Conveniently punctuating the party calendar between Miami Music Week and the start of the European festival season; the first weekend in April means only one thing: Time Warp. For that weekend, Mannheim – an otherwise sleepy industrial town equidistant between Frankfurt & Stuttgart – becomes a Mecca of techno. Since 1994 Time Warp – the brainchild of Steffen Charles & Michael Hock – has be throwing gargantuan-sized events inviting a who’s who of techno elites. It many respects it’s the curtain-raiser to the summer. For us, yearly attendance has become ritual. Over time our tales of Time Warp past have recruited more followers to the cause. With Spring bringing warmer fronts, it was time for another forage into international partying. This time, we brought a whole load of mates with us!
Unsurprisingly the festivities begin at The Red Lion in Gatwick’s North Terminal early on Friday morning. We’re rolling some 20/30 deep (though nobody’s done an official headcount). And that’s before we hook-up with more familiar faces once arriving in Germany. A right motley crew has been assembled: a rogue’s gallery of techno tourists. There’s couples, singletons, several club DJs, a few bedroom DJs, sessionheads, low-level drug pushers, and this journo. There’s even a guy who had his tag taken-off the day before. A right mixed bag of party animals, united solely through their love of dancing. What could possible go wrong?
The beers are in. Full English breakfast is on the cards. For some, it’ll be the last thing they eat for the next 72-hours. There’s mild panic when the information board briefly displays the wrong gate number. If anything, the jog from one end of the terminal to the other puts us in good stead for events to come. We make it to the gate in plenty of time. No sweat. There’s more faffing though, because a few of us have neglected to adhere to the carry-on limit. There’s always a few…
Somewhat refreshingly, the flight-out passes without incident. We touch down in Stuttgart with time to burn. Mannheim itself is still 2-trains and 1.5hours away. So we locate a nearby roof terrace and sample the local beer whilst the sun laps down. Chat meanders from tales of raves gone-by to speculation of what’s to come. “The build”. The thrill of the chase. Call it what you will, I love it!
It becomes apparent that we’re overstaying our welcome, as large groups of rowdy Brits abroad often do. We take the hint and continue onward. Cue the first sketchy incident of the trip – and we’ve barely even started! Upon exiting the station toilet, I am accosted by 2 gentlemen in plain clothes. They soon reveal themselves to be police and I am escorted into a side-room and interrogated. My hand luggage is searched. Motives for my visit questioned. As well as my sobriety. After a tense few minutes, my broken German, mild manner and cool head sees me let go. Seems our enthusiasm is drawing attention to ourselves.
It’s a blip. (And a story for the locker!) Soon forgotten and we’re on our way to Mannheim. Base-camp is the Wyndham hotel located in the Turkish district of the town. It would seem we comprise a large % of the guests, though we’re far the only ones. Techno enthusiasts from all corners of Europe and beyond have migrated to Mannheim for the occasion. It’s a cosmopolitan affair.
Conveniently, the town is layed-out in American-style alphanumerical blocks, which makes navigation easy and getting lost difficult. He says… We’ve still got 24-hours until proceedings officially start. There’s talk of hitting the pre-party. Several others have already kicked things off in the privacy of their room. Cooler heads prevail for now. A hearty meal followed by a night-cap at the downstairs bar is on the agenda. This is Time Warp. Peaking too early just isn’t an option.
We wake late the next morning after a solid night’s sleep. Thankfully, the sun is still showing his face. It’s a positive omen. At breakfast a few dirty stop-outs creep in from the Liebing-led pre-party. He smashed it, we’re told (when doesn’t he?) Still, no regrets from us. We are fresh for the main event. The day is spent gearing-up for nightfall. It’s feverpitch – the anticipation is tangible. Drinks flow throughout the afternoon and into evening. By 2100 we are eager to leave, sufficiently pre-loaded with alcohol. A call to the front desk, and we request half-a-dozen taxis to ferry us some 20-mins down the road to Maimarkthalle.
The venue itself is a raver’s dream. Its 20,000 capacity across six floors of music – several of which are aircraft-carrier warehouses – gives you some kind of impression of the scale we are talking. In the early years, the party was nomadic in nature. It travelled from city-to-city, one-year to the next, without so-much as even a permanent date in the calendar. But, having used Maimarkthalle in the very beginning, by 2000 the organisers had settled on a lasting home. Despite the numerous Time Warp parties which now operate around the globe, we honestly could not imagine it being held anywhere else.
