Urban Caverns

The homeless take a hike so that a "community" can come together.

It's 11 a.m., and as the sun moves over the three abandoned Quonset huts at Chouteau and Compton avenues, Jeremai "O-Shae" Galyon snaps his cell phone open and tackles the first major problem of his day.

"I can't believe this, man, " he yells to his partner over the phone. "There's a fuckin' abandoned car right in front of the VIP room."

This morning, the "VIP room" is a walled-off corner in one of the unlit buildings, but over the next three days it will be converted by O-Shae's crew into a dressing area for Del tha Funky Homosapien. The buildings themselves, a tangle of shadows, graffiti and dust, will morph into the "hip-hop and jungle room," the "house and techno room" and the "chill area."

"DJ Festival" promoter Jeremai "O-Shae" Galyon paces with a cell phone.
Jennifer Silverberg
"DJ Festival" promoter Jeremai "O-Shae" Galyon paces with a cell phone.
St. Louis' finest check out the hot Lincoln.
Jennifer Silverberg
St. Louis' finest check out the hot Lincoln.

"I don't know," O-Shae exhales into the phone. "I guess it's stolen. It wasn't here when I left yesterday at 4:30. But I gotta get it out of here."

As owner of StreetSonic Productions, the 26-year-old is well-versed in the art of pacing with a cell phone. At the end of the week, his company will host an all-night dance party in these empty urban caverns, and the expected 2,000 people who will pay $30 each to get in will demand a good show. This is his first big production, so he's under some stress.

O-Shae wears thin wraparound sunglasses, a blue T-shirt and jeans that billow from his hips in apparent defiance of gravity. In addition to his production company, he owns an independent record label, Brand New Records, and on his leg is a tattoo representing the underground hip-hop band he plays with, Channel Six.

He yanks the phone from his ear and yells out the door to four kids with brooms: "Come on, man, we gotta get this shit cleared up!" He slaps the phone back to his ear.

"Yeah. Yeah. It's a Lincoln Town Car, man. What? How would I know if there's someone in the trunk?"

He strides quickly over to the light-blue vehicle, jacked up in the shadows of the building, and knocks several times on the closed hood.

"No, man, there's no one in there."

After O-Shae calls his partner, he will call the police, then the property manager and then the rest of his crew who haven't shown up yet to help whack weeds, bulldoze garbage and sweep away pigeon droppings, burnt wood, wet blankets, dog feces, tin cans, winter coats and the rest of the remains of entities on the edge.

Up until today, the high-arched ceilings and sheet-metal walls of the 162-by-36-foot buildings sheltered several homeless people, a pack of stray dogs and a large flock of pigeons. But they've all been booted out until after the party.

According to the property manager who leased the three buildings to O-Shae for the week, the structures are prefabricated Quonset huts that were used during World War II. After that, they stored industrial salvage. After that, the homeless moved in.

There is no electricity, no heat and no running water in the buildings. The floors are marked with the remains of small fires, and there are a mattress and a nightstand in the corner of one of the buildings on the property that won't be used for the event. On the night stand is a bottle of lavender fingernail polish, a Bible, a red plastic comb and a camping manual for Girl Scouts. Underneath is a bag of clothes for a woman and a child.

"I think these buildings have a lot of character," O-Shae says between disconnecting one call and starting another.

But for O-Shae, the lack of amenities means a lot of extra problems. He has to rent portable toilets and handwashing stations, and his sound and lighting man, Tim Creskow, will have to rig up generators and string lights.

It's been a rough month. In addition to dishing out thousands of dollars, O-Shae has lined up a dance-hall permit, a building-occupancy permit and insurance. He's handed out 15,000 full-page fliers and 8,000 pre-event fliers, organized online promotional pages and hired 12 security guards. He's gotten linoleum for the break dancers and wristbands for everybody. He's rented a bin the size of a semi for the trash.

He calls the event "eeeeeeee!" Contrary to what some might think, it is not a rave but a DJ festival that will feature DJ I-Cue, DJ PMS, DJ Arson and DJ Needles. There will be DJs from New York City, San Diego, Oakland and Chicago. There will be live drums and synthesizers and bass. The doors will stay open until 7 a.m.

O-Shae insists on calling his event a DJ festival instead of a rave, because he wants to change the reputation the all-night dance parties have garnered in the past few years. "It's really a new style of a rave," he says. "We're including hip-hop, so we're drawing the raver crowd as well as the rappers. But there is no gangsta rap. This will be fun. There won't be any rapping about stolen cars or stolen dogs or anything."

According to one of his fliers, the theme of "eeeeeeee!" is "Where the '60s meet the Year 2000."

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