For the fifth year running, Reminisce brought the retro vibes to a park in St Helens, Merseyside
Much has been written about the sheer number of festivals taking place across the country now: about how event culture has negatively affected the club industry, about how money is increasingly channelled into the coffers of a handful of mega-promoters, about the crass commercialisation of a once underground scene, and about such events' environmental impact. All of which are, of course, perfectly valid concerns.
The best thing about the 'festival explosion', though, is that there are now festivals catering for pretty much every musical niche you can imagine. Whether you're a lover of drum & bass, hard house, minimal techno or whatever it might be, gone are the days when you had to just turn up at Creamfields or Tribal Gathering and hope there was a tent for you – these days there's almost certainly an entire festival just for you. And for lovers of old school rave, house, hard house and trance, that festival is quite possibly the aptly-named Reminisce.
Now in its fifth year, Reminisce is a one-day festival held in Sherdley Park in glamorous St Helens, and having had a ball there on 7 September, iDJ can happily confirm it's a damn fine day out. As long as you leave your musical snobbishness at the door, that is... because at Reminisce you'll find genuine rave legends sharing a bill with the pop-tastic likes of Venga Boys and Whigfield. But no-one's forcing you to watch the latter, and there's plenty to keep househeads and ravers entertained without having to force down great unwanted helpings of cheese.
Our first impression, arriving just after gates opened, was how well organised everything was. No need to lug heavy coats around all day when the organisers have laid on a large, secure cloakroom; no need to fret about being rendered incommunicado when said cloakroom doubles as a phone-charging facility (even if the £8 fee was a bit 'ouch'), and no need to stomp the site in an increasingly misanthropic (bordering on murderous) frame of mind when the festival's solitary cigarette vendor is clearly signposted in two-foot-high lettering!
Such logistical concerns might seem minor, but a smooth-running operation for happy punters makes. Happy punters for a successful, trouble-free day make. And happy punters were certainly in abundance at Reminisce.
Some real thought had clearly gone into the layout of the six arenas, too. We spent most of our day rattling back and forth between the neighbouring Quadrant Park (rave) and Lovehouse (er, house) tents, but there'll have been many who seldom left the Judgement (trance) and Clubland (hard house/bounce) tents down at the other end of the park, while the main Reminisce tent (all sorts) and the heated, seated VIP marquee operating as a kind of neutral ground in the middle. Horses and courses spring to mind here.
Anyway, on to the music! We can't really comment on what went down at the harder end of the field, except to say that everyone seemed to be having a very jolly time (and that we still can't quite get our heads around how 'hard house with rapping' ever became a thing)… but we certainly weren't ever left wanting for choice where we were.
In the Lovehouse tent, a rotating cast of UK veterans (Alex P, Allister Whitehead, Jeremy Healy, Jon Pleased Wimmin) kept the 90s handbag and US house vibes flowing between goosebump-inducing PAs from Shawnee Taylor, Julie McKnight and Sandy B. Over in the over-30s only Quadrant Park tent, meanwhile, the likes of K-Klass, Xpansions, John Kelly and Stu Allan kept it old skool on the decks while PAs came from K-Klass themselves, Kathy Brown and, most notably, Shades Of Rhythm.
The latter's Sound Of Eden rivalled Xpansions' Move Your Body for the title of Tune We Heard Most on the day, so a live performance towards the end of the evening could easily have fallen a bit flat, rather than having a couple of thousand ageing cheesy quavers belting along in misty-eyed unison. Can you guess which of these was the actual response, though?
Gee Hepburn's anecdote about trying to explain the song Ecstasy to his Mum made us smile, too. "'Nah mum, it's not about drugs! It's like… when you go to church and sing hymns and your heart fills with love for Jesus… that's what it's about.' And there I am stinking of sweat, no sleep, shades on at the Sunday dinner table… who the fuck did I think I was kidding?!".
Over in the huge 10,000-capacity Reminisce arena, meanwhile, you got a little bit of everything, with PAs from Rozalla, Baby D, Urban Cookie Collective, Ultra Nate and Angie Brown and DJ sets from Seb Fontaine and Tall Paul among the highlights from iDJ's point of view… although it has to be said the Venga Boys proved the surprise hit of the day, clearly evoking fond memories for a section of the audience that was a decade or so younger than us!
With proceedings coming to a close at 11pm, the next problem was going to be getting home (or to be more precise, to the afterparty at Club Deco in Warrington). We'd booked a cab to pick us up at the nearby station, but would he ever find us among the crowds? Yes he would, because the organisers had thoughtfully provided security even there to a) direct traffic and b) ensure festival-goers got off home safely. That's what we call going above and beyond.
So, yes, Reminisce. Don't go there looking for cutting-edge experimental electronica. Don't go there and expect 'I got into Berghain, me' cool points. Go there with a smile on your face and the rave spirit in your heart, don't be surprised to find the odd lump in your throat as you recall days gone by and friends perhaps now lost, and dance yourself into the ground.
It's FUN, and that's what it's all supposed to be about.
Words: Russell Deeks Pics: Rash Yaman
Tags: Reminisce, St Helens, Club Deco, Shades Of Rhythm, Rozalla, Baby D, Urban Cookie Collective, Ultra Nate, Angie Brown, Tall Paul, Seb Fontaine, Xpansions, Shawnee Taylor, Julie McKnight, Sandy B, Alex P, Allister Whitehead, Jeremy Healy, Jon Pleased Wimmin, K-Klass, Xpansions, John Kelly, Stu Allan, Kathy Brown, Venga Boys, Judgement, Quadrant Park