Cocoon in the Park is now into its 8th year of hosting their festival within the hallowed grounds of Temple Newsam, Leeds. I have only been once before, two years ago when it was possibly the hottest day of the year. Richie Hawtin also played a blinding set so I had high expectations on my return.
It was an early 8am meet up at the Wetherspoon’s pub in Stourbridge for a breakfast and a pint which quickly turned into a round of Jägerbomb’s. It’s my friend Andy’s stag do and Adam had a little treat in store for him to wear on our journey but I’ll get round to explaining that later. The coach arrived to pick us up about 10am to make the road trip to Leeds which is roughly around 140 miles. We were armed with drink, a blue tooth speaker and a selection of mixes to keep us entertained.
The journey took slightly longer than expected, however, we provided entertainment to the passing flow of motorists on the M1 motorway with Andy dressed up as what only can be described as a cyber bride. We took a democratic vote to decide if we were going to make him wear it inside the festival. The yes vote won but we let him off in the end. It was raining quite heavily and had been since we left Stourbridge, but the tunes and drinks were flowing and slowly nobody bothered to care, it’s a festival in the UK and is only to be expected.
We arrived at Temple Newsam in Leeds at 2pm. We were dropped off at the coach drop off point and made the short walk down to the festival site to be greeted by the sounds of Eats Everything b2b Patrick Topping and their usual upbeat house music sound. I’d say it was roughly around 30 mins to get our wristbands and pass through the security checks which wasn’t too bad, there was a great soundtrack in doing so as people were dancing in the queue eagerly awaiting entrance and already talking complete shit to each other.
The weather in Leeds was a lot nicer than it was travelling up the motorway, it was very warm and humid yet still quite overcast and cloudy. I now wish I wore shorts as almost every other person was. Most girls barely had those on.
By about 2:30pm we were all in. First stop toilets again, second for drinks tokens and third for drinks (which were £5 each and £2.50 for water). It was a bit of a queue fest at first as everybody seemed to arrive at the same time. We decided to take position near the bottom of the bank towards the top end of the site to sum up what we have missed so far. I would have liked to have seen the Fuse boys Enzo Siragusa b2b Rossko but I’ll have to wait for another day.
As early as 3pm was, someone was being carried past us by the paramedics team who seemed to be very aware and on point for peoples safety. Almost immediately after, to the delight of my ears, I hear ‘Flash’ creeping in. Yes, it was Green Velvet with the opening track of his set. I excitedly felt the need to announce it to everyone. It still sounds as fresh as it did in 1995, it’s raw and heavy beats instantly changed and lifted the atmosphere after Eats Everything and Patrick Topping, I even thought we may be in for a full on techno set.
I’d like to say it was but he effortlessly drifted between house and techno also playing some of his Cajmere material. A stand out track was Green Velvet & Harvard Bass ‘Laser Beams’ as there was literally a sea of hands chopping the air. If ever there was unity in one confined space, it was then. The place completely went off. It’s a track I didn’t really pay too much attention to before but now I’ve heard it out on a crystal clean function one system at a festival it’s one I’m going to dig back out and start to play again.
It’s now sometime around 4pm and there is a medley of two girls being sick in front of us in tandem. Well done Green Velvet you’re doing a great job I thought to myself. It made me think back to a conversation I had with Damion Pell about him saying how respectful Dutch festival goers are in Holland on how they carry and behave themselves. Well, this is Northern England I better say no more.
After swiftly finding a new place to stand I find out the news my best mates first child was born, he would have been here with us otherwise. Little Max has entered the world so now it’s truly time to celebrate. The drinks were flowing and banter was in full force so we moved closer down to the stage. Green Velvet enticed us almost down to the front with his live PA of ‘La La Land’ which was a very nice touch to his set.
We nestled next to a Scottish couple from Glasgow and had a quick chat about ‘Subby’ or ‘Sub Club’ to anyone who isn’t familiar. He asked if I’ve ever heard of ‘The Social Festival’ which lead on to our appreciation of one of the headliners this year, Mr Laurent Garnier and his Red Bull Music Academy interview.
After more drinks and now a few dance moves breaking out amongst us it was now drawing nearer the end of Green Velvet’s set. I glanced up to see The Martinez Brothers at the side of the stage with their ever enthusiastic smiles cheering on the final tunes they are about to lead from. Jaydee’s ‘Plastic Dreams’ (read our interview we had with him recently) gets the crowd going as I surprisingly hear people next to me turn to their friends asking “what’s this called again?” Everyone should know this I thought as I grinned to myself.