It’s 2300. The queue at the door is expansive, but appears to move quickly enough. That unmistakable mumour fills the air – it’s an international zeitgeber which transcends accent and dialect. Excitement! Anticipation is peaking. We edge forward. Step-by-step. We tip-toe to the front and get beckoned forward by the steward. It’s a brief pat-down, then we’re inside! For now, more queuing. Drink tokens and locker are our first priority. Desperate to meet up with the rest of the group, we put our head down and wait patiently. These are just mandatory steps on the path to wonderland. A process which must be followed from start to end. It’s midnight by the time we enter the first music arena.
As a veteran of 2 previous Maimarkthalle Time Warps, the euphoria of walking into the furnace of Rooms 1+2 is unrivalled. It’s a buzz I had forgotten. A buzz which comes flooding back. The point where expectation and experience affirm. We gawp. For techno fans, this is like walking into Aladdin’s cave. The sound pumps through our bodies and takes a hold. The vastness of the room alone is daunting in itself. And the production? Wow. In Room 1, forks of fluorescent blue and purple lightning bolts criss-cross the LED ceiling. In Room 2, ominous dark orbs hang. Not forgetting the many high-grade lasers which have been installed across the complex.
We waltz up to the rest of our party as if we had planned to meet there-and-then. It’s just another piece of the cosmic jigsaw which dovetails perfectly. When it all falls into place so perfectly you know it was just meant to be. Choreographed beams of light rain down from the ceiling in symmetry. Their illumination in the vast darkness is like dozens of UFOs overhead. Rødhåd is on, and delivering a storming set. It’s the baptism of fire we were yearning. Fists are pumping left, right and centre! The adventure begins. 19-hours lost inside Maimarkthalle.
We make a rookie mistake returning to our locker right before Coxy is due on. By the time we get back to Room 1 the queue has mutated into a mob security seem unable to control. The bottleneck is at the single-file entrance. It will be a reoccurring problem across the course of the next 12-hours. Sadly, one we recall all too well from previous visits. The situation at the toilets isn’t much better. This is only for the brave!
Frustrations are vented. People get bargy. And shouty. We overhear an English voice nearby lament that he is missing Dubfire. More waiting. More pushing. Our Dubfire fan’s friends suggest bailing and checking-out elsewhere. But he remains resolute, opting to hold-tough and persevere. It’s the kind of dedication we like to see. All of a sudden – just like that – we’re back in! Just in time for the big man!
Cox’s escapades and exposure over the past 12-months have only added to his universal appeal. Despite heavyweight offerings meters away in the 5 other arenas, it is here in Room 2 between 0100-0400 when we are most squeezed for space. It’s the most boisterous of all the arenas. Like putty his hands, the crowd are easily whipped into killfrenzy. They are happy to go with whatever Cox throws at them! One epic build – hands go up, but Coxy is teasing us! Then a devastating drop; the lights flashing epileptic!
We re-group in Floor 3. All a little jaded now, but thankful having being reunited. It’s here we are greeted by the surprise package of the night: Luciano is bangin’ it out! The energy which was found wanting in other arenas is here in abundance. It’s high octane stuff. The crowd eat it up! Perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Such is the occasion that DJs often up the ante and bring their A-game. We hadn’t planned on being here quite so early. But at Time Warp, you have to be prepared for changes to your itinerary. So for now we stay and savour the moment.
We make the pilgrimage en masse to Floor 5 for Garnier. His early morning sunrise sets in the domed room are deeply etched in Time Warp’s legacy. And yet it so nearly didn’t happen this year. When the line-up dropped in February, the veteran Frenchman was conspicuous by his absence. It took until as late as 9th March for Garnier to reveal that there had been a change to his touring schedule and he could play. Hallejulah! Seems prayers are answered afterall.
On the way we flit through Room 4, momentarily double-taking. Seth is playing a remix of Damian Davey’s ‘Time Warp’. It’s just sooo Seth. Camera phones are out as the room enjoys sing-a-long together. It’s a bizarre moment. Yet we’re letting ourselves get distracted. Time is against us, so we round-up the stragglers. Garnier & Room 5 are calling…
We get in just before 6am. It’s dawn. Over the next hour sunlight gradually seeps through the skylight. It has an air of celestialism about it. By 7am daylight has unmistakably broken. Rays beam in. We’ve reached a landmark in proceedings. Garnier masterfully dictates the pace of the floor. He owns this room. It just wouldn’t have been the same without him!
