Dog Days of Summer:
Two Nights in the City of Angels

by Jonny #33

June 11th, 2011
A guide for ravers:
Lessons in Self-Expression

Tonight is the night I get to experience a legend of trance. Paul Van Dyk. And my greatest obstacle is, at the moment, my grandmother.

I currently live with my grandmother. Not because I am Asian, and fall into the stereotype of living with my relatives till I am 30 (though that actually may happen, small gulp). It is to save money on rent! So I can afford to move to a nice apartment!

But co-habitation has its drawbacks. And like most mothers, my loveable grandmother has me doing things around the house. Cleaning the kitchen. Opening windows. Moving things around for upcoming visits from distant relatives and friends.

I have 30 minutes till I have to leave for the PVD show. I'm in the middle of preparing kimchee. Who would have thought it possible.

Faster cooks have never been born, nor ever shall be.

My grandmother compliments my speed. I explain to her that I am going dancing. If only she knew.

* * *

The rave scene in LA, as ever-changing as a DJ's setlist, seems to have grown itself into several categories and stereotypes. For guys, you have your traditional hip-hop/hipster clothing – think urban outfitters. Tight, skinny jeans, low-top shoes, and depending on the venue, trendy thin t-shirts, boat neck shirts, or horizontal striped tank tops. The 80's are back, baby. For girls, hipster clothing is in full swing, however, usually with less covering than more.

Then there are the go-go girl outfits. Usually bras and panties, complete with fuzzy leg warmers and either a shoudler shawl, wrist fuzz wraps, and sometimes wings of a sort on the back. Fishnets count too. I love these outfits. Oh, and don't forget for xmas, the miss sexy elf outfits. And the traditional Holloween-esque outfits. This is not cliché by any means, oh no. Hey, don't hate. I love them all. Then there are the “fur” crowd – the ones wearing the all fur jumpsuits. In my mind, these dancers are more along the lines of the burning man crowd – where they don't dance as much as they prance around. I can't imagine how hot it must get.

For others, there is the older, late 90's gothic/alternative look. This can mean shaped rave pants, not baggy, but flared somewhat. It can mean knee length or thigh length socks for the girls, booty shorts, and “Rainbow Brite” t-shirt. Shiny polyester shirt optional, as often as these are seen. Here I believe is where the semi-ubiquitous “kandi” beads come into play. Honestly I thought these had gone the way of the rave pant for guys, with the 90's. Apparently not in LA!

It would seem – I may stand corrected – that the real, original, dyed-in-the-wool, old school ravers have more 'kandi' beads than most. Again, if beads determine how many raves you've been to, then it's just a matter of making lots of the bracelets and jewelry. But it's not. You can tell, somehow. The look on their face, the massive belt of kandi bracelets fashioned into a belt because the arms can only hold so many. They are not always the one in the front of the stage. They are the ones sitting in the back, talking with their friends, family, or children even. These are the real ravers.

Of course, if you really want to identify the rave culture, it all comes down to the music. For the time being, Trance is the unifying thread that seems to bring everyone together. House is still used as a warm up, and Dubstep seems to be struggling as to whether it is going to unite with hiphop or not. Other styles like Eclectic, Hardcore, and Downbeat do not seem to make it to the events that much. As LA municipal government starts to 'crack down' on the rave scene however, it does seem that the rave as it is known as, will start to become more and more rare. Perhaps 'rare' is not the right word. 'Different' is. It is sad to think that a few deaths from a party somehow demonize electronic music lovers and our events. More people die from car accidents, alcohol, and other substance abuse. Like everything, we encourage responsible partying. But you don't see the beer makers of the world getting shut down or the bars closing. Just EDM. Because we're a threat to society apparently.

* * *

Alk=ne shows up just in time to save me. I grab the usual Rave Go Bag, my bracelets, and a different shirt. Never to go a rave without these. You never know what's out there – good things happen at raves, so why not be prepared!

Rave Preparedness Kit

– Gatorade, 12 or 16 oz. Electrolytes. Real difference.
– Contigo water bottle, 24 oz. Hydration.
– Insomniac water bottle. Free water at all Insomniac Events!
– Protein bar, 2. Each with a minimum of 20g protein.
– Oranges, 2. Vitamin C.
– 5 Hour Energy shot. For before or more importantly, after.
– Banana. Anti-cramp potassium.
– Extra t-shirt. Sweaty. Me.
– Condom. Don't laugh. Always be prepared.
– Stylish Vest. Because for some reason, a vest over a t-shirt and jeans will get you into to clubs where you normally have to wear a collared shirt.

These usually fit into a small bag. Bag gets left in the car. It's most useful just before, and just after the event. We make the quick drive to Hollywood. This is a nice change from driving out to Victorville or San Bernardino. Alk=ne always plays trance on the drive to and from, literally living and breathing in his music. He shows me his latest mashup. It's actually pretty good.

Hard to believe that we just met two weeks ago.

