And that, of course, can only mean one thing: rain! And lots of it. I'm watching TV coverage live from Glastonbury as I write this and everyone is wearing waterproof clothing, hoods up and hands in the air while the rain pours down relentlessly from above. There's mud everywhere but the typical British summer can't dampen down everyone's spirits. And such a varied line-up too, with giants of rock, pop, R&B, hip hop, reggae and soul all gracing the various stages with their presence. Something for everyone, and with BBC TV's wall to wall coverage you don't even have to be there to enjoy it. You can watch from the comfort of your own home and stay dry. I played at Glastonbury in 2004 with my former Haçienda DJ partner Mike Pickering and enjoyed it's unique atmosphere immensely. It was a rare Park & Pickering DJ reunion and the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds just as we dropped our first tune. The sight of and sound of rain drenched, mud covered lunatics appearing from nowhere to party to our acid house selection will stay with me forever. Unreal! I do love the collective party spirit that you only encounter at a UK festival even when the weather is hideously poor. The other week I played at what has to be my favourite UK festival, Rockness. First of all I absolutely love the journey through the Highlands of Scotland to the beautiful city of Inverness. But nothing prepares you for the absolute beauty of this unique festival site. Standing on a hill looking down beyond the main stage to the glistening Loch Ness stretching into the distance as far as the eye can see. Heart warming stuff! And guess what? It rained! But that didn't stop everyone enjoying themselves immensely. Me included. My set was the final set on Saturday night in the Howard's End arena which you have to walk past on the way back to the campsite. All of the main stages finished at midnight, which is when my set began and the fact that there were less than twenty people in Howard's End as I dropped my first tune didn't really concern me as I've played Rockness before and knew that the crowd were on their way. And sure enough, as everyone staggered back to their tents in the rain the irresistible sound of house music blasting out of my huge white tent was enough to swell the crowd and within fifteen minutes the arena was packed to bursting point and it was going right off to my selection of current and classic house. Superb! I do have more festivals to look forward to this summer with appearances and the Vintage Festival in London, The Magic Loungeabout in North Yorkshire and Strawberry Fields in Leicestershire all on the way in July and August. With my trusty Timberlands and waterproof jacket at the ready, I really can't wait and, like most of the people who've bought tickets, really don't care what the notoriously unreliable British summer weather throws at us. You really can't beat the camaraderie that you can only encounter in a wet field in the UK.
But if you prefer to party in the sunshine, then it has to be Ibiza, where you can always rely on the warm, Mediterranean sunshine and every night is Saturday night. I'm just back from the white isle, where I DJed on a huge boat and at a secluded private villa (oh, I do love my job) alongside Danny Rampling and percussionist Shovell. Such fun! And I got to enjoy a few days in the sun too. This year there is a real buzz about the island and already Ibiza is busy. As usual, all the big names and brands are there and it's pretty hard to avoid them as every billboard (and there are scores of them) screams down at you selling a club night. But I do find these huge advertisements quite disconcerting. There are a lot of huge DJ egos with a lot of time on their hands and these billboards just reinforce that view. Let's not forget that it's all about the music. And, as always in this Balearic paradise, you are spoiled for choice. Just make sure you bring enough cash to enjoy the vastly overpriced entertainment at your disposal. Well, those ridiculous billboards cost money!
Earlier this year I visited South Africa for the first time and was thoroughly impressed. Despite traveling the world with a box of tunes for over 25 years I've never touched down in South Africa. And I wasn't disappointed either. The Sinners club night flew me out to play at Trinity in Cape Town and at Origin in Durban. Trinity is a glorious venue set in two converted warehouses with a huge club on the third floor as well as numerous bars and restaurants. There is a religious theme to the venue which is furnished with the contents of an old church including a massive organ that stretched from ground level to the third floor. A truly wonderful venue that was packed with an appreciative crowd. I had a ball, but not much sleep as I had to catch a flight to Durban where I played at Origin. This venue was a complete contrast to Trinity. Converted from a hotel, it was like a labyrinth with low ceilings and lots of corridors leading to all kinds of different rooms. An incredible venue with a superb Funktion One sound system and a young, up for it crowd. Two contrasting venues, cities and crowds that have left me wanting more. I absolutely loved my week in beautiful, friendly South Africa where I got to hang out with fellow UK DJ Jeremy Healy and Sinners DJ Matt James. Such a warm, welcoming nation and an amazingly beautiful place too.
Since my last column I've been enjoying some great new music. In particular, the new Smoove & Turrell album “Eccentric Audio” is an eclectic selection of soulful, funked up grooves featuring some superb vocals and excellent production. Perfect summer listening that evokes memories of sixties and seventies sing-along-soul but with a contemporary feel. The new Kraak & Smaak album “Electric Hustle” is also extremely good and full of catchy, addictive, feel good tunes that will bring a smile to your face. I've also been fortunate to have been given a sneak preview of the forthcoming Cicada album “Sunburst”. I'm a massive fan of their slick, house influenced electro pop and this superb album doesn't disappoint. Highlights include their glorious cover of Frankie Knuckles' epic “Your Love”, their highly addictive recent single “Fast Cars”, and their nod to classic eighties pop in the shape of the insanely appealing “Psycho Thrills” is just incredible. There have been some great singles in the past few weeks too. “Music Speaks Louder Than Words” by Doug Willis is a modern day, Philly inspired disco delight. But as Doug Willis is one of Dave Lee/Joey Negro's pseudonyms, that should come as no surprise. “White Horse” by Jessica 6 has a unique and haunting vocal that is highly addictive and also includes a wonderful Todd Terry remix. “I'll Take You There” by Frankie Knuckles presents Directors Cut feat. Jamie Principle reunites two original house legends once again for an immensely huge slice of lush, timeless vocal, piano driven house that only Franke Knuckles can deliver. Unbelievable good. “In It Together” by Human Life is a delicious slice of glittery electronic house driven pop that never fails to get the dancefloor rocking and is available on the UK's consistently good Defected label and it's just been remixed by Directors Cut, which is Frankie Knuckles and Eric Kupper, making it my absolute favourite tune right now and quite possible tune of the year so far.
Talking of Defected, it's almost ten years since this ultra reliable UK dance label released the seminal “Finally” by Kings Of Tomorrow featuring the amazing vocal talents of Julie McKnight. This timeless house classic is a jewel in Defected's glittering crown that continues to shine. To celebrate this anniversary the label have decided in their wisdom to commission some remixes of this Sandy Rivera gem, but I really don't understand why. Sure, the Sandy Rivera & C Castel Deeper Mix is an utter delight but I don't see the point of the others which just add dull, unimaginative, contemporary, minimal electro beats and bass riffs to one of the highlights of 21st century clubbing. In my opinion they just tarnish one of their shining prized assets and do nothing at all to this epic song. I will continue to play the unrivaled original which will continue to move dancefloors for many decades to come. How many club tunes from the past decade can hope to make such a boast?
Finally, I had the good fortune of working with one of my favourite vocalists of all time, the legendary Byron Stingily. The fruits of our labour is called “Shady” by Gooden & Park feat. Byron Stingily and it's available now from Beatport. Byron delivers a superb vocal and mixes come from DeepCitySoul, Love To Infinity, Michelle Owen and others.
To hear the tunes I've mentioned above check out my weekly radio show at http://thisisgraemepark.com where you can also find out where I'm playing in the coming weeks and months, enjoy a variety of DJ mixes featuring current and classic tunes, read my blog, get in touch and generally find out what I'm up to. Whatever you're up to, have fun and I'll see you next time.