Posts Tagged ‘lcd soundsystem’

Despacio in the Desert

April 22nd, 2016

Me and my camera at Coachella, my U.S festival,  my Despacio in the desert


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Despaciolimbo anyone?

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one devoted fan was so enraptured she made her own despacio badges and handed them out on the final day.

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I just got back from Despacio at Coachella Pt 1 . I am still reeling. Before this one there have only been 7 other Despacios – Manchester Int Festival, Hammersmith Town Hall, The Roundhouse x 2, Glastonbury, Sonar, Electric Picnic and now Coachella. It is going to be rolling out again this weekend for Part 2 of the festival and I am already gutted I am not going to be there. Out of the ones listed above I have been to them all bar one (Electric Picnic) and despite personally clocking up over a hundred hours on the Despacio dance floor (maybe more than anyone else on the planet) there is no drop off. Its impact has not diminished on me. I still cannot get enough. My love has not faded, it js still continuing to grow. I am basically now addicted to this ultimate dance experience and everything it delivers. When I am on the floor there is nowhere else I want to be. When I am somewhere else all I want to do is be back on the floor. Not only is it as good as it has ever been but it is actually getting better.

This was the first time it had come to America and for the young Californian crowd at Coachella, the largely mp3 generation who have been raised in a world of compressed music were literally jaw-dropped walking into the Despacio tent. It is impossible not to be. Despacio is there to show you how it can be, how it should be. It makes you feel that you are being hugged & caressed by the music rather than being repeatedly hit over the head. I watched their faces light up. It was clear from their reaction they had not even come close to hearing music sound this good before. And how could they? There is nothing on earth quite like it.  Most stumbled upon it by accident which made its discovery all the more incredible for those that found it.

It was tucked away in a corner of the festival with no great signage so it was often only the adventurous & the inquisitive that were rewarded. I was standing next to this guy beaming from ear to ear at the end of day 2 and he turned to me and simply said “tell no-one!” It was so good he didn’t even want to share it with the hoards on site. But as everyone started to talk about it, it quickly became known as the best kept secret of the festival. By the Sunday, I am in the queue going through security to get into the festival (which is a little on the extreme side to understate it severely) and the people behind and in front of me were talking about Despacio so I knew the word was out.

The gloriousness & uniqueness of Despacio is that you don’t really care who else is there. It is joyful to look up as you are dancing your socks off and see the same level of exhilaration in the eyes of those you are surrounded by & you intrinsically know you feel identical without even exchanging a single word but even if you were there on your own it would still be off the chart incredible. You are at one with the music being played, you get lost in the groove, in your own moves & come to the zen like realisation, everything about it is better than you have ever witnessed. The sound, the lights, the music, the crowd, the vibe, you…everything is superior by comparison to what you have already been to. This is as good as it gets.

What Despacio makes you want to do more than anything is bust some serious moves.  You are not just dancing. You are rocking out with everything you’ve got. Maybe because the sound is so much fuller, cleaner, stronger, more complete you feel it better, better than you ever have felt it before and as a result you are a better dancer than you ever have been before. You pull off moves with confidence. You bullseye the beat. You surf the rhythm. You tiptoe along the tempo. You’re John Travolta, Jacko & Gene Kelly all rolled into one. But you look up and everyone else is doing the same. And you are dancing together in circles. Strangers together busting full on moves and loving each other for it. When does that ever happen?

A lot of the people coming into it at Coachella might have only previously  known the dancing experience that is the EDM face the front in rows dj worship bullshit but Despacio shows there is another way. A better way. It shows you can dance with each other and connect completely. How can you do that when you are always staring at someone’s back? It shows you that crescendo is nothing without the build up. You are taken on a journey, an undulating wave that guides you, lifts you and then lays you gently down before scooping you up again and firing you off into the stratosphere. Despacio is the dance antidote to the techno foot shuffle. You cannot just foot tap & head nod your way through it, it has control of your limbs, it will do what it wishes with you.

I keep using ‘it’ as if it is the machine doing all this and maybe that is because you are surrounded by these 7 speaker stacks and that is all you can see. But it is the ‘they’ behind the ‘it’ that are making you feel this way. Tucked away from sight are the 3 people driving this overwhelmingly positive feeling: James Murphy (LCD) and Stephen and David Dewaele (2manydjs). They are the creators and curators of this perfect analogue experience. They dj together for over 7 hours each day and every choice they make feels like the right one. It is a seamless stream of killer tune after killer tune. Some tracks you know, songs that you love inside out but which sound better than you have ever and will ever hear them and then there is so much you haven’t heard before but which you love instantly. Epic tracks that land for the first time. It is mind-blowing how good the sets are. Although there are now tunes which are full on Despacio moments that you long for and which detonate like joy grenades (Jungle Boogie, fly like an eagle, plastic dreams to name but a few)  at least 50% is always new. Obscure moments of magnificence delivered one piece of vinyl at at time by the expert hands of the djs who you cannot see but who you feel at all times.