Later we find ourselves congregated in Room 4. It’s the time of day when the weird and wonderful characters come into their own. The freaks are out to play! No doubt many taking advantage of the early morning ticket option. Tale Of Us are getting the most out of a sound-system which has frankly been subpar all night. A real let-down, considering some of our favourite memories have taken place in this arena down the years. TOU are masters at setting the tone. Time-and-time again they display the ability to balance haunting melancholia & euphoria. Patrice Bäumel’s ‘Glutes’ – forthcoming on Carmine & Matteo’s own Afterlife imprint – is one-such track which nails the mood.
It is now the first signs of wear-and-tear begin to show. Emotions are brought to the surface. D&Ms are propping up all over the shop. The most animated are chewing the ears off randomers they’ve befriended a few minutes earlier. A few are still getting lost in the music. It’s a weird vibe. We’re exhausted. Yet restless. And dangerously close to flagging! There’s talk amongst some that they might call it a day. It’s decision time. Leadership is required.
We agree on a tactical pit-stop in the adjacent chill-out area. Here, bodies litter the floor. It’s like a giant slumber party. Joints are passed casually around. The level of shit-chat might well be unprecedented. But it’s all part and parcel. For some, the downtime has been exactly what the doctor ordered. For others, stagnation begins to take hold and keeping the momentum going is the only option long-term. Legs rested, mouths watered; we head back into cauldron.
We flirt once more with Room 2. Nina is on. True to recent form, she delves into trance-territory. It’s Da Hool’s ‘Love Parade’ which she brings out the locker. And it’s fair to say it brings the roof down. It’s one of those moments. One which’ll forever be associated with Time Warp 2017. You just can’t beat them. Like an aural shot of adrenaline, our energy levels spike. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And we just got passed the wall. The next obstacle awaits. It’s headache time as the schedule presents set-clashes galore. It’s time for the group to splinter again.
We settle on Adam Beyer – who else? He’s the one we keep coming back to. And for good reason. It’s the pick-me-up which was needed and we catch our second wind, the Drumcode boss clearly rising to the occasion. It’s a blistering set – our stand-out of the day – the highlight being Adam belting out Dense & Pika’s ‘Wild Rage’ Remix. At the front the CO2 canon erupts, engulfing the dancefloor. The backdraft cools us at the rear, skin tingling. Beyer is rightfully applauded off. But there’s no let-up, as Capriati is next to the parapet.
There is visibly a strong Italian contingent present for the Napoli native. On this evidence, it seems clearer than ever that Capriati has ascended into the upper echelons of the major league. His followers’ god-like worship of him is testament to that. We weave through the crowd in a bid to bump into a familiar face but come-up short. So we find a spot at the back of the room with good views and watch in awe as Capriati unleashes his techno offensive. It’s a joy. A sea of revellers captivated by the chorus of the ringmaster. As proceedings in Room 1 are brought to a close, we break cardinal sin by sitting down. Ultimately, this is our undoing.
The group chat has gone dead. It could mean we’re the last 2 people standing. More likely, it means phone batteries have given up the ghost. We’re out of drink tokens. Our Euros are running low. Serotonin levels are depleted. With a heavy heart, we make the joint decision to cut our losses and head for the exit. We made it through ‘til midday – a good innings all things considered. Thankfully a steady stream of taxis awaits. Time Warp you never disappoint! It’s been emotional. As the name infers, time has been warped – our sense is distorted. We’ve lost hours. Or have hours lost us?
As our taxi pulls away we’re in two-minds as to whether we made the right call? FOMO sets in. We imagine Carola going hell for leather in Room 3. Or Hawtin – who we earlier caught a brief glimpse of – on song in Room 2. But we’re beating ourselves up unnecessarily. There’s still antics to be had back at the hotel. Back home in the UK Carola is in town for the next three Fridays. And there’s always next year. So where next for this techno tourist? With our last remaining battery we check our diary. June and Awakenings seems like as good as party as any for our next overseas adventure. It’s time to rally the troops once more.