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Taliisms Live at Rainbow Gathering 1999

Taliisms Live at Rainbow Gathering 1999

Playing tracks by

Speedranch + Jansky Noise, RND Technologies, Jack Mackrel, V. Anderson, Santos Rodreguez and more.

Story in the comments...

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This weekend and other distortions

Background info. Begin> We are there to perform an experiment in sound and society. For the last month, people have been arriving in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania for what I think must be the largest annual underground(1) event in the US. Thousands of hardcore still-sing-Joan-Baez kind of hippies have already been camped there for a month. By its peak on the 4th of July weekend, assorted freaks from all over the country will converge to make an estimated total of 40,000 people. We are not hippies. We are DJs. Our concept was to become a counter-counterculture. A sort of abnormality in this one area where the normally abnormal hippies are the norm. An anti-mainstream pocket tucked away in their anti-mainstream party. Our prediction was that most of them would hate it. No acoustic guitars, no singer/songwriters, right? There'd be a few that would be open-minded (read: fucked up) enough that the concept would click. We had lofty aspirations for this experiment in sound and society. Tony—that crazy dude who dreamt up this idea of a rave at the Rainbow Gathering—put it more succinctly: "It'll be fuckin cool."

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Crazy times and crazier people.

I realize now that before I went, I had had a severe misperception of scale. I know that there will be 40,000 people there, but "40,000" is an abstraction. The brain just thinks "relatively big number" instead of fully grasping its kernel. How does 40,000 people in the woods differ from 400,000 people in the woods? I think I had this vague picture in my head of 40,000 people in a big field, grooving out man, just feeling the love, can you feel it. We'll just go in, locate the info board to find where the sound system is, walk back to the car, and set up camp. Heh. Naive little ravers, you're in hippyland now. So 15 miles of walking later, after going up, down, around, and through the woods filled with 75% hippies and 25% tourists that came to see the hippies, the sky is dark as mud; the mud is up to our ankles; our ankles are weak with walking; walking further means 5 more hippies a minute telling you "Welcome Home. We love you." What would you do? We watch the Gong Show: 500 people packed in a relatively untreed area covered by a giant parachute, people on an unamplified stage doing anything their acid-addled brains can do to entertain their acid-addled audience. Off to one side of the stage, armed with sharp sticks, carrying all the responsibility of established censorship, the Gongers; on the other side, armed solely with their Statler-and-Waldorf-styled wit, the Peanut Gallery. On stage, a six year old kid from Alabama who told 2 jokes. (The first one was funny.) A slinky Polynesian-looking woman who danced while swinging fire-lit balls(2) on chains the way that ravers do with glowsticks on strings. (It's much more impressive with fire.) Many bad rappers and breakdancers. (Many more bad poets.) A large muu-muu clothed woman who belted out “Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” campfire style. ( ) An old guy from NYC who did this amazing 10-minute-long smoothly chanting beating rapping ever morphing act that mixed beatboxing with storytelling while managing to goodheartedly parody all the stereotypes of the people there. (You'd have to see it for yourself.)

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Hippies go to bed earlier than ravers.

At 3AM, the somewhat entertaining (distracting, at the least) show is over. No one else is willing to make a fool of themselves. *Look around, there are still lots of people making fools of themselves, just not on stage. I mean, listen to that guy on the stump over there...You walking by with the sneakers on, we love you. And you with the funny things in your hair, you know we love you. And that guy with the dog who’s ignoring us because he’s too cool for us, we love yooooooou tooooo.* Next? We have no flashlight, and only the places that the main path crosses a river are lit by candles. With mud everywhere and slippery slopes and rivers and smelly filled clotheslines crisscrossing paths and nearby you know there’s a big wide open ditch they refer to as The Shitter and 20,000 of 40,000 people that want to know if you got any extra trip man and 39,000 of 40,000 people that need to bum a cigarette brother and mud EVERYWHERE, we have no other choice. We lie down on the forest floor. Nearby, someone nearby has (whatthefuck) carted an entire (fershitssakes) piano (!) 15 miles into the woods. Another presumably less insane person has brought his saxophone. We fall asleep in the grass under a tree to a soothing mildly cacophonous stream of jazz. In the morning, we eat free soup at one of the "kitchens" (the Crystal Rainbow kitchen, or Lovin' Oven, or some such shit).

