I've been getting a little curious about the rave scene here in Utah over the past few years. Rumor has it that ours is one of the largest in the U.S. and that isn't hard to imagine with slick electronic billboards featuring major acts grabbing the attention of commuters coming into the city month after month. My interest peaked this past weekend with recording artists Mark Knight, Toolroom Records label head and Above&Beyond of the UK's Anjunabeats phenomenon coming to play at V2/Bondad's "LOVEFEST 2.0". I decided it was high time New City Movement hit the (under/over) ground to see what all the fuss was about. Not that I am a complete stranger to the scene...
As some of you know, my DJ hobby was first inspired by the early rave scene in the mid 90's in Idaho and Utah where I obsessively collected flyers from around the country, found my way to numerous Jugular, Mechanized, Wicked and Playskool parties and even played at a few myself. Back in the day my mom would print off hundreds of pages from the early hyperreal.org messageboards for me research and I still have a stack of Project X and Mixmag magazines. As a fan of the music, but much older now, I have a hard time convincing myself to go to these massive shows. I tend toward small concert venues, neighborhood bars or intimate hang out sessions with friends and a bottle of good wine. Yet, I do love a spectacle and LOVEFEST seemed like an opportunity to surprise myself as well as present the idea of higher-fashion to the lost and wandering youth of today. Here's what happened:
My old friend Brandon Fullmer aka DJ Loki, one of founders of V2 was kind enough to get me an all access media badge which I'm incredibly grateful for. Our sober driver (Thank you Laura!) drops my two friends and I off at our salt lakefront destination, the Great Saltair or 'The Coney Island of the West', a 100 year old concert venue in the middle of nowhere. It's actually not quite as far as I remember from my last visit. If you get a few drinks in you, this is not the place to be without an exit strategy.
The fizzy Zots I purchased earlier at a gas station and have tucked away in my smokin' hot three-piece blue velvet suit are immediately discovered by a pat down officer and discarded on the ground. I mourn the loss ever so slightly as candy is an integral part of raving, but on the otherhand I'm thankful for the added security. There's a notable amount of police here.
I meet up with my consorts and make our way into the thunderdome as DJ's Loki and Steez are heating the place up with a friendly mix of electro and occaision scratching. We get our third wristband (will they ever end?) to enter the bar upstairs, grab a drink and proceed to take it all in from above the crowd. Beer #1 down the hatch, I decide to see if this media pass really works and head toward the front to surprise the DJ's on stage.
I've been getting wide-eyed laughs out of telling friends I was going to a rave this weekend.
As more people stream in to the show we make our inaugural trip to the bathroom. There is only one and it already looks like something you would see on a far flung New York subway platform. Fine with me. It's proof we're really in the shit. As we leave, it dawns on me that this is for reals a 16 and up show. It's hard to not feel like an old person, surrounded by half naked body painted youths. It is refreshing to see the melting pot of nationalities. A huge latino contingent mixes effortlessly with affluent white kids who's parents must have had to give them permission or probably don't know where they are. A running theme is shirtless or uniformed high school basketball team members.
DJ Mark Knight is introduced to the crowd and plays crunchy, clubby house with bass so loud it liquifies my dinner. We move to the side of the stage to avoid internal combustion.
Mr. Knight is pretty darn good and exactly what the party needed. He teases us with a mix of twisted house breakdowns and building progressive sounds including a new Underworld remix. He's brought a cheesy air horn which he squeezes every so often to communicate to the crowd. It takes me a while to figure out that it's not part of some song he's playing. "He has excellent hair," comments one of my friends "that makes me feel like I can tru st his taste in music even more." I nod in agreement. We dance some more and watch the branded visuals playing on the screens around him. I wonder just how many DJ's must have visual components like this produced for use in any any circumstance. Mega or mini show, they just pop in a flash drive probably. Evidence of our new digital world at the forefront of raving and clubbing (where it's always been). Several young people stop to comment on how fantastic we look as they hustle in directionless groups toward the center of the crowd which is steadily growing. I must look and feel like a giant furry blue toy to some of them.
Two more beers, a quick breath of fresh air and Above&Beyond come on strong with their trademark melodic burning trance. This isn't the trance of yesteryear. It's got more bells and whistles now and is having a bit of a comeback. I prefer the sound of Anjunadeep the sub-label of Anjunabeats. Both sound like the best workout music you've never heard and it's perfect in the moment. The stage, lighting and energy are all beginning to peak. I am not on drugs, nor do I plan on taking any. Another wonderful bit of wisdom that comes with age. Watching from the middle of the staircase, I have a moment of bravery to take this video (above) with my phone during a major breakdown. I make my way all the way up to the stage behind the artists to catch the crowd when the beat drops. Wait for it... wait... there, at the end...
More shots from the other side of the crowd. It is here that I notice my gay Vietnamese tailor is dancing next to us. The one who transformed my suit from Members Only thrift find into a Gucci lookalike. He can't believe I'm there. The feeling is mutual. More and more people find it necessary to try to walk through me instead of going around. Where are your manners?
Fashion observations. There are a few guys who have The Situation 'blowback' hair thing going on and are walking around shirtless trolling for girls. Few are enticed. Also you'll be happy to know there is a Utah bump version of funky rave hair for girls that's full on platinum blonde with neon ribbons and barrettes but pumped up in the back for that naughty pioneer look. I wish these kids could have seen some of the 'fierce' club kid fashionistas that used to stomp through our parties way back when. Surely the drama of those looks could be updated for today. Furry boots, a bra and some bracelets shouldn't constitute leaving the house in my opinion but I try to rememer they are giving it their best and it's not about reliving the past. It's fun to see what's changed and how this generation is interpreting the party and the music.
We're getting a little tired and my partners in crime ask me to see if I can find some kind of free energy drinks in the VIP section. I make my way up there and a nice middle aged woman named Kim is more than happy to give me two cups worth and special permission to take them downstairs. The blue suit has special powers on people. I drink half to stay awake and we rave onwards for about another hour or so. Our ride texts to say she's coming to get us in 20 minutes for...
...The Afterparty, called Bass Camp which is at a super semi-secret warehouse in the industrial area west of the city. It's run by the 'Burner' (Burning Man slang) crowd and the music leans toward Glitch, Dubstep etc. I was actually introduced to Bass Camp earlier this year when I found myself there on the tail end of Halloween and it was quite memorable.
Bass Camp is having a Valentines party naturally (named "Heart On") and this place attracts wider mix of people, mostly over 21, many of whom I know and have an easier time connecting with. Are their fashion choices misguided? Yes, perhaps. But the level of effort and creativity is to be commended and I'll be darned if they aren't some of the sweetest, kindest people around. We visit the the large courtyard of interactive sculputres while dreadlocked rope swing artists fly above the dancefloor and escapees from the circus ride unicycles, (see vid above). What we like about Bass Camp is how lovely it is to see burners, hipsters, ravers, and veterens of many scenes all getting along together. Salt Lake is like that if you dig deep enough and this feels surprisingly reminiscent of the fun, experimental energy that was around in the early days of Rave. It's cool that these people have the energy to keep that going forward.
I might be turing thirty-six this year but I think I'm still a sixteen year old kid at heart who loves sneaking out of the house at all hours of t he night and pretending to get into trouble. Thankfully I have responsible, loving enablers around me who help make it possible. Our diaspora of nightlife scene(s) might be more concentrated than most but it's way more fun than what you see in the daytime.