Written by Zen Terrelonge
Garage Nation Outdoor Festival: Streatham Common, London – Saturday 11th July 2015
If you were a teenager in London or its surrounding areas, it’s likely UK garage music was part of your life around 15 years ago.
Of course, today’s charts are dominated by house, deep house, soft house, hard house, three-bed house, and the odd bit of indie, r&b and pop. But garage music conjured up an unstoppable party atmosphere in its day, supporting the rise of noughties stars like Craig David and Daniel Bedingfield – both of whom need never work again.
Indeed, for me personally, it even served as a way to try and woo the opposite sex as an impressionable youth: “There’s no question of a doubt, I’ve checked all the ladies out, you’re the finest thing that I’ve seen, sexy lady be my queen” – yes, I did text those lyrics from my Nokia. Big up Amar (the genius behind the words of Sometimes It Snows In April).
Imagine then, my surprise and delight when I happened across the announcement of a Garage Nation festival this summer.
I rounded up my troops and we made an instant purchase as tickets were just £18. We counted down the days as Saturday 11th July drew closer, gearing up to mark the inaugural outdoor festival celebrating the 90s music genre.
With high profile acts on the list including DJ EZ, Luck and Neat, and the more recent Karen Harding, ticket prices gradually crept up towards the £50 mark and we were glad to have booked in advance.
The low cost certainly softened the blow we were dealt upon arrival to the event – which saw the British summertime deliver temperatures of around 25°c – as it transpired that in order to make purchases on site, guests were required to first buy tokens which would then act as currency.
To put this into context, the last time I needed tokens to make a purchase was at a funfair in a Spanish village – not in the heart of London.
I can understand that, on paper, counting out two tokens is potentially easier and faster for a drunken guest than them counting out their spare change – IF orderly queues were formed. However, the lines, not that I’d consider them anything of the sort, resembled more of a rugby scrum.
In a world where you can make purchases in one touch of your phone or a tap of your debit card, the very notion that paying with tokens would offer a more seamless customer journey is utterly ludicrous.
British consumers spent £2.32bn using contactless cards in 2014 – I wonder how many transactions were made using tokens.
Beyond that, dehydrating in the beating sun for said tokens and then repeating the process for a drink, while being crushed, has surely got to be against health and safety.
Rather than being able to quickly visit a bar with sterling and enjoy the music of yesteryear with cider or otherwise in hand, a simple service offered at Wireless which took under ten minutes – and we all know that event had problems of its own – my garage-loving gang and I found ourselves in a hellish horde of thirsty, sweaty revellers with increasingly low levels of patience.
After an hour passed, we’d finally secured a beverage and the war on dehydration commenced.
It wasn’t without some casualties though. When the backs of the seemingly inexperienced and understaffed bar team were turned, one woman took it upon herself to get her own drink and leapt across the bar, in a fashion that Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill would likely be proud of, to retrieve a bottle of Jack Daniels on the house.
Given that the purchasing process took so long, which is only going to result in loss of business and dissatisfied customers, we missed a number of key performances which only added to the disappointment.
Thankfully, godfather of garage, DJ EZ was enough to raise spirits and brought the crowd to life with a vibrant and enthusiastic performance – as always, truly demonstrating just how much he loves his craft.
With the MCs on stage boasting of 10,000 people in attendance, it felt like it because there was such little room on site to move.
Indeed, while the line-up was solid, the stages were far too close together, meaning that EZ came with an unscheduled back-up act from the neighbouring tent which could be heard at the same time. This was an experience that happened across the common.
Granted it was the first year Garage Nation took place as an outdoor festival, but it certainly showed.
If it does make it back for a second year, I certainly won’t be there bubbling from the left – or right.
Oh no, that’s the word.