicts with Burning Man, so that kind of made it a no go, except this year where the official burning man was cancelled due to covid (although the unofficial burning man ended up being much bigger than planned).
The goal was actually for me to go to ASOT 1000, and creamfields was conveniently a bonus the week before that, but ASOT 1000 also got cancelled unfortunately, so creamfields was what was left (and ABGT 450 went to replace ASOT 1000).
So, I did:
This text below ended up being a lot longer than I though. I have never written anything like this for any event ever, I don't know if creamfields will ever read this, or whether they care, but I feel that others should know so that they can decide whether they went to spend their money there. I'm personally unlikely to ever go back unless I get an apology from them, which I'm obviously not holding my breath, for. I'll be happily proven wrong though, and will update this page if I am.
Back to creamfields, my experience was mixed, and mosty ended up negative due to some of the staff working there (both security and transport staff). I'll therefore start with the list of things that were not great:
creamfields is confusing, you literally cannot attend thursday at all, unless you buy a 4 day camping ticket. So, that's what I did. I even bought an expensive gold 4 day camping ticket, so that I wouldn't have to worry and get access to everything. But no, turns out that ticket does not allow you to leave the event to go sleep at your hotel if you have one, and honestly going to camp in the mud and rain that creamfields usually has, was not what I had in mind (also no camping gear given that I was flying from the US). So, effectively I had a worthless $600 ticket that would be void after the first day after going to sleep in a proper bed on the first night. Creamfields, why do you hate your customers that much?
but eh, they were nice, when I explained my problem, they "nicely" offered to to downgrade me to a 3 day in and out ticket (with no refund for the price difference of course), but instead of then just letting me in for thursday since after all I had paid for it (which I was honestly hoping they would do), they clearly told me that I was not going to get in, to leave, and come back friday. How nice of them! I somehow got lost on my way out and found myself inside the event anyway, but that was no thanks to them. I think the only approved way to attend thursday and sleep outside, is to buy a 4 day camping pass + a 3 day in and out pass, for the low low price of $900 or so. Thank you!
Thursday was a bit weird, they were not allowed to make any sound. So all the stages played with wireless headphones given to all attendees. That was super weird, but to be fair, they were high quality headphones and the sound quality was flawless, so it wasn't that bad. I'm sure that it was not their fault and they had to abide by some regulation not to make sound in the middle of nowhere on a thursday.
rules about what you can bring in: this is where it gets weird, you can bring a fair amount of things in the camping area, but there is pretty much no security or search between camping and the arena, so that means you can really bring a lot of things in. Except, on sunday, which is the only day they searched me on the way in, they disallowed my LED backpack (it's more than A4 size, so not allowed in the arena by their rules, but allowed in camping. They didn't allow it inside at all, then also prevented me from taking in my LED outfit that I had had the last 3 days, even after showing them pictures of me inside with DJs, and those assholes (by then they were really assholes), actually made to remove all the LEDs that were on my arms and legs, before I was allowed in. That last bit was totally punitive and complete dickwaving show of power. Well, you won, you sure showed me you are powerful and I guess you wanted me to pass on the good word about you, so I'm doing that now.
they did have people checking the arena entrance, I walked in and out 3 days with my backpack without them being worried once, which was good. If they were really checking, it would have caused monster gridlocks
So they did allow me in after talking all my stuff (I guess they were "nice" to allow me in while keeping my stuff in their storage), but while I was in the event, pretty pissed, they went through my electronics they had already seen and inspected (they even brought a bomb sniffing dog while I was there), they opened my somewhat fragile stuff like apes, tore some wires and damaged it. It took me 2 hours of testing everything with a multimeter to see what they broke and re-solder things they broke. Thank you.
But seriously, it was trivial to bring anything in the event and stash it in the camping area, so they weren't stopping anyone up to no good, and in my case I literally offered them my passport, and promised them I would not leave my bag in the middle of nowhere so that it could be mistaken for a bomb (never mind that it had $1000 of my equipment in it), they said no, and then further punished me by making me rip out my LEDs on my arms and legs, because why not?
Talking about other staff on a power trip, the transport people outside were literally yelling at cabs and ubers, accusing them of lying and cheating, and one of them grabbed me from behind when I was outside the event trying to get back to the street, and ripped my backpack off my back and yelled at me because I was going the "wrong way" (again this is outside, on a public street where they have 0 authority to touch a pedestrian).
drug check, haha, sure. I won't go into a long tirade on how stopping people from using safer drugs and getting them to use the very worst drug there is, alcohol, is a bunch of BS (and OMG, some drunk brits are out of control and honestly kind of dangerous and unpleasant). Or people were doing way too much K and collapsing on the ground, not a win either. The one day they put the drug dog on me, it said I had drugs. More precisely, my outfit probably smells like weed, because well, I don't actually use weed, but with the amount there is in festivals I go to, I'm sure my clothes do smell like weed to some extent, and I can't wash them all the time due to the electronics on them. They only let me go because they were more interested in taking my LEDs away and forgot about the drugs I indeed didn't have.
