Techno around the world means a lot of different things. It’s also experienced in many, many different ways. In Europe, techno is no longer underground. Some people would even say it’s mainstream. Festivals like Dekmantel and Awakenings in the Netherlands (the latter drawing upwards of 100,000 people), Time Warp in Germany and Sonus in Croatia are a testament to that, which are amongst the largest techno events in the world. Because of their extremely high production value and mind-bending immersive visual experiences, they can book whomever they want: from Berghain residents to scene celebrities. And they draw crowds from both worlds, together on one dance floor (because music!). Of course, you also have entire cities that pride themselves on cultivating a world-class techno scene from the bathrooms of its dingy clubs, but the point is, you have it all. But in Taipei, the last frontier, techno has kept itself underground (its two dedicated techno clubs B1 and Pawnshop are literally underground), which is a good thing but parts of its scene can be a little bit…pretentious. There, we said it.
While the rest of the world has been working hard at refining its musical taste since the EDM explosion and techno is beginning to open up to the masses, even across Asia where just before the pandemic was experiencing its own underground awakening in the eyes of the world, Taiwan continues to live in the shadow of Berlin with no hope of ever seeing an Awakenings-style event.
Seemingly frustrated with the inaccessibility and misunderstanding surrounding techno culture in Taipei, theLOOP set out to change public opinion. But before we venture there, it’s important to understand that its centrifrugal club OMNI is predominantly an EDM club — which probably raised a lot of eyebrows (but it’s good to get people talking). Before that, it was LUXY for around a decade and combined the two clubs have thrown every party known to mankind in that time with all the best DJs in the world in all the different genres...except techno.
The thing that OMNI does best is overwhelm patrons with the wow factor. There are hundreds of lasers shooting in every direction, a screen that wraps around half the club that literally bends your mind, and, most importantly, a sound system by VOID Acoustics that rattles your bones — all the makings for the flawless execution of a high-production EDM event that would impress the Martin Garrix’s of the world. But who says high-production is reserved for only EDM events? Taiwan does, and OMNI looked to change that last Sunday through its debut basika event, which drew 1,300 people to the club for the first high-production techno event geared for a wider audience in Taiwan.
Using all of those same elements that normally charge a regular Saturday night at OMNI, but applying a less is more approach, and of course, booking a line-up of seemingly underrepresented techno talents from around Taiwan, OMNI pulled off an event that a couple of people likened to the kind of parties you experience during peak season in Europe. The lasers were set to minimalist precision, the screen only illuminated the DJs, and most importantly, techno thumped through the floor just right. Even the tables had a good time. We had to wonder how the concept would fare with a crowd that is usually turned off by clubs that offer table service, but it looked like all but a few tables were booked out and people generally enjoyed having their own space to dance. Now that we think about it, at our age, we’re rethinking our own aversion to tables...it’s nice to sit down sometimes!
In the weeks leading up to the event, the club delivered a highly curated yet extremely minimal marketing plan (yes, we realize this is an oxymoron) that focused on engaging an audience into thinking about what techno really means. There were no bells, no whistles, just thought-provoking questions and statements designed to evoke a new thinking pattern towards the culture.
One post read: “There’s a saying, Music is what FEELING and EMOTION actually sounds like. In its simplest and purest forms, stripped of all the unnecessary and current pretentiousness. Back to the basics, it is just about You, the Artist and the Music. A spiritual connection that doesn't speak in words. This is the goal. This is basika.”
Did they achieve this goal? Maybe. But cultivating a new culture doesn’t happen overnight; this was a good start, however. If you trace the history of techno in Taiwan, you’ll find one group at the helm, one that created an elite and internationally lauded scene (amongst the elitists anyway), but not one that is accessible to all and not one that will ever grow by numbers. But a healthy scene is a diverse scene, and accessibility is a good thing. With techno tourism coming up in Asia, it would be great to see Taiwan become an integral stop on the circuit. It would be great to see some techno titans regularly play in Taiwan, artists like Pan-Pot, Sven Väth, Carl Cox and Richie Hawtin (whose sake made an appearance at the event via a tasting sponsored by the club), and brands like basika make this a real-world possibility.
Overall, basika proved that all underground events don’t need toilets spilling onto the floor or broken air conditioning to be cool. Techno can be enjoyed by the masses five floors above the ground, and it can be enjoyed from a table, too.