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Pop Music Review

Some Joyful Sounds at Techno, Rave Event

September 15, 1997|STEVE HOCHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN BERNARDINO — This was the summer that the electronic dance scene was to become the new sun in the American pop music sky--at least that's what the talk was not long ago.

Instead, it's been more like a lot of distant stars spread across the night sky, all vying for attention. In a stretch of nine days that started Friday with the Electric Highway tour, three high-profile events were scheduled for the Inland Empire to showcase dozens of artists, deejays, musical subgenres and fashion trends.

But unless you're really into rave astronomy, it's hard to know (or care) about all those twinkling lights. The crowd at the National Orange Show facility Saturday for an event combining the national Big Top techno tour and the annual Southern California rave Nocturnal Wonderland was made up primarily of habitues of the scene.

But if there was little evidence of significant expansion, it was still a healthy, colorful turnout of more than 5,000, with at least that many expected this coming Saturday for the Organic festival at the Snow Valley ski resort.

And, ironically, Big Top/Nocturnal Wonderland would have been a great place for anyone curious about this realm to get to know the techno constellations. Contrary to the perception that this is same-sounding canned music performed in public by artists twiddling knobs on samplers and sequencers, several of the acts Saturday were bands playing real instruments and making a wide spectrum of music live.

England's Banco de Gaia played a brand of space rock that would have appealed to many Pink Floyd fans. Techno-hippie troupe Loop Guru's global groove, with its multicultural polyrhythms and ululations, was wonderfully infectious.

Moby, American philosopher laureate of rave who disparaged the scene earlier this year for what he saw as negative forces of drugs and cynical hedonism, waxed ecstatic backstage before his performance about the joy he was seeing in the crowd. Onstage, he told fans to "demand joy" in their music. That's the attitude that will keep the techno lights burning bright.

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