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LIVE REPORT: Despacio
Ian Wade , March 12th, 2014 13:01

Ian Wade heads to the Roundhouse to catch Despacio, and is blown away as they find his sweet spot

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It's quite difficult to get across how amazing Despacio really is. That something as simple as 'some blokes playing loads of great records through a colossal soundsystem' can be as joyous and life affirming as it is, it's almost as though words are meaningless.

The key thing with Despacio is that it's a soundsystem of seven 3.5-metre-tall McIntosh speaker stacks, with a 50,000 watt brain-dissolving capacity. The other main point is that it was created by James Murphy and 2 Many DJs (David and Stephen Dewaele) along with audio engineer John Klett. Anything past that gets into superlatives, semi-ecclesiastical ranting and rambling.

The story was that keen audiophiles James and the Dawaeles wanted to build a system where they could play whatever they wanted, and if anybody else liked it, it was a bonus. They'd originally debuted it at Manchester International Festival last Summer, and threw a three night stand at Hammersmith Town Hall before Christmas. The system has not left the UK since - something about it being several tonnes and a bit cumbersome - and so moved across town for a couple of nights at the Roundhouse, before it heads off elsewhere - the next time you can witness it in Europe is at Sonar in June.

Together they've constructed a DJ box of some 1000 pieces of vinyl to play on it, pressing up some of their own edits and doofing up some old favourites. Through the set-up, the music sounds somewhat better, or more real, to flow into a six hour set. Sounds familiar? Well it probably does to anyone who has ever been a bit Balaeric, mooched around a terrace or attended a loft party back in yore, but nowadays, this experience can be a very rare and costly venture. By choosing to sell only a certain amount of tickets rather than pack the Roundhouse out, the vibe is friendly, and people can lose their shit happily without crushing someone else's rave mellow. 

Re-pitching, or just playing tracks at the wrong speed, is a thing too. Fragments of tunes you vaguely recognise (Felix Da Housecat's 'Silver Screen', Dennis Parker's 'Like An Eagle',  etc) - Shazam is fucking hopeless in this environment - mixed in with air-punching winners (Grace Jones' 'Pull Up To The Bumper', Fun Boy Three's 'Our Lips Are Sealed', Hawkwind's 'Silver Machine', Sylvester's 'Mighty Real' etc), making for six solid hours of cosmic disco enlightenment for a crowd made up of on-point scenesters and, well I suspect several babysitters have made a good fortune tonight, as people have travelled from far and wide - Boston, Spain, Croydon - just for this.

Everyone seems to be having the time of their lives, even if at one point, one finds themselves dancing to Queen's 'Another One Bites The Dust'. It's as if the stacks loom ominously over us all, hemming us into a ring of boogie, while Murphy and the Dawaeles operate almost anonymously over on one side. You catch glimpses of them as camera phone flashes illuminate their record playing.

Having found the 'sweet spot' (ie: the dead centre of the room) so as to get the full impact, there's every likelihood that if it were to get any louder, people's insides would collapse and heads would explode, (which puts My Bloody Valentine's jolly 'holocaust' ordeal into perspective), and yet the idea of dying while dancing to Talking Heads' 'Once In A Lifetime', George Harrison's 'Here Comes The Sun' or the Soulwax mix of Metronomy's 'Love Letters' seems, well, quite alright really.

Despacio then. It is indeed happiness. A big amazing monster of a thing designed to excite and delight. If you ever get the chance to witness it for yourself, then do so.

moggieboy
Mar 12, 2014 7:33pm

Glasgow Barrowlands surely in with a shout, especially given the name and all that...?

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Tim
Mar 12, 2014 11:20pm

I went on the Saturday. It was great fun but I have to disagree - the "sweet spot" in the centre was far weaker than the sound around the edges (which was amazing). In terms of volume it was absolutely nothing compared to MBV at the apollo last year as well, but the clarity and punch of the sound was very impressive. Mercifully I didn't hear Queen, my highlight was probably Walking on Thin Ice which sounded soooo good through those speakers... It was a funny night in that when we arrived around ten it felt like a pretty flat corporate gig but by midnight it was incredible.

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Gully
Mar 14, 2014 10:28am

A school disco on big sound with jet set hipsters. Or did I read it wrong?

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