Because alcohol is what's left for most, lots of drunk brits who seem ok pissing literally everywhere. Anything that looked like a wall or a fence was fair game, and it's not like there weren't toilets nearby. I don't normally care too much, but that was a bit over the top in "not classy"
the gold ticket hospitality center, had a search within the "secure" area. It was so out there, that I didn't even want to go to that area to claim my free meals included with my ticket. Thankfully they added a bypass entrance a few days later, while still searching people taking the other entrance, go figure.
This is the dangerous outfit they had to save the world from on sunday:
Funny thing is that I was caught on the video during Craig's set (great set, but horrible sound and very poor visuals):
they should have stopped that terrorist during Above and Beyond's set. That said, it is true my backpack was just a bit over the sized allowed, even if it was very far from being the only one, and none of their security people checking the arena entrance minded, they even though it was cool with the fun displays on it
although their webpage said they wouldn't accept foreign vaccine cards, they allowed my CDC vaccination card to get in, saving me from having to take more CV19 tests every day
creamfields android app was pretty good for getting around, even had navigation. However, because they actually moved some stages to be in different locations, on sunday when I went to see pendulum, it sent me to the wrong place (that has the stage name 2 days prior)
there were issues of course (more below on the stages), but well, I still have to recognize that it was impressive what they brought in the middle of freaking nowhere.
I got to see artists I would never have seen elsewhere, like scooter, fatboy slim, faithless DJ set, or pendulum trilogy
drunk brits, 'nuf said, give them back their drugs and they'll behave better.
brits singing soccer and crowd songs in the middle of a DJ set where the DJ was trying to play something else. That felt kind of disrespectful.
Production and stages:
On paper, creamfields, is EDC level, there are 10 or so stages with lots of music
Some stages were truly excellent, top notch.
Others were quite poor, which sadly was true of the Rong and Pepsi Max stages where all the trance was played (Pepsi was the worst). Sound was terrible at times, where the bass was so loud that it would hurt you in the front rows, and I had to shove my earplugs all the way in and it wasn't enough. Needless to say that there was virtually none of the trance melody left, what a waste and such a bummer to have destroyed the music of some of my favorite trance DJs :(
The lighting was bad too, you could barely see the DJs at times. In the ajnunabeats stage, Above and Beyond played a 2H set where you could literally not see them 95% of the time, such a insult to them.
The video wall in pepsi max was also very poor. Video was downsampled to low resolution and then blown up with very visible artifacts that looked pretty bad. It's a bummer for the artists playing there like Craig Connelly, Ruben de Ronde, and many others.
Yes, I realize that it's a lot of work and production to bring all of this in the middle of a muddy grass field, and it's impressive that they brought all that, but they messed up the last mile in at least the 3 stages I cared the most about (some other stages looked much much better)
There were also multiple stages with 15 or 30mn cutovers, with nothing in between. A bit weird for an event of that size. They even pushed it as far as playing some commercials on some video screens during the wait. Really?
What Creamfields looks like
I arrived early along with all the campers after having to sort out my ticket issue. Lots of pretty aggressive warnings, drug dogs, and "we'll send you to jail" warnings. Welcome!
nice, they were even drug sniffing the DJs and staff
drugs are bad and will send you to jail, buy our alcohol behave stupidly and go to rehab later, it's better
I felt bad for the campers, it was a long ass walk to carry a lot of gear on bad terrain to their campsites:
it's really a long hard walk with heavy luggage
they even had a store for the campers
It's big, lots of walking and grass which was fortunately dry when I was there. I can't imagine how sucky it must be in the rain and mud:
british humor, maintain 2m distance in a crowded festival
lucky folks got their DJs there, I only got to see Armin there
the hospitality area was nice once you got in
the bar lines were ridiculous, happy I didn't have to use them
basic toilets are literally a toilet seat on top of a box
but who needs toilets, brits will just piss on anything that looks like a wall
but you can't blame them, they had official toilets where you literally pissed on a wall with a gutter underneath that takes most of it to a bucket. I could be easy to get them confused
note that the amusement rides were not free, unlike EDC
did that work?
I found another trancejesus
Day #1: Thursday
Finally got in (it was a long walk) and went to see my first trance DJs in the first Rong stage (there were several depending on the day):
as I wrote earlier, there was no sound on thursday, everyone had headphones. It was a bit weird, but worked well enough
M.I.K.E. Push was awesome, on top of his set which I very much enjoyed, he sent James during his set to tell me how much he liked my LED outfit, and give me his drink and meal vouchers. That was fantastic, you rock:
thank you M.I.K.E.
the one issue with headphones was big lines to get in some stages
Lange took over, it had been so long since I last saw Lange
he nicely came down to see us after his set, thanks Lange
Very short video summary, showing the crowd cheering without sound :)
Day #2: Friday
I then went to enjoy the sets. Unfortunately friday was a pepsi max day (where trance was), and the sound was absolutely terrible:
It was great to see Ruben, but hard to enjoy the sound, and the video wall was terrible (downres-ed and then up'res-ed)
Craig was next, again great set but terrible sound
and terrible graphics, I so wanted the 'more than love' video, but no such luck
Sander Van Doorn was last
I went to check out some other stage, which had advanced technology: lasers!
