Fortdance Festival 2007

Saint Petersburg was rocking in the middle of the Baltic Sea, just a stone’s throw away from the big Kronshtadt area. There you can find the fortress “Tsar Alexander I.” – the stage of Fortdance. Fortdance is a festival that took the world of electronic music festivals by storm, but which still appears to be exotic and far-away despite its closeness to Central Europe. That’s the way almost every press release begins, but after last weekend it is clear WHY Fortdance is Russia’s leading dance music event. Fortdance is more than just a music festival, it is a chance to get yourself in touch with the new Russia, with an open minded, hospitable and hearty bunch of young people, who have just one thing in mind: having a good time to good music. (-> St. Pete travel report + photos of major sights)

Last year the Deep Dish boys took the roof off and we all surely remember a jumping and dancing Sharam, who apparently enjoyed being behind the decks and who seemingly had a very good time when playing that festival. There are only a few parties where the spark of inspiration is transmitted that quickly, and where everything ends up in a repeated give and take between crowd and artist; it’s only limited by the set times.

This year the team around Yury Marychev and Yulia Macholova again organised a major event providing an incomparable line-up. Alongside archetypal US house and driving progressive beats, fluffy and light trance, mental minimal and groovy techno had been on the bill.
Argentinean headliner and progressive protagonist Hernan Cattaneo was set to play the main floor. Together with trance icon Armin van Buuren he was the man to bring the Russian crowd to boiling point. Other highlights were three live acts. The first one by Anton Kubikov & Maxim Milutenko, better known as SCSI-9, who recently caused a furore by their album History Part I. For the second live appearance, man of the moment Gui Boratto had been engaged to present the sound of his Chromophobia album. Last but not least the Hamburg based Moonbootica boys were waiting in the wings to drop those records and live sounds, Berliners know due to their recent gigs at the Watergate. To boot US DJing royalty Roger Sanchez, BBC R1’s Annie Mac as well as Rex The Dog dared to have their personal look behind the already fallen Iron Curtain. That colourful group of international artists was supported by Russian local heroes like Spy.Der, Alexander Nuschdin, DJ Grad, Mike Spirit, Dimitrii Bobrov and Promo-DJ winner Eva Flame.

The fortress lies about 1 hour away from St. Petersburg. It is located south of the Khronstadt area, which is right in the middle of the Gulf of Finland. On the menu was twelve hours of the finest electronic music, starting at 9pm, ending at 9am. When entering the fortress, memories of the Berlin E-Werk are promptly brought back, as the rounded walls of the inner castle appear like the switch room, E-Werk’s rotunda. To the left and the right of the main stage the stairways to the other floors can be found. The historic steely staircases had been mystically illuminated, while outside on the main floor the lasers were rioting.

The midnight hour brought the first big performance of the night: “German Techno Power, I love that so much!” – Tobi & Oli of Moonbootica prepared the breeding ground for a raving main floor. An hour later Hernan was set to play on the main stage. It didn’t take more than 5 minutes and nobody could stand still anymore. That night Cattaneo’s sound was a grand blend of pumping progressive, based primarily around those unforgettable tribal rhythms Anthony Pappa is famous for. Hernan’s final beat of the drum was an as yet unknown electro style remix of Bedrock’s “Heaven Scent”; a tune that made even the security staff bounce!!

Two hours later Dutchie Armin van Buuren took over. He visibly enjoyed entering the DJ booth while being celebrated like once Willy Brandt when visiting former GDR; but of course instead of “Willy! Willy!” the whole main floor was chanting “Armin! Armin!”. To boot van Buuren added fuel to the already blazing Argentinean fire by laying down even faster beats paired with sophisticated trance harmonies.

While the fort’s interior was on fire, the boys if SCSI-9 got ready to let their vibes flow. In their homeland Anton and Maxim are hot property; before their live appearance both had been besieged and questioned by the press. Of course many of SCSI-9’s fellow countrymen flocked together to see and hear their minimal heroes live. Kubikov & Milutenko’s live act was a master piece of drama, starting with deep and rolling basslines to soon reach its climax. For more than 1.5 hours they took their fans on a journey into sound that couldn’t have been more diversified, even in the case of minimal techno. Everything was rounded off with some live e-guitar and the sensual vocals of Katya.

The gig after was significantly more wild as Rex The Dog was set to play, also live. Kraftwerk inspired Ian didn’t hesitate to let even more trivial music take influence on his driving anarchic electro sound. But at 5:00 in the morning the techno floor was full to bursting point. None other than Mr. Gui Boratto had started his engines and taken control proceedings. Gui had been even more heavily besieged and questioned as SCSI-9. DJ Grad could only smile and point out: “The people in Russia love you, Gui!” and he was proved right. The man from Sao Paulo went from Russia with Love, both musically and from the people of St. Petersburg. Gui Boratto is one of the few people in the music biz who you could introduce to your mother unhesitatingly.

Well, then the night of the nights was over already. Missing acts like Roger Sanchez or Annie Mac is due to that event’s diversity unfortunately “no problem”. From several windows and from the top of the fort many people enjoyed watching a sunrise, the like of which is often seen reflecting in the far-away golden roofs of St Petersburg itself.

Personal acknowledgements and thanks for a great time and unceasing hospitality go to: Yury, Yulia, Denn, Alena, Irina and of course Kirill. Gui, you are the bomb! :-) Compliments to Rupert, Tom & Jamie, Maria, Victor, Misha, Lena, Lilia, Katya and Martin.

Used photo equipment: Canon EOS 1D Mark III, Canon EF 24-70 2.8L, Canon EF 50 1.4, Canon EF 85 1.2L, Sigma EX 12-24

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