Longform

Rave Review

Page 6 of 9

Chad leaves me with that image to go for water, and I stand to bum a watermelon Blow Pop off my right-hand neighbor. It might be just hard sugar and artificial flavor, but it tastes like ambrosia. I haven't enjoyed a piece of candy this much since Istopped trick-or-treating.

Dancing--now there's an idea. Whoever came up with dancing should get a medal. Ishuffle purposely toward the music, succumbing to the volume and the speed.

The beat. The beat. The beat.
A fetus's heart beats 120 times a minute. Mine's going at least 130 in here, but I still feel like a baby in the womb, safe and blissfully unconcerned with anything beyond my own private paradise. Again, I feel like a sober part of me is watching the action from afar, amazed to see me gyrating under the laser light. Usually, I'm too terrified of looking silly to dance, but I feel instinctively sure that no one here will laugh at me, or even silently pass judgment that I look like a fool. Is that the drug, I wonder, or the truth?

Ecstacy, it dawns on me, is just too good--this is the best I've ever felt, and it's utterly artificial. If the government tailored the desire to communicate out of this stuff, it could distribute it like Soma in Brave New World. Not much chance of that, I suppose--no need to give the masses MDMA when they already have TV.

The revelations are coming fast and clear now: I notice that, unlike people watching television or a rock show, those around me aren't oriented toward a single object or direction. Instead, they're facing one another, making eye contact, interacting. At the same time, they all look intensely self-involved. And look at what a melting pot this crowd is: about 60 percent white, 25 percent black and 15 percent other--some Chicanos and Native Americans, a lot more Asians. Another realization: None of the groups is self-segregating--the first time I've seen anything like this in Phoenix.

The whole time I'm thinking, I'm dancing like a dervish. Suddenly, the constant flurry of keyboards and bass drops out of the music, leaving the beat bare. As if on cue, everyone on the dance floor raises his or her voice in a shout of release. The music cuts back in a second later, but I'm cashed.

I focus on my timepiece: 3:30 a.m. My throat feels like it's cracked and bleeding. I blow four more bucks on Gatorade, chug it, stagger to the wall and sit down to smile and watch all the people. I can feel that I'm coming down. On the surface, it's gentle, a feather-fall back into normality; but deeper down, there is a thorny cry of despair--"No, not this again. Bring back the beauty."

Rave II: Electric Kool-Aid,
PartyGardens, November 17, 1995
Getting into the groove of most techno tunes is like easing through the wall of a sonic bubble--go slow, and you'll get there. The sound tonight, however, is "hard acid" house music--the synthesizers have a harsh, serrated edge, and the beats come out of the speakers like sprays of automatic-weapons fire. There's no bubble here--trying to get into this music is like trying to jump through a fan of spikes. The ravers who have managed it are jacked up hard, twitching like figures in a stuttering movie frame, and when the white strobes kick on, the dance floor looks like a ghastly mass electrocution.

Pez is stressed out. "I can't feel the beat," he says. "I have to be brought into music this hard." We walk back through the 21-and-over section to the chill-out area--a peaceful room with cushioned booths, dim purple lights and speakers full of hypnotic electronic drones and chimes. I feel much better, but Pez can't get comfortable.

"I just don't feel it tonight," he says, then abruptly walks away.
Just after Pez departs, I hear someone behind me sputtering about undercover agents making arrests in the main room. I rush in there to find several men in security shirts detaining three teenagers and searching their backpacks. Almost immediately, someone comes in and announces that a guy just got busted back in the chill-out lounge.

I see Pez and start to give him a heads-up, but he mutters that when he left, he went to his car and unloaded his stuff. A short time later, New Times photographer Timothy Archibald stumbles upon the busted kids in the lobby of a closed Italian restaurant connected to Party Gardens and tries to ask them what happened. A man snaps, "Hey, they're under arrest," and orders Archibald to leave. The deejay in the chill-out room puts on a tape of an old BBC broadcast of a ranting speech by Adolf Hitler. The message is clear: The enemy is among us.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse