Andrew Weatherall @ The Bakery, Perth (19/01/08)

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Andrew Weatherall – DJ of countless decades and producer of arguably the greatest rock-dance crossover album ever – was for the first time visiting Australia to play some extended sets of who-knew-what. There are many articles on this and many other sites about the achievements of this musical statesman, though I must add to them to adequately describe what sort of regard he is held within the music community.

In 1989 he remixed ‘Hallelujah’ by Happy Mondays after getting involved in the acid house scene of late 80s. 1991, he took the controls for Primal Scream’s undeniable debut ‘Screamadelica’, which put him and Primal Scream on the map. 1993, he began a stint DJing on London’s influential KISS-FM while also running two clubs and a magazine, he also formed the Sabres of Paradise with Jagz Koomer and Gary Burns, who released a series of pioneering, ambient experimental techno singles and EPs on Weatherall’s Sabrettes label. 1996, he formed Two Lone Swordsmen with friend Keith Tenniswood and also produces a track with Primal Scream for the Trainspotting soundtrack. He’s also put together seminal compilations for Heavenly Presents and Fabric, remixed everyone from Beth Orton to Bjork, My Bloody Valentine and New Order, and produces a steady stream of originals under the Two Lone Swordsmen, Lino Square, Rude Solo and – more recently – his own name.

This brings us to the reason why so many filled The Bakery on this gorgeous Western Australian evening, with the chance to see a musical icon who has been ahead of trends for almost as long as this reviewer has been breathing too good to pass up. Upon arrival at about 11pm it was good to see that Andrew – or Andy to his friends – had started spinning already. It was clearly stated that a four hour set was on the cards and we had been on the receiving ends of some late start times in recent months. Dressed in a red check shirt with slicked short hair and bobbing behind the tall DJ booth, Weatherall surprisingly looked younger than his 44 years of age. He started off with a dubby, rhythmic tempo, and it was really going to be interesting to see what type of set he’d play as he has dipped his fingers across more musical genres than perhaps any other producer of his era. From rockabilly (he has just released a Sci-Fi-Low-Fi mix of said genre last year) to techno, Monsieur Weatherall knows his stuff and an eclectic set was on the cards.

The crowd was a mixture of ages and subcultures with everyone from hippies to local radio personalities spread throughout the venue. There was also a large component outside in the courtyard area, chatting, drinking and smoking, not paying much attention to the music at all. Inside was slowly starting to awaken, but still the dancefloor was rather empty half an hour into the set. Perhaps it was people contemplating the moves they were about to bust out, or maybe the BPM wasn’t high enough to get people boogying just yet, but there was a lot more head nodding than actual dancing. It could have also been the loss of the glitter ball chandelier that threw people off, though the new flashing wooden picture frames made for a refreshing change and soon enough the beats started rising. Then there was one, two, four ten, twenty six… the dancefloor came alive. After really kicking into some proper minimal, with its long breakdowns and percussion emphasis, it was hard to stop one’s legs twitching to the beat. None of the tracks he was playing rang any bells in my brain’s iTunes playlist, but a minimally learned friend informed me that one given an airing was by Alex Under. I was impressed.

The minimal/techno was flowing and the dancefloor was loving it, though even with time passing through his set the outside area still seemed to hold a good half of the guests at the event. This of course begs the question; why were there so many people there (and paying $40 to get in) if they weren’t interested in the music? Were they there to enhance their cultural capital? “I was at the only Andrew Weatherall ever in Perth”. Or was it to be part of the scene? I am unsure. It just seemed peculiar that there was such a healthy crowd but no one seemed to give a shit about the music. Perhaps it was because the music was a little repetitive and minimal. Everyone knows he was a pioneer of the sound, but with the many diverse genres that Weatherall is reputed to be endowed with, it seemed a shame that he limited the set to one sound. Perhaps he had been booked just to play this sort of music, it just seemed like it limited his abilities a touch.

Two gentlemen from the crowd got onstage and made their way to the DJ booth presumably to inspect whether Weatherall was actually DJing, as no one wanted another Peter Hook fiasco. After closer inspection the lads starting chatting to the DJ but were promptly informed by converging security guards that they were not allowed to converse with him. They were about to be removed when they spoke to Weatherall and he told the guards to back off. They were perhaps friends of his, but more likely just countrymen by the looks of their Reebok geezer joggers and upturned collars, probably just chatting about how disappointing the English cricket team has been doing recently, no biggie.

Back to the music, it was starting to really get deep and techy with the kick drum heating up and synth distortions. It was as if you were at Albert Park watching the Grand Prix instead of at the Bakery watching a DJ, but this quality mixing with great sampling and looping was still missed by a lot of the punters at the gig. It was a shame, though, that he didn’t have a more diverse set or perhaps had advertised that it was going to be a minimal tech set, as this really detracted from the overall show. I think many people went in with preconceptions of a little more genre mashing. Instead we didn’t get to leave the UK.

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