Little White Earbuds Reflects: Minitek


Photo by Viktor Sekularac

LWE correspondent Will Lynch offers his take on the seemingly ill-fated Minitek festival:

Had all gone according to plan, last weekend’s Minitek festival could have asserted that a passionate techno scene can exist in New York City. Instead, it was a sad reminder of how incompatible dance music events are with American laws and culture. The weekend was to comprise four robust parties in exhausting succession — midnight to 8 a.m. in Manhattan, then 10 a.m. to midnight on Coney Island, twice. It should have been deliriously fun: the venue in Penn Plaza was said to have 360 degrees of video screens, with many of the festival goers staying in the hotel upstairs, which would doubtlessly be soiled with party detritus within hours of the festival’s commencement. On Coney Island, the line-ups were a dizzying who’s who of modern minimal, and anyone who managed to get bored could wander through something called the Innovations Village, a mysterious fun-house of art installations and trippy interactive dabblings. This was to go on for two days and two nights, and close on Sunday with a lineup that included Ritchie Hawtin, Troy Pierce, Audion, and Francois K.

But alas, it was not to be. Due to an epic medley of managerial errors — permit mix-ups, failing technology, staggering lines — Minitek was a weekend awash with bullshit. Far from euphoric party people trudged through the ordeal in a sour mood, while most DJs played it safe, spinning basic techno through limp sound systems. Minitek’s promoters were audacious to a fault, and as a result, at least 60% of the festival was a complete failure. Nonetheless, that remaining 40% had some pretty good shit going on, so Minitek was not without its morsels of fun.

But none of those morsels appeared until late on Saturday. Friday, on the other hand, was a textbook clusterfuck. I showed up at Penn Plaza around midnight to join a massive thicket of people on the street. After standing in line for ten minutes or so, I couldn’t help but notice that it had not moved a single inch. A little unsettling, but I was in a good mood, so whatever. That’s when a pissed off middle-aged raver came stomping by, with quick shakes of the head betraying how utterly fed up he was. He spotted his friends and quickly said, “Fuck this. It’s a complete mess up there, no one is getting in and everyone’s arguing. Let’s just go to Cielo.” Things were off to a strange start, but I remained optimistic.

The front had only gotten worse by the time I decided to shamelessly cut everyone. The line was even more blob-like and unruly around the corner on West 34th street, and people were really starting to shout. More and more cops showed up. Eventually they started up a routine that many of us would go through at least once more this weekend — a little song and dance where the police scream “STEP BACK! STEP BACK!” and a condensed mess of people shuffles awkwardly in no particular direction. After an hour so, the cops pulled the plug on the whole thing and made everyone leave.


Marco Corola and Paco Osuna @ Rebel. Photo by Viktor Sekularac

A couple of bars later, I got word that the party was now happening at Rebel, a club several blocks away from Penn Plaza. Good thing I was getting a little sauced, because there was not a drop of alcohol inside the place. The main room was packed and smoky, blue lasers cutting across the teeming crowd on the dance floor and stage. Paco Osuna and Marco Corola were tag teaming, and the set definitely had the kind of trippy aggressiveness one would expect from either of those two, but as my first hit of techno all weekend (at 5:00 am), it just didn’t cut it. The sound system could have used some more oomph and no one seemed very locked into the music. As for the DJs, their tracks sounded cool, but slid into predictable breakdowns once every couple of minutes. On the bus twelve hours earlier, I had envisioned this moment to take place in a dimly red let room, circumscribed by disorienting video screens, while languid bodies danced, pie-eyed and sweaty as the DJs went daringly deep. That vision was based entirely on what Minitek’s website’s had promised, and it felt like an embarrassing fantasy once I was in that place. All night I had managed to keep disappointment at bay, but now it was coming down hard. I left without being there for a full hour.


