One night in Mannheim: inthemix goes to Time Warp 2012

Going by the tens of thousands of punters from across Germany and the rest of Europe streaming into Mannheim’s Maimarktgelände for Time Warp last Saturday, I wasn’t the only one making the pilgrimage for one of the world’s most revered techno events. My own journey had taken me from the center of Denmark into Germany, via Hamburg with an overnight stop in Berlin, before haplessly missing my early-morning bus to Frankfurt, leading to a mad scramble to the city’s main train station to catch a Deutsche Bahn direct to Mannheim. So my own pilgrimage ended up being a rather expensive one; however, spending the extra cash was never in question.

With annual events now also staged in Holland and Italy, Time Warp 2012 was the 18th time the party had been held in Mannheim, meaning it has endured very nearly as long as dance culture itself. In some senses there’s a heavy sense of tradition to the proceedings; there’s Richie Hawtin’s annual six-hour closing set, plus similar extended sets from stalwarts like Sven Vath.

However, that’s not to say there’s anything that feels stodgy or conservative about Time Warp; instead, it’s informed by the same militant values the techno scene itself is renowned for. There are no overblown headliners booked to draw a larger crowd, no concessions to other genres, and even though the DJs might be playing to 10,000 strong crowds at some points, there are certainly no compromises in their musical selections. The organisers do it properly, and they still draw around 20,000 or more punters every year.

A lot of the evening’s main action takes place in two equally massive halls, placed right next to each other with a thick divider between them (with not a hint of sound bleed though, I might add). These main rooms were dominated by the expected cast of heavy hitters, but what an impressive cast of heavy hitters it was: Room 1 played host to Marcel Dettmann, Ben Klock, Chris Liebing, Carl Cox and Adam Beyer among others, while immediately to the left in Room 2 was Dubfire, Maetrik, Sven Vath, Extrawelt, Richie Hawtin as well as the luxurious treat of UK stalwart John Digweed laying down a warm-up set at 10pm not long after we’d arrived.

And what a luxurious treat it was. Digweed is perhaps not someone you’d immediately think of as a headliner for such a techno-focused event, but it’s a testament to his versatility and professionalism that he set the scene flawlessly for what was to come. His set was two hours of meticulously arranged techno from the lower end of the BPM spectrum, all locked together with heavy, heavy grooves that played perfectly to the simmering tension in the room, and more importantly, laid the foundation for what was to come later in the party. The room was heaving to his menacing rumbles by the time midnight rolled around, with the production, visuals and stunning special effects also building slowly in sync.

Digweed recorded his Time Warp set for Transitions, remarking: “This should be the template for festivals around the world.” Have a listen to his consummate warm-up set below.

More than a few words need to be said about the production at this point. Firstly, Time Warp put to rest the notion that it’s impossible to achieve good acoustics in a cavernous hall. Room 1 and 2 would have been able to accommodate close to 20,000 people between them at their peak, but even as they were filling up they boasted crystal-clear treble and devastating low ends, at that ‘sweet spot’ in volume that’s loud enough to rumble your ribcage without leaving your ears ringing afterwards. Absolutely flawless wherever you were, all night.

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