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For all their many shortcomings, hippies can cook some tasty soup.

Coming out of nowhere, it wasn’t a hallucination: Amber walked by. Amber! Equal parts hippy and raver, she’s already been here for a week and knows all the ins and outs. She leads us back through the woods, almost back to where we started, and there's the sound system in a far corner of the forest in a clearing right off the dirt road. (We love you Amber!) It's now 8AM and the sun's bent on proving once again that, yes, it is indeed made entirely of fire. We hear the scoop on last night (Saturday): Teak and Kathleen and Tony and Jonathan had set up the stage. Tony spun jungle. Weird turtlenecked German guys no one knew begged to play some CDs they had made. Teak, with no one else in the on-deck circle, ground out 6 hours of his music. Covering the dancing area with an overhead tarp had been a mistake--it held in the smells. Those people from Morgantown had been hanging out there. !Tom has no hair! (A quote here from one of you West Virginia people:) "This field last night was full of the most people with signs of mental illness that I have ever seen in one place." At 4:20 AM the music stopped. One of the million oddball Rainbow Gathering traditions is silence from 4:20 AM to noon on July 4. Sure. OK. We’ll play along. Now, trapped in the increasingly brutal sun (but at least with people I know and like that only say I Love You once in a while and never say Welcome Home), we use all means at our disposal to forget that we're melting.

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We melt anyway, but it's an entertaining sort of pain.

Adrienne is wearing a tiara. How come she doesn't look like she's getting sweaty and nasty from the heat like the rest of us mortals? Because she's the queen of Crackerland. With the mangled Mountain Dew can, Dano can't slit his wrists to end his sweltering suffering. (He doesn't live in Crackerland, but he visits there often enough that he keeps a toothbrush there.) Lauren is as silly and pointed as always. But for some strange reason she's wearing 3 of the 5 most ugly plastic candyraver bracelets I've ever seen in my life. (Adrienne is wearing the other 2. (3)) Laurie looks the most at home in the weather: she basks. Summer is entertaining Summer. Something rainbow-colored and annoying keeps going Kfloompy. And Tom has no hair! In the middle of the afternoon, Mattie shows up fresh from Family Affair in far-flung Ohio. (Fresh, if you can imagine "fresh" after going to a party, driving for 12 on-end hours in a car that needs its heater blasting to avoid overheating only to set yourself down under a thin tarp in the middle of a 105-degree field.) Matt is such a techno martyr.(4)

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Still 5 hours until sundown.

* * * * *

The music's started around 8, and Dano (=DJ Witchman=) takes his place behind the decks. As people start filling the area (the raver-types outnumber the hippie-types, but just barely), they are drawn to the trance coming from the speakers. The builds and swells of the music compel more people to dance. (Me, jaded trance critic that I am, included.) You couldn't not dance. I especially love the tribal trance that Dan does; it's not a sound you hear from DJs around here often. Two hours later, the crowd of whooping whistle-blowing dancers are passed off to me. You know the routine. Hard, crunchy, sample-laced techno, smooth enough to make some dance, mindfuck enough to make others unable to dance. Favorite sample: "Um, I had these pills, and I took 'em I think. Like, do you know what they were?" Just as I’m falling apart, Mattie steps up. I get more excited listening to Mattie spin than any other DJ I know. His set takes off with smooth ambient melodic synths gently climbing to simple repetitive minimal techno reaching altitude with a relentless pounding onslaught of ever more intense sounds. Then silence. And: GET ON THE FLOOR AND PUMP IT and slam back into the maelstrom. Hell yes, I was yelling along with everybody else! When I first heard him at Be Squared last December, his style was very linear, Detroit-styled techno. Now he can throw in little cuts and tricks in ways that make my jaw drop. My boy Bob hits it next. If I'm about forcing you to pay attention to the music, he's about giving in to instant gratification. If I'm mind-fuck, he's ass-shake.

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Bob showed us all up.

