Derrick May @ New Guernica, Melbourne (24/04/2012)

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Once known as one of the founding fathers of the techno movement and the innovators of the Detroit techno sound, Derrick May has been on a fascinating musically exploration during his life. On Tuesday 24 April, he showed us that he’s not just about Detroit techno, he’s simply about good quality electronic music … that also has a serious soul: Hi-Tek Soul.

With the word on the street that Derrick was hitting the decks at 10.30pm due to the ANZAC Day eve’s forced early close of 3.30am, the venue was well and truly pumping by 10pm. The drinks were a-flowin’ as everyone warmed up and readied themselves for the treat that we were in for – 5 hours of pure Derrick May bliss.

As the cliché goes, he’s “a man who needs no introduction”, but in this case, it’s truer than ever. If you have been a follower of the Detroit sound since it blew up in Melbs back in the late nineties/early noughties, you all know that of all the cities in Australia, techno has a real home in Melbourne.

And DJs such as Derrick May have always had a loyal following here. On this night, pleasantly surprising though was the percentage of the crowd who were under 25 years old. The older gen was definitely there, but were overtaken by this younger cluey crowd who (thankfully) have taken the better route down quality techno and progressive, rather than David Guetta and mainstream electro house. Forget about the warm-up DJs and the side room, everyone just wanted the main man to hit the decks.

Winter showed itself on this autumn night with cold, wet and some would say, miserable, weather. But this sold out event with a limited capacity of 300 people was all set to be on fire at the cosy and trendy venue, New Guernica. With Derrick’s start time pushed back to 11pm, the anticipation was building and the crowd got a little restless … finally though without any fanfare at 11.19pm, the man, also known as Mayday and Rhythim is Rhythim, had arrived.

With two turntables and two CDJs, plain and simply – Derrick got on and did what he does best – play a fantastic musically diverse, well-crafted set that built from beginning to end. It showcased his ability to retain his roots to Detroit, his signature energetic and frenetic style, merging the old with the new, and his adoption of newer techno and house tracks.

New Guernica’s dance floor didn’t know what hit it. It was rammed, with people filling every space in and around it, heaving with Derrick May fans and followers. This intimate setting made for a better show but also a tight squeeze dancing wise. Showing just how much May’s loved in Japan; a Japanese fan was front and centre for the entire gig. And as a true professional, Derrick continuously returned his appreciation.

Tribal, techno, Detroit techno, house – welcome to the frenzied journey through eclectic sounds courtesy of Derrick May. Lost in the moment, a tracklisting of the night is not possible but key highlights included Osaze’s Sunday, Ian O’Donovan’s Redemption, Blake Baxter’s Muzik, along with Vince Watson’s Sequential that really got the crowd going half way through. The crowd was a sweaty heaving mess and loved it, despite the obviously frustrated (yet taking it in his stride) Derrick encountering several technical issues throughout his set with the turntables.

Dropping Joey Beltram’s Energy Flash proved to be a truly oh-my-god moment. By the time 3.30am came around, the crowd was cheering and begging for more. Strings of Life may not have been dropped, but that didn’t matter. For once in Australia, we could just dance like crazy and enjoy the ride, thanks to an extremely talented DJ. The Innovator was in Melbourne and he blew the roof off. If it wasn’t for the early closing time, he would have just kept on playing. 5 hours in and if we’re honest, he was just getting warmed up.