Gatecrasher Summer Soundsystem : Northampton shire Turweston Park

Torrential rain can't dampen the spirits of those losing it to Chemical Brothers, Faithless, Craig David and more at Gatecrasher...

So it’s raining, then. Pissing down, in fact, while Musiq Soulchild gamely battles to keep a sparse audience comforted on an early afternoon that demonstrates just why we hate the weather here so much. Hiphop dude Mos Def‘s malfunctioning tour-bus means he doesn’t even make it to the site – and in these conditions, who can blame him.

Indeed, walking around you’d think that most people had decided to give the whole thing a miss. True, Master At Work Lil’ Louis Vega causes minor pandemonium when he slips on Roger Sanchez‘s ‘Another Chance’, but it’s not until you walk into the middle of the Gatecrasher Main Arena that you realize where everyone’s headed. This, in anyone’s language, is a Big Tent. Birthed from the same litter as the Radiohead tents last autumn, 25,000 are lost in a (ahem) trance, worshiping Gatecrasher resident Scott Bond’s synth-heavy beat. It’s a sweaty, heaving mass of dilated pupils and gurning faces as another Pavlovian breakdown provokes synchronized eye-ball rolling and frothing at the mouth. No, really. The ‘Crasher Kids are defiantly up for it, and there’s still another 12 hours to go.

So it is with no small degree of reluctance that a steady stream of people leave the relative comfort of the tents to make their way across to the open air arena. We’re just in time to witness the final, flickering embers of Morcheeba’s cod jazz-funk, pausing a moment to enjoy the irony of listening to That One From That Shipwrecked Programme in the pissing rain, before Faithless take to the stage.

It’s their first UK gig in two years, and you could probably have asked for more salubrious surroundings for such a comeback. To their credit, in the end it doesn’t matter. A spine-tingling ‘Insomnia’ makes an early appearance, while the crunchy tech-trance of ‘Tarantula’ even coaxes the sun out from behind the clouds for a few precious moments. Maxi Jazz, always the consummate performer, is on righteous form, and by the time a malevolent ‘We Come 1’ slams out of the speakers there’s no doubt that this band are well and truly back. Love them now!

It does, however, feel slightly perverse to eschew the increasingly lunatic offerings in the tents for the antics of Britain’s Great R’N’B Hope on the main stage. The greater desire for eclecticism at this year’s dance festivals is to be applauded, but there really has to be some forethought. Pulp worked so well at Homelands because their early time-slot gave everyone a diversion before night falls and you get down to the task in hand. Our Craig David doesn’t come on until 10pm, by which point the desire to succumb to digital delirium has become too much to resist for all bar a couple of hundred people. It’s pretty tight, for the record, including the requisite hits and crotch-grabbing, but an ill-advised cover version of – Destiny’s Child‘s ‘Independent Woman Part 1’ and the occasional foray into fromage-laden jazz-funk just goes to prove the lad’s a bit of a fish out of water.

So after a brief dalliance with a pumping drum’n’bass arena – Suv rinsing out Zinc’s ‘Casino Royale’, for the record – it’s left to the Chemical Brothers to get us back on track. And while Tom Rowlands may have exchanged his flowing locks for a bewildering beret, beats-wise it’s business as usual at camp Chemical. They debut several newies tonight, including the hotter-than-hot DJ promo ‘Africa’, a tune so huge they have to play the introduction half an hour before the main body of the tune for fear we might spontaneously combust with its goodness.

Indeed, all that’s left after all that is to lose yourself to the flow as the evening fragments into a thousand pieces. X-Press 2, Carl Cox, Erick Morillo, Fergie – it all blurs into one as night turns into day and, once again, it’s all over for another year. The kids, as has often been noted, are alright.

John Hall