Photo by Eddie Birk

I woke up the next morning and had no idea whether or not Minitek was still happening. Someone said on the RA forums that nothing was even set up yet on Coney Island, two hours into the supposed schedule. To make matters worse, the promoters had posted absolutely nothing on the Minitek website. I was starting to fear for the worse. Finally, news trickled in that some music was playing at Coney, although there was no second stage and no one could tell who the DJs were. Some encouraging words were included: “people are dancing.”

I got there around 5 in hopes of seeing Exercise One, but unsurprisingly the line took forever, so that didn’t happen. The Innovation Village was nowhere to be found. In its place, a muddy lot with white tents, a farting sound system and, again, a profound lack of alcohol. At this gray-skied, booze-less outdoor party, the mood was predictably drab. I wandered over to the main stage, where Jeremy P. Caulfield was doing a DJ/live set hybrid. It was funky and a good number of people were dancing, but the music was nondescript. Furthermore, whatever excitement Caufield managed to muster was curtailed somewhat by the mediocre soundsystem. In what could have been a metaphor for the whole weekend, a large group of people crouched down during a break, waiting for the beat to drop to do the Ibiza bounce, but when the bass finally kicked it was so muddled and quiet no one noticed at first. Eventually everyone exchanged embarrassed looks and awkwardly stood back up.


Heartthrob arouses the crowd into dancing. Photo by Eduardo Osorio

Thankfully, Heartthrob’s gloomy beats brightened things up a bit. His catchy melodies lent some much needed feeling to the scene and more and more people were dancing. He made great use of my favorite minimal trick: sitting on a decent beat for a while, then dropping a single high hat to instantaneously make it all funky as hell. Over the course of his hour-long set, I overheard at least one person turn to his friend and say, “who is this guy?” The crowd was riled up by the time he finished, ready to get down to the night’s headliner: Magda. Sadly, Magdalena’s dainty figure was nowhere to be seen. In its place, a lanky goon with oily hair took the stage, mumbling hasty apologies for the previous night. Apparently he was one of Minimoo crew. He announced that there would be two venues for the rest of the night: Studio B and Europa.


Magda reappears. Photo by Eduardo Osorio

We got to Studio B around midnight. The crowd was a big shapeless mess outside the club, but luckily it was only a few quick rounds of “STEP BACK” before my friends and I got inside. Memek was DJing, and like much of what I had seen so far this weekend, it was both quiet and uninspired. I had a few drinks and slumped into a leather couch for a while. Eventually Magda came on, which definitely improved things. She started out with Christian Burkhardt’s new track, “Contemporary Box,” one of my favorite records these days, and one that suits Magda’s style perfectly. From what I saw, she played a nice and peppy set, but unfortunately the vibe just still wasn’t there. Studio B was crowded, sticky, and the sound system was quiet enough to accommodate a barely shouted conversation in the middle of the dance floor. Having had a pointless 6 a.m. night on Friday, I decided to leave around 4 a.m., 2/3 of the way into the festival with only a handful of sets under my belt.


Audion gives dancers the tantalizing evil eye. Photo by Viktor Sekularac

By Sunday, my friends and I had ceased to take Minitek seriously, and ended up on Coney Island at 6:30 p.m. This turned out to be the best day by far. The sound system, while still a little quiet for my liking, had improved drastically. Unfortunately, the entire bill had been pushed an hour earlier than originally said, so I missed Troy Pierce and ended up only catching the tail end of Audion, who was really fantastic. His set was rich and climactic, and the crowd was more locked in than I had seen them all weekend. Ritchie Hawtin took things up another notch, moving through an hour of restrained minimal and finally goosing in some electrifying melody. I recognized District One’s “Handsome” and Petar Dundov’s “Oasis” (definitely a highlight), as well as the tiniest snippet of Radio Slave’s “Eyes Wide Open.” In those closing moments of Minitek, I finally started to feel like this was really happening; the audience was whistling during the breakdowns and dancing during the rest, the songs got more and more epic as time went on, and I found myself wondering about a lot of track IDs. It was my first time seeing Ritchie Hawtin, and he definitely won me over.