One nice thing is that I got to see scooter, who I remember from 20 years ago and had never seen:
Video summary of Day #2:
Day #3: Saturday
Saturday was the 14H day 14:00 to 04:00. I split my time between ajnuabeats stage and trance back at some other Rong stage which wasn't great either (but not as bad as pepsi max):
Lots of hard trance on saturday, I guess GB likes it hard :)
GO also played a very hard set, but I still enjoyed it
Brian Kearney played hard as always, not really my thing
Got to see a bit of fatboy slim, that was cool:
Then it was time for Armin, it was a good set. He joked that it was his best set of the year so far (it was also his first, haha):
good thing I had proper cameras and not a cell phone
Right after Armin was above and beyond, the stage they got was pretty sad, it was very hard to even see them most of the time:
one of a few lucky shots
usually it was most like that
the rest of the time, that's all you saw
Two most sets to close the night until 04:00:
Video Summary of Day #3:
Day #4: Sunday
Sunday was the last day, after spending a very unpleasant time with security who took all my stuff on the last day, because why not (see introduction for details), it was honestly hard to enjoy the day. I was pretty upset by this pointless show of force. The terrorist have sure won :(
Faithless DJ set was cool
Back at pepsi max, with still terrible sound, but at least it was not physically hurtful and dangerous like 2 days prior
Yeah, Ferry Corsten
lighting and video wall were still bad
other stages were nicer
back to pepsi max for Paul Van Duk
notice the bad anti aliasing and resolution on the video wall
John O Callaghan, love him too
I went to check out Tiesto quickly, but he just played his usual crap, not an ounce of trance. We miss you Tiesto:
sorry, but no, I don't want sushi from Japan
So I finished the night with Pendulum who played some fantastic Drum and Bass, very enjoyable once I found the stage that was in the wrong place on the map:
Video summary of Day #4:
I then hurried my ass out 10mn before the event was over to avoid 2H+ lines to get out. After being physically assaulted by some mall cop outside in the street who didn't like how I was going out to the street (yes, really), I found an uber that had given up on finding his customers and took me instead for a hefty premium (3x the regular price, but that was the price of getting home that night).
So that was it, the 4 days of creamfields were over. It was an interesting experience, but between the ridiculous rules (can't attend thursday without camping), the security on a power trip and more interested in hassling customers than actually keeping the event safe, and the stages I cared about with bad visuals, poor lighting on the DJs, and sometimes bass that was so loud that you couldn't hear the melody anymore and feared for your ears. I also know I'm very lucky that it was sunny and I saw no rain or no mud, I can't imagine how it is with them
I already knew that insomniac does great events in the US, on so many levels, but creamfields made me realize how many things insomniac really gets right. It was interesting to see once (minus the ruined day on sunday thanks to security), but given the minuses of the event, I doubt that I'll go back, there are better events with better execution and respect for the customer and not the problems of getting in and out on a single lane road with only 10 or 20 cabs and a handful of ubers, resulting on multi hour lines to get out, or walking for 1 to 2h back to your place if you don't want to, or can't camp.
And unfortunately, an event is ultimately judged by its best and worst points. In this case, the security folks who effectively said they would not trust me to not leave my LED backpack somwhere random to cause a bomb scare, and as a result, took all my stuff, all the way to making me rip out my LEDs from my pants and shirt, and then literally damaging my equipment while I was gone, you suck and I will not forget this (that said, I also won't forget that you are literally preventing non campers from attending thursday, what madness is this?).
To all the people at creamfields who took pictures with me, gave me smiles, thumbs up and other "this is so cool" (including most of the security staff inside the event), thanks to all of you. You are the reason why I spent over a thousand dollars on this, plus 1.5 years of effort (not counting the 3 years before that on the previous versions as described on https://medium.com/@merlin_69010/how-to-be-a-peacock-engineer-in-the-world-of-edm-with-an-outfit-from-a-few-leds-to-37440-leds-c7d0cf759a49 ).
Gareth coming 15mn from my house to play? Sure, sign me up :) I'll be honest that I'm always a bit apprehensive for anything at Pure due to their over the top door searches and some nonsensical policies (pocket cameras are apparently not allowed, unless they happen to be able to make phone calls also, absolutely no club anywhere in the bay area does that). But let's be fair too: their search was a bit less invasive than it's been in the past, and they did let me in with my outfit (which their photographers inside, absolutely loved of course).
But back to Gareth, it was good to see him after that long, he played a solid 2H set without surprises. He played all his classics, and honestly given how long since I last heard them live, that was great:
Good to see my friend Robert again. By now I hope he has a lifetime membership at Pure :)
it was nice to have a mirror in the stage to enjoy my own outfit :)
Wait, a trance party, close to my home, with DJs that flew from some other country? Really? OMG, yes! Sign me up!
Big minus for San Jose Civic Center who randomly decided that the batteries for my outfit would not be allowed. Thankfully I had friends to rescue me in, but that was a bit sad.
TenSteps started the night:
Ruben was next:
And then Andrew Rayel took over for the end of the night:
Nice to be able to see some of my friends again, and great to have a real show again, thank you to all: