Like all youth trends before it, the rave culture has met the fate of mass-consumption capitalism. Anyone who maintains that it’s still an underground scene can wake up.
In fact, the rave rage could eventually find a resting place in the graveyard of trends killed by mass marketing. Rave staples such as extra-baggy clothing and Tees emblazoned with wacky cartoon graphics now hang in the malls. Techno and house music get airplay on mainstream radio stations. And those legendary illegal raves that raged in Los Angeles and San Diego during the past several years have since been packaged and sold to family venues such as Knott’s Berry Farm, which hosted 17,000 frenzied teens at its K-RAVE event New Year’s Eve.
The latest commercial rave to hit suburban Orange County will go off Friday night at the Coach House, when the sit-down concert hall will be transformed into a mini-dance club and concert hall for the night’s “Rave New World” show.
The tables and chairs will be stored to reveal the dance area--648 square feet of parquet flooring--that will somehow accommodate the expected 200 to 300 mostly teens and twentysomethings who will attend.
But true techno enthusiasts shouldn’t and won’t be dissuaded from attending. Rave New World bills three of the top acts on the scene today: the Prodigy, Moby and Cybersonik. All will deliver their brand of thumping, trance-inducing sounds through a combination of sampled tracks, electronically created music--even stage dancers to keep the crowd entertained and on its feet.
Techno ensembles have become performance artists for the dancing masses, presenting their electronic wizardry in a dense haze of smoke and colored laser lights. The focal point is not so much the music maker as it is the dancers who crowd around him, guiding the energy, which he responds to by pushing a button on a sequencer and moving a lever on his sound board.
Moby fits the bill exactly. As one of the domestic pioneers of techno, this one-man band is a keyboardist and musical electrician who has been described as a “futuristic Jerry Lee Lewis.” He finds samples, writes and arranges the music and creates the computer patches himself. (Most techno music is produced in groups with the use of widely disseminated sample tracks). The New York-based musician and producer has remixed singles by Pet Shop Boys, Brian Eno, Erasure, Michael Jackson and the B-52s.
In contrasts to the use of pre-programmed sequencers, opening-act Cybersonik uses “live” musicians. These musicians, however, do not play traditional instruments--which band member John Acquaviva calls “archaic.” They are expert in manipulation of computer sampling and sounds, which allows more flexibility for the band to shape its songs according to the mood of the crowd.
Cybersonik hopes to build the kind of strong following it has in Europe among hard-core American techno fans. Even so “doing this national tour is very unusual,” says Acquaviva, one of the group’s six permanent members, because they usually perform at raves and clubs, not on concert hall stages.
Cybersonik’s members hail from Germany, Holland, England, the United States and Canada, an international congregation of techno artists who shy away from the T-word because of its misuse in labeling any music that uses electronic and computer-driven elements. The North American contingent, a trio that includes Acquaviva, will perform during this tour.
The British group Prodigy will hit the stage complete with two male dancers and an emcee. The fourth member, Liam Howlett, is the mastermind behind the group, a turntable whiz who also works the keyboards and a bank of samplers. Some fans will no doubt await the Prodigy’s dance hit “Charly,” a ditty whose success some in the techno community attribute to the scene’s commercialism.
But if techno is the music of the future, as many followers contend, then its commercial success is inevitable if not necessary for its survival. In the meantime, those who live to dance can stop worrying about the politics of who’s the trendiest and who’s still underground and just enjoy the beat for what it is.