Richie Hawtin wonders, “Now where did that other 30 second loop go?” Photo by Viktor Sekularac

On the way out I heard Francois K playing Manuel Goettsching’s “E2-E4” as a post-set cool down track, which I thought was pretty classy. I was in a good mood and planned on going to the after party at Cielo, but a hot dog and extra large beer at Nathan’s shut that plan down. It was a good night to finish the weekend on and I was thankful for that. I was also thankful for the fact that rather than flying into NYC and staying in a hotel, I had endured a relatively short bus ride for $15 and stayed at a friend’s place for free. Had this not been the case, it would have been very hard to look on the bright side and have much fun. Despite some very memorable moments, Minitek was a disaster. Staffed with six organizers and only a couple handfuls of volunteers, the Minimoo tried make history, starting a long line of incredibly billed dance festivals in techno-shy New York. On my bus ride home, I realized that there were only two possible outcomes: a miracle, or an absolutely epic shitting of the bed. For those that were there, I don’t think there is any disagreement about which happened.

Read RA’s interview with Minitek promoter, Jenny Tan, and the official apology from Minitek themselves.

harpomarx42  on September 17, 2008 at 9:31 PM

I’m both gutted and relieved that I missed this, but I am willing, in any case, to accept the apology. It was really hard for the Minitek organizers to deal with this calamity.

For Minitek mk.2, a few pointers.

1) Keep the good lineups, but check out different venues spaces, now that you know what the crowds are like.

2) Get a staff of organizers and volunteers of around 100 people (tired estimate, BTW) so that things will be less taxing on each individual.

3) Ideas for other venues…Prospect Park, Central Park, Hammerstein Ballroom, the Winter Garden, City Hall Park.

“A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” – James Joyce

Make tea not love,
Jason

jeremy  on September 17, 2008 at 9:59 PM

this is really disappointing– but not surprising– news. apparently these two barely had small scale club night planning experience, let alone enough to plan an entire festival. bummer, if you ask me.

crystal  on September 17, 2008 at 10:07 PM

It’s great to read the different perspectives.
Yes there was a lot of fucks up but I’d have to say it was 60% great for me & 40% irritating.
Should’ve hung around studio b marc houle’s set was excellent.
I really hope they attempt this again next year, now that they understand fully what not to do.

Will Lynch  on September 18, 2008 at 8:27 AM

I definitely agree that hammerstein would have worked great… after going to Mutek, I think that while it may be kind of a drag to see DJ’s in a big rock venue, its the best to deal with a crowd of several thousand in an urban environment. Furthermore, the atmosphere at Hammerstein is actually pretty cool.

hutlock  on September 18, 2008 at 9:34 AM

I have got SUCH a crush on Magda… *sigh*

cat  on September 18, 2008 at 11:34 AM

Your description of the party at Rebel is way off the mark. Everyone in that club was screaming, cheering, and dancing like crazy. I haven’t seen a vibe like that in a while. Their set was pure fucking fire, and everyone was into it. I’m surprised anyone thought it was anything less than that, but whatever, I guess it’s cool to be a jaded clubber these days…

Will Lynch  on September 18, 2008 at 12:21 PM

glad you had a good time Cat, but I am not a “jaded clubber” (just set foot in a club for the first time a year ago). Maybe my standards were high, but I think that’s warranted considering the hype surrounding this festival. And if that was the best vibe you’ve seen in a while, I don’t really know what to tell you. I thought it was energetic but flat– definitely wasn’t able to “lose myself,” which is sort of what I would hope for with those DJs.