The New York brothers from the Bronx took to the decks at 5pm and exchanged applause with there Chicago predecessor, you could see a lot of respect between the three guys. Stevie and Chris Martinez purveyed their trademark groove but with a much-needed drive and tempo to keep the energy up. They were straight to the point and always look as though they are thoroughly enjoying themselves interacting with and acknowledging the crowd.
It’s always great to watch them enjoying what they do. The rain had been holding off for quite some time until they dropped their track with Miss Kittin ‘Stuff in the Trunk” then the heaven’s opened for a quick down pour that didn’t last much longer than the length of the track. Momentarily there was a small dose of panic from a select few but the majority didn’t seem to care, it just added to the festival experience and to me kind of made it a stand out track in their set.
Shortly after the panic settled I decided to head back to the bar and quickly ended up in the middle of more random banter with strangers. By this time the drinks selection was running low which I was quite surprised by. There was no bottled water left at all and everyone was being advised there was a drinking water tap near the top end of the field. You can imagine the queue for that. I grabbed a tequila beer and headed back to the energetic groove and to find the other guys. Upon my return, the Martinez Brothers were not to everyone’s liking and were described as a bit too flat and linear. I was pleasantly happy myself.
Papa Sven took control at 9pm and as expected lowered the tempo slightly to begin the journey of his 4-hour closing set. We all could tell from the line up this is where we were about to get our first real dose of techno. I was speaking to a few friends prior to the festival asking if they had their tickets to which I was told the line up is too housey for a techno brand and because of this made the choice not to go.
The full stage show didn’t really break out into all its glory until Sven started and it was clear the show was saved for him. The clever visual screens created a 3D effect behind the stage and on the stand alone screens either side. The screens had a number of oval ‘cocoon shaped’ cut outs which enabled you to see through to the trees behind, it looked quite trippy especially when Sven was playing more of the intricate melodic techno tracks which built atmosphere.
I love these type of tracks that let your mind drift without realising then snaps you back to reality when the pounding bass drops and the kick drums send you back on your merry way. My friend Adam turned to me to remind me of a conversation we had at a Cocoon event in Birmingham about 7 years ago with Rebekah, Dubfire and of course Sven Vath about how intricate techno is, yet to some it sounds so simple. Some of the sounds we were hearing during the track played at that moment was like we were actually standing in a rain forest, but inconveniently at this point, there was no or very little rain during Sven’s set.
Not even an hour in you could see the divide of who hit it too hard in the day and peaked too soon, and who the hardcore were. The techno heads stayed put as others flaked out on the banks behind. This is the moment I was saving myself for. Our group all found their energy to pull together and head down to the front after a quick recharge by sampling some of the culinary delights on offer from the food stalls. Neil’s pulled pork bap was good I was told in a group message the following day, however, Gino’s cheesy chips didn’t seem to impress. Anyway, that’s enough of the food.
This was one of the better sets I’ve heard Sven play, it was right up my street and had quite a dancing spurt for the remaining hours of his set with Neil which was very tough to break, as was the grin on my face. Music really does cleans the soul. It’s always the sign of a good set when you don’t recognise what is being played. On more than one occasion I was like “what the hell is this track” and “will I ever hear it again?” Shazam was out of the question I was too busy dancing plus I’m a leave your phone in your pocket type of guy.
They will be treasured tracks if or when I find out what they are. A standout moment which I definitely need to mention was Eduardo de la Calle – Klassiker Elektronischen into Henrik Schwartz new revamp of the classic OFF (Luca Anzilotti, Michael Münzing and Sven Vath) – Electrica Salsa from 1986. I would have been 5 years old when this was first released and the remix package to be released this year with Henrik Schwartz and Roman Flügel on Cocoon Recordings is to celebrate its 30 years anniversary. I was absolutely buzzing!
As Sven’s set draws to an end there are happy faces all round, the rain was nowhere near as bad as forecast and I didn’t even open my two ponchos I bought specially. The music played by every DJ was on point all day and each consecutive set built perfectly and was played exactly to their time slot. Cocoon in the Park is what it is, it’s a boutique festival.
As we discussed the day while heading back towards the coach we agreed it would be nice to introduce a second stage or at least a smaller tent to explore. Festivals are all about exploring and having the chance to pick and choose which act or artist you would like to see. It’s missing that element as you are only confined to one space. By no means does it take away the fact that this is an outstanding outdoor summer event which is very well organised with the very best world class line ups each year. Congratulations Cocoon for another successful event. Then it was time for the journey home!
Photo Credits: Cocoon in the Park/Justin Gardner