In this second feature of our MEOKO Horizons series, we head to Germany for Time Warp Festival’s flagship Saturday night event.
10.30am, Saturday 6th April 2013, touchdown Frankfurt International Airport. Judging by the faces and looks I can see around the baggage hall, I’m clearly not the only early arrival for the event comparable to every techno lover’s birthday and christmas rolled into one. After a day spent killing time in Mannheim, we arrive at the gates of the Mainmarkt Expo hall circa 11.30pm. Clearly this is a popular time to arrive, with everyone aiming to get it in for Gaiser at 12. After a 30-minute scrum to get in through the single entrance (!!!), we make it in just after Gaiser has started in room one. This being my first time at Time Warp (TW), I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowd in attendance, which seems to stretch a mile back. As we arrive, the Minus stalwart is already pumping out ‘Some Slip’, one of my favourite tracks of all time, upon the revelling masses. The reception of every percolating note is greeted with a collective deafening roar more akin to what one expects after the winning goal in a world cup final has just been scored, and this set against a light show straight out of a Star Wars galactic battle scene makes for a pretty mind blowing introduction to Time Warp 2013.
Gaiser, Room one
I watch another half hour or so of Gaiser’s wacky party-starting techno, gradually accustoming to my surroundings before gathering the troops to make our way over to catch the second and final hour of Dubfire in room 2. Dubfire was one of the undisputed highlights of the previous year’s edition and half the reason I even made the trip over. Having watched him absolutely tear up the “Cave” (a kind of 3-dimensional hellish portal structural cavernous installation) countless times on Youtube over the last year, I’m pretty surprised and disappointed to find Dubfire going through the motions with a pretty mundane and disinterested set- half the time he’s even got his back turned to the crowd and seems more interested in chatting to Sven Vaëth hanging out behind him. Swiftly moving on, we head next door to check out Dixon, the Innervisions mogul playing the kind of crystal like tech-minimal that the German imprint is best known for. Dixon is immediately more absorbing than Dubfire and the crowd here seems more genuinely interested in actually listening to fine sounds rather than watching the large shows next door. Sinfully, the sound itself in the room is not up to scratch; it’s simply not clear enough to do justice to Dixon’s delicate tonalities nor loud enough to overcome the wobbly bass interference coming through the rather thin walls from next door. Nonetheless, there is genuine heartfelt appreciation for Dixon from the crowd, perhaps simply due to his impeccable track selection and musical nous, and he brings his set to a mellow term with the ethereal ‘You Need the Drugs’ by Westbam feat. Richard Butler.
‘You Need the Drugs’ by Westbam feat. Richard Butler.
After an emotional embrace, Ricardo Villalobos takes over and changes the mood completely, laying down some dark, grumbling techno sounds. The room instantly fills and it’s evident that regardless of your opinion of him, Ricardo remains one of the most influential Dj’s on the techno circuit.
In much need of a drink but penniless having, like an amateur, failed to withdraw cash before coming in, I have no choice but to head outside in search of an ATM. Incredulously, the whole site has but a single ATM to cater to the 15,000 fans in attendance, and I spend about an hour in the cold and rain waiting in line to get some funds to sponsor my night, whilst some French bloke on god-knows-what chews my ear off with some absolute gibberish. Although sober already, coupled with the disappointing few hours I’ve had so far this experience has now downright put me in a foul mood, and in the back of my mind I’m beginning to wonder if TW really deserves the mythical reputation that precedes it. Fortunately, this marks the end of my frustrations for the night (in part due to my newfound ability to buy drinks) and I head back in to the warmth to catch the end of Carl Cox. The legendary British DJ is one who tends to divide opinion, but having seen Master Vaëth innumerable times, I’m happy to give him a proper listen. Following numerous acts that have thus far failed to grab me, I’m happy to report that old Carl was definitely holding the fort down, playing pounding fast paced sun drenched Ibiza techno and getting the crowd going with his big personality and engaging chat, his pre all the more felt due to his holographic image projected above him on a kind of 3D graphite screen. Its now 3am, and Marcel Dettmann takes to the stage, looking somewhat like Jesus in a long sleeved white tee and shoulder length golden locks.
Marcel Dettmann in The Abyss
Over the course of the next two hours, the Berghain lynchpin proceeds to save me and resurrect my night with dark, thumping, multi-layered unnatural sound, permeated throughout with acid-tech glitch. Dettmann is all throughout calm and composed, never once affected by the scale of the occasion nor by the crowd in front of him. He is backed by another stunning 3-dimensional encapsulating display, this one entitled ‘The Abyss’ which fits the eeriness of his sound like a glove and leaves the entire audience in total trance and complete silence for a full two hours. This kind of spectacle leaves me to reflect on the difference in musical and experiential appreciation of crowds in Europe versus those in the US at shows of this magnitude and production level. You can watch his full performance here on be-at.tv.
