the kids are alright...i think: an aging raver's confessional
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Topic: event reports
i'm thinking that i probably posted this shortly after the event in question, so figure late summer/early fall of 2001. i was 27 when i wrote this - i can't even imagine being 34 and going to an event like this. maybe to spin, but even then, i'd still feel old...
* the following story is an eyewitness account from an event called Stereotopia @ The Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC. *
saturday, august 25, 2001 7:30 p.m.
older security guard: “it’s been pretty smooth, so far. we could have a decent night here, if it keeps up like this all night.”
younger security guard: “cool, cuz i’m not tryin’ to do no cavity searches or nothin’, man...”
there seemed to be better treatment from the security blokes outside than in. no harassment or anything – just that look like they had you all figured out or something. not all of them inside, just a few. if a girl took out her mascara, one of them was right behind her making sure all was on the up and up. they had reason to be somewhat suspicious – between some of the patrons walking wide-eyed arm in arm, pockets of weed smoke here and there, and tagging throughout the stairwell.
but that would come later.
stepped into the main room and was greeted by Scott & Josh playing Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” a few early bird ravers congregate in corners and exchange hugs. time to scope the place out. beth and i made our way into the basement - Venom and Scorpion were just getting started. a lone head lamented at the fact that they were going on so early, but the youngins didn’t seem to mind stomping to some prime time hardcore.
up in the Grand Ballroom, folks were just making their way in. darkness ruled the day as far as the jungle was concerned. early birds got a chance to really bust loose cause there was all the room in the world. some skipping vinyl problems in the beginning, but heads got it together. getting to the Grand Ballroom from the balcony area would prove to be a task during the midnight hour. either you waited and waited and waited for the elevator operator to pick you up or went trekking up several flights of stairs. after that, most that made their way up tended to stay there.
10:00 p.m. - in the main room en route to the basement - Pleasurehead’s doing his thing to a very appreciative core of followers. what he spins nowadays isn’t quite as mind-numbing as what i remember him doing back in ‘98 up in Albany when he was starting out, but it still doesn’t move me. down to the basement - Knowledge is on. his was one of my favorite sets of the night: an old school breaks set that took me back to 1993...when buildups actually took you somewhere and didn’t take five minutes to complete. older heads were feelin’ it, but the youngins were making a b-line up to the main room for Spacegirl. some were actually chanting her name on the way up. they would have to wait a while, though – her live PA got bumped to a later time. X-Dream was on instead, which didn’t disappoint the glow stick collective one bit.
11:00 p.m. - “GIVE IT UP FOR SUPA DJ DIMITRY OF DEEE-LITE!!!” cheers raised the roof. after some feedback and sound problems in the beginning, he was off and running. the first ten minutes of his set reaffirmed a very sobering lesson: older DJs in the scene have a choice to make - either continue to blaze a path or bang it out. Dimitry chose the progressive club banger route. it was weird, cause he’s funkier than that. i couldn’t help but feel disappointed. oh well, may as well see what Reid Speed is playing. to my surprise, Knowledge is still on, now playing hard house (which, i’m told, is what he usually spins back home in Connecticut). kids were feelin’ him on that end. not sure if Reid Speed or DB actually ever showed, though i might have seen DB in the crowd...just a quick sec in passing.
12:10 a.m. - after waiting for what seemed like 20 minutes in the balcony for the elevator, beth and i stepped into the Grand Ballroom for a full house to check out the X-Ecutioners (sans Rob Swift). words couldn’t do it justice. all i’ll say is this: if vinyl could bleed, Mista Sinista, Rob Swift, and Total Eclipse would all be considered mass murderers. ABSOLUTELY INSANE SKILLS - OFF THE DOME. ridiculously fast hands, body tricks, the whole nine. their performance alone was worth the ticket price. i heard from a reliable source hours before the event that Ed Rush and Optical wouldn’t be there (apparently, they were). really wanted to get into the jungle afterwards, but by that time, the ballroom was insanely crowded and the bass was trying to make a permanent home in my chest cavity. time for the chill-out room. some of the best music of the night was played there, thanks due to Saskai and Ranka of Echolounge fame.
