Photo Credits: Maria Jose Govea
The last stop of Richie Hawtin’s hybrid live techno performance ‘CLOSE’ aptly landed at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Palladium. This chic, unusual venue was a perfect place to present this sort of forward thinking set –circular, sophisticated, modern, beautiful. Gone were any vestiges of raw industrial warehouse vibes or underground spaces… this was techno in all its future glory. From the moment you moved inside, through the long lines of eager fans, past the ticket scanners and beer seller… entering the lit circular main floor of the Palladium was a singular feeling. A sea of fans, voices, a few thousand people waiting for the headliner to come onstage; his rig, visible but noticeably without its driver. A backdrop audiovisual screen that simply said ‘CLOSE’, and a time, 0:15.
Yes, Ritchie Hawtin was supposed to begin at 12:15 after a 15 minute changeover. And that’s exactly what happened. The lights came down, and the first note slowly rose up from silence. He began with a soft, lush ambient build of synths and pads; and then the first kick drum of the set dropped in. It was simple, but immediately very fast and insistent through the ambience. It was techno time.
After this slow beginning, the energy of the selections and cuts picked up quite rapidly. By the third track the sound was well on its way to peak hour. Richie showcased his wide range in taste, alternating between techno characterized by lunar pings and interstellar bloops, to synth heavy, dirty chugging arp, to more classic sounding / stabby tracks with old school SalSoul style vocal samples. I may have even heard my favorite diva vocalist of all time, I can’t be sure, I was enjoying myself too much. It was techno, but the history of the music was palpable. There were nods in every direction, from Chicago to Detroit to Berlin.
The visual backdrop was of course an important element that dominated and helped control the energy of the performance. The myriad cameras aimed at Ritchie’s station were then effected by a constantly morphing filter that would warp the images of his hands into various shapes, symbols and icons. It kept your attention on what was happening onstage but in a very abstract way, while staying engaging in that the effects always kept changing, seemingly never repeating visual ideas. At first I was disappointed that the visuals didn’t have any of their own filmed content… but after a while I began appreciating the clever and interesting way the live footage was being processed in real time. And of course in the last 15 minutes or so of the set, the visual climax was incredibly intense, matching the crescendo of the music perfectly. By this time I was fully sold.
I don’t recall any encores. Just an amazingly well crafted journey, a near to perfect 90 minute set of high energy techno.