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How Richie Hawtin’s ‘CLOSE’ debut stole the show on Coachella Day 1

The first day of Coachella 2017 saw a lot of exciting events throughout different spheres of the dance music community. Dixon provided an impeccable – and rare – performance in the Yuma. Dillon Francis debuted his monolithic new stage production as well as a slew of unreleased music, presumably from his forthcoming moombahton LP. Louis The Child had the hanger-on crowds abuzz with their surprise set to close out the Do LaB.

However, as noteworthy as all of the above were, simply put, none of them came close to the magnitude of the legendary Richie Hawtin’s unparalleled performance.

Though many casual observers consider the presence of dance music on Coachella’s roster as a recent development incurred by the introduction of the Sahara tent, it’s worth noting that Richie Hawtin performed at the festival’s inaugural lineup in 1999 – both as himself and his alter-ego, Plastikman. Hawtin’s initial Coachella appearance came alongside additional electronic performances from The Chemical Brothers, DJ Shadow, Underworld, Amon Tobin, and more.

Hawtin has been a recurrent fixture on the Coachella lineup in the years since its first edition, but his set on April 14, 2017 was something entirely unprecedented – the debut of his new performance, “CLOSE — Spontaneity & Synchronicity.”

CLOSE is Richie Hawtin’s endeavor to humanize the performative process of electronic music; an effort to fuse the technical spectacle of computerized visuals and synthesized sounds with the interactivity and connected nature of a rock performance. Commenting on the current state of DJ performances to the LA Times last week, Hawtin quipped, “If I came from outer space and I saw a DJ playing, I would actually think that DJs are a strange breed of humans that only have a torso and head.”

Richie Hawtin Close Coachella

Photo by Julian Basjel

Hawtin’s goal to humanize his veritably otherworldly sounds and spectacles with his desire to connect with audiences in a more traditional way spurred a question in his mind: “How can I bring people closer to what I’m doing? How can I make them feel that they understand how I play my instruments?”

Playing the Mojave tent at 8PM, the Canadian savant answered this question resoundingly with the premiere of “CLOSE.” Rather than stand behind a booth mixing with an indiscernible set of equipment, Hawtin stood between two massive fixtures of live production and performance technologies. Not only was the performer’s engagement fully visible as he vacillated between his two rigs with full focus and visibility – he cleverly integrated his own performance into his visual programming.

Throughout the set, the LED screens which towered behind him played an intricate transmogrification of live footage showing Hawtin working his magic. The video was transformed into scintillating arrangements which may have distracted from the fact that it was, indeed, depicting Hawtin’s activity in real time to the less-focused eye. However, the end result culminated in a phantasmagoria which transported spectators into an extraterrestrial realm, while simultaneously grounding the audience in awe of witnessing every part of his performative process.

While live electronic music is beginning to become almost as prevalent as DJ sets in the current era, there is currently no performance which matches the elaborate echelon which Hawtin has reached with CLOSE.  As the spontaneity of his cerebral techno improvisations met with the synchronicity of his compelling visual production, Hawtin’s new live project lived up to its name more than duly. And, considering the ephemerality of its duration (Hawtin will only perform CLOSE in the US at Coachella and Detroit’s Movement Festival), those who are fortunate enough to attend their set know that it is a once in a lifetime experience.

Suffice it to say, CLOSE made one thing abundantly clear:

Nobody does more than Richie Hawtin.

H/T: LA Times

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