"who controls your body?"

mayday 2000, tompkins square park, nyc

(originally published in ON THE VERGE v2.0 e-mail monthly - May 3, 2000)

So, who controls your body?

"cameras ready, prepare to flash…" - Green Velvet.

Aging raver's log: 4.29.00

This was the day that New York City was given, as Funkadelic so eloquently put it, a chance to dance [its] way out of [its] constrictions. Hundreds of kids poured in and out of Tompkins Square Park to get an early start on celebrating May Day 2000. Dark jungle and gabber blared from speakers at eardrum-punishing decibels. Only for the headstrong, as they say. Still, even a young child was bouncing happily in her stroller to 180+ bpms. I've got the negatives to prove it. I can't wait to see what she's gonna be once she grows up.

…the previous night…

After months away from clubbing and walking through Chinatown for almost an hour, my wife Beth and I finally found the joint we were looking for. People were jammed together tighter than underwear that's packed six in a tube in that place. Took ten minutes just to walk from one side of the club to the other. Few things are more frustrating than a venue with great music and no room to dance (except for a venue with great music, all the room in the world, and a majority of the clubgoers just standing around).

Five-O was in full effect in the park, of course. At times they seemed to outnumber the freaks, vice versa at others. What amused me were their expressions, like they couldn't quite figure out what the deal was. A few officers had even plugged their ears. And ironically enough, it wasn't the cops you had to worry about.

Ever see ravers mosh to gabber? It's rather amusing. First of all, moshing is controlled. Or should be. It isn't anymore. It hasn't been for quite some time now. Lots of shoving, arms flailing, and kids falling all over each other. Maybe they'll get picked up, maybe they won't.

PLUR, my ass, okay? Basically, I was witnessing one of three scenarios:

A: future frat boys in training.
B: a reenactment of a cut scene from MAD MAX.
C: subliminal preparation for possible NYPD recruitment.

How could these kids not figure that out?

So, you know I had to step in the arena, right? Every now and then, it becomes necessary to scare the daylights out of a younger generation. This was one of those times. Shaking convulsively, I terrified some poor kid that may or may not have been high on something. I wore my "you have no idea of what I'm about to do" face, an expression falling somewhere along the lines of an epileptic crack addict turned up to 15 (on a scale of one to ten). As the song faded out, I felt a twinge in my right calf, the likes of which I hadn't felt since last summer. I knew exactly what it meant. All I could do was stand there while my calf muscle swelled to about the size of a grapefruit. (I feel it's my duty as a rhythmic geriatric to let you younger readers know what you have to look forward to in a few years.) Couldn't move for about five minutes. With my terrorist assignment complete, I hobbled off to the side as TC Islam prepped the crowd for Soulslinger's set.

It's Saturday night and our plans for the Chinatown spot went bust, so it's up and over to the West Side. Mad frustrated, we step into the bar around 2:30 a.m. Drum and bass penetrates a wall of head nodders while some martial arts flick is projected onto a screen. I'm not even there for five minutes when some guy with a flashlight steps to me and says, "please stop bouncing, there are cops here." WHAT?? For the next fifteen minutes, the music turned up, then down, then back up again, then down. Beth had the best line of the night: "I've never been to a drum and bass party where you couldn't dance. This is worse than being constipated."

Apparently, bars and lounges in NYC are forced to acquire a cabaret license in order to allow dancing at their establishment (dancing has to be "allowed"? What is this, FOOTLOOSE?!?). From what I hear, the city isn't handing them over with ease. So, regardless of how some New Yorkers act, don't let them lie to you: the city that never sleeps has a few tranquilizer darts in its side. Unless you're at one of those large über-clubs that costs $25 just to get in the door (granted, those can be fun), unless you're a tourist or filthy rich, NYC is on lockdown - all praises due to Mayor Giuliani and the NYPD. Quite frankly, that's nothing for a native New Yorker to brag about.

Dig this, y'all: Beth and I were at a church service on Good Friday that was so large they had to hold it at the Westchester County Center. The evangelist talked about the importance of praise. At the end of her sermon, she encouraged us all to get out of our seats and release that pent-up praise. "If you did this anywhere else, you'd be locked up. If you did this on the job, you'd get fired. You're among believers now, so you might as well let loose now that you've got the chance." AND WE DID.

Try and picture hundreds of Christians with their hands in the air, shouting and dancing in the aisles, praising GOD. Now, before you start laughing too hard, think about where I'm going with this. We were allowed to move during that Good Friday service in a way that you can't move in some bars and lounges in New York City.


Back to the park: Soulslinger's on the wheels. A seven year-old kid cuts a step in the crowd, his T-shirt representing for his subway line. TC Islam's chatting away, speaking words of love and unity that motivate all in attendance. Behind the stage stands Afrika Bambaataa, all smiles while nodding his head to the rhythm. Hippies from a generation before us sit atop a fence throwing peace signs into the air, perhaps even seeing a bit of themselves in a few of the partygoers.

Shortly before I left during Lenny Dee's set (a man who's been known to create and spin audio Armageddon), I spotted a New Testament Bible on top of a speaker, face down. It was opened to the book of Romans. I'm not sure what that means yet. You know I'm working on it, though.

{jason randall smith}

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