Techno has acquired a reputation somewhere between Eurotrash and Madchester in recent years in the UK, but Ghent's annual I Love Techno festival is proof that neither the music nor the fans are as naff or as addled as either of these connotations unfairly suggest.
Although the Low Countries are known for their esoteric taste in DJs who go by their full names (such as the inscrutable Sander Van Doorn and Wouter de Moor), ILT 2009 had a host of acts that appealed to a less rarefied crowd. Comments from techno purists on an internet forum called for the one-night-only festival to be renamed "I Love Bandwagons" or "I Love Alternative Pop" or even, distressingly, "I Love What Mixmag Tells Me to Love". A little harsh perhaps, but given that ILT has promoted some of the best and most progressive of the genre since 1992, there are those who feel it has taken a turn for the commercial.
With five rooms and a central area, the spectrum of fans had plenty to choose from: a gamut of mainstream remixes from Dizzee Rascal and Sidney Samson, via Crookers' bassline beats, ending with the intimidating Red Room, featuring Dave Clarke and Carl Craig.
It wasn't the apocalyptic or glassy-eyed bald-man-and leather-fest that one might assume. Pulling in a young and discerning, dynamic urban audience, the venue was well chosen and the event organised impeccably – some feat given the 35,000 people who clogged the idyllic town of Ghent for fourteen hours. And for a style of music that aims to make people feel like machines, revellers were unaggravated.
Two of the night's big sets came from Berlin-based Boys Noize and London's Fake Blood. Both enthused the crowd in their own characteristic ways: Alex Ridha of Boys Noize for his unrelenting and energetic mix, and exhausting, fuzz-bathed basslines. Canadian producer and DJ Tiga gave the crowd his campish, disco-inspired grindcore electro. Indeed, the presence of more than a few obviously "electro" artists may be what had the purists afroth. Others included Simian Mobile Disco, with a thoughtful, fan-led playlist, and The Count & Sinden, whose early set warmed up the crowd before the industrial noise set in.
There were a few minor quibbles: the sweat dripping from the ceilings, the snowdrift of plastic cups and sleeping ravers, but these were character-forming and part of the ambience. I Love Techno was a sell-out event, however you choose to interpret the phrase, and for the most part, fans got what it said on the tin.