Rave Party Extras Are ‘Deee-Lited’ : Drug overdoses mar otherwise orderly concert for 10,000 who also are filmed for movie scene.


New Year’s 2000 occurred at 10:14 Saturday night . . . and again at 10:29 . . . and again . . . and again . . . and again. Each time with as many as 10,000 people cheering and hooting in a rainbow rain of confetti as soldiers wielding M-16s stood on top of Humvees to deal with spreading civil unrest.

At least that’s what happened at the corner of 5th and Flower streets, between the Bonaventure Hotel and the Central Library in downtown L.A.

Of course it was all Hollywood fantasy, with the scene being shot (and re-shot) for a movie and the many paying extras lured by a “rave” concert featuring performances by neo-disco group Deee-Lite and techno composer-deejay Aphex Twin.

The colorful, future-technology orientation of the rave world is itself fairly fantastic, so it made a good match for the film, an action-adventure titled “Strange Days.”

One element of reality did interfere in the wee hours when five people were hospitalized for what were believed to be overdoses of the hallucinogenic drug Ecstasy, a common presence on the rave scene.


That led police to order the revelry stopped shortly before it was scheduled to end at 4 a.m., though no other serious problems were reported. A police spokesman said later Sunday morning that the event had gone smoothly, considering its complex logistics.

By the time Deee-Lite hit the stage at 12:35 a.m., the crowd had celebrated so many New Years for the cameras that it really felt like the turn of the millennium. But that didn’t mean the throng’s party energy was spent, thanks in large part to the, well, delightful performance by the New York act.

Though the new “Dewdrops in the Garden” album may not really show it, Deee-Lite singer Lady Kier has an abundance of the one thing really missing from the techno scene: personality--and enough of it conceivably to bring the group back from the one-hit-wonderdom it slipped into after 1990’s irresistible single “Groove Is in the Heart.”

In truth, Deee-Lite is not really a techno act, but a frothy disco troupe, bringing the Manhattan club vibe of the ‘70s firmly into the ‘90s, with the sexual liberation message still strong. The key difference is that now it’s not so much liberation from social repression as from AIDS-era fears.

If the crowd’s fashions are any indication, a new generation has been aching to break free of that fear, with decadent gender-bending encroaching on the rave-standard grunge-meets-Dr. Seuss styles. And Kier looked like the perfect trend leader, playfully romping with two agile male dancers through homemade routines that looked like low-rent Madonna, without the ego.

And, oh yeah, Kier is a better singer than Madonna, too.

In sharp contrast, Aphex Twin (Richard Barnes) showed absolutely zip personality as a performer when he went on at about 2:30, merely standing at the back of the stage twiddling knobs and working turntables.

But what twiddling! Artfully sculpting beats, he carved wondrous soundscapes out of the kind of techno repetition that left to others is too often somnolent. If he and Deee-Lite are indeed an indication of what this music will be like in five years, it’s in good hands.

The music, actually, has nothing to do with “Strange Days,” being produced by James Cameron (“True Lies,” the “Terminator” movies), directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis. To the filmmakers, this event was merely a way to provide an appropriate backdrop for what is apparently a climactic scene in the action adventure. Presumably it was worth the reported $750,000 tab for the night (including renting out half the 1,300 rooms in the Bonaventure).

But to the rave-goers--most paid $10 in advance to attend but others apparently just walked in--the filming was merely the backdrop to their main party event, said by promoters to be the largest rave ever held in the U.S. The filming and the setting--with a high-profile police and security presence that had little to do to control the well-behaved crowd--robbed it of any sense of underground cachet, once the currency of the rave world.

And a number of regular ravers complained that it was too “bright” to be a real rave. But maybe it’s time for this scene’s music to really come into the light.