He started off with basic 4-to-the-floor house, locking everyone into a groove. (5) Once trapped, he forced us up a notch at a time, raising the intensity track by track, punching in songs with more melody and an occasional vocal, layering a buildup with just the high end of the next song, upping the ante by creeping in the mid, then POW slamming in the bass at the climax. The crowd responded with more cheering and screaming and whooping and whistling. And it wasn't just because the flower children were flipping on their acid. (That was only a little of it.) It was that feel that we all go to parties for, that feel that feels like everything that’s energetic and affectionate and epic and unavoidable, that unnamable feel that when forced to siphon it out onto paper, we will condense down into the one single word VIBE. The crowd noise was almost constant at some points. It was just that kind of crowd--there was energy there like I haven't seen at a run-of-the-mill, phat-pants-and-vicks rave in quite a while. As the music's intensity increased, Bob started interacting, playing off the crowd, aiming the light on his hat at people dancing particularly hard, jumping around and grooving behind the tables, and generally hamming it up, playing DJ and entertainer. Bob read the crowd right and pulled out some older speed garage tracks to close off his set. This put people through the roof. (Wait!roof! What? Is that really a ? Oh I, nevermind. I just oh, nevermind) By the end, he'd driven all of us through 3 hours of all kinds of house. Teak brought the crowd down for a soft landing, smoothly mixing his funky mellow west-coast style house with trancier stuff, veering off sometimes towards breaks territory and occasionally even precariously close to electro. Though smooth, the songs had enough trippy, tweaky flourishes to give the music that necessary edge. Even with such variety, the tracks were all meshed together ohsosmoothly to form a perfect early morning set. He wins crowd pleaser of the night award too for weaving "Leeeeeeet the sunshine, let the sunshine in" into the mix as the sun was coming up. Ya know the hippies ate it up!

With the re-emergence of the sun, all the dancing vampires scattered.

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Sure, this story is an abridged version. These stories always are. There were many chapters I left out.

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Chapter 27 in which Sarah gets very excited when she sees the ravers in the foam bats
Chapter 19 in which a reward is given for the removal of the rainbow-haired freak
Chapter 8 which explains where and why the ravers from New Jersey had their stage shut down
Chapter 41 in which the milk crate and the mixing board end up in a tree
Chapters 12, 30, and 42 in which Dano hands me yet another one of those moments
Chapter 32 which describes how some hippies use fishing poles to catch pot and succeed
Chapter 11 in which Matt finds out the way to get every cop to overlook you for exactly 24 hours
Chapter 4 in which everyone cheers for the naked guy
Chapter 26 in which the drunks surround us at A-camp and threaten us with watermelons
Chapter 17 in which Ivy describes exactly what peppermint soap and a wedge of lemon can do
Chapter 44 which describes how ravers make their own fireworks for the fourth

Chapter 64 where Ken logs off his computer and goes to bed because he gotten too little sleep this weekend and is still a little loopy

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Footnotes:

(1) I was a bit uninformed when I wrote this. Underground necessarily means that most people don’t know about it. As much as I hate to put it down in black and white: often I’m most people. Last weekend someone told me about the Society for Creative Anachronisms’s two-week-long yearly event. What started years ago as a Civil War recreation has turned into the more liberal interpretation of 50,000+ good ol boys drunk in the woods, yup. I’d heard about these events, but didn’t know they were this incredibly well-attended and didn’t know they involved smearing a thick clumpy mixture of powdered blue roots and sheep shit all over yourself to make you hallucinate and protect your underside from thorn bushes. It’s called wode; Vikings used it. Evidently, when you’re on wode and wode’s on you, there’s no difference between wanting to do something and having it already done.

(2) Most parachutes are flammable. This is a passively implied fact, obviously true and most often kept tucked away in the brain, never gathering the coherence necessary to form a conscious thought. However, this idea will acquire an uneasy relevance for the main characters in this story before they reach the end of the paragraph.

(3) Lauren wins.

(4) Naw, he’s just a guy.

(5) But I’m not just being lazy by settling for an overused cliched phrase, Ms. Crabtree, I mean it literally. We were in a field in the middle of the woods stuck in grooves furrowing the ground that we were dancing on.