Richie Hawtin System Soundbar, Toronto ON - January 30, 2004

Richie Hawtin System Soundbar, Toronto ON - January 30, 2004
Though the era of the superstar DJ is long gone, some wax-spinners have managed to maintain their drawing power. In the midst of a freezing mid-winter night, mad crowds lined up in the snow to see Richie Hawtin, who'd been in town only a couple months earlier. Taking the tables around 2:30 a.m., Hawtin got the oversold crowd overheated with a particularly banging opener. Though it took him a while to find his groove, Canada's techno hero eventually settled into a crowd-pleasingly intense set that largely avoided the mid-tempo minimalism he can get carried away with. However, he did indulge in some Plastikman-ish experimental excursions to allow for breathers between bass hits. Attracted by Hawtin's fame factor, the crowd was a diverse mix, ranging from boob girls and glow-stick jocks to transvestites and techno trainspotters. The latter, however, are often confounded at Hawtin shows, since his post-DE9 days have seen the British-born, Windsor-raised DJ using the cutting edge Final Scratch technology alongside his turntables, which allows him to cut and chop several songs at a time. There were hints of his recent artist album, Closer, some dark electro (most notably a new Hacker track), pounds of tribal techno and industrial-strength beats, and clacks that sound sampled straight out of an auto factory. Though he got more experimental in the wee hours, once some of the more mainstream crowd members thinned out, Hawtin wound up dropping his hardest beats at five a.m. and again an hour or so later. In this time of techno downsizing, Hawtin proves time and again that he's deserving of his staying power by maintaining that fine line between edgy experimentalism and hard-hitting party music.