Rollin' on the River

Inside St. Louis' growing rave culture, where the music is loud, the vibe is ecstatic and the kids are alright

And, of course, The Man started taking note. That was inevitable: 3,000 people multiplied by the average 15 bucks per person equals $45,000 and a lot of bodies to cram into a space. Parties started getting shut down before the doors opened; cops and marshals started paying more attention to the curious number of hipsters hanging around dilapidated old warehouses "for no particular reason." Despite promoters' best efforts, it's hard to hide the monstrous beat emanating from a seemingly abandoned building.

The countless parties thrown in the mid-'90s, those that combined to buzz the city onto the Midwestern rave map, culminated in what was to have been the event that "would have changed peoples' lives," says Davidian Alterior of Superstars of Love. "A lot of our events did change peoples' lives, but this one, the whole sky would have opened up."

It was called "Love Generator 2," and it was held at the beginning of '96, explains Ryan Paradise. "On our first anniversary, we really went all out. We had Dub Tribe and Juan Atkins -- a bunch of talent -- and it looked like we were going to have four or five thousand people at this. We had busloads from Minneapolis, Memphis, Chicago. The scale of things was just -- you can get away with things when it's like 1,000 people," continues Ryan, "but when it's like 2,000.... We had church groups (protesting) outside. There were priests outside in cop cars when they were shutting it down."

Jennifer Silverberg
DJ Ken Dussold: "You gotta get it down where you can mesh the records together so they flow in and out. Then you can have a whole seamless set and not drop a beat for, like, hours, but if you don't have good taste or you have bad programming or you put one record where you shouldn't, it all comes apart."
Jennifer Silverberg
DJ Ken Dussold: "You gotta get it down where you can mesh the records together so they flow in and out. Then you can have a whole seamless set and not drop a beat for, like, hours, but if you don't have good taste or you have bad programming or you put one record where you shouldn't, it all comes apart."

"Me and (Ryan) had on matching tuxedos," says Alterior, "sky-blue and pink, and basically we set everything up, and we had busloads and busloads of people coming to this event. The cops were there from the very beginning, and we held them off and tried to make it go off. At about 12:30, they finally said no. I was taken off to jail that night. I spent the night in jail. I swear, if I would have had a gun, I would have been like, "No. You're not busting this party.' That was just the pinnacle, everything we'd worked hard for."

Says one attendee, "It gave people a really bad taste for St. Louis. People today are still like, "St. Louis? I remember "Love Generator 2."'"

The bust was inevitable. If it hadn't been that party, it would have been another, and the gamble lost by the Superstars of Love was similar to gambles occasionally being made today, though so far the more recent bets are paying off. Had the police decided to examine the hubbub at "More Good Stuff" rather than simply direct traffic, an equally disastrous buzz kill could have resulted.

But luckily for the St. Louis rave scene, that didn't happen, and the momentum that got rolling last year -- especially that generated by the three superpowers of the area culture, the Superstars, Kindred Grooves and Boogie Knights -- is drawing more and more kids into its wake.

The promoters are much more careful about where they throw their parties now. Seldom are there totally guerilla warehouse parties -- the old-school kind, without any sort of security or clearance. The promoters hire off-duty police officers to keep watch, which gives them a certain legitimacy. And, more often than not, because of the threat of intervention, parties are held at legal spaces like exhibition centers ("Spooks in Space," the Superstars of Love's monstrous Halloween bash, was held in the Columbia Expo Center in Columbia, Mo.) and roller rinks.

A member of Kindred Groove explains the allure of the roller rink: "It's a big open space, and it's got a whole bunch of exits; it's got the exit signs, the fire extinguishers. They're used to accommodating a whole bunch of people." Despite the attractive elements of rinks, Kindred Groove tries to avoid roller rinks if at all possible, and the Superstars of Love are sick of them, too. "Raves are supposed to happen in different places all the time," says Alterior. "And you create this special thing that's one night and one night only, unlike any other experience. Unfortunately, a lot of times the experience has been, "Oh, here, same old roller rink.' There's some phat DJs, a sound system, and everyone looks the same and everyone's going around asking for this and that. We create experiences that are way beyond your typical thing. We are striving to not just throw another rave party. We're always going to have something different; we're always going to have something freaky, having a guy in a corner doing a slide show and doing all this crazy stuff. Every one has its own theme, every one has its own vision, its visual elements."

"If you've ever been to a party at (a particular warehouse space)," says Aaron Chilton (a.k.a. DJ Chozen One), "that's a rave atmosphere, as far as I'm concerned. It's dirty, nasty. You walk out of there with black boogers in your nose -- rave boogers. That's atmosphere to me. You walk around, and when the bass hits, you can see dust flying off the wall. I love that. I get off on that. That's great. That's underground. That's the way it used to be. When somebody tells me a party's going to be at a roller rink, I'm like, "Aww, man.' When somebody tells me it's going to be at (a warehouse), we jump for joy. We like dirty warehouses. The bass sounds so good. ("More Good Stuff') was nasty. It was underground. It felt like it was underground. It was a totally different type of vibe. If I can walk over on a carpet to a water fountain and get a drink, and then walk over and buy a lollipop, that to me is not raving. To me, raving is, "Don't step here, or you'll electrocute yourself.' I dig that."

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