by Chanté LaGon
Venue: The Tabernacle - Atlanta, GA
The scene: An epic event that almost saw dawn. The players: Various DJs from California to Atlanta's own. The audience: About 3,000 ravers from across the Southeast, wet with rain, anticipation and sweat. Finally, the venue: One of the most coveted arenas in the city, the Tabernacle would give many headz reason to praise its spacious rooms, open-air balconies, and congestion-free bars. That is, many people who didn't stay past 5 a.m.
Mirage Productions did everything right. Flier design was tight, the information complete. Pre-sale tickets, which were available in Atlanta only at Rewind, sold at an all-time high, and they had managed to book some of the most in-demand DJs, including locals 20Hz Cartel, and MODA, AK1200 and Heather Heart.
Once guests arrived, the block-deep line at 10 p.m. reflected Mirage's hard work. Finding himself midway in the line, Nate Shuman of Marietta said, "I think it's beautiful. I love it when all the people come out. ... It's not raining and it's not...cold. I had to stand outside for like, three hours at the Atrium." But midnight would bring changed attitudes along with rain and an ever-expanding line. "Fuckin', sitting out in the rain for 30, 45 minutes sucked...Atlanta right now is cold as hell," said Derek of Atlanta.
Security snagged some uncool points for their brashness and confiscation tactics. Although the Tabernacle/Mirage-provided protectors had little clue about details such as the separate ticket line, they were thorough when it came to checking bags and blow pops at the door. No re-entry until 3:30 a.m., no water (16-oz bottle, $3.75: we want your money), no markers, and no candy. "The reason why is because we have Oriental rugs inside and the candy gets on it and messes it up," according to Nina, the friendly dreadlocked lady who inspected my bag and took my blow pops all 16 of them.
Once inside, though, security wasn't so adept at keeping the hallways clear. But that can't be blamed entirely on the staff. No stopping to talk while on the stairs, people you know who you are. Traffic on the Cellar steps was like sweat seeping down your butt crack: slow, annoying and extremely uncomfortable. The area between the stairs and the chill-out room was equally horrific, a claustrophobic person's nightmare.
Ah, but the music beyond the walkways made the wait worthwhile. Doc Roc's thumping beats welcomed headz into the Cellar, followed by Freebass co-founder Stryfe. Atlanta party people continued to give Stryfe a great response, one that first kicked off at Zodiac II. His hard trance was just what headz had been waiting for. 135 bpms and up, makin 'em bounce.
Asked who he was looking forward to most, Robert from Huntsville, Ala., said AK1200. His friend Heather, from Aiken, S.C., agreed, as did many others. AK1200 got the jungle vibe rolling, with Birmingham, Ala., rhymesayer Knctrnl, flowing over his set. "I think it's going to be hype as hell," Knctrnl said before the performance. "I think the vibe is going to be good, because like I said, I'm not going to come at you with a lot of gang-bangin, or hard-core type lyrics. There's a message behind it. I wanna try to get you to close your eyes and feel the rhythm."
The crowd was pleased. Enthusiastic call-and-response "Huh?!" "What?!"s and dancing (where there was room) were the proof. Knctrnl allowed a few MCs to enta the stage, including Atlanta's Warlox, an unoffical member of the Rydim Ryders crew. Although his last stage show was seven years ago, who could tell? His motivation? "I knew I could get those people to get hype. I was like 'I want them to be happy.'" A job well done.
Terrence Parker was on the wheels for what seemed like an eternity in the main room, but few seemed to mind. Debbie, a first-time raver from Woodstock, Ga., wasn't sure what to think. "I don't know how to dance to this kind of music," she said in an innocent, sweet way. Her sister Kristy, on the other hand, was bogglin uptempo to Mr. Parker's music. Juan Atkins was next, going a bit deeper with housey techno that drew even more headz onto the floor.
Back in the Cellar, Soul Slinger prowled the jungle for his set, offering a massive rinse down for those who weren't already wet. The lovely lady of New York's Sonic Groove, Heather Heart, took the turntables at about 5 a.m., pounding her beats harder into souls that Slinger had already liberated. But what goes up, must come down. And, man, did it pour.
At first headz continued to dance, celebrating the sprinkler spray like a scene from "Blade." Some tucked away in the shadows barely noticed. But others, slowly and sadly, began to stop dancing and stare at the busted pipe above the stairs' landing. Tabernacle staff tried to hold the pipe up, caught in a shower that defied their efforts, while a dread tried to walk down the steps, slipping on the water washing over them.
A police officer headed to the stage. Seconds later, Heather's set was officially over along with the rest of the party.
"One kid decided to get out of hand and ruined it for everybody," said Adam Cohen, a Tabernacle spokesman. "Basically, an event-goer decided to jump up and hang from the pipe." Needless to say, he broke it.
Mirage promoters Maxwell and Kevin were not happy. The pipe "was not put as a monkey bar for the use of anyone who decides that need to swing like Tarzan," Kevin wrote in an e-mail March 1. He encouraged anyone with whodunit info to contact the Atlanta Police Department or the Tabernacle.
Everyone was evacuated. Most congregated on the sidewalk opposite the Tabernacle, expressing their disappointment with shouts of "This sucks," "I want my money back," and "They did this on purpose."
Before long, people gathered in the middle of Luckie Street as if ready for a show. Chip from Active Lighting in Atlanta climbed on top of a truck parked in front of the venue and gave them one. He jumped around and gyrated for about 2 minutes before hopping down. Chip walked away nonchalantly, trying to lose himself in the crowd, but he was nabbed by two police officers before making it to the end of the parking lot. Mirage staffers "immediately sent someone to get him out of jail," according to the e-mail.
Contrary to rumors, there was "absolutely no gas leak. That's totally false," Cohen said. The smell that some Tabernacle staffers and party-goers reported was just "old water that had been sitting in the sprinkler system for over three years," Kevin said.
The incident is not reflective of the rave scene in general or Mirage productions, Cohen said. "There were no other problems. Everybody was pretty happy with the party."
Although there were worries about not being able to secure the Tabernacle for future events, it's all good. "I think we're very much interested in having them [Mirage] back. I know we are. They're responsible and they do a damn good job promoting events," Cohen said. "We don't have any bad feelings toward...Mirage Productions. We invite them back."
Good, because Mirage will return. The production company plans on bringing MODA and Jazz-E, both of whom weren't able to finish their sets, back to Atlanta. Other DJs who didn't get a chance to rock will also be on the roster.
So maybe it wasn't such a tragedy after all. "It's unfortunate for everyone on this," Cohen said. "There's no way they [security] can police everyone in there." True, but considering some Tabernacle staffers were "expecting a lot of young kids running around," it's too bad one person proved them right. "Some of these kids need to act more mature," Cohen said.
And so, the drama comes to a close, but the hearts and minds of headz remain open to the possibilities, whether it's at the Tabernacle or some other venue. Overall, the party gets a 10-sucker salute. Seeing as if candy was a hot commodity Saturday night, that's saying a lot. Peace, love and soul, y'all.
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