Consumed & Sector 616
5.9.98. The freak from Ontario did it again.
“Consumed” was held in a Masonic lodge in Pontiac, MI. 3+ floors, 5+ rooms, cloth, plastic, fog and a whole bunch of music. Scheduled time was from midnight to 6am, music went from something like 1:45 to 6:30 or so. 2,000+ people.
Here’s the skinny:
The first floor consisted of a hallway and wet (alcohol) bar, which then led into the main room. This was large and dark and had four speaker stacks in the corners. Richie Hawtin was up on a stage in the front. Copious amounts of fog and not that many lights added up to a very happy reviewer. Soon after he started playing the room filled to capacity and became very hot and very crowded. Lots of pretty people standing around and wanting to be near where the action was, but after a while they eventually left…
Second floor was made up of a series of connected rooms. The first was called “Simon”, and like the electronic musical game with lights and sounds, this was something similar. A black room with beach ball-sized globes that were suspended at different heights in the room at different locations. Each globe was a different color and would light with a corresponding tone. “Bloop… bleep… blonk.”
Disconcerting. But cool.
Walking to the back of the room you passed through an archway of neon lights that was triggered by motion detectors, which led into a short hallway. On your right was a small chamber with a single speaker in it, your entry blocked by a curtain of fine black netting. Over the speaker was a continuous distorted sample off of Sheet One, “You’re all crazy” it repeated — over and over.
Entering a room to your left, a bare room with white walls, and a live projection from a web server status screen. Fog was occasionally being pumped in. It displayed web hits and dis/connects at www.plus8.com. RealVideo and Audio were being broadcast from the third floor, audio from the main room on the first.
Back out the doorway, past the speaker announcing your insanity, you entered the “Void.”
Fixed physically and conceptually at the center of the complex, a small room defined by blackness on three sides and a projection screen on the fourth. The purplish-blue image was being generated, live, by a graphics workstation; the patterns influenced by motion sensors in the room. A sheet of black plastic was hung in front of this with a big vertical rectangle cut out of it so that when you stood back, what you saw looked like the Consumed album cover.
It slowly swirled and changed… the perspective and image shifting as you moved; due both to the sensors and to your physical location in respect to the plastic sheet blocking parts of the image on the screen. A small sound system played the Consumed CD unobtrusively in the background.
Very cool. Very.
Walking up the stairs, you noticed that the interior of the staircase spiral was draped with camouflage netting and had a speaker on the first floor aiming up that bathed the stairwell with a separate audio source of tribal rhythms. Pleasant but completely different from what was going on elsewhere. Another speaker by the wet bar on the third floor, near the stairwell exit, was hooked to the same feed. Much as a few pieces of wasabe served with a meal of sushi, the sound system placement acted as a “palate cleansing” between floors.
There was a foyer on this floor that was draped in white cloth. You could go to another smart bar, into a smaller room with speakers, or into a larger chamber. The smaller room had speakers set on stands and these speakers were connected to several microphones that were hidden in hallways and other chambers of the event. You could hear conversations and other ambient noise going on elsewhere.
The larger chamber was big and tiered. Parts of the walls and stage were draped in white cloth, taking on the appearance of a church. A rack of intellibeams were trussed high above the stage, being the only intelligent lighting in this room, but not really necessary for light as the ambient lighting was pretty bright. Sound consisted of several small speakers mounted high on the walls.
High up on the rear balcony was a row of text-based PCs that booted up right into a internet telnet prompt… you could surf anywhere you wanted (provided you knew how to get there). While they seemed constantly manned, it would have been nice if it would have dropped you right into a popular chat system or given you a simple menu or something for those who didn’t know what the hell was going on.
Behind the tables on the stage Matthew Hawtin and Clark Warner played, and Theorem pulled off an excellent sounding live PA. While people were certainly dancing in here, the room seemed more for pure listening and enjoyment… both of the music but especially the other people. So many times you go to parties and while you are listening to really great music, you’re in a socially hostile environment where things are too loud/dark/otherwise obnoxious for you to actually share this experience with other people in anything more than an associative way. Sort of a non-passive ambient room.
Again, very nice.
Back to the main room… and Richie. The sound was, as I said, set up in four stacks. He had some type of control over this where he could pan the sound from stack to stack. This again was the Toronto “Beast” aka “Jak” system aka Shakedown S&L from Toronto. Detroit’s Burst crew was there running things, they were responsible for engineering. Things sounded good aside from the mids distorting and things generally not being loud enough for my tastes (but I’ve been spoiled in the past).
Things started up late, musically. Waiting for the bulk of the crowd outside to be admitted, things weren’t started until almost two. I was in the Void when we heard that Rich was starting, so we rushed downstairs to check things out. Well… with that crowd, you couldn’t really rush anywhere. When we got to the main room it was already packed and he was playing some straight-up tracky stuff. I stayed for a while and then checked out the other rooms and music going on there (which had also started). I came back around three and didn’t leave; didn’t move from the front-left speaker, until it was over.