Marcel Dettmann live @ Time Warp Mannheim 2013
Following such an intense, draining auditory and visual experience, despite having previously resolutely resolved against setting a foot at Jamie Jones, I decide that a bit of cheesy easy-listening is in fact just what I need to replenish my life force. I’m also a tad curious to hear how he would play at TW given its techno-puritan identity and what kind of people would be in attendance. Jamie and the Visionquest crew are playing in a long corridor shaped room with a triangular tunnel like installation running right down throughout which ends with a psychedelic pyramid visual in which one gets truly lost. In true Hot Creations style, the lights are monochromatic, slowly morphing from shades of blue to purple and to red, and the atmosphere is very dark and club like. The hour or two that I spend in here proves to be a wise decision, as in comparison to the other rooms at TW, this one is pretty much the chill out lounge and people are able to chat and take the night a little less seriously for a while knowing that it is far from over.
Jamie Jones and Visionquest
Im eyeing my watch conscious that Matador, the revelation of TW 2012, is on at 6.30am. Sources on the inside have told me he will be playing lots of previously unheard material, with TW seen as the most deserving occasion on which to do so. Before heading back in to the unforgiving cauldron, we make the transition from the warm embalming environment of room four by way of Matias Kaden’s funky, rhythmic and playful tech-house which gets us going again.
Deciding this time to watch the show from the large booth areas behind performers that TW proposes to guests, I head back into room two and make my way backstage to get a stunning view of the sea of people in attendance- what it must feel like to play to a crowd this large…The room is absolutely packed to the rafters, and Ireland’s own proceeds to shred it from start to finish with his dark driving eerie sound. I definitely get the feeling that TW sound engineers have pushed the knobs up for Gavin, as the place is absolutely shaking with bass to the point that each percussion almost chokes the air from your throat. Matador plays all of last year’s classics: Kingswing, Klay, BamBam, Spooks and Kenekt , the latter two of which have people climbing up the walls and pulling eyeballs out. Most impressive however is the new material Matador plays (of which I’m sure we will all be hearing plenty of in the coming months) that shows an evolution and maturity in his sound which suggests Matador will be around for a while.
Like the second coming of the messiah, the wait for Richie Hawtin has been long and much anticipated. Richie needs no introduction; one need only know that he first played at Time Warp in its second edition back in 1995, to understand the special relationship that exists between these two entities and how significant each one is to the other’s identity. To try and describe what happens over the next 7.5 hours during which he plays would be futile and near impossible. It would also be a dishonour to the level of dedication and minutious perfection Richie Hawtin commits to his artistry. If you haven’t already seen him live, make sure it’s on your list of things do before he or you die.
Master at work
I am completely transfixed for a full six hours by what comes to be one of the most profound musical experiences of my life, such is the effect that Richie Hawtin has and such is his knowledge of his trade and his ability to completely take listeners on a journey. His sound is an omnipresent, living and breathing entity, a concept fully supported by the backing visual display which infrequently has reptilian eyes watching you all throughout. Speaking to fans after his marathon set from 7.30am to 2pm, the general consensus amongst most is that it is the best set of his they have ever seen (if one were to even call it a set as not a single track was distinguishable, it was more a collection of sounds seamlessly stitched together in an auditory canvas).
Richie Hawtin fans
I have to literally be dragged away to catch Pan-Pot close room three from 12 – 2pm. Although reluctant at the time, in retrospect, this serves to be a nice return to reality after the surrealism of Richie Hawtin. Pan-Pot play some fun, big room techno such as Maetrik’s ‘Reason’ which often sounds like a jumbo jet coming in to land, pretty much how my calves are feeling at this point after 14 hours on my feet, dancing. Despite my fatigue, I manage to stay the course until the very end and even manage to catch up with an ecstatic Thomas (1 half of Pan-Pot) after the show and we argue about where the best Currywurst in Berlin is to be found.
This last goofy personal interaction with one half of Germany’s most popular acts leaves me thinking that despite its massive size and big stage shows, TW really is a community of techno lovers who come from the world over to listen to music and to assemble together on a kind of yearly pilgrimage to the center of the techno universe. One fan I speak to outside sums it up best when I ask him what makes Time Warp special for him:
“For me this was the first techno festival that I went to four years ago – I didn’t know that much about it then, and went on a friend’s suggestion. It blew my mind! I think most DJs make an extra effort at Time Warp. I’ve always enjoyed their long sets at this festival, more than anywhere else. There’s almost a family atmosphere here, even with thousands of ravers – I always end up seeing familiar faces at Time Warp. It all makes up for a very special festival”.
MEOKO Highlights: Richie Hawtin (all 7.5 hours!), Marcel Dettmann, Carl Cox, Matador, Pan-Pot, the visual installations.
Time Warp 2013 reviewed by Bj Daly @_bazmatazz