We park near the Palladium. I suddently recall that it's the place where I saw Franz Ferdinand with an ex several years ago. It's a great spot – the place itself is set up for rock concerts, with two huge hanging speaker towers, a wide open floor and a semi-circular balcony/VIP area. As usual, we're waiting on new-found friends, from the Markus concert two weeks ago. Hollywood seems strangely quiet tonight. I lean back on a signpost. “They said they were 5 minutes out.” Alk=ne dismissively waves it off. “No worries, I just want to get in before too long.” He should be happy. He won free tickets from the promoters. Lucky bastard. I, on the other hand, had to live with the fact that my inbox just got an email two days before for discounted tickets. I had literally bought them full price the night before. Lucky bastard. Two familiar silhouettes show up. ButterflyS and Turiya, our newfound friends from a Markus concert a couple weeks ago. We hug our greetings and saunter around the corner.

The Palladium has a very strange entrance. Rather than being open to the street, as most venues are, you have to walk around the block and enter from the side. Perhaps its just this event. However, we walk in. The warm up DJ is playing house.

My gripe about house is that for me, some house music can very easily be really hollow sounding. Why would I want to walk into a event that's hollow-sounding? Perhaps it's the acoustics. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE house, but its not as much an energizing music as it is music to relax to. I point this out to the group, and for the most part, we all agree, and retire to the 21+ lounge upstairs.

We talk about life, about people, but mostly about music. How the right beat is such a wonderful thing. How the feeling of rapturous dancing for hours feels like. How Alk=ne is hitting on girls downstairs that aren't 21. But mostly about trance.

The beats are getting so much better. We wonder if this is intentional.

It seems moments afterwards that Paul Van Dyk comes on. Lights rush across five screens. A planetary system zooms inwards towards us, and PVD instantly sets himself apart from the DJ just before. This beat is faster. This beat makes you move.

Yet something about PVD seems a bit off. He ends up playing the same song about three times. Perhaps he's tired. DJ-ing is such a nebulous thing – and tonights' crowd is not the most encouraging. For one as popular as PVD, the crowd barely takes up half the floor.

But as I look at my circle of new friends, Turiya's arms already raised to the ceiling, and ButterflyS's eyes flashing in the strobing lights, I know my new reality. Nothing can come between the pleasure, the pure pleasure that is this music. However this happiness was not to be.

A few hours into the music, I notice that ButterflyS's not really doing anything. She's just standing there in front of me. Usually, people are turned towards the DJ, or circled up in their groups of friends – but ButterflyS's just standing, and not moving.

I bounce my way around to face her. “Are you okay?” I ask, worried.

No answer. I shuffle my way back to Turiya, who is doing a jazz box step (of sorts). Turns out he was a salsa dancer long ago.

“Turiya, is she on something?”

He turns to me, sweat pouring down his grey shirt. “I don't know, dude,” he replies in his clipped Bengali accent. The whites of his eyes are accentuated by the black lights, like he's a zombie. A concerned zombie whose deodorant hints of Old Spice.

Suddenly I feel a hand on me – ButterflyS's is looking at me with tears streaming down her face. I can barely make out the words 'I'm okay' that she's mouthing at me. But then she goes and sits down. What a killjoy. Really? One of these? Fortunately, Turiya seems to take a shine to the downer girls, and he sits down with her. And Alk=ne, my ride, is nowhere to be found. Whatever. We move over to the rear wall, and ButterflyS sits down on the steps. Shaking my head, I continue to dance, and am joined by Turiya. “She just needs a bit of time, man.” I love his accent.

Eventually, she does join us. Later she would apologize and explain that while trance is both very uplifting for her, it also brings up lots of frustration and other feelings. I smile my understanding but roll my eyes inside. Oh well, we keep dancing. The bass keeps pounding. And PVD is still not totally tickling my musical pickle. Strange.

I would later come to the understanding by several people – Alk=ne, ButterflyS, and several others all agree that trance is often sad. If you listen to some of the words, it is often regretful, morose, or sad, and yet the music remains uplifting. Alk=ne would later comment to me that “trance is the music of the hopeful tortured.”

It is now 2am.

I am pouring sweat. I am happy. I am hungry.

I have found meaningful friends in a city known for its lack of soul.

Kick ass.

Respect DNB. Thursday August 25th

“Are you here yet?”

“Yeah, we're in the car, drinking!” Her slightly tipsy voice chirps happily over Verizon's mobile network. “Come over!”

“Alright, see you.” You know the night is right when your friends are pre-gaming it up, ghetto style. Whiskey in a Coke bottle? Why yes, please. My friend Amy opens her door as I stride up. I'm pumped. Plus, she's the type of girl that endears you immediately with soft brown eyes, and lush maroon lips that would work for a makeup commercial. Or a martini ad.

Tonight is important. We're not just partying. Tonight, I meet the man. The guy who started Ravers Digest. My editor, Mark (The Big Three Seven, live and direct in LA! - Ed ). Gulp. What if he thinks I'm not cool. What if he's like, 'Ugh, this guy.'

