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[whitespace] Raves Get Local

The closing of a Bay Area venue for massives has meant a dance party diaspora and a boom in local rave events

By Rob Pratt

DESPITE AN OUTLAW history and a persistent reputation as gatherings organized around illicit endeavors, the Bay Area's rave scene has largely gone legitimate in the past few years. Rave music nights at established San Francisco clubs now earn high marks in European music mags (like 1015 Folsom's Thursday "Come-Unity," Friday "Nikita" and Sunday "Spundae"), and new "weeklies" dedicated to the techno, trance and jungle sounds favored at raves have started to crop up in the suburbs.

Part of the movement to established, permitted venues, explains Mananya Chansanchai, a member of Mirage Kru, one of two groups producing Friday's "Stir" at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, is the lack of a centralized, stable venue for large-scale all-night dance parties. Collectives have scaled down and gone local, promoting dance parties aimed at drawing 1,000 ravers instead of blockbuster events for 10,000 or more.

An Oakland warehouse on Hegenberger Road that was once so favored as the site of massives that devotees called it the "International Rave Center" or "Home Base," was shut down late last year. (City officials closed it to raves in the wake of a death at an area rave.) Promoters like Harmony Production's Greg Sandler, whose "Harmogeddon" rave at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds on New Year's Eve brought thousands to Watsonville for an all-night dance party but failed to break even, have found it difficult to draw enough people to alternative locations to make massives a viable proposition. Starting up new rave night at Santa Rosa's 125 Fifth Street club, Sandler says he's turning to clubland to keep the name of Harmony Productions on the scene without having to raise budgets that quickly escalate into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The shifting economics of the rave scene locally has meant more events in Santa Cruz County. In addition to Tuesday's "Bassic Elements" at Moe's Alley and 13 Moontribe's monthly full-moon parties, dance music collectives have organized a pair of rave nights at downtown venues the next two weeks. And Civic Auditorium manager Andy Botsford says that the pace of inquiries from promoters looks like the summer months are shaping up as a big time for Santa Cruz raving.

For Mirage Kru's Chansanchai, downsizing from massives means an opportunity for the rave scene to get back to its roots.

"It's a chance for lesser-known groups who have enough capability to go back to what it was all about," she says. Instead of angling for big profits, "Stir" organizers instead are aiming merely to break even and hoping to get their reward in good vibes. "Most of our DJs are doing it for free--most of them are our friends who have been playing underground parties."

First-time promoter Neil Martin-Zeavy decided to mount "Pure Dance Explosion" at Palookaville April 14 from a similar motivation. To keep the ticket price low, Martin-Zeavy enlisted a sympathetic lineup of leading DJs (including Sandler) who would reduce their fees since he doesn't stand to profit from the show even if it sells out.

"There's really nothing like this happening around here, because no one can get permits," he says. "I was sitting around one night, thinking that there are no dance parties in the city limits that are for 18-plus and are safe, fun and cheap. So I decided to go for it."

But even a small-scale rave--one that has to wind down at 1am, according to the city's entertainment ordinance--can get costly. Palookaville's Denise Vivar explains that rental on the club runs roughly $2,000. "Stir" at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium faces a much higher break-even point. Botsford outlines almost $10,000 for a rave-scale event there: $5,000 in rental, $3,000 for security, $750 for the city's entertainment tax, "hundreds" to hire union stage hands for the night--and the Civic earns 10 percent on every ticket sold through the box office. The big advantage: City property is exempt from Santa Cruz's highly restrictive entertainment ordinance, which means "Stir" can go all night long.

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From the April 5-12, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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