mnmlfrk  on September 18, 2008 at 1:13 PM

Whoever missed Friday night at Rebel basically missed the best night of the festival…I totally agree with “cat”…the set was pure fucking FIRE!!!!
In my opinion, friday night at Rebel was undoubtedly the best night….PACO dropped the sickest set and combined the jiggly tribal beats and throbbing base together and created this massive dark Techno set which took everyone on a journey through the dark side…

james kartsaklis  on September 18, 2008 at 1:23 PM

i didn’t go, but from the sound of it, one or two decent sets on one night of a weekend doesn’t make a “festival.” i don’t want to go spreading any tertiary rumors, but the evidence out there on various forums, etc. show that the bad far outweighed the good. unfortunate to hear, but i don’t know that it’s indicative of anything beyond one shitty fest put on by one group of poor promoters.

if there’s any silver lining (and a harsh one at best), it’s that people were turned away to get into a club to hear techno in america.

eric cloutier  on September 18, 2008 at 1:26 PM

part of me wants to chime in here, but my review and retort to any and all of the above would be far too long-winded for anyone to give much of a crap about.

the long and the short – the “festival” was a total failure, and the fact that jenny has already said that “well do better next year,” while not acknowledging any of the main problems or sorting out money issues, both payment to artists and refunds to patrons, is embarrassing and unprofessional to the highest degree.

oh, and i didn’t hear richie at all because i was busy at the clink / dumb-unit afterparty, but word on the street was that was one of the worst richie sets since his resident advisor podcast.

heartthrob, on the other hand, completely stole the weekend, without question. and what the fuck is “the ibiza bounce”? that’s almost as bad as glowsticks.

Will Lynch  on September 18, 2008 at 2:19 PM

disagree about the ibiza bounce… I’ve never witnessed a succesful attempt at it, but based on youtube videos of DC10, looks like it could make things pretty fun…

Joe H  on September 18, 2008 at 3:17 PM

and what the fuck is “the ibiza bounce”? that’s almost as bad as glowsticks.

Never heard it refered to as the “Ibiza bounce” I’ve been in them at least 3 times at DC1O. English folk have always refered to it as “jump up” jump down. Its great fun everyone on the same level, the DJ buzzin of the party people toying with the bass until eventually bringing it back in and watching the crowd go mental. A classic DC10 moment. I’ve heard of various events trying to recreate the atmosphere of the “Ibiza Bounce” at various other venues but unless you have witnessed the DC1O vibe and the bounce at DC10 any other recreation will not work. I guess its part of the white isle magic, DC1O & the crazy people who go there. Dont really understand why its been tagged by the same brush as glowsticks! lol. You obviously haven’t been to DC10 & witnessed the carnage for yourself! I suggest you check it out first hand before DC10 shuts its doors for good. its one of the all time great clubs that will go down in the history of clubbing.

james kartsaklis  on September 18, 2008 at 3:35 PM

@eric, check the hawtin set here: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=EQ42FZPR

brace yourself for 98mins of…
loop > cut the bass > delay (many times off beat) > bass-drop > reverb/filter > repeat.

shit sucks.

David Day  on September 19, 2008 at 6:49 AM

This is probably the most even-handed account of minitek I’ve seen yet and agree it has as much or more to do with NYC/US policies than promoter bumbling.

That said, it seems like the cops were all relatively cool and I’m surprised the put up with it. I remember when NYC cops may not have been so patient with electronic music.

I also think it’s amazing there were throngs of people and huge lines for techno. I think it all bodes well despite such an outcome.

Perhaps minitek can sponsor some kind of emigration boat and we can all sail to nova scotia.

Will Lynch  on September 19, 2008 at 8:09 AM

yo David!

I definitely agree– in spite of it all, it was at least encouraging to see so many new yorkers show up for a techno event.

bloblee  on September 19, 2008 at 8:45 AM

Your account of Saturday night is definitely different from mine. I got there at around 7pm, turnout was pretty low from what I was expecting (though I haven’t been living in NYC long enough to know any better). I wasn’t particularly thrilled with Heartthrob’s set. MANDY vs Tiefschwarz, now, I was really surprised by them. I’m not a big fan but they were great, had the whole crowd going berzerk and were definitely one of the highlights of the fetival along with Troy Pierce on Sunday.

