Bugged Out! Weekender – Friday

People have started early then...

Attempting to turn a North Wales holiday camp into a techno Mecca for a weekend was always a risky venture, and come 6pm it doesn’t appear to have paid off. The place is near-deserted, the few people here don’t seem to know what’s happening where and it’s pissing with rain. You walk to your chalet. A saucer-eyed raver greets you with a hearty “Blaaauuuggghhh!!” OK, some people have started early then.

In the main room, though, The Micronauts decks/FX digi-house tweaking is relayed to, at times, quite literally no-one. Unfair, for

an outfit responsible for the best single of last year (‘The Jag’), but the early part of the evening is where most people ease

themselves slowly into the ‘action’. And it certainly is pleasant to be able to sit down with a chicken jalfrezi and listen to a Felix Da Housecat set, but a better idea still is the acoustic sets in the Queen Vic pub, where some of Britain’s finest in impassioned indie cram onto the stage and strum casually. Doves, in this peculiar context, adopt worrying Bon Jovi tendencies, although ‘Catch The Sun’ still shines supreme. After packing out the Shepherd’s Bush Empire a few days previously, playing to an audience of about 20 must be kinda fun too.

Come the almighty Underworld, come the end of any ‘guitar sounds’ for tonight – they’re there in the space-bass pulse of ‘Jumbo’ and ‘Cowgirl’, of course, but fed through all manner of crazed effects and rendered a mere cog in the Karl Hyde/Rick Smith machine. That’s not a criticism, just an overview of Underworld’s constantly mutating, ruthless efficiency, expressed not only in ‘King Of Snake’ and the ever-amazing ‘Born Slippy’, but also a clutch of new apocalypse-house stormers. Brilliantly, you’re left asking yourself: what exactly did Darren Emerson do onstage, anyway?

And then things get seriously banging. Richie Hawtin, archetypal bespectacled techno baldie (NME.COM admits to confusion earlier in the evening, spying Hawtin playing an arcade game flanked by three apparent body doubles) cranks up the ‘Decks, EFX & 909’ experience – dark-as-hell Detroit fury, pieced together with such skill and poise it’s almost frightening. Eventually though, any considerations of tech-specifics leaves your mind, replaced by an unflappable dedication to raving. Something continued by the astonishingly harsh Green Velvet, who bypasses the epic tech-house of many of his records to keep the pace at hyperspeed levels for another two hours.

It’s left to Dave Clarke to finish off, which he achieves with a victorious set of vinyl mathematics, Jeff Mills-ian brutalism and squat-party acid. We think his mix of ‘Kernkraft 400’ might have appeared somewhere, but this is techno so twisted beyond recognition it’s hard to tell. The dancefloor is in raptures – Dave, meanwhile, doesn’t even smile once in 120 minutes. What a guy.

Noel Gardner