SAN BERNARDINO — The Plantasia mega-rave dance party here New Year's Eve was an entertainment success and an attendance flop.
While promoters were hoping for a North American record of 20,000 dance-till-you drop fans for the 9 p.m.-to-6 a.m. event, only 7,210 paying customers came through the turnstiles of the National Orange Show Fairgrounds, according to officials. The rave record belongs to a New Year's event held at Knott's Berry Farm two years ago that pulled in 17,254.
At Plantasia, one outdoor and two indoor stages housed solid dance music. Techno virtuoso Moby led a lineup of star DJs. The event was marred only by false advertising: "Plantasia will be the largest celebration of its kind in the history of the United States," said one Plantasia info line before the event started late Saturday. Adding another helping of hype, Plantasia organizer Philip Blaine, 26, blasted media accounts of rave's demise and vowed Plantasia would plant the seed for the scene's resurgence.
Perhaps near-freezing temperatures and an hour's distance from Los Angeles turned off some ravers. Blaine originally advertised that it would happen at the L.A. Coliseum. He says he switched to San Bernardino several weeks ago to stay out of the Raiders' way should they make it as far as a New Year's Day NFL playoff game. Still, Plantasia proved there is a market for mega-raves, even as raving is "out" with L.A. trendoids.
The music was mondo. Moby, perhaps the only American techno artist with star power, rocked an indoor crowd with punk-like energy. Using recorded tracks ranging from his first songs on the independent Instinct label to his forthcoming album on Elektra (due in March), Moby broke out the drumsticks, tweaked his guitar and screamed at the crowd as he aped across stage. Fists flew, hands went up and bodies rocked. Moby, a small man with razor-short hair, brings showmanship to a scene held back by faceless music played by expressionless DJs.
Brooklyn's Frankie Bones is not one of those DJs. An East Coast pioneer of the 5-year-old U.S. rave scene, Bones mixed relentless German "gabber" house with jungle music--a hot sound from London that's a cross between bass-heavy techno and reggae. Also ripping up the turntables was San Diego's Jeff Scott. He spun a refreshing mix of the slow, funky California dance sound that is burning up dance floors from here to Europe.
Blaine says there's more to come.