Time Warp Festival Overcomes Adversity With Credible American Debut

Matt Medved
Joseph Capriati performs during Time Warp at 39th Street Pier in Brooklyn, New York in Nov. 2014.

Techno has arrived in America. Well, at least in Brooklyn.

Already home to standout underground clubs Output and Verboten, the New York borough played host to the first American edition of legendary German techno festival Time Warp this last weekend.

Originally slated to take place at the Bronx's Kingsbridge Armory, the two-night festival was forced to relocate to Brooklyn's 39th Street Pier in October after failing to secure the necessary permits. While the warehouse space did not quite match the original venue's scale, it accommodated the festival admirably given the short timeframe on the venue switch.

The festival production was undeniably impressive, particularly on the sprawling Cave Stage that played host to most of the event's marquee acts. Emulating the gaping maw of the Mannheim original with a full-floor design modeled after an arctic ice cave, the stage bristled with an intimidating sea of strobes that perfectly complemented the space age soundtrack. The sound quality, an important detail for techno's discerning fan base, was also surprisingly good.

The fledgling event was not without some expected growing pains. The ticketless third-party CoatChex coat check system backfired in a big way, as many attendees were forced to wait for upwards of an hour-and-a-half to retrieve their belongings after the festival finished. The lineup's strength was also significantly skewed towards Saturday. While it's understandable to accommodate fans returning from Thanksgiving, this created some difficult scheduling conflicts on the festival's second day.

Overall, Time Warp US overcame its permit issues to deliver a successful debut that drew 9,500 total attendees over two nights. Billboard takes you back to the warehouse to recap the highlights from the festival's inaugural weekend in Brooklyn.

Richie Hawtin

While the lineup was originally announced in alphabetical order, everyone knew that Hawtin was the headliner. The Windsor native did not disappoint, turning in a varied and memorable performance to close out the Cave Stage on Saturday night. Hawtin's musical fare veered from throbbing minimal synth lines to fluid snare-supported grooves, actively volume-fading and filtering to lend his muscular bass lines maximum effect. Hawtin also threw some offbeat inclusions into the mix, closing out with a thunderous techno-trap hybrid track and his alias Plastikman's "Exhale" while the stage's flags lowered to enclose attendees in blue iridescence.

Hawtin ditched his usual composure for magnetic exuberance, dancing dramatically and standing atop the booth while mischievously teasing the crowd no less than four times after it seemed his set had ended. However, he took the animated approach a bit too far by pushing a stage monitor into an iPhone-wielding fan who was too close to him. While no one was injured, Hawtin apologized to her in a statement on Facebook, claiming it was not his intention for the speaker to fall off the stack.

Dubfire:live Hybrid

Dubfire won a Grammy Award as half of duo Deep Dish, but the Iranian-American artist has emerged as a techno institution in his own right. Playing behind four panels that enhanced and refracted his shadows, he unveiled his new live show on Friday night, captivating the crowd with a spellbinding combination of minimal techno and trippy rendered visuals.

Dubfire escalated from slick and punchy beats into blaring acid techno fare, expertly using dissonant white noise and squealing sirens to punctuate tense builds and breaks. While a glitch took out his visuals for a brief period, the audience remained fully invested in the shrill sounds and snarling arpeggiator that prefaced his finale. When the massive screen behind him hummed back to life with his signature downward arrow, applause filled the air. Following the performance, many fans took to Twitter to rightfully hail the show as the first day's highlight.

Sven Väth

Affectionately named "Papa Sven" by his fans, the Cocoon captain played an eclectic vinyl set comprised of smoother and more nuanced fare than his trademark pounding dark techno. Wearing a white graphic tee and glasses, German veteran took to the Cave Stage with rollicking rhythms and interjecting techno synths as converging crimson lines pulsed behind him. Highlights included a rumbling rework of Moderat's "Bad Kingdom," an arrestingly funky garage throwback track, and plenty of churning mechanical techno that kept the crowd in constant movement.

Väth and Hawtin are longstanding friends who have shared the stage at their respective Ibiza institutions, and their onstage greeting included a warm embrace and a faux kiss. Cheers heralded his appearance, followed by some good-natured fun. At one point, Sven approached the backstage area waving a record in the air, fixing Richie with a serious stare. While Hawtin cracked up, Väth shut down an exuberant fan with an askance look, only to return a few minutes later to greet the fan with a warm grin.

Luciano

While the Cadenza boss is better know for Balearic tech house than techno, he closed out the Cave Stage in style on Friday night. Sporting a moustache and a 'Numero 00' shirt, the Swiss native applied his unconventional 'layered looping' mixing approach to superb effect, creating a relentless conglomerate groove while judiciously applying effects to each component. Clapping his hands above his head and reaching skyward with tattooed wrists during his carefully crafted filtered breakdowns, Luciano finished the festival’s first night in energetic fashion.

Dixon

Swaying in a wash of purple strobes, the Innervisions boss treated those who chose to see him over Hawtin to a mesmerizing melodic techno journey. Variably hypnotic and dynamic, foreboding and euphoric, Dixon showcased the mixing sensibility and ear for atmosphere that have elevated him to the forefront of underground dance music in recent years. The Berlin native was spotted at ReSolute's after party in East Williamsburg as well, savoring his time in the city long after the sun had risen.

The Martinez Brothers

The New York natives always play well to their home crowd. Following Joseph Capriati's more accessible tech house set, the Bronx brothers set a harder-edged tone early on with a throbbing kick that evolved into a seamless percussive groove. As their set traversed snare-stuttered breakdowns and pummeling bass drops, both Chris and Steve threw their hands in the air and danced along with the fans below.

 

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