Better Than: I expected.
Culture and other similar promotions groups, in an effort to shrug off the nasty mainstream perceptions of the Nineties dance scene, like to call their large-scale events music festivals. But let's be honest about Candyland 13, held this past Saturday at the cavernous Soho Studios in Wynwood. If an event has such a name followed by a numeral, takes place in a warehouse decorated in some places with plastic-covered mattresses on cinder blocks (ew), goes until 9 a.m., and sells bottled water for $5 (with the fountains in the venue conveniently turned off, of course), let's just call it by that little four-letter word: r-a-v-e.
I suppose the main, and welcome difference, between last Saturday and
the old days was that it was totally legal, and thus pretty
well-organized, safe, and allowed to go on by the police. Whoever
bought an advance ticket could rest assured the event would still, in
fact, be going on when they got there. How they got away with legally
selling liquor and still allowing in all ages, I have no idea, but that
was a nice, refreshing change -- old folks could drink instead of
chemically indulge if they wanted to, and the kiddies had a place to
hang out late night. (I believe this was a huge appeal of the old rave
scene in teenager-unfriendly Miami: the parties gave you a place to
hang out, late-night, off the damn streets/parking lots/beaches.)
Some things haven't changed much, though. Just like at big warehouse parties in the old days, the sound was, let's face it, kind of crappy. Part of this was due to the venue itself, whose high ceilings made it hard to separate the various musical "arenas" of the event. The huge main space, comprising a sort of electro-blog-house room on one side, and a breakbeat room on the other side, was hastily separated with floor-to-ceiling curtains. The bass was muffled, and the sound didn't reach properly to the back of either room. It was possible to stand on one side and hear both electro, breakbeat, and dubstep all at once.
Said dubstep/drum'n'bass room fared better, as it was physically separated from the main space. So did an outdoor patio area often featuring more psychedelic sounds, but with the industrial landscape backdrop and lone partiers pooped out against the walls, it could seem like a concrete anteroom of the damned. Also, random note: Candy ravers, apparently, still exist, although it seems like the female version has morphed into a sort of day-glo candy kid/cyber-goth/fetish/MySpace scene girl mashup. There seems to be a lot more fishnet around now.
Still, once I got over weird meta feelings of deja vu, and relative sobriety, I loosened up and had a good time. Hey, there was some pretty good music here, after all. But part of the strangeness of dance music in the 00s is the divergent paths the scenes have taken. Tons of new downtown-type kids who thought it wasn't cool to dance five years ago are getting down to the new dance-rock/electro-house/tech-house/whatever sounds. But they will pretty much never cross paths with the kids at Black Sheep listening to dubstep on a Friday night. So one has to give Culture credit for trying to drag the rave kids into this century, and mash the two scenes together, by putting Ft. Lauderdale hipster-ish party Heater in charge of the party's front room. They scored some impressive bookings in Atlanta's Treasure Fingers and Kill the Noise. This room really gelled only occasionally, though -- it was too big, perhaps, and directly facing the entrance. Traffic flow at these things usually dictates that everyone bypasses the first room in search of the rest of the party. Still, it was cool to hear Crystal Castles and the like played at this kind of event.
The other rooms were packed though -- it's clear that South Florida still loves its breakbeats, especially when it's of the old-school flavor. The room's early DJs were serviceable, although several committed the unfortunate old breakbeat/drum'n'bass crime of playing remixes of pop songs stuck on a new drum kick -- I heard breaks remixes of Kid Cudi's "Day N Nite" (unnecessary) and John Legend's "Greenlight" (unnecessary, but for a different reason). But when legend Q-Bert took over a pair of decks in this room, the crowd went nuts for his scratching. They similarly went off when Magic Mike took over, relying heavily on nasty, bass-heavy old-school electro and b-boy anthems. This room stayed consistently packed, and featured a nice screen of visuals and pretty good lighting (and $10 liquor cocktails, oy!).
As for the dark side room, I've still not been convinced over the years that dubstep is fun music for a dance party, but it seems that plenty of people disagreed with me, finding a way to get down to the churning, slow sounds. Also, it seems that besides candy kids, another old rave species is still alive and well -- the drum'n'bass MC! (Side note: Whatever happened to Miami uber-jungle MC Gon2far?) The craziest set came, unsurprisingly, from UK d'n'b legends Ed Rush and Optical, who ended their set with the awesome classic Bad Company remix of "Champion Sound" -- I think. The sound got kind of murky there too, so it may have been something else entirely. ]
Following them, in a pretty awesome change-up, was Otto von Schirach, whose versatile, dark, freak-out sound jibes pretty well with this kind of vibe, and the kids ate it up. And if you want to know what costumes he and his crew had -- Otto was wearing the black sort of superhero getup, and Peasants with Feathers sported that germ-looking mask thing with an orange jumpsuit. It was yet another mash-up of old scene with new, and how the two continue to come together, it'll be interesting to monitor.
Personal Bias: I like to look back on the Nineties rave years with a warm, fuzzy feeling, and attended, I believe, Candylands three through six back in the day). I was really curious and definitely skeptical about what that style of large-scale party would look like in 2008.
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Random Detail: Witnessed
in the women's bathroom: amazing candy/fetish-raver-vs.-electro-hipster
girl-fight eventually broken up by skinny male with mullet.
By the Way: Visit www.myspace.com/cultureparties for info on Culture's upcoming events.