The Warp Lighthouse Party
@ Trinity Buoy Wharf, Docklands, London
14th October 2000
In the shadow of the Dome, the expensive wart on New Labour's arse, lies Trinity Buoy Wharf. In years gone by, the lighthouse warned approaching ships to steer clear of the rocks. In the year 2000, it served as a beacon to attract some of the leading lights of the world's electronic music scene to an all-night party. What all the acts had in common is their affiliation to Warp records, the pioneering electronic music label that started, lest we forget, in Sheffield in the late 80s.
Despite some problems queuing up to get in, the night started off well with a rare live performance from the new heroes of the Warp roster, the enigmatic "Boards of Canada". Leaving their beloved countryside behind for the night, they set about plying their distinctive brand of child-like psychedelia, and showcasing some of the new material from their forthcoming EP (out in November) and second album (due out early next year). To a truly mesmerising slide show, they dished out their magic to an expectant crowd and left as suddenly as they had arrived.
While the other room was hosting Djs such as Andrea Parker, Chris Cunningham and the Skam crew, back in the main room the old-timers Plaid were whipping up a storm with their crafted slabs of electronica. Impossible to pin down, they delivered a set varying from breakbeat experimentation to full-on techno business. Barely pausing to look up from the lap-top screens, they must have had nearby Canary Wharf shaking with the booming bass and the jumping dancefloor as time and time again, they slowly built the tracks up until the energy of the crowd lifted them to a different place.
Next up were Autechre, the Manc duo specialising in abstract electronics. They set about weaving their future-phunk web with swathes of grinding beats and chattering synths. Perhaps their agenda was to get the heads nodding rather than the feet moving and in contrast to the rapturous reception which Plaid elicited, their set seemed a little too head-bound. Only occasionally did the pieces fall into place and the whole become more than the sum of its parts. But they know too much to be worried by quiet dancefloors. And the Warp kids know there's more to electronic music than 4:4 dance exercises.
As if this wasn't enough, there was a host of other names appearing in the two rooms and even a few celebrities amongst the punters- cue Bjork turning up in a turquoise mac. She seemed to be particularly keen to catch an Aphex Twin DJ set which pulled no punches- he rolled out some of the hardest toughest techno you will ever hear. There was also the Samuri mathmetician and Rephlex recording artist Bodgan Raczynski's eccentric playground techno. I could have sworn I saw Peter "Keepin' it real" Mandelson getting on down at the back. Mmm, maybe it was a trick of the light...
A press release from Warp records has apologised profusely for the many problems on the night, particularly the queuing, the overcrowding and some heavy-handed security. It sounds like nearly everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. But the show went on. And I'm glad it did. Because it proved that, even in the shadow of The Millennium Dome, Britain's official site of cultural excellence, the underground is alive and well.