Archives for December 2011

Gig Review: Plastikman Live 1.5, Glasgow Barrowlands

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Nick Dempsey Nick Dempsey | 13:13 UK time, Monday, 5 December 2011

Richie Hawtin

The Plastikman himself emerges for the encore (Photo: MJSFerrier)

Saturday 3rd December, Glasgow Barrowlands

For techno lovers of a certain age, the Plastikman Live 1.5 visit to the Barrowlands Ballroom seems like a chance to travel back in time. I last saw Plastikman play here at one of the legendary Pure nights in 1994. The sense of time-warp is heightened by the presence of just about everyone who was in the crowd at that gig, and also because this most atmospheric of venues hasn't changed a jot in the intervening years, bless it.

But I've been primed to expect great things from tonight's show. Richie Hawtin's love of technology means he has made a determined effort to reinvent his minimal Plastikman alter-ego for the 21st century (beware strobing) - hence the 1.5, which suggests further upgrades to come.

By half eight there is already a healthy gathering of dancers whooping it up down the front - that Glasgow determination to get down, despite the early start and the challenging December weather - and there are just as many young faces as veterans. The music is reminding me of my recent visit to Berlin - underground, smooth and minimal. Nothing nostalgic, thankfully: techno is about the future, so the cliché goes. The hall is dark, and lurking centre stage is an ominous black curtain.

The support DJs from Hawtin's M_nus label get the whole crowd properly moving with a decent selection as the famous sprung floor fills up, but finally bring the atmosphere down a few notches to increase the impact of the headline act's entrance. The curtain drops, minimal blips pop out of the massive sound system and we are blinded by the light. This big cylindrical cage is the brightest TV in the world. I've never been particularly impressed by the abstract pattern school of VJing, but the stuff that's happening here takes it to a new level. Hawtin has an army of techies helping him to do it all truly live - everything wired together so he can trigger mega-strobes, patterns and sounds in unison - definitely not just pressing play on a laptop and miming at a mixing desk. Only when the screen goes dark for a second and he's backlit do you catch a glimpse of the wizard at the controls, firing off sequences from his banks of classic analogue and modern digital kit.

Barrowlands lit by Plastikman's cage

The hall is packed, and looking back at the faces lit by the screen, thoughts of nostalgia evaporate. In 1994 people danced with each other. In 2011, we're all watching a giant TV and filming it on our smartphones. Not that the experience is inferior- just modern. It's a spectacle. The screen is so bright that at times it's almost unbearable, like staring at the sun - meaning it actually looks good on a phone (beware extreme strobing in those Youtube clips).

The recently released complete Arkives box set contains hours of back catalogue, but unlike the current crop of cheesy superstar DJs Hawtin doesn't take the easy route of mixing hits together in the obvious breakdown/build-up/4-to-the-floor format. He picks and chooses snippets, remixing as he goes - again, the live element prevents it from being a nostalgiathon. It's impressive that a heaving dancefloor of 2000 people can be satisfied by such an experimental collection of sounds. There are plenty of pounding moments, though, all the more powerful for taking us by surprise.

Plastikman show screen

The huge cage/screen in action

He has been teasing throughout with snatches of his biggest tune, Spastik, and finally emerges from his cage for the encore with a little table of gadgets right at the front of the stage. The crowd swarm, phones aloft, and the trademark 606 machine gun percussion gets a massive roar as Hawtin strikes rock star poses in front of the Plastikman symbol - plenty of fans go home with their phones full of pictures of their hero.

I leave looking forward to version 2.

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