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By Alex Meredith
If, as Faithless and Pink would have us believe, God is a DJ, then he has had enough of Russians converting to his faith. Either that or he had a very bad week. Seven days after Moscow was bathed in the most glorious bebeleta sunshine, some of the biggest names in house music came to town and the Big Man upstairs responded with a storm of biblical proportions. It began almost as soon as the first acts appeared on the four outdoor stages dotted around the Hermitage Gardens and did not let up until darkness had fallen. By then the headliners were dusting down their record boxes, ready to take the decks suggesting that perhaps the typhoon was sent simply as a trial by ordeal for the undercard. Sadly on this showing the majority will be taking the “down” escalator when the clubbing judgement day arrives.

For the Brits in the crowd, the rain did at least have one positive effect. In the UK no festival is complete without a therapeutic roll around in the mud and by the time the downpour had relented there was an inviting pool of the stuff developing on the lawn in front of the Bedrock Arena. The Russian festival-goer appears however to be less inclined to partake in a cheeky slide in the slop. This I can only attribute to the fact that either mama (it is unlikely that many in the crowd would be doing their own washing for a couple of years) would not be amused if she were handed a muddied outfit, or that D&G have yet to produce a pair of wipe down jeans. Either way, it was noticeable that the de rigeur item of the Moscow club scene - the oversized sunglasses – are to be worn, not only in the dark, but also in the driving rain. With that and the fact that many of the revellers appeared to have been attending secret dance classes with my Dad, if the aliens had landed here that afternoon, it would have taken some serious explaining to save us.

But if anyone was going to win over a conquering army with nothing but a box of discs and a sound system, it is Pete Tong. The Lord Protector of British house music and hero of the closet beat junkie, Tong rarely fails to deliver, and this was to be no exception. With many in the crowd giving off as much enthusiasm as a drowned rat, the 9 o clock wake up call provided by Tong’s accessible, lively set was just what the doctor ordered. Loaded with tantalising crescendos and explosive piano breakdowns this was not innovative stuff, but it ignited a House Arena that had for so long been a virtual graveyard.

At the same time John Digweed was attempting a similar resuscitation job on the Bedrock Arena. Billed as the “progressive” stage, there was more here for the trained ear to nibble on, including some tasty morsels from the Continent where Digweed plies his trade more frequently these days. This said, the trees surrounding this, the most exposed stage, made for woefully poor acoustics that took the edge off the sharp set being pumped out. In the circumstances my attention could not help but fall on the slapstick dance moves of the teenage partygoers. Their desperate attempts to avoid a tumble into the mud through an alcohol induced haze and enormous sunnies provided entertainment that was almost worth the entrance money alone.

Moving to the relative comfort of the covered Main Arena there was time to sample something completely different in the form of the Audio Bullies. This group have achieved notable chart success in the UK, but I’m still to be convinced by their live act that has done the rounds on the festival circuit this summer. Though they were not helped by the fact that they followed a powerful and popular set from Australian outfit Infusion, for me they jump around the samples too frequently without adding enough of their own nouse. On one particularly grating occasion they moved as smoothly as a three-wheeled trolley-bus from a Prodigy baseline to the Human League with their hapless MC trying manfully to paper over the cracks. That he wasn’t even afforded a spotlight was presumably to spare his embarrassment for lines like “We is in Moscow/But I isn’t seeing no snow”. You could almost hear Pushkin turning in his grave.

That the Creamfields brand has made it to Russia is a measure of the increasing popularity of house music here and the organisers are to be applauded for making the day happen at a good price for the punter. Nevertheless, the inability to get big names until later in the season meant a gamble on the weather that on this occasion they lost. For those who love the glorious mess of a wet and grassy festival dance floor this would all be seen as part of the fun. Moscow’s young and trendys will, however, be looking for a stronger support line-up and a bit more divine intervention in order to generate that festival vibe same time next year.

20.09.05
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