Sometimes life presents us with perfect compare-and-contrast moments. In the case of this past weekend those moments were Ritchie Hawtin at Mighty and Koinonea's 2012. At the first: great music, lousy crowd, miserable party experience. At the second: great crowd, so-so music, okay party experience.
J and I arrived at Mighty around 11PM on Friday, just in time to catch most of Magda's set. Magda is a great example of what I think of as a classic Berlin techno DJ who sets a slow, steady burn for the duration of the night. None of her tracks were particularly dynamic or progressive, and at times I found them a bit too abstract to really engage me on the dance floor, but they had that steady thump that eventually weaves a spell over you and brings you into the space. Around midnight we became aware that it was getting mighty crowded in Mighty, and had I not known one of the bartenders from previous party experiences I suspect it would have been a maddening wait to get drinks. As it was it was only maddening to walk through the club, to try and get on the dance floor, or to dance. During the first part of Magda's set it was possible to get into the middle of the dancefloor, but by the time that Ritchie Hawtin came on at 1.15 it was impossible. Well, it was possible to get onto the dancefloor, but dancing itself was right out of the question, since every time I was able to get somewhat into the groove, I had some guy playing linebacker for his girlfriend push his way past me. This became such a problem that, after rolling my eyes as the third person within the span of about a minute knocked me aside with their elbows, a girl actually apologized to me. Finally J and I retreated to stand next to a speaker stack. Ritchie Hawtin is an awesome performer, and I found much in his set that was inspiring; for once I was able to listen to a DJ and not know what it was that he was doing. The tracks were all great, the flow was phenomenally smooth, and I came away thinking that techno is starting to incorporate all the psychedlic elements that I once associated with trance without that genre's bombast and cliche. We hung out for about an hour of Ritchie's set, and over that passage of time the crowd became absolutely ridiculous. I went into the bathroom and encountered much messiness, and when a guy burst in saying "Detroit Techno sucks" at the top of his lungs, I decided I had had enough. It seems pretty clear that Blasthaus oversold this event, or at least went for full capacity, without much consideration of what that would be like for people in the club (when I checked on tickets on Friday, all the pre-sales were gone, but they announced that they had an additional 300 at the door for $30 each). I'm sure they made crazy money off this event, but why they booked Ritchie Hawtin into a venue this small is beyond me. I hope that the next time I get to hear him I will actually be able to enjoy his amazing talent, and dance to his music, without having to deal with an ugly, aggressive crowd made even more so by the constant need to push your way past everyone else to move around in the club. And girls, here's a fashion tip for you: black cocktail dresses belong in the Marina, not at a techno party.
Saturday night Kitty and I went to Koinonea's "2012" party. Back during the height of psy-trance's reign in 1999-2000 we had been regulars at almost every weekend party, and for us this was a chance to re-connect with some folks we hadn't seen in a long time. I even had an auspicious moment on Saturday when I went to Warakabune for a quick sushi meal, something that had been a staple of our going-out days: two candy raver kids, complete with mighty gauntlets of pony beads to ward off the attacks of bad vibes, came in and sat by me at the sushi bar. It was a total blast from the past and set my mind reaching back to all that I had loved about those days. We arrived at the party around 11 and my first reaction was "Oh my god, hippies and dub-step." The Koinonea crew is an off-shoot of the Santa Cruz Koinonea commune, and the Santa Cruz hippie vibe was in full effect. There were many older folk there who I expect were part of the actual commune, and we even had a full-on grounding ceremony to start the event at midnight. So, instead of feeling alienated and aggressive toward one another as at Mighty on the previous evening, everyone here was encouraged to look at one another as new friends. The fact that the party had a very limited number of tickets also kept it from being stupidly overcrowded - for the first time in weeks I was able to really get down on the dance floor because there was plenty of room, and that experience alone was completely worth the price of a ticket. Unfortunately, the music at the beginning, mostly dub-step, caused considerable grumbling among the attendees. Around 12.30, after the ceremony, the DJ finally moved into psytrance, and at 1.30 Psynthetic, a DJ buddy of mine from way back, came on with some good uplifting psy. His set was a bit uneven, and I enjoyed the progressive tracks more than I did the full-on 150 BPM aerobic workout tracks, but it was really very enjoyable. Kitty, who rarely dances and is not that much of a party boy to start with, told me that I could write in this blog that "Kitty was not bored." That's a high achievement right there. We split around 3.00, being pretty pooped from the night before.
So there's your compare-and-contrast essay for this week. One party that had commerce and commercial success as its highest goal, another that was about creating a space where people could be nice to one another. If I could have squeezed them together, sifted out the bad elements from each and combined the good ones, I think I would have had the best party weekend ever.