Benny & Richie bring the party

Richie Hawtin

Coming Home Music Festival gets the semester bumping like an 808

By Josh Kolm


On Tuesday, the Riverfront Festival Plaza will play host to the biggest electronic performance Windsor has ever seen.

Techno fans and celebrating students alike will crowd in for the Coming Home Music Festival, co-headlined by DJ superstars Benny Benassi and Richie Hawtin and featuring sets by Rivaz, Manzone and Strong and Windsor native Heidi.

“I’ve been coming to Windsor regularly for quite some time now,” Benassi said about visiting the city. Benassi is a regular at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and routinely stops in Windsor during his North American tours.

After nearly three years since his last visit, Benassi returns.

“I really love the atmosphere and love working with the guys who promote my shows there [Windsor] so when this idea came up, I was very happy to accept. I don’t care if a place is the centre of the world or not. I’ll just keep coming back, as long as they want to hear me play.”

Benassi has been the biggest draw in techno since his debut single “Satisfaction” was released in 2002. The Italian DJ has been featured in movies and commercials and won awards from small electronic magazines all the way up to the Grammys.

While Benassi has crossover and mainstream name recognition, Hawtin is one of the most beloved musicians within electronic music circles.

“He has my total, unconditional respect,” Benassi said of Hawtin, who pioneered the minimalist sound of the early 1990s. “He’s a legend.”

Hawtin was raised in Windsor and began DJing in Detroit clubs at the age of 17. He gives Benassi a run for his money in terms of awards, and earlier this year was named the second greatest DJ of all time by MixMag, the largest publication in electronic music. While currently based out of Berlin and performing mainly in Europe’s techno scene, he regularly tours the world and has performed at DEMF numerous times.

I want to give people a great time but I also have a certain artistic slant that I want to bring to those people. – Richie Hawtin

“It’s always wonderful and challenging at the same time,” Hawtin said of returning home to perform. “I have such a long connection to the people there, there’s so many expectations and sometimes I feel a little bit pulled in terms of which way to go. Once I get over that, it’s always really wonderful. But the first five minutes are always nerveracking.”

Hawtin is famous for his performances under the Plastikman moniker, which feature intricate lighting, visuals and choreography.
“The Plastikman set needs about six months of planning for each show and 12 people on my team to get ready to go,” Hawtin said.

“We’re really coming to Windsor to have a fun time and have a celebration. Being able to do a party down by the river is really

With more than 5,000 people already confirmed to attend online, nearly 10,000 are expected to show up on the day of the show.

What makes this particular concert unique and potentially stressful for the artists is whether the crowd will to the allure of a $5 ticket to see some of electronic music’s heaviest hitters, or students showing up for a massive, free party.

I really love the atmosphere [in Windsor] … I don’t care if a place is the centre of the world or not. I’ll just keep coming back, as long as they want to hear me play.– Benny Benassi

“You never quite know what that crowd or that atmosphere is going to be like,” said Hawtin, who is known for minimal techno style that not be appreciated by partygoers looking for a rave.

“I’ll probably do a little bit more prep just because I really don’t know what to expect with a college and university crowd. There’s going to be people out there who love electronic music and some of them who will know me, and there will be some people who are just down there for the party. I want to give people a great time but I also have a certain artistic slant that I want to bring to those people.”

Benassi has a different approach to the riverfront performance. “I never really prepare my sets down to the last detail. I think that’s too calculating. I need to feed off the crowd. So I have all the tracks I’m feeling in this period of time and I’ll be interacting with the vibe.”

Electronic music has seen increasing mainstream exposure over the last decade, which is due in part to “Satisfaction.” Since he has lived and performed in cities around the world, Hawtin is in a perfect position to compare the genre’s success here to places where it has been accepted for decades.

“What we’re seeing right now is a huge explosion and building of the momentum of electronic music in North America,” Hawtin said.

“We’ve had moments where it has been accepted and it has been quite popular, but it’s kind of waxed and waned over the years. I do think the momentum that it’s building up now will stay and [techno] will finally become a little bit more commonplace and accepted than has been over the last 25 years.”

The Coming Home Music Festival, sponsored by the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance and the St. Clair College Student Representative Council, takes place on Tuesday, Sep. 6 at the Riverfront Festival Plaza at 4 p.m. The concert features Benassi, Hawtin, Rivaz, Manzone and Strong and Heidi. Tickets are $5 for the public and free for students with a valid student I.D.

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