Tonight Were Gonna Party Like Its 1999

A new generation of ravers takes the beat back to the warehouse

Simon Reynolds, whose new tome, Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-1984, will see American publication in March, says, "Mixmag is selling half what it was at its height, dance record sales are down, and a lot of younger kids got more interested in indie-rock. Hipsters lost a bit of interest in electronic music and got into the nü-folk and other stuff.... [T]he super-club system has really taken a beating in the last few years."


Dr. Kandee is sitting in the darkened room of a Cherokee Street storefront, which he and some friends are fixing up. There's no heat or electricity, and the only furniture consists of two rescued couches.

At Champagne Supernova on New Year's Eve, the cops 
helped direct the lines out front. Five years ago they 
would have shut the party down.
insidestl.com
At Champagne Supernova on New Year's Eve, the cops helped direct the lines out front. Five years ago they would have shut the party down.
"This whole scene has sucked lately," says Dr. Kandee, who attended a particularly disappointing party at Club Legit in north county. "That's when we started doing things again."
insidestl.com
"This whole scene has sucked lately," says Dr. Kandee, who attended a particularly disappointing party at Club Legit in north county. "That's when we started doing things again."

Kandee envisions the space as a combination record store and party room, but right now it's a skeleton. The ceiling is stripped to the rafters. What drywall hangs is spray-painted with graffiti — a cow-skull and some unintelligible scrawling. In one corner, someone has written, "PLUR." (Back in the day, PLUR was the buzzword, an acronym among idealistic e-heads that stood for "Peace, Love, Unity, Respect.")

Like many of his peers in the dance community, Kandee stopped going to parties for a few years. "People started getting shady. Other people started realizing, 'Oh man, what am I doing with my life? Shit, I have to do something.' Other people went to jail. I kind of settled down, got some money, got a good job and got my life together."

Kandee resembles a lanky, bespectacled John Lennon. He wears a floppy white hat and speaks with an uncensored enthusiasm about his decision to return. One night last year, after a hiatus, he landed at Club Legit, a dance club that held half-assed raves during the dead period.

"I was like, 'They're still doing parties here?' What the hell? And all these kids are like, 'Man, I'm at a rave!' I'm like, 'No, dude. This sucks.'"

He got to talking with friends, and they decided that parties should return to the warehouses. They used to be dangerous, and with that danger there came a sense of accomplishment in pulling it off. Now, Dr. Kandee throws break-ins parties by roaming the city looking for unlocked doors.

"Clubs are safe," he says dismissively. "But what we have been doing is going, 'Hey, wait a minute. There's 400-something abandoned warehouses in St. Louis. There are still places to party. You don't have to do it the way that you're doing it. You don't have to pay $20 at the clubs. You don't have to wear nice stuff. Just throw on some stuff and party."

Kandee offers an example: "We had this party called 'Short Notice,' which is exactly what it was. We literally came up with it earlier in the week." They found a place on North Broadway, set up their sound system, but a cop arrived soon thereafter after the owner of the property caught wind.

But as he was leaving, the policeman suggested that they head south of the Arch, near the floodwall. Dr. Kandee laughs: "We were like, 'Did you just tell us where we could get away with throwing a party?' Is this really cool, or is this really wrong?" They landed at the foot of Powell Square, and partied outdoors until the sun rose. The next day they learned that the door was unlocked, and they started planning "Guerrilla Love."

The Powell Square building, home to a long-stalled condo project, is a windowless five-story outdoor structure where Kandee and company rigged a sound system and pumped the party until morning. The cover charge was canned goods, later donated to a food bank and to the homeless gent living on the roof.

"We went until eight or nine, sitting out there watching the sunrise," remembers Kandee.

In October Kandee and friends combined to create a break-in in north St. Louis after spending the previous month scoping out a building with an unlocked door.

"Then it was like, 'Hey, let's hang out here late at night and play music really loud and see if anyone comes,'" Kandee recalls. "Nobody came. We were like, 'We've been lucky so far, so let's try it one more time.'"

The result: "Rolls and Whistles," a homage to rave's glory days. On the night of that party, they went to the airport and picked up the headlining DJ, Skylab 2000. "He said, 'This isn't one of these renegade parties, is it?' We said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Awesome. I haven't done one of these in years.'"

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