Back to Saturday night though – so after they shut down the party 2 hours in advance, they announce they have buses waiting for people who want to go directly to Studio B. Fair enough I suppose – except every bus waited to leave at the same time! Which meant we waited for at least 30 minutes, took at least 45 minutes to get there, and by then since all the buses arrived together, we flooded the outside of Studio B. I wasn’t able to get in.

Will Lynch  on September 19, 2008 at 9:17 AM

i definitely regret not watching MANDY & Tiefschwarz… vids on youtube look great. it wasn’t a hard choice for me at the time though, as i’ve seen MANDY twice and been let down both times.

J Newhouse  on September 19, 2008 at 3:29 PM

Actually, Minitek sounded more like a PR directors wet dream more than any type of musical fest. When I read about the “concept” stages, I said to myself “this sounds too good to be true”.

Where were the DJs that put minimal on the map?

Less mnml
MORE Minimal!
Give us Less hype, more underground!

Lisa  on September 20, 2008 at 3:10 AM

I dont know jenny or anyone of the minitek team but as an ex new yorker its pretty obvious that after you lived in this city for more than 3 years or even less one realizes how hard could be to make events , even small events ..
For my eyes and from what other people have said to me who knows her , she is someone with a little bit too much ego and got carried away , she probably always got what she wanted in her life , rich ,pretty and spoiled and she wanted to get it once again but didnt realize she is a grown up now and you just basically CANT get everything you want , specially in New york city..
The event must have been planed at least a year in advance , with half of the artists and half of the parties plus with all the security to protect the events , permits back up venues , good bars,the police should have been informed and the event protected as acultural act …this takes time and effortt but if u are smart enough its posible in new yrk..
this was in many peoples eyes juts a naive , egotistic and selfish move…and maybe it will help her to get her feet on the ground for the rest of her life…

the love parade started with 20 people ,audience and djs included and look what a monster is now…
you cant contruct a building from top to bottom..
good luck next time , if any.

Bill  on September 20, 2008 at 12:18 PM

The Minimoo crew attempted to do something both bold and ambitious, lets thank them for the effort they put forth in getting together some serious talent in electronic music. NYC and the U.S.for that matter are not legally conducive to underground techno parties and the culture(s) they house so when the money is coming in they don;t mind, but when the freak (that’s us) follows then these problems come to light as far a police putting ceilings on occupancy, and shutting down at 4am despite a late nite permit and so on and so forth. These people have been putting together some wicked underground and seriously fun parties for awhile now giving many of us many awesome evening listening to the music we love, this was their only goal so let’s thank them for that. Hope they acknowledge and learn from their mistakes and if they try again next year support them and do what you can do to help make the event even better and more memorable!

rimpey  on September 20, 2008 at 1:28 PM

techno sucks

-rimpey

rimpey  on September 20, 2008 at 1:28 PM

….just kidding

nice article, man!

Lisa  on September 20, 2008 at 2:09 PM

the “fuck vocals” approach its just so teenager though
…i can bet 100 percent of all the artists at minitek played some sort of vocal sample at his -her set
“fuck vocals”
a joke really.

E-Heavy/Soulclap!  on September 21, 2008 at 9:30 PM

It seems like Eric is the only person who addressed the real problem here. Sure, it was a fun weekend and many of the problems were not the fault of the minimoo crew. However, they were nowhere to be found when things started to go wrong and instead of being around to make sure everything was taken care of, they disappeared, leaving the ONE full time employee they hired to deal with the entire mess. Furthermore, many of the minitek employees have not been paid and from what I’ve heard neither have many of the artists/performers.

Just had to throw this info out there…

circolococlown  on September 28, 2008 at 11:08 AM

Let’s hope that the “Ibiza Bounce” works at the NY Circoloco party…

http://www.residentadvisor.net/event-detail.aspx?id=65506

Free Forex Chart  on October 4, 2008 at 10:20 AM

Excellent blogging. Keep it up!!!

Trackbacks

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