It's nearly upon us: the clubbing super-festival that could change Abu Dhabi's dance music scene forever. The huge house, techno and electro-fest Creamfields will roll into the capital on Friday, converting the Emirates Palace into a hedonistic wonderland for a solid 10 hours, with a giant outdoor stage, a house and "underground" arena and a VIP lounge scattered across the grounds.
There are still tickets left, so snap one up if you think you've got the stamina. Topping the bill on the main stage is Underworld, the duo best known for the euphoric club anthem Born Slippy, and there are plenty of other big international names on the line-up, from the electro hitmaker Calvin Harris to the minimal techno legend Deadmau5. You'll also be able to wave your hands around to the sounds of the local heros like Mr Mr (presenter of Radio 1 show Audio Tonic) and the Beirut-based house DJ Mad Jam.
"Creamfields will mark a new beginning for big club events in Abu Dhabi," Mad Jam (aka 28-year-old Lebanese-American DJ Ahmad Ajam) told us excitedly as he prepared his set list for the festival. "There have already been some [dance music festivals] around Dubai for the last few years, but nothing to this scale." Creamfields' only rival event, according to the DJ, has been the open air raves put on by now-defunct Peppermint club in Dubai, which saw crowds in their thousands turn up to party all night long.
"Peppermint has really paved the road for big international DJs in the UAE," Mad Jam said, adding that the area has a special place in his heart. "The crowd in the UAE are so cosmopolitan, so it's a challenge to get people from different backgrounds and nationalities dancing to the same music for hours on end. Creamfields Abu Dhabi will show the rest of the world just how ready the capital is for ongoing club events all year round."
Creamfields festivals are known around the world for their combination of pumping dance music; huge, hyped-up crowds; and an electric atmosphere. "Other festivals come and go," the British magazine DJ announced last year, "but Creamfields is the solid constant in the dance festival calendar. [They're] the daddies - make no mistake." The festival, which is now an annual fixture everywhere from Poland to Brazil, grew out of a weekly club night in Liverpool, UK, to become the global brand it is today.
It all began in the middle of rave's golden era - 1992 - when a group of music fans started a weekly club night called Cream at Liverpool's Nation club, inviting international house DJs such as Paul Oakenfold, Sasha and Laurent Garnier to play to packed-out crowds. By 1998 it was so popular that 70 per cent of students at Liverpool University cited Cream as their primary reason for studying in the city. That year the first all-day Creamfields festival was launched.
Creamfields started as an open-air event in the small, south-east English town of Winchester. Usually best known for its Gothic cathedral and quaint, sleepy charm, 25,000 clubbers descended on the town to see live performances from Primal Scream and Run DMC alongside world-class DJs. The following year the festival decamped to its native Liverpool, where it took place on an abandoned airfield and the turnout doubled. The music magazine Melody Maker called it "the smartest, simplest, most brilliantly conceived outdoor festival of the whole calendar".
From there, Creamfields just got bigger, putting on festivals around the world: in Argentina it attracted crowds of more than 60,000. Back in Liverpool, it was expanded from a one-day event into a weekend-long festival last year, its 10th anniversary. This weekend will be the festival's first foray into the UAE, and its success will be a barometer for similar events in the future. So grab your raver whistle, take a look at our insider's guide to the line-up, and get ready to party.
Born Slippy will probably always be their biggest song, but there is a whole lot more to the Essex duo than that. Since Underworld's genesis, a whopping 27 years ago, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have fused together elements of techno, dub, trance, drum'n'bass and even blues in a way that is constantly shifting: they've never been as experimental as they are now. In the past four years they've composed the score for the Anthony Minghella film Breaking and Entering as well as Danny Boyle's Sunshine, released a slew of web-only tracks and appeared onstage with Brian Eno. While you can expect a crowd-pleasing set, don't imagine that it's going to be predictable.
He may well be responsible for the craze for ridiculous fake glasses that you can't see through, but don't begrudge him that. Harris is the 25-year-old Scottish producer, musician and singer behind some of the decade's biggest hits. You will have heard his work even if you've never heard his name. Harris recorded Kylie Minogue's album X, and went stellar last year when Dance Wiv Me, his collaboration with the east London rapper Dizzee Rascal, went to number one in the UK charts. It was included on Harris's second album, Ready for the Weekend, which combined disco, house and electro, and went gold this year.
A hero on Toronto's progressive house scene, 29-year-old Canadian producer Deadmau5 has started attracting attention much further afield: he was nominated for a Best Remix Grammy this year and has headlined festivals in Ireland and San Francisco. Instantly recognisable due to the giant mouse helmet he wears onstage, expect a mixture of danceable beats and avant-garde clicks and bleeps.
The Welsh DJ known to his folks as Alexander Coe started his career playing acid house in the 1980s before partnering up with John Digweed in 1993, touring their set of progressive trance and house around the world and releasing a series of mix CDs. He has worked on remixes for the likes of Madonna and the Chemical Brothers, and is known for his ability to throw new, experimental material in with classic tunes.
Remember that Reel 2 Reel hit I Like to Move It? Don't be surprised if you hear it as part of Morillo's set - as the guy behind the track it's one of his biggest hits to date. There's no way this guy's a one trick pony though: he has collaborated with P Diddy, remixed Basement Jaxx, and runs the legendary Subliminal Records, which has been credited with reviving New York's club scene in the Nineties.
A classically trained pianist and drummer, the French DJ Léger turned his hand to house, minimal and techno tracks after being inspired by Daft Punk and Sneak - and was given his first residency at the age of 15. His work has been showcased on Radio 1, and he's in demand everywhere from the US to Japan. Expect a funky edge to cool Gallic beats.
Known alternately as Luke van Scheppingen and "the Thriller from Manila" (he was born in the Philippines), the Dutch producer Laidback Luke has a fusion style all of his own. An early love of graffiti and hip- hop segued into a fascination with American acid house and techno as he grew up in the Netherlands, and now he mashes up everything from synth-pop to tech-house with his own killer turntablist skills.
Naples' techno scene helped Carola first fall in love with minimal beats in the 1990s, and stints in Frankfurt and London helped him hone his eclectic style, which fuses breaks, melodic lines and experimental arrangements. He's now based in his hometown of Naples again.
Best known as half of the Grammy award-winning duo Deep Dish, the Washington DC-based Sharam Tayebi will be going solo for a set of his trademark progressive house. In between collaborating with Tommy Lee, Patsy Cline and Daniel Bedingfield and releasing his own solo debut album, Get Wild, the Iranian-American producer has found the time in recent years to release a mix CD dedicated to the music playing on Dubai's club circuit. Also on the line-up: Mr Mr (UAE), Mad Jam (Lebanon), Stackticks (UK), BiG AL (Canada), Raxon (UAE), Maher Daniel (Canada), Vas (UAE).
Creamfields 2009: 11 December 6pm-4am, Emirates Palace, West Park, www.creamfields.ae.