Inside D.C. entertainment

Correction:

The original version of this post misidentified the name of the Plastikman box set. It is called Arkives, not Arkive.

Richie Hawtin plays U Street Music Hall next week, teaches kiddies about techno

November 19, 2010 - 10:00 AM
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Richie Hawtin, Spain, 2009
Richie Hawtin, formerly Plastikman, aims to bring new and old techno fans together on his current tour, coming to U Hall on Monday. (Emre Guven)

The Richie Hawtin playing the U Street Music Hall on Monday night is not the same Richie Hawtin the world knew in the 1990s.  Not that the world ever really knew Richie Hawtin in the 1990s.  Back then, he was the elusive lord of minimal techno, Plastikman.

For more than a decade, the Canadian producer embodied the dark and introverted character of minimal techno. His brand of cerebral, acid-tinged floor-fillers attracted legions of obsessive fans; he imprinted his records with the lone symbol of an alien-like dancer; and as he grew, he seemed to delight in shaking people off his trail, dropping the occasional experimental release to piss off the weekend warriors. Plastikman, respected as he was, wasn't easy to like.

Then Plastikman poked a hole in his shrink-wrapped skin and opened up a little bit. These days, the eerily young-looking blonde man playing U Street NW on Monday night just goes by his legal name.

In an interview last spring, Hawtin told Club Planet, "I’ve always been very serious about what I do. That hasn’t changed, but I‘ve been able to enjoy it more and share it with people more than I could ten or 15 years ago." His optimism came at a good time: As electronic music began to pick up steam with a younger generation, Hawtin revived Plastikman for a short string of live dates earlier this year, ramping up the audiovisual stimulation to shock-and-awe levels. Simultaneously, he has embarked on a mission to spread the gospel of quality techno to the children. And because no good missionary would be caught without a Bible, that's where the Enormous Box Set comes in.

At its core, this tour will serve as a promotional jaunt for the massive Plastikman retrospective Hawtin is releasing in early 2011, Arkives. The box set – which will be made to order – can only be pre-ordered through Dec. 31. He won't be selling them at his shows. (At $200 per set, you probably wouldn't want to hand over that kind of cash at a merch table, anyway.)

In an interview with Spinner, Hawtin laid out his intertwined intentions with the box set: to introduce Richie Hawtin fans to Plastikman, and Plastikman fans to Richie Hawtin. Older fans may have drifted away as the producer dabbled in atmospherics; meanwhile, the younger fans are often completely clueless about Hawtin's rabble-rousing days, or minimal and acid techno in general. "As we started promoting [the 2010 Plastikman tour] and asking people about Plastikman," says Hawtin, it became clear "how many of my new fans from the last couple of years didn't really know about what happened in the 90s."

There's hope that he can bring us all up to speed on Monday night. Some may accuse Hawtin of charging an exorbitant amount of money for recordings his fans already own, or dumbing this DJ tour down to a Plastikman victory lap without the explosions of an actual Plastikman show.  But there are at least three good reasons to catch Hawtin on Monday: To 1) enjoy a phenomenal DJ in a stripped-down, 300-capacity venue (not like the corny Muse, where he played in 2009); 2) marvel at how young he looks at 40; and 3) remember what made Hawtin worthy of all this fanfare in the first place. And if he manages to convert a couple 18-year old Deadmau5 fans to Plastikman fans, then the victory lap becomes that much more victorious.

Hawtin plays with Gaiser and Measax at the U Street Music Hall on Monday, Nov. 22. Presale tickets are sold out; $35 tickets sold at the door. Visit eightyeightdc.com for more information.

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