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Massive Attack

[whitespace] DJs Brian Burns, Taylor Wolfsen and Lex DeAzevedo
Fuel the Fire: Santa Cruz Octane collective, DJs Brian Burns, Taylor Wolfsen and Lex DeAzevedo, aims to build up the local rave music scene--that is, if the county survives Harmogeddon on New Year's Eve.

Dance-music moguls ready a New Year's Eve rave that could be Santa Cruz's biggest ever

By Rob Pratt

IN THE CONVOLUTED history of rave music in America, Santa Cruz holds a place--a small one--as the locus of legendary Full Moon Massive beach raves during 1993. A reporter from Rolling Stone dropped in on a north coast gathering, and her breathless account of a "tribal scene [that] would remind a baby boomer of Woodstock" marked the zenith of the area's rave scene.

The raver underground since then hasn't turned to Santa Cruz for an event of anywhere near the astronomical scale of those "massives." Groups like Raindance Productions and old-school collective Moon Tribe produce consistent if infrequent events that average a couple hundred people, topping out large events at around 1,000.

All of that makes New Year's Eve's Harmogeddon look like it could be the biggest rave in Santa Cruz's history. With an expected throng upward of 5,000 and a lineup featuring superstar DJs Joshua Ryan and John Selway, the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds event is certainly the most consequential.

Despite some miscommunication among the fair's board of directors and staff, which has policies against all-night events, the venue decided to go ahead with the rave to honor a contract made in February, fair board president Gary Darrigo explains. Normally, the fair board reviews all deviations from established policy--which in the case of Harmogeddon would have required the event to shut down at 1am.

"Our whole year is spent getting ready for the fair which is usually the first couple of weeks in September," Darrigo says. "I'm assuming that many things get put off until after the fair, and that [the contract for Harmogeddon] was one of them. The board didn't even know there was something booked for New Year's Eve until October."

Harmogeddon promoter Greg Sandler says that when he contracted with county fairgrounds staff in February, an office assistant seemed to understand what the event would involve.

"The first day we went in there, she said, 'Is this a rave?'" Sandler says. "We said, 'Yes,' and she said, 'We can do that.'"

Sandler is among a handful of Bay Area organizers aiming to build up the area's rave scene to a scale only equaled by the early '90s first wave of rave. With rave-music clubs booming in San Francisco, he says, the time is right to put massives on a level of professionalism and organization with major rock concert promotion. The new breed of rave moguls, however, shuns the guerrilla tactics of early rave promoters. As with Harmogeddon, rock-concert-scaled massives are permitted affairs cleared with local authorities and operating with huge expense budgets.

"My eventual goal is to have national coverage of Harmony," Sandler, 23, says. "I'm flying in national acts, national DJs. I want to see it happen on a different scale ... but not with the same format as concerts have been. I want to give the concert industry a different take on electronic dance music."

Locally, the Octane collective has designs on developing a commercial rave scene in Santa Cruz. Formed by four club DJs who wanted to spin harder electronic dance music fare than most club owners allow, Octane during the past year has set up for a few nights at the Blue Lagoon and landed on the bill for Harmogeddon.

"I first met Greg Sandler in '91 at a rave in a field in Moss Landing when a friend said there was a guy looking for a sound system," Octane's Taylor Wolfsen says. "I had a sound system, and that's how I met him. The first rave I played was the one-year Harmony party."

Next month, Octane presents its first rave night, renting out the Catalyst for "Deep Jungle," featuring a lineup of trance DJs spinning a seamless mix in the main room.

"It seems like a lot of the successful people in the rave scene have moved out of the area," Wolfsen says. "But I'd like to think that we could make it happen here."

"Things are happening," Sandler adds. "Watch places like the Santa Cruz Civic--they're going to get busy in the next couple of years."

Harmogeddon runs from Dec. 31 at noon to Jan. 1 at 6am at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville. Tickets are $40 in advance. (408.486.9591)

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From the December 22-29, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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