dimanche, octobre 05, 2008

Richie Hawtin, Ambivalent and Gaiser at Le Rex


I’m just a little bit behind on this whole blogging thing. Like, nearly a week behind. Gah! Alright, let’s catch up.

Usually, my Sunday posts are the shortest, since I’m usually recovering from whatever I did on Saturday and I probably won’t be awake for very long (this was especially true in Berlin). Today, however, was different. Three DJs from the Minus label were spinning at Le Rex tonight, including the über-famous grand-daddy of minimal techno, Richie Hawtin. In fact, you can tell how famous this guy is by the fact that he wasn’t going to spin until 3h30 in the morning on a Sunday night / Monday morning, and the cover was 15€. And the place was PACKED by the time he got on the decks. It was madness. Anyway, back to my story.

I slept in for a good long while, then made some breakfast, wandered around the corner to get some bread, and spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening working on my proposal revisions. I’m so close to done I can taste it, and it tastes like relief.

I had a few friends planning on joining me tonight, and one of them happened to be near my neighborhood at a later point in the evening, so he came over and hung out at my place with a bottle of wine. Some time later, a friend from Berlin (French, but living in Berlin) came over and we met in the café downstairs for a glass of wine and some more chatter (mostly about US Politics). We waited for the final member of our group to show up, but he was taking a long time, so we told him to meet us in front of the club and we hopped on the subway.

In front of the club, I ran into Molly, the DJ I had hung out with at the Techno Parade and also the person who takes care of bookings for the Rex. On a busy (and expensive) night like tonight, she couldn’t get us in for free, but at least she was able to put us in the shorter guest-list line. I was surprised to find that the guy at the door recognized me and let me and the group through without question. Yay! Connections!

After checking our coats and grabbing drinks, we made our way over to the dancefloor, where I ran into a cluster of friends, including a few from the Berlin krew from the summer. Throughout the course of the evening, we would be split up and find each other again, sometimes separated by the crush of the crowd, sometimes simply by a short “mission” (i.e., peeing, getting a drink). We sorta migrated all over the place, but we eventually ended up front and centre by Richie’s set.

22h30-2h30: Ambivalent

The night started a lot earlier than it usually does for the club, but I suppose they wanted to give Richie enough time to play a long set, which meant pushing back the other sets a bit. Anyway, we didn’t really get inside until maybe midnight.

I had seen Ambivalent last week at the N.A.M.E. festival in Lille, and I had enjoyed the set, although some of my companions found his touch a bit “cold.” This set tonight, however, was pretty disappointing. He had consistent trouble beat-matching records and his track selection was pretty inconsistent; some good tracks, but also lots of so-so ones. It wasn’t horrible or anything, but it was pretty underwhelming, considering the prestige that usually comes with the Minus label.

2h30-3h30: Gaiser live

Gaiser’s had also played at the N.A.M.E. festival last week, and this set was pretty similar in sound, even if the content was a bit different. His set was more intense than Ambivalent’s, and the overall style was less house-influenced and more straight-ahead techno. It certainly qualified as “minimal” in the sense of long-looping structures with gradual changes, but the texture was pretty thick: heavy bass, lots of mid-freq stuff, but relatively light in the treble range.

I’m now totally convinced that there is something aphrodisiac about Panorama Bar in Berlin, because I was made to realize that I haven’t had the slightest lustful thought about a DJ since I’ve left Berlin. A friend that was dancing with me commented on Gaiser’s appearance saying, “Yeah, I could see myself fucking him.” And my reaction was something like, “Yeah, I suppose he’s cute. Never really thought of it, to be honest.” That is pretty much night-and-day contrast with my days at Panorama Bar, where I had to resist the urge to vault the turntables and jump on certain DJs (you’ll have to read through the Berlin chronicles to find out which ones).

3h30-6h00: Richie Hawtin

I was sort of worried about being disappointed by Hawtin. He’s actually from my region of Canada, so I’ve seen him a zillion times since I started in the rave scene back in 1995, and he has a tendency to oscillate between AMAZING sets and totally disappointing sets. The last time I had seen him (I think) was almost 2 years ago, here in Paris, on the same weekend as Nuit Blanche (does he come here every year at this time?). Anyway, that had been a really good set, so I was almost braced for a disappointment this time.

Thankfully, the set was fantastic. He was in his more heavy-handed minimal style rather than the fine and sparse style that he often employs for his recordings. He used the same form for his set as the last time I had seen him—episodic excursions into less conventional tracks that regularly return to “full” techno tracks—but he didn’t go quite as far afield this time. None of his “episodes” really went in a drastically different direction, but there was still that alternation between “departure” and “return” that makes his sets so dynamic (usually).

The crowd was almost unbearable at the beginning of the set, but by about 4h30 people had started going home (most of them preparing to work in a couple of hours), so the dancefloor opened up a bit. By 5h00, I was getting tired and realizing that I needed to be awake by 10h00, so I made my goodbyes and headed out. I managed to find a Vélib station about half a block uphill from the club and made my way home, which was thankfully not far away. Phew!

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