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There was worshiping of a different kind when DJ Hell stormed through St Paul’s Cathedral

There’s a couple of cardinal rules when it comes to music journalism, specifically when reviewing gigs: never talk about the weather and never talk about the venue. But Mama always told me I was a rule breaker. 

So after raining cats and dogs like an ominous sign from the big man upstairs, the streets surrounding St Paul’s Cathedral were flooded. Noah was still building his ark in a vacant lot near Frankston and the techno aficionados of Melbourne were slowly wading through the city rivers, intent on making their pilgrimage to a building that presumably few had ever set foot inside.

The Bavarian techno maestro arrived at the pulpit at the stroke of midnight, befitting of a man who looked just as likely to begin a satanic ritual as he was to send a bassline through your left ventricle. And when your septum is vibrating from the reverb of the bass in the first track, you know it’s going to be a good night.

The church-goers were an eclectic mix of old Melbourne shufflers, to scenesters Instagramming every moment for likes, to people who had convinced themselves they enjoy techno until the third song dropped. For this was not a set for the uninitiated and DJ Hell had not flown all the way from Germany to put socks on caterpillars.

His set was relentless. Changing the tempo at will, he built a meticulous rollercoaster of swells, peaks and troughs, at times pushing the limits of what the stained-glass windows of Mary and Joseph could endure. But like the best of the best do, DJ Hell always knew when to dial it back. A man that back in the ‘80s was one of the first to start dropping disco, punk and new wave into techno sets; he intuitively knew that the hardest drops only work if preceded by a melody. So angelic female vocals arrived like moments of silence in a cacophony, but it was clear our master of proceedings was only ever letting us catch our breath before putting his foot back on the accelerator.

The words ‘Fucking Techno’ adorned his shirt in a sly dig at the recent upswing in mainstream popularity for his creed. And you can’t blame him. He remembers the golden years as The Wall was falling in Berlin and his compatriots reclaimed the streets and the warehouses for themselves; beginning a decade of 24/7 raves in abandoned power stations like Berghain and airports like Templehof. And yet next year he will curate the opening of The Modern Electronic Museum in Frankfurt. A lot has changed. Fucking Techno.

Thankfully the man isn’t limited by his genre. Over the three hours he travelled from Berlin to Detroit and back again, with a heavy warehouse-techno frame-work providing him with a base to touch upon the occasional gigolo sounding French arpeggiators and some early tech-trance. Obviously aware of his spot on Melbourne Music Week’s lineup, he made sure there was something for everyone. After all, a church should bring people together.

The name of DJ Hell’s ‘94 debut album was Geteert & Gefedert, which roughly translates to Tarred and Feathered and that’s a pretty good description of how the crowd looked at the end of his masterclass. Some would have the energy to pay their respects to DJ Kiti’s closing set, but the majority had been beaten into submission by a man who looked as though he relished every minute of it. Hell had finally consumed the Church and frankly, if the apocalypse sounds this good, tomorrow’s as good a day as any.

 

Highlight: The mad geezer giving it heaps while dressed as a priest. Was he a priest?

Lowlight: Was a six hour set too much to ask?

Crowd Favourite: Getting munted in a Cathedral. Duh.