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Richie Hawtin’s #SpeakerGate Wasn’t the Only Thing That Happened at Time Warp

What it was really like inside New York City's biggest techno festival.
Time Warp's traveling "Cave" design (Photo by Jeff Thibodeau Photography) 

Over the weekend, a DJ known for his impeccable taste in minimal techno and equally impeccable mane of hair did something stupid in the middle of his peak time set: he pushed a pile of speakers into a female fan who he thought was filming his set for "too long." A video of this act of douchebaggery promptly broke the dance music internet. The DJ proceeded to apologize through a Facebook post, and a comment advising him to "grow the fuck up" has been liked more than a thousand times. This viral sandwich of PR disaster wrapped in a LOL-worthy video was quickly dubbed #SpeakerGate. I'm talking about Richie Hawtin at Time Warp, of course, and if you were hanging around online yesterday, you've probably already seen the widely-distributed footage of this incident:


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Post by Pat Curran.

Speakergate may have been Time Warp's most chatter-worthy outcome, but it certainly wasn't the only noteworthy event to come out of the German techno festival's debut in North America. That Time Warp even happened at all was a feat in itself. A lot more could've gone wrong—in fact, it already had.

Not too long ago, the festival's future was hanging on the line. The problem was classically New York: landlord issues. Their first choice of a location, Pier 94, wouldn't commit far enough in advance. Their next choice—a hundred-year-old armory in the Bronx—seemed like a godsend, the kind of place that was put on this earth to host a multi-day techno love fest. But as this ultimately quixotic location started to generate buzz, news broke that city officials had denied the festival its permits. Time Warp was left without a home. Finally, just two weeks before opening night, the festival's final resting place was announced: the 39th Street Pier, a city-owned warehouse in Brooklyn's Sunset Park.

Kingsbridge Armory, where Time Warp was slated to happen before issues with the city forced organizers to find a new location

Parked in a deserted industrial complex, this cavernous warehouse was so far off the beaten track that it seemed a world away from the glittering skylines of Manhattan; venturing so deep into Brooklyn was a daring choice for a festival of Time Warp's scale. The warehouse has actually been used for a variety of purposes—the weekend before, it hosted 5,000 Jewish rabbis for an annual dinner gathering. But it turned out to be exactly what Time Warp's organizers had been searching for from the start: a concrete haven where the underground aesthetics of techno would feel right at home. It just happened to be in the armpit of Brooklyn, therefore requiring a fleet of free shuttles to ferry festivalgoers to and from the rest of civilization.


Logistical problems plagued other parts of the festival—specifically, the security and check-in lines, both of which were frenzied clusterfucks of anxious faces, harried staff, and questions like, "Where do I find the VIP bottle service?" asked in a variety of vaguely European accents. But once you squeezed past the chaos, you could see it looming ahead: a massive techno fortress clanging and rumbling under the forces of gale-force kickdrums inside.

(Photo by Jeff Thibodeau Photography) 

Previous Time Warps, in cities like Mannheim—where the festival was inaugurated back in 1994—have boasted up to six riotous rooms, but New York's version was neatly divide into two stages. Both floors were concrete boxes with walls draped in black fabric, although the visual similarities ended there. The main room's set up was dubbed "The Cave," a total-design concept whose components were shipped directly from Germany. Centered on rows of fabric cut out to resemble stalactites dripping from the ceiling, these hanging sheets unfortunately resembled an amateur crafts project when viewed from up close. But no matter! From afar, they turned into dynamic surfaces for a kaleidoscopic salad of light projections.

In this sepulchral chamber, throngs of bearded men sipped $6 bottles of water as they grunted their approval of top Neanderthals like Sven Väth, who presided over a three-hour set on Saturday night ahead of Richie Hawtin's closing show. Waving his vinyl collection overhead—fresh from the summer in Ibiza— Väth kept the energy locked in a tight groove with an arsenal of big-room killers picked from Drumcode regulars like Alan Fitzpatrick and Harry Romero. As Väth's set rolled along, the stage swelled with growing piles of DJs, friends, and hangers-on—turning into a chatty insiders-club that foreshadowed what would later implode into #Speakergate.


(Photo by Jeff Thibodeau Photography) 

In a strange sort of primal call-and-response, Vath played Josh Wink's "Talking To You" just moments before Wink himself—who was holding court in the room next door—dropped the same track to close out his own acid-steeped set. That smaller, more stripped-down second room also hosted Berlin favorite DJ Tennis, who wrapped up a two-hour romp of club-hits with Midland's brilliant edit of Caribou's "Sun" before casually dropping New Order's "Blue Monday"—a surprising and thrilling move that was the sonic equivalent of a naked girl popping out of a birthday cake.

Dubfire debuted his HYBRID live show for the first time in North America (Photo by Jeff Thibodeau Photography) 

The night before, Dubfire debuted his new live show HYBRID, where the Iranian-American producer took his shot at creating an immersive, cinematic experience on a spectacular scale. The dance music game has been increasingly crowded with DJs attempting to one-up each other with all kinds of audio-visual wizardry—ranging from Eric Prydz's monumental holograms in Madison Square Garden to ZHU's stunning video projections in an anonymous East Williamsburg warehouse. Dubfire's version opted for an "everything but the kitchen sink" strategy—combining a mish-mash of 2D and 3D animations to prove the old theory that if you bombard them with lasers and strobes, the ravers will cum.

Time Warp's co-founder Steffen Charles cited New York's growing underground dance music scene as the chief reason why he decided to bring the prestigious techno festival to this side of the world. After visiting local techno stalwarts like the Blkmarket and ReSolute parties last year during his first trip to the city, Charles decided that he "just really liked the vibe" and would give it a shot. Thus, Time Warp's arrival in New York City was more than just a combination of eye-popping visuals and state-of-the-art sound. It is also a joyous gathering for techno fans in the surrounding areas and beyond. This much was especially clear after Hawtin and Dixon played their final songs, and the crowds filed towards the exits. But the night was far from over—afterparties raged on till noon in new clubs like Space Ibiza and Open (in the former Sankeys Brooklyn spot). In a testament to the glorious rebirth of dance music in New York City in 2014, where one party ends, another one begins.