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Music Is What Matters at Audiotistic

Pop Music Review

April 15, 2002|STEVE BALTIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

That Saturday's Audiotistic festival worked on any artistic level is a true testament to the music. In its fifth year, the concert was moved to the National Orange Show in San Bernardino, a concrete jungle that, while friendly to raves, is so uninviting that it can make fans yearn for the sweaty, crowded Hollywood Palladium.

In addition, last year's event (held at the Long Beach Convention Center) nearly saw the music overwhelmed by the size and spectacle, and that was with just 15,000 fans. Saturday's show drew in the vicinity of 35,000.

And crowds were a problem. During the peak times of the night, it could take up to 20 minutes to get from one stage to another, and food lines never eased up. Despite the long waits and constant pushing from all sides, police reported no incidents, and fans seemed remarkably controlled.

While headliners such as Grammy nominee OutKast and the Roots might have been the ticket-sellers, Audiotistic also lived up to its boast of being "the future sound festival" by assembling a stellar under-card of cutting-edge acts from the worlds of hip-hop and electronic music.

At one point, fans had the option of seeing Mos Def on the hip-hop stage or heading to the outdoor house stage for King Britt. During the busiest portion of the evening, critically acclaimed rapper Talib Kweli, house DJ Roy Davis Jr. and trance star DJ Dan were playing on three different stages.

And arguably the most impressive set at that time was found on the drum-and-bass stage, where Craze, DJ Markie and MC Skibadee were warming up the crowd for Roni Size and Dynamite with a blend of fast-paced beats and Jamaican dance-hall vocals.

Kweli's melodic, harmony-rich tunes, including the seldom-played "Brown Confetti" and some "new twangs," were highly appealing, as were Davis' warm dance grooves, which provided a nice respite from the aggressive nature of the other stages. Indeed, the house, or lagoon, area, with the only grassy field at the Orange Show, resembled a jam band festival.

At other noteworthy moments, Dave Aude's dramatic keyboard rises had the progressive building jumping, while the main stage/hip-hop area was packed throughout the night, from Mos Def's set to OutKast's crowd-pleasing finale, which, in keeping with the theme of the night, featured an abundance of hard-edged beats delivered with the band's usual energy.

Despite Audiotistic's flaws--the crowd issues, the setting and the blatant commercialism (sections of the grounds looked more like a flea market than a concert)--attendees were visibly happy with the event.

As much as people want spectacle, it's still the music that matters the most.

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