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Garrett Wheeler gets a taste of the Vets Hall's Thursday night Sugar rush.

By Garrett Wheeler

Global Currents
Sugar Rush The room is mostly dark, lit only by flickering strobe lights and a disco ball. The music, a swirling electro-trance concoction, is pulsating from large speakers and sweeping through my eardrums like an electrically charged wave of sonic energy. The effect is strangely disorienting, if not hallucinogenic. The people, all dancing, come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders. Nobody is standing still; even a person unable to hear would still feel the music. The energy is everywhere at once, seeping into your skin, your head and ultimately, your brain. It occurs to me: do these people know something I don't? Has the future crept up on me like an unforeseeable doom? You see, trance music represents the latest incarnation of dance music. It is technically advanced, even scientific. Beyond modern. Cutting edge. And it's going down every Thursday night at the Vets Hall.

The Sugar party is the brainchild of veteran DJs Seek (a.k.a. Art Main) and Steve Eatough. Both Seek and Eatough have been spinning electronic dance music for years, though Eatough's experience runs a bit deeper than Seek's, dating back to the pre-rave scene that emerged with astonishing force in London in the late '80s. The renowned (and well-documented) parties are known as the Acid House Summers, and gave rise to some of the biggest and baddest dances parties the world has ever seen, often attracting as many as 25,000 people. "Yep, it was pretty cool," says Eatough with a wry smile that seems to say "Too bad you weren't there, my little American friend." Still, the Sugar party accomplishes at least some of the blissful aggregation embodied by the original rave era, mainly the idea of incomprehensible movement brought on by post-psychedelic dance music and a counter-culture far removed from '60s hippiedom.

Africa Calling Having safely returned to Planet Earth, I ventured into town once again on Saturday night, setting my sights on the Danjuma and Onola show at Moe's Alley. I arrived late, so the band was already well into its set, but it was immediately clear that this was a group of high-quality musicians. Danjuma himself was in the midst of a breathtaking guitar solo that sounded vaguely blues-inspired but seemed to rest more on jazz-influenced scales than on bluesy pentatonics. Like Danjuma's guitar playing, the band managed to incorporate bits and pieces of the best music in the world: polyrhythmic drum parts borrowed from West Africa, a horn section from New Orleans, guitars from everywhere--it was like a World's Fair of music, with only the winners invited onstage. Danjuma, clad in a purple and orange robe and a traditional Kofia hat, functioned as bandleader, and a charismatic one at that. Smiling, singing, playing guitar (and often doing all three at once), the Santa Cruz resident of 20 years goaded on the near-capacity crowd dancing and swaying to the up-tempo rhythms. By night's end, the audience had exhausted itself, and as the hot and sweaty dance floor emptied, it was Danjuma who appeared the most vitalized. I guess that's what you get for being master of the music.

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