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Despite Ups, Enit Is Mostly Downhill

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Perry Farrell is a dreamer, not a doer. Despite the hype that his Enit Festival might become the heir to Farrell’s other brainchild, the increasingly stale Lollapalooza, this outdoor rock-meets-techno event, which came to the Snow Valley resort Saturday, did not deliver.

Planning was last-minute, relegating the festival to only four U.S. dates at the tail end of the summer concert season. The promotion was minimal and the artist lineup was disappointing--with Farrell’s own alterna-rockers Porno for Pyros headlining and a dance music schedule (led by the Orb) that was only a shadow of the stellar Organic ’96 festival here two months earlier (which featured an all-star string of groups including the Orb, Orbital, Underworld and the Chemical Brothers).

The result was a sparse turnout for Enit that could hardly inject life into the moribund concert circuit. Organic--which, with more than 6,000 paying customers produced perhaps twice as many people as Enit--was a far superior example both commercially and artistically of a future for music festivals.

Porno for Pyros came on after midnight at the all-night festival and put on a redeeming show, however. The band’s blend of thoughtful lyrics and tight, harmless rock was warm and invigorating. The stage, flanked by white sheets and freaky ballerinas, was open and familial as Farrell, dressed like a psychedelic pimp in velvet fedora, crooned in his optimistic yet raspy voice. The Sun Ra Arkestra, which played earlier, joined in for a touching be-in of a performance (“100 Ways”). The crowd was clearly Porno-centric and Perry-fied.

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Indeed, in some ways Porno affects a hippy-dippy cultish vibe--with its bongo beats and Druid get-up--that attracts a post-Deadhead loyalty. Of course, there is a fine line between showmanship and Spinal Tap-like mockery, and Porno stays on the right side by employing a lightheartedness rooted in Farrell’s sincerely spaced-out attitude. Some people, he tells the crowd, complain that he’s often late. For him, he explains, time “just doesn’t exist.”

But for the kids who came to dance, Enit was a waste of time. The deejay-only sound stage--a hike up an intermediate slope--attracted only a few dozen ravers. And the main stage was dominated during prime time by groups--the Sun Ra Arkestra, Porno, the Orb--for whom dancing is purely an afterthought.

The Orb provided its usual blend of abstract techno. Taken on a purely aural level, the duo’s programmed music--a collision of electronic elements and off-the-wall samples from the past (game show announcements, weather reports, the theme from “I Love Lucy”)--is beautiful.

Yet, overall, Enit lacked energy. Don’t blame dance music festivals, however. Let’s write this one off to poor planning. Unfortunately, time does exist.

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