New festivals pop up all the time. The zeitgeist of our youth is the yearning for a tent in front of a stage. Big and small, electronic and live, many come and go, with thousands having fun but how many are truly memorable – truly life changing. Houghton fit that bill.
It kind of makes me cringe to say that. How can a couple of days away in Norfolk change how you look at the world? But last weekend really did. The happiness that was surging through those fields was the purest I have ever felt, only challenged by some very special memories I have at Glastonbury. It had a sense of freedom I can’t quite put my finger on and a touch of crazy that was orgasmically impressive.
Starting with the location, they really did get it spot on. It took bloody ages to get to, north-west to south-east is never going to be easy, and that Hall drive-way really was massive wasn’t it? However, once you were safe inside those secluded trees, it really started to tick.
The move from car park to camp site to arena was seamless, don’t call me boring, this makes a difference, and you could really tell the people in charge knew what they were doing. Gottwood has been the undercover gem of summer for many years now so it was no surprise they were pulling the strings, down at Houghton.
Each and every stage had its own touch of fairy dust. The first place I delved into was The Quarry, which, on the surface was just a big hole with some flashing lights. Add in the outstanding speaker systems, that the whole festival possessed, with immense quality on the ones and twos, it became a real life mine for banger after banger. The Warehouse was another favourite of mine, reminiscent of the familiar rave venues we have all grown up on. Absolute bliss.
But the number one for me, and I’m sure for many, was The Pavillion. Hidden in the trees, this place brought out an almost feral euphoria from everyone who came through. A real rave in the forest, with a fairytale vibe which was oddly appealing.
The videos coming out from Houghton Festival 😬😍👌🏽🔈
— Sub:Conscious Ldn (@SubConscious_PR) August 17, 2017
can’t believe Houghton have pulled off a music license that runs non stop from 9am friday – 4am monday, it’s like i’m off to Berlin
— ALEX T ZATZIKI (@theodopolopodis) August 9, 2017
Gerd Janson’s set was a particular highlight, it was as much of an outer body experience than anyone could hope for but we can’t mention this stage without highlighting Richards and Villalobos’s marathon 8-hour set. The festival host, Craig Richards, teamed up with minimal maestro Ricardo Villalobos to pull off one of the most impressive displays of techno I have ever seen. Filth, beautiful, beautiful filth.
Leaving me breathless as every set ended it was a welcome surprise to have the masterpiece, that was the lake, so close by. A sensual delight at both day and night, it was a perfect little rest bite. I wonder what legend did live in that lit up house on the far side?
With all this going on, it was easy to forget the few things they need to improve. Very limited alcohol allowance (2 cans a day? Who do they think we are?), expensive drinks inside and a lack of water taps festival wide. Call me a baby, as well, but the festival’s greatest strength was arguably its greatest weakness. 24-hour music brings with it a total escape from the outside world, a never ending party, but it’s quite hard to sleep at 120 BPM.
So with these little criticisms, you may wonder why I still rate it so highly? Loads of Festivals have cool stages, loads of festivals are well organised, you could argue a lot of festivals have ‘better’ line-ups. What took this one to the top. To be honest, that’s where the magic lies, I can’t quite put my finger on it but it just worked.
Whatever it was, Houghton ticked a lot of boxes. Festival season is losing its status. The market is saturated, the themes are boring, are they all the same? Is it even cool? Houghton is head and shoulders above all new comers I have experienced – this is why it is life-changing. Gottwood should be very proud of their baby sister because there are some big things on the come up in Norfolk.