1:30a.m. - Emma Feline had the basement rockin’ with a blend of two-step, drum and bass, and house. not a fluid mix, but certainly varied, peppered with joints like Origin Unknown’s “31 Seconds,” Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You” and Missy Elliott’s “Get Your Freak On.” (as long as two-step and drum and bass are around, Missy and Timbaland’s work will always appear in the mix. they need us a lot more than they’re willing to admit.) every time the beat would drop and the bass line would threaten to rip the woofers apart and the crowd would go nuts, Emma would rewind it and play it again. i rather like a rewind at the right time, however...have you ever seen or heard a DJ rewind a cut WITH NO MC AROUND TO CALL FOR ONE BEFOREHAND? it’s a little disconcerting. every time it would happen, i found myself yelling “rewind!” just so it wouldn’t seem so weird.
during Emma’s set, i get a hug and a pound from this blond-haired kid that couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15. “it’s my first party, man.” i welcome him into the fold and show respect. the whole time i’m thinking to myself, what was i doing at 14 or 15? i was involved with school plays and developing a budding interest in poetry. i was getting into the music of Frank Zappa. if i went out to a club, it was a teen night or something like that. i didn’t go to my first rave until i was 18...going on 19. i’m shaken out of my generation gap moment with Emma’s closing track: Armand Van Helden’s remix of C.J. Bolland’s “Sugar Is Sweeter.” thanks, Emma. Ming & FS were setting themselves up at this time. once they got on, the breaks continued: one handling the beats while the other rocked the scratches and cuts.
2:30 a.m. - main room. Joey Beltram? Nope. this didn’t sound like him (nice to know that he did indeed show). this was a live PA. i check the screens of either side of the stage from the balcony. ah yes, Spacegirl. after hearing not so great things about her sets from a technical standpoint, the quality of her music wasn’t that bad. in fact, surprisingly interesting for modern-day trance (and particularly in comparison to what previous DJs had played earlier that night). looking down upon the party people, i was amazed. the whole floor was into it, pumping their fists, stomping, making noise, tossing their glow sticks in the air in a fit of delirium. clearly they loved her.
it was 3:00 a.m. when Derrick May finally went on. this was the set beth and i were waiting for. this was the sound of Detroit. it was beautiful. real, relentless, uncompromising techno - crafted in the mix by Derrick’s steady hand. he was merciless. i was going nuts up in the balcony. but looking upon the dance floor once again, my instincts proved correct: some of those kids would have rather been dancing to Spacegirl. some were definitely feelin’ it, but not to the point that they were digging her live PA.
so, what did this aging raver learn?
1. you can’t go home again. well you can, but everything’s in a different place since you last left it. and why wouldn’t it be? someone else is taking care of the house.
2. massive parties are like (fill in whatever city, state, or country you think fits): nice place to visit, but i wouldn’t wanna live there. while i had fun, i’ve had more fun at smaller functions. i’ve danced my ass off at upstate New York events, that’s for sure. perhaps i need to get out of Gotham and see how other places get down.
3. overbooking is a bad thing. too many good people on in too many different areas (and for too short a time period sometimes). and in the Hammerstein, that could mean going from the basement to the Ballroom. i’m up for the trek, but it’s just slightly annoying. it’s the price you pay for being into different sounds.
4. for the longest time i had been hearing about these pants called UFOs - baggy with reflective stripes hanging out of the pockets. most of my heads were annoyed by them and usually referred to them as today’s rave fashion standard. i thought they were all kidding about that until i saw it for myself. it was like a cult - a short, bouncy, 140 beats per minute dancing cult.
5. for the most part, my younger heads probably wouldn’t understand what i do as a DJ. my style’s for everyone, but it’s not for everyone. meaning that everyone’s welcome to check it out, but perhaps most would reject it for a number of reasons (too varied, too slow, too hard to pigeonhole, too rhythmically complex, etc.). and if i were to pull out the hardcore techno i’m listening to, it would make all the Rob Gee fans run for the hills.
6. it’s a rave new world...and i’m just passing through. either that or i’m the rest stop on route 909.