One of the greatest thing about Despacio and possibly the reason why it is not getting boring is that it is always different. It always somehow manages to morph into something else depending on where it is and who is inside it. The largely L.A crowd at Coachella turned it into a full on house party, the best house party in the world..ok, its not in a house, its in a tent but that was the vibe so sue me. They were also the first crowd to ever do a conga in despacio and also the first to have a limbo competition. It makes me people be silly. This is a good thing. If you wanna look cool go elsewhere. This is for anyone who don’t give a shit.

Not everyone that comes through the doors gets it. For some it is too far from familiar, too different to what they know, they don’t have a point of reference and for some that is too much. But I feel, rather than them choosing, it is Despacio who decides who goes and who stays. The machine filters out those who won’t be able to lose themselves in it and keeps the ones who will. It has its own natural selection process and keeps the ones who connect with it will give their all to it. And they stay for the duration.  And then they come back the next day. By day 3 I know a good chunk of the people on the floor and we are start to interact and become friends and dance together. We know we feel the same. We see it in each other’s eyes.

I have made friends on the floor at every Despacio. And at each new one I always run into people from previous events. A guy came up to me at one point who I met at Sonar and we hug like 0ld mates. By day 3 I am hugging people I met on day 1. We are all now together as one.

In some ways it is a little bit pointless talking about Despacio unless you have experienced it first hand. If you were there at the weekend you will know what I am talking about. You have probably been banging on about it to everyone ever since just like me. It is very easy to become a Despacio bore because you want people to know how spectacular it is but until you actually go you will never really know what we are talking about. If you are at Coachella this weekend do whatever you can to get there and drag everyone you know to it, they will definitely not be disappointed. The only downside is that it will make everything seem shit by comparison. You have been warned.

To read my review of the very first Despacio please click here 

To see film from lovebox please click here

Despacio will next be appearing at the Panorama festival in New York July 22-24 – do whatever it takes to get there…I will be.


September 7th, 2013

Despacio is a custom built sound system devised by James Murphy (lcd soundsystem) which he, David and Stephen Dewaele (2manydjs) dj’ed from over the course of three nights in July in the New Century Hall as part of the Manchester International Festival.

What was it like?

It was fucking incredible is what it was. Off the friggin chart. Not like anything I have ever experienced before. In a world of repetition this was categorically something different. I have been to a million clubs and gigs and soundsystems before and nothing even comes close. It is a true evolution of sound. Sound guys are always banging on about perfect sound and what it would take to do it but rather than just being pub chat, someone actually went and did it. Optimum sound. In the flesh. And it was a truly beautiful thing. And it was a thing. For the first time ever I realised that sound was indeed a physical entity. It was like meeting an alien from another planet. I’m an atheist but its the closest thing I have ever had to a religious experience.

First time I walked out onto the floor, before I’d even been able to register the magnitude of what I was hearing, I saw the smiles on people’s faces. They were in awe, raptured, they just looked deliriously happy. I always had this notion that I had only ever heard bad sound but couldn’t prove it. Until now. When I heard the Despacio sound system I knew I’d been right all along.

Weirdly the first thing I noticed was the air around me, it just felt different. It felt clean. Empty. It was because the sound waves were all in sync. Everything flowed in perfect harmony. Normally in clubs you feel like you’re literally being hit by the sound, bombarded from all sides. And no matter how big or powerful the system is there is always distortion. There was none. At all. Total clarity. It was jaw­dropping. Immense power. Total clarity. It was out of this world. The nuts thing was that you could talk normally without raising your voice. It was seriously loud but at a perfect level. I still don’t know how that works. Even when you walked right up to a speaker it was still the same. I was spinning out.

I am a lower rung dj and live in a world of bad sound and to hear this optimum experience made me overwhelmed with emotion and even a little teary. It was like meeting sound for the first time. And thanks to the selections and exquisite mixing from James Murphy and 2manydjs I had the most luscious music wrapping around me like a duvet, enveloping me, making me feel warm and gooey all over. I have always been a massive fan of the glory days of disco from the likes of Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage and had read how he used to spend hours perfecting the sound before he would let anyone in and then finally he would treat the crowd to hours of seamless dance grooves. I always lamented the fact that I would never live to see something like that. But I was wrong. Here I was in that experience but it was so much better. Levan never had tech like this. He’d have killed his gran for this shit.

Despacio means slow…gradual…and as I looked around the crowd were lovin these laid back tunes. Shuffling around in a chilled back bliss. It felt right for these times. Everyone’s a little bit over the doof doof of hard hittin bpm blitzes. This was something way cooler. 2manydjs and James Murphy played spectacular music over the course of the two nights I was there. The friday was a bit more laid back with just a glorious groove throughout the night. On the Saturday, the last night of the festival, they cranked it up some more and started to push this state-­of-­the-­art system, although not to its full capabilities. This baby was capable of a whole lot more but they were restricted to a db of 100. This is possibly because heads would have imploded if it had gone full welly. Most systems are maxed out on the night, pushed to the limit. This monster was in 2nd gear and had a bigger punch than anything I had ever heard. But never even a smidgen of distortion. Total clarity all the way.

