Richie Hawtin and Loco Dice want you to know: there’s more to EDM than “Levels.” The two veterans of the electronic and techno music scene have teamed up to create the CNTRL: Beyond EDM tour − the first-ever electronic music tour to combine educational daytime lectures with subsequent nighttime shows featuring some of the most respected names in their genre.

The tour hit Philadelphia last Friday with a lecture at Drexel University and an accompanying show at the Electric Factory. Panelists Richie Hawtin, Loco Dice, Josh Wink, Matt Brookman and moderator Ean Golden took the stage, answering the questions of an audience comprised almost entirely by aspiring DJs.

Despite the specificity with which the panelists discussed the techno genre (including house and electronic), their message was universal: there’s more to their genre than what makes it to the Top 40. Yes, it’s great that Americans are getting into techno − but, as Golden joked, too many people think that house started with Avicii.

Josh Wink, Philadelphia native and host of “Profound Sounds” on Sirius XM Radio, looked like a 90s transport his Paul Frank sweatshirt and bedhead hair that seemed more Death Cab than Ultra. His jabs at both the genre and at Golden were easy to disregard due to his throwback language and monotone delivery (“classic music doesn’t matter when it comes out, brother”). While Hawtin and Dice were obviously passionate about the conversion of mainstream fist-pumpers into enlightened fans, Wink’s true love for his music at first fell victim either to the disaffected, pretentious vibe that hipsters world-wide aspire to, or to a truly spacey nature. “I like the spontaneity of being a DJ,” he commented in response to a question about how he prepares for shows. “I miss knowing what I’m doing.”

In discussion of the evolution of the genre from scratching vinyl to beat-matching on laptops, Golden came out in serious defense both of modern technologies and his own use of them. “I was able beat match in the 90s,” he said. “I don’t need to prove that to anyone.” To paraphrase the Bard, the DJ doth protest too much… and should maybe take off his trucker hat.

I don’t pretend to know the full history of the Detroit techno scene, or how to scratch vinyl. I can say, however, that being able to intellectually understand the complexity of the music allowed me to connect to it more deeply in a way I had never previously thought possible with techno. Each of the five DJs (the only one not part of the panel was opener Rob Paine) played approximately one-hour sets that escalated as the night went on. Paine set a chilled-out tone before the majority of the audience showed up. Golden pumped the audience up, creating a club-like vibe punctuated by a few more dramatic drops. Wink had the audience in a trance with a Latin sort of vibe; more so than any of the others, his set had a kind of steamy feel that made even me, a girl known for having dancing skills on par with your granddad after a couple of Sidecars, shuffle my feet. Loco Dice sounded much more like the artists who dominate frat-party playlists, and benefited from a perfectly timed light show. By the time Hawtin came on, the audience was ready; his speaker-thumping bass, mixed with muted vocals and a space-age, metallic theme, rounded the night out perfectly.

Ultimately, the question is: was CNTRL successful in converting me from my tunnel Skrillex vision into, if not a fan, someone who understands the depth of the genre? Completely. I’m a twenty-one-year-old, self-proclaimed Zeppelin super-fan, and while I might not be hitting up the Berlin club circuit any time soon, you can bet that I’ll start streaming the Techno Live Sets podcast to my iTunes. I was getting kind of sick of “Levels” anyway.

Written By: Shelby Rachleff

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