I don’t know what it was. It uhh… wasn’t what I anticipated. Far more experimental and broken-down than I was expecting. Music that didn’t make you dance as much as it dared you to. Or what I’m saying is, music that forced you to think about and come up with your own reasons for staying there and dancing, rather than just some easily-digestible pounding that just worked out your body. He skitted around minimal sounds and compositions, occasionally working up into some more dance-friendly tracks that would cause the crowd to scream and go nuts for a while, then he’d back it off into weirdness again. A few botched mixes, but they were corrected within a second and then were dead-on.
He even tried to scratch.
The effects processor was being used to good effect. He’d pull a tone or a tweak off the 909 and just play with that for a while, without even a record playing. Slow the tone down into a gurgling pulse and hand-spinup a record to match the beat and then kick in something else. He did much of the same thing at Kiss the Sky in Madison, but here things seemed much smoother and polished. More of that incredible insanity that I first heard at “Transcendance Live” in Toronto, where he was mixing sounds rather than beats in some parts; using the processor to tweak a sound like you’d normally use a pitch slider.
The pan effect was interesting and at sometimes seemed like “just something extra” and at other times it was clear that for certain tracks he had this setup in mind. The last track he played for the night, as at Kiss the Sky, was a white label of his titled “Last Track” (not “Lasttrak” off of Musik). The effects and panning on this combined to create something truly wonderful — it really was a sound environment, that with the heat, lights, physicality of the bass and the dimensional quality of the panning combined to equal a thing very much greater than the sum of its parts.
I just stood there, motionless, with my eyes closed. You not only could hear, but feel the sound wash over you and literally move around the room. At times it was like a tease; most of Richie’s good sets are, but this new dimensionality just adds another aspect to it.
No Spastik. He did play doubled-up copies of Sickness, some things off the new album, and even a Nitzer Ebb track. Personally, I would have liked to hear a harder selection… I danced for hours but nothing that really worked up a good sweat. But at Consumed, like pretty much every time I’ve seen him play, was a captive environment and the faithful go in with the understanding that we will submit to His will and He will take us on a journey of His choosing.
Not always what you expect, not always what you want, but usually something special.
His spinning style is changing. In the past it seemed like it was his goal to get everyone caught up in what was being played… sort of string them along, and then delighting in breaking them. He would ride you until you gave up will. Dare you to keep going until you couldn’t. Then when he saw that people had been beaten, then he’d start messing with your heads. Fuk.
Now it seems more mellow. Like maybe he has less to prove. Less demanding, less punishing. But still, very involving in a different way. More intricate. Following the “less is more” stratagem, when there’s less for you to grab onto, it forces you further into the music to get something out of it. The more you take away the deeper you have to go. The more you subtract… the more that is challenged?
A big, big production that aside from the late start and slightly overbearing security, went off very well. It certainly was worth the three days of setup and countless hours of takedown. This was a production. If anything could be called an event, this was something that fit that bill. All for $25.
It’s interesting how people bitched about the price beforehand, but then will go to parties that cost the same amount that consist of hardly anything in comparison. An expo center or bingo hall that a handful of people get into at 6pm, load in some sound, lights and vendors, and then at midnight all this hyped up crap you read on the flyer is supposed to magically happen.
They charge $25, too. Aside from booking the production components and providing a staff to work it, what have they really given you? Is this really that incredibly magical happyfluffybunny land that I read about everywhere? Definitive? Or derivative?
Things have become so “rave by numbers,” so bland, so boring that it’s sickening. There’s SO MUCH potential out there. You have this completely captive environment for 6+ hours with a couple thousand young, impressionable people on mind-altering chemicals… if the only thing you can come up with is to copy the same formula of waving a PLUR flag and playing some loud music, then why are you bothering? DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
So… was I consumed? For a while, yes. It showed me that there still are people who have a clue as to what’s going on and to what can be done and have the balls to make it happen. I hope, I really do hope, that a lot of the “new school” that are griped about by some of us older curmudgeons were at this event and see that there’s a difference between a rave and what things have become lately in the midwest– namely, overpriced techno sock-hops.
Rave is dead. Long live rave. Onward with something new.
July 4th, 1998 – Kalamazoo, MI
Black Nation Records
Jeff Mills, Claude Young, Surgeon, Jay Denham, Bios (live), Frankie Vega
Traxx, Shake, Abe Duque, Brett Dancer, Aaron Bennett, Ja-Re
Upstart, Karl & Ken Meier, Horsepower, Bryan Bickel, Dj Laps
Our Take on 616:
The line was long. We missed Surgeon (damn line), Bios sounded tight. Mills delivered the fucking goods on three turntables and a 909 for 4 hours.
Shake blew up the second stage leaving people wondering why he wasnt on the main stage. Claude Young is crazy-nuts.