There were many people involved in the construction of the Despacio sound system and they were the sound equivalent of a Formula 1 team, working together to create the ultimate fusion of technology and performance with the best drivers in the business. And on the Saturday, having got used to their “drive”, James, David and Stephen put their foot on the floor and delivered a powerhouse set of the highest magnitude.

If you stood dead centre of the floor you felt the bass as if it had got inside you and taken over your central nervous system, filling your veins and arteries where organic tissue once was. You might have felt bass at other clubs but that would be the equivalent of an arse pinch compared to this all-consuming possession. It was insanely intense and completely overpowering. And I didn’t want to leave.

I actually found it very difficult to leave the floor. Why would I? This would be over soon and I would have to return to dull normality. I literally had to be dragged away. The only way I was enticed was by the prospect of meeting the men behind the machine.

I got taken backstage and first met John Klett, the designer that had taken James Murphy’s concepts and transformed them into the reality I had just experienced. It was very clear within moments that this wasn’t just some sound guy. He was clearly a mad brilliant scientist who had taken the idea of optimum sound to its ultimate conclusion.

He explained to me that there were different sound experiences depending on where you were standing on the floor. Go to the centre, walk four tiles and a third forward and you will hit the “front egg”. At that point certain speaker pathways converge creating something unique. I didn’t need encouraging to go back on the floor. I was there in a second. It truly felt different to what I had experienced elsewhere. My body and brain responded with sensory ecstasy.

There was also a “back egg” which I also checked out. It had less of a punch but even more clarity. John Klett then told me there were even “easter egg” sound spots that were hidden around the floor that produced something else entirely but wouldn’t tell me where they were. I mean, who does this shit? It was insane. I mentioned to him about the air feeling different around me and he said I was basically “a bag of water” and went on to explain how the molecular structure of the human anatomy had been taken into account in the design. In a normal club, they just crank it up and make your ears bleed. And now I know why. They had failed to take into account I was a bag of water. Thank God someone had…the results were awesome!

I then was introduced to the guys at Mcintosh who had supplied the stunningly beautiful, phenomenally powerful and mind­bendingly expensive amps that were the engine of the beasts. They had had the clarity and foresight to understand the potential of Despacio when most other companies had passed on it and they were all the happier for it. They had got on board the project with a giant leap of faith fuelled by a total belief in their gear, the concept and the execution. As I chatted to them they were feeling pretty smug about it as they had been proved correct. And some. To say that it exceeded everyone’s expectations was a massive understatement. They were overjoyed that their amps were getting an opportunity to unleash their true potential and deliver the power and perfection they were capable of.

The Mcintosh amps are a thing of beauty to look at as well as to hear, as are the speaker stacks themselves. The entire room was in fact a masterclass in purity and aesthetics. If Kubrick had built a niteclub it might have looked something like this. Just one massive black and white tiled floor surrounded by the Stone Henge of sound systems. And that was it. There was nothing else in the room. No bar, no bullshit. Just a dancefloor and some glorious speaker stacks.

Throughout the night you would often find people just staring at the stacks, marvelling at their structure and components. PBS Audio were the company responsible for building the actual casings for the system and had worked tirelessly over many weeks doing insane hours to get them complete in time. They were a team of young lads who had never done anything like this before but they had seriously stepped up to the challenge. I met them on the dancefloor and they were all stood their with massive grins that only come from people with a true sense of accomplishment and a marvel at what they had been a part of. Chris Walker who had been a driving force in the orchestration of the entire event glided around the floor all night, beaming from ear to ear, knowing that his work had all been worthwhile.

I don’t think there was anyone there, whether they were a part in the construction or a part of the crowd that did not feel touched by the experience. I certainly had and everyone I spoke to had. On many occasions throughout the two nights I was there I had caught the eye of those around me and just gone..what is this thing like? its out of control. Everyone just shook their head in agreement, slightly slack jawed by the enormity of what they were feeling.

The overall vibe of the place was just amazing. Such an incredible positive mood throughout each night. Mancunians are a lovely friendly bunch anyway but the joyous experience had made everyone warm and mushy. This was mostly thanks largely to the incredible array of uplifting soul soaring tunes that James murphy & 2manydjs played over the course of their 3 night run, all on vinyl. As it should be. It was old skool attitude delivered with hi­-end tech – a killer combination.

Even though they were the stars of the show they had made a point of stating that it was not about them, it was all about the music and James Murphy on each night actually made an announcement over the mic asking people to stay away from the booth and not take photos. And just to get out into the middle of the floor, enjoy the music and live in the moment. This was the declaration of the anti-­ego djs. Stop staring, start dancing.

And people did exactly that. For one night they forgot about their facebook pages and their youtube uploads and revelled in this glorious moment. They played Talking Head’s Naive Melody as the last track on the last night and as I gazed at the joy around me I couldn’t remember a moment on earth when I had felt happier.

Thank you to the Manchester International Festival for commissioning this extraordinary event and to everyone involved for giving me and all present an experience they will never forget. And I will implore anyone who is reading this…do whatever you can to get to a Despacio event. Maime and murder if you have to. It will be worth it. You have my word.

I would like to say a special thank you to karey fisher who not only organised the whole thing but is the reason I was there. I am her plus one and it gets me to the coolest things on the planet.