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I Love Techno 2002

12 hours of 100% techno at the Flanders Expo Centre, Gent, Belgium
Saturday 9 November 2002

21 Nov 2002

It was with a touch of trepidation that we accepted the invitation to attend this year's I Love Techno festival in Gent, Belgium - not just because we're getting soft in our old age, but because I remember the sorry state I was left in the last time I went two years ago. But if anyone was going to entice us across the channel from cold, miserable London to colder, even more miserable Belgium it was the fine people at Intec Records, who offered the kind, warm, comforting hand of hospitality - an offer we couldn't refuse.

I Love Techno is not for the faint-hearted. It necessitates a trip to grim old Belgium, to then be faced with six rooms of banging techno and 47,000 baying technoheads - but if you're a fan of the genre you won't find finer. With names like Adam Beyer, Timo Maas, C1, Carl Cox and Sven Vath headlining, you know your ears are going to be for a (admittedly somewhat punishing) treat...

Most events take a while to warm up - being late is after all fashionable, so I'm told - but not here. From the time the doors of the Flanders Expo Centre opened at 7pm, the crowd flooded the rooms to near-capacity and stayed that way til the final tune 12 hours later, many of the rooms so full at times they were closed off by security.

We ventured down at 9pm - too late, unfortunately, to catch Tomaz (one of the brilliant minds behind Tomaz and Filterheadz' techno stormer 'Sunshine') but just in time to see Oxia kick off. Now foxy young Frenchman Oxia's work is a bit of a favourite round at ours, so we'd been looking forward to seeing what the wee chap who belts out such massive driving techno in the studio could do behind the decks. Exactly that, really - belt out massive driving techno, in my favourite set of the night. Admittedly he did have the advantage of one of the best slots of the event - playing the set before Carl Cox to a crowd so up-for-it they would have danced to the Speaking Clock - but sheesh, did he rise to the occasion.

Next up was Mr Cox, who played a blinder. Now in my opinion Coxy can be a bit dull on occasions, but here he really pulled it out of the bag. With allegedly 47,000 people in attendance it looked as if half of them were crammed into this one room, as Carl whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his trademark showmanship and some right banging tunes, fully deserving his superstar DJ ranking.

By this stage we realised we'd spent more than four hours in the Yellow Room, so decided to go walkabout , and good things were going on. In the Green Room, Underworld, with a spritely Karl Hyde (well, he is 45) leaping about the way only he can, gave the traditionalists what they came for, with old classics like 'Born Slippy' and 'Rez/Cowgirl', as well as a few tracks from their new album 'A Hundred Days Off'. Shame about all the blokes pissing against the back walls though - too much lager-lager-lager presumably.

Marco Carola over in Cocoon's Blue Room looked like a nice alternative, and indeed he was - he's one of the funkiest DJs on the planet and one who never disappoints. (Londoners should check his night System on Thursdays.) A quick nosey at Golden Boy in the Switch Area and Anthony Pappa in the Orange Room and it was back to check the end of Bryan Zentz's set. Wicked to hear some of Bryan's hits-in-waiting off his forthcoming album, like the mighty 'D-Clash', played live.

Half an hour of Trevor Rockliffe's set (brilliant, incidentally, and particularly enjoyed by four fully outfitted Teletubbies at the front of the room - odd, that) and the wanderlust overtook us again. It was now that we discovered one of the biggest finds of the night over in the Switch Area - crazed electro scientist Dr Lektroluv. Making a refreshing change to techno-blasted ears, the good Doctor also offered a (bizarre) change to the eyes, having donned a green Frankenstein-esque mask and cueing through a large white telephone in place of headphones. Possibly. Well, it was getting rather late in proceedings by this stage after all...

Back in Intec's Yellow Room, label boss C1 put the finishing touches on the night with his closing set. The crowd may have been getting a tad weary on it after 12 hours giving it up, but they put in a valiant last-ditch effort, and as C1, one of those responsible for putting funky techno firmly on the map, belted out 'Sunshine' one last time and closed with Orbital's 'Chimes', it was almost as if it was the start of the night again. Except your ears ached, your breath smelt funny - and did you really smoke all those three packets of fags?

Unless you're a EU diplomat or a mad mussels 'n' beer fan, probably there's not much to head to Belgium for. Unless you love techno. In which case there is. Top work.

Jen Ferguson