When Richie Hawtin announces a gig in Belfast, I sit up and listen! When said gig is on Easter Monday at Stiff Kitten, I nearly wet myself!! Belfast had a lot going on this Easter Monday but for me none of the other nights on offer would get a look in. As other Hawtin fans will tell you, his Irish gigs are few and far between so I was expecting a huge turn out for this one.
I arrived at the venue around 10:30pm and as expected, there was a queue. Usually I would puff out my cheeks at the sight of a queue on this cold blustery bank holiday, but tonight it just re-affirmed that this was going to be a night to remember. Once through the door, the change in temperature was the first thing to hit me. The crowd inside was already backed up to the door and my god it was warm! My friends had arrived earlier and I was glad to hear they had secured us a good spot, a quick trip to the bar and I was ready to rock!
The warm up job went to Space Dimension Controller tonight. Now I say “warm up job” in the loosest sense as when I arrived, the place was already going off! Easter Monday is always a big date in our clubber calendar and we always seem to go for it from the word go. So SDC treated us to a whirlwind set of acid infused techno business. I have to say, this was the first time I had caught one of his sets and thought he captured the energy in the room well. He dropped old and new, at a frantic pace and the packed out room seemed to lap it up. Around midnight, the staff from Stiff Kitten had to pull back the folding wall to the adjoining Kitten Bar as the main room was bursting at the seams. This was a good move as it made getting the toilets a lot easier and freed up a good bit of room in the main space, allowing easier access to the bar.
The next thing I knew, the music seemed to come to a halt. A look at the watch and it was 1am and the arrival of the man himself. The big spotlights beamed out from behind Richie’s thin silhouette while pitched down hand claps rattled around the room, building the tension to breaking point. When he finally dropped his first track, the club seemed to shake under the weight of the entire crowd going bananas. With the atmosphere now well and truly turned up about three notches, I decided to take a wee jaunt down to the front and soak it all up. I have been on many a packed dancefloor in my time, but few were on the same level as Stiff that night. There was little chance of you being able to dance, more just get sucked in to everyone else’s movements whether you wanted to or not. It was definitely for the die-hard Hawtin fans down there, and the only thing I got to soak up was everyone’s sweat…………………..AWESOME!
The next two hours was Hawtin at his best in my opinion. He seemed to get that we all wanted something special and he certainly delivered. He didn’t take his foot off the gas at any point and worked his set up to great effect. Using Maschine to twist his way through a thundering set, laced with so many samples and loops that nearly made my head explode. There was a detour into darker territory around 2am but it was perfectly timed and expertly orchestrated and led the way for him to smash the last half an hour. When Richie’s set came to a close, the dancefloor was still heaving and every last one of its battered residents put their hands in the air and showed genuine appreciation for what they had just been a part of. What followed this made me realise what a special scene we have in this country. Instead of the usual five or six people half-heartedly shouting “One more tune!”, it seemed the entirety of Stiff Kitten joined in unison to ask Richie Hawtin to extend his set, by just……One…….More……Tune! How could he refuse? Matador “Kingswing” was his weapon of choice, and what a deadly weapon it is!!!