* * *

Half-lit zombies stand around in a thriller movie, forest green light flashing around like police searchlights. No one moves except to slightly rock back and forth. The DJ transitions to a vocal track, holds it for awhile, then drops something smooth. It's feels like your both speed skating and doing aerobics at once, racing but rhythmic.

This is respect. Respect Drum and Bass, to be specific.

The ancestor of the famously popular dubstep, drum and bass (at least what is being shown off tonight) is fast but smooth as the same time. Imagine a rock guitarist paired with a smooth Trance DJ. If you've never heard it, it's like Hardcore mixed with Dubstep basslines.

Tonight must be a light night, cause there are only a smattering of people here. A white-collared business man and his wife. A bearded dude in white shorts. (SHORTSSS????) He looks over at my friends like he is seeing a missed connection on Craigslist. Eww.

Some people dance alone. Apparently Mark rolls in packs. Packs of crazy, wonderful Russian Girls! As promised, Mark is wearing his Technics shirt and is very happy about it. You can tell he's one of the older ravers around, he looks about mid thirties with a energetic, swarthy face, and slight paunch (amazing abs that must have been carved from titanium -Ed).

One cannot over estimate the value of a good MC. SO MANY TIMES you get a MC that raps way too much. Tonight's MC is like a jazz vocalist, mixing and amplifying the transitions like a trance windup. Very cool.

My two friends, Amy and Ellie, are nowhere to be seen. I leave Mark and his crew.

Thankfully, Dragonfly is a small bar. I find Amy and Ellie sitting and chatting on a wooden corner bench. Amy smiles up at me, her 50's red lipstick lips both bewitching and endearing. Why am I such a sucker for that look. My goodness. I sit down beside her. We talk about the music scene here, and how it's crazy. Turns out we're both new to LA.

You never know who you're gonna meet at these events. Amy and I are discussing the finer points of living in LA when next to us this cholo guy sits down. All smiley and shit. "Hey man, what's uppp?" I already know his next words. "You need any pills man?"

Damn. I'm surprised he didn't say 'esse'. Fucking pills.

"Nah bro, I'm good tonight man." It's already 12:45AM. I shake my head inwardly. Really. Can I not go to a bar with out being accosted by sketchy people? But I guess that's everywhere. It's not cool. Tonight is about music. We smile and chat a bit more, but he quickly surmises I'm not a sale. But like any good businessman, he tries. "Man, whatever you need, man, I got it." Crazyness. I pull my mouth into a smile and tell him thanks. "Here, take down my number, man." Pushy bastard. What's this guy on, a quota?

I head back in if just to get away from the creep. Where's Mark? Some nights in a raver's life are supposed to be epic. The night you first rave. The time you bring a date. Your first time at a massive. And for me, tonight was about meeting my editor. I find him slightly tipsy, sitting in the back patio. I sit down next to him. “Hey man, I think I recognize this place!”

“Really?” He's been drinking vodka. Figures.

“Yeah, I think I was here about a year or two ago for some crazy 80's social night!”

Mark leans over, and tells me his life story. Well, not really, but that he had almost gotten burnt out on partying. I point out that most people don't have weeknights free to party. He tells me that since meeting the Ruskie crew, he's been finding more and better parties.

The shoes on my feet are getting progressively dirtier. Of course that's what happens when you get white shoes. Why white? Because people can see your feet in a dark room when you're dancing. Not that I'm the best dancer. I am proud of my skills however. Still have never taken a hip hop class in my life.

The hours compress when music is involved. The lights. The dance. The music. Did I mention the bass in drum and bass? Plus a drink from Mark, and I'm having a great time. What is it about dance that makes me feel so happy? It is like the man who dreamt that he was a butterfly, and that he as the butterfly saw himself sleeping – dance is my reality, and my life in between is a dream.

Amy and I never really connect however. Unfortunate. She admits to not doing too many events. Minus one for her, I think. After living in two awesome cities, I have a feel for what I want in a girl – outside of personality, I want to be with someone that's social. That loves this scene and music. And that loves to dance. Has to be. She's not quite either – though I suspect she's a drinker more than anything. How did Alk=ne find this girl? At a drinking party, perhaps?

After a warm goodbye and promise to party together again, I wave to Mark. Amy and her friend assert that they need to go home and are tired. What else is new? I smile and agree.

I keep the windows down in my car to air myself out. Nighttime traffic is so awesome because it's minimal. The engine roars to life as I pull into the freeway. This time, I forgot to bring an extra shirt. Hmm. An interesting experience. That's what's so awesome about this scene – you never know who you're gonna meet. And generally it is positive. Even with those drug dealers, one can hope that they learn to love the music as opposed to just selling. Oh well – I have Calvin Harris on my stereo as the city lights cruise by. Just another night in LA. Fuck ya.

- Jonny #33