Monday, April 23, 2007

Event Review: Highway 420

There was a time when I was all about the psytrance scene; when the weather was warm my compatriots and I would load up a rental car on the weekends and head off to some remote camping spot for two days of thumpity-thump, and when it was cold we sought refuge in various warehouses and lofts. From 1999-2000 psytrance was arguably the biggest game in town with monthly Thump parties at 550 Barneveld bringing in the big names, and groups like the Phoenix Family bringing it together for the intimate gatherings.

After I left the city during the bust of 2001 – 2003 the scene changed a bit, the music went in a direction that wasn’t of much interest to me, and I started getting into a different vibe. When Kitty said he wanted to go to the Highway 420 party being organized by Dr. Spook of and Witchdokta of the Phoenix Family, and which promised performances by old friends like Saturnia and Neologic (under the name of MegaDrop), I thought it would be a great occasion to revisit the old days.

It’s a great weekend when you’re torn between which underground party you want to attend, and it’s so much fun when you get the party location sent to you by text message. The space turned out to be a small, two-room loft on Folsom with low ceilings and no windows – by 1.30 AM it had turned into the Bikram yoga psytrance sauna, which was a bit much for me. I hear people make the charge all the time that trance isn’t sexy, but that completely misses the point – like yoga it’s more of a meditative undertaking, where the beat stays steady and pumping so that your body can go on automatic pilot and your mind, aided by whatever additional stimulants you care to employ, can wander. I still don’t care as much for psytrance as I once did – it lacks a dynamic that I’ve grown used to, the 145+ BPM beats are a bit faster than I groove to, and I’ve come to view psytrance parties as being much more of a young man’s sport, since I’m reluctant to push myself that hard for that long anymore – but in the right space with the right people and the right intention it can take you places that “sexy” music can’t.

When I walked through the door I ran into an old acquaintance who responded with “I thought you were dead.” That set the tone for much of the evening as I ran into folks I hadn’t seen in a long time, stared at blacklight banners that I remember from 1999, and reflected back with other scenesters on “the old days.” I danced for a while to both Saturnia and MegaDrop’s set, but it wasn’t until Meta came on that the dancefloor really took off – with his first track shouts of “yahoo!” went up and the crusty hippy boys started stripping off their shirts. As I listened I realized that I recognized the vocal sample as the chorus from “Burning Inside” by Ministry, and thus the industrial/psytrance fusion that began many years ago became complete for me in that moment.

I enjoyed the party in an almost nostalgic way, and at one point though it might be fun to stay on until the wee hours to see how it all played through. By 1.00 AM though, the room was so hot that everyone was glistening, the bar was buried in a haze of cigarette and pot smoke that was nearly unbreathable, and I knew that taxi hell was fast approaching. Given the option of leaving at 1.30 or 3.00, I had to conclude that I didn’t have enough energy to sustain me through for another two hours, nor was I really that engaged with what was happening musically. Kitty and I took off, but I had the thought that some day soon, when I was a little more prepared, it might be fun to hook up with that old school family vibe again.

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