Pulling out "High Times" issue from December...
.. "Ravestock" - two all-night techno-dance parties featuring Orb.
At 1 AM, I hear a series of hollowed-out tribal beats pulsing through the neon-charged air. It's Orbital launching into a track of rapid-fire breakbeats cut with some whirling cyber synth that sends my Ecstasy-pumped brain rollercoasting through the metaverse. I push my way through the sweaty throngs - by now maybe 3000 people jammed up against the south stage - but they're not dancing. They're mesmerized by the images flashing across the video screens on either side of the stage. "Walk, Don't Run," "Closed to General Public," "No Dumping" - Orbital's visuals are like a parody of all the rules and regs the Woodstock organizers set in place.
Now I'm lost in the screens too, watching pictures of wasted beaches and urban blight, with only a splatter of strobes whirling through a computer-generated universe to lend hope for the future. My gaze wanders to the sheets of blue fabric suspended from the back of the stage. And suddenly I'm seeing words, some ancient text flickering through the strobes like hieroglyphic Morse code.
The text is not part of the light show. It's some primal message I can't explain. "It's not intellectual," DJ Soulsinger tells me. "They're very few words."
That's when it clicked, the importance of staging this electro-static fusion of light and sound in the belly of the corporate-rock beast. When Ravestock was first announced, purists groused that it would only lend authenticity to the sell-out schemes of Woodstock profiteers. In fact, by introducing electronic dance culture to the rock'n'roll masses, Ravestock became the underground at Woodstock, a glimpse of the future that made the rest of the festival seem like a crude hologram of the past.
Thrown together at the last minute by Deee-Lite's Miss Kier and New York rave promoters Scotto and Matt E. Silver, Ravestock featured a cutting edge mix of Oribital, The Orb, Aphex Twin, plus Deee-Lite and a slew of independent DJs spinning Friday through Sunday nights til dawn. Where else could you find naked MCs dancing on stage and a 15-foot, five-chambered gravity bong pumping megahits backstage?
Admittedly, Friday's rave lacked some of the hedonic frenzy I've experienced at underground parties. Raised on arena shows, most of the crowd couldn't get past the role of spectating long enough to discover true stardom within. It was not until Deee-Lite took stage with a funky mix of soul-infused pop that the shirtless frat-boys and reveling Deadheads really started jumping. "I'm feeling a lot of love from this crowd," Kier said. "We're all together, but we're still alone, so you've gotta love yourself!"
Together and alone; her words seem to atomize communion between I sensed in the crowd as we wandered through The Orb's trippy sound-scapes. The ear-splitting roar of motorcycle engines crashed through the speaker stacks, shattering into a clash of Chinese gongs that reverberated through the predawn skies like a meteor shower. Building tracks with live bass and drum samples, The Orb took us on a four-hour ambient journey, blending techno with world beat, reggae, radio static, cartoon bleeps and baby coos in a set that rendered generational marketing niches irrelevant.
What The Orb and indeed all of Ravestock showed is that techno is not the next "new sound," but a synthesis of all sounds and styles that compresses the trajectory of human experience to a single moment. It's a form quite different from the commercial palette of rock'n'roll [I love that description too], which uses hooky melodies and narrative ballads to preach the power of the individual. By contrast, techno seeks epiphany in random patterns of rhythym and beat, in the chaos of existence beyond self-control."
Hope that helps - email if you have any questions.