Chapter 4 — An Idea Is Born (October 2007) — Paper Squares and Purple Stars: My Life As A Rave Outlaw
This is the full third chapter of my book Paper Squares and Purple Stars: My Life as a Rave Outlaw. I have decided to share a few chapters for free here, to give you an idea of what to expect from the book. The book is already available for purchase at www.raveoutlaw.com, and the mobile game is coming soon, www.immortalgames.co.uk.
If you missed chapter 1, or 2, or 3 go back and read those first.
Chapter 4 — An Idea Is Born (October 2007)
We were hooked on the rave lifestyle, but God’s Basement didn’t happen every weekend, so we started looking for some local parties to keep us occupied. The Baltimore area had been relatively dead for years, aside from the stuffy clubs that we were already bored with, and the famous yearly massive called “Moonscape,” but that wasn’t until June. One night, a week or two after our first God’s Basement experience, we found out about a warehouse party from a stack of flyers that someone dropped off at Galaxy. On the night of the show, we were excited to see what an underground rave in Baltimore looked like, but the place got busted before we even showed up. We were hyped up to party and didn’t want to go home, so we decided to swing through one of those stuffy clubs to see if we could find some pills. I knew that we would probably end up spending 20 bucks a piece on some dopey club rolls, but Clyde’s people weren’t answering their phones, so it seemed like our only option.
When we pulled up to the parking lot outside of the club, it was packed, but the crowd and the vibe were entirely different from the weekend before. Last week felt like some kind of crazy ritual or celebration, while tonight was a much more formal and disconnected experience. Getting in the front door was like passing through airport security. I think that the security guards were even off-duty cops, and things were just as tight inside the club. We only stayed there long enough to score some pills because the place felt like a prison, and they were playing some top 40 radio bullshit.
“Yo, I ended up getting that guy’s number in case we need more later tonight,” Clyde said as I navigated out of the parking lot.
“I think we’re gonna need more,” Jerry replied with a smile.
“I’m just glad we got the fuck out of there, that place is so sketch. I wish we had a God’s Basement in Baltimore,” I said, as everyone in the car nodded in agreement.
Later in the night, we did end up calling the dealers we met at the club to bring us some more pills, but a quick drug deal turned into an unexpected afterparty that filled our apartment with a half-dozen strangers. Afterparties are common in this lifestyle because so many of us stay up for days at a time on drugs. It isn’t like me to fall asleep with people in my house, but I was drinking pretty heavily that night and ended up passing out at some point in the early morning hours. Around dawn, I woke up to the sound of a strange voice screaming down my hallway, “We need someone who lives here, there are cops outside!”
I jumped out of my bed in an instant without putting any clothes on and ran out onto my back porch where there were several people smoking cigarettes, still up from the night before. My back porch overlooked a small highway with a shopping center on the other side, so guests would often come in and out through the back. I tried to adjust my eyes to the bright morning sun as four cops got out of two cars and started walking towards us. I expected that a neighbor smelled weed or complained that we were having a party, but much to my surprise, the cops started asking me about graffiti.
“We got a report that someone from this house was spray painting buildings,” one of the cops said.
“What?! No one here would do anything like that, we were just having a little party after we got home from the bar last night,” I said, trying to act like we were just drunk frat boys or something, although none of us looked the part.
The cop pointed to the back of the shopping center that was across the street from the house to show me a massive 30-foot tag that looked like a preschool fingerpainting.
“That wasn’t here two hours ago, and we got a report that someone in this house is responsible for it,” He said.
“Well, let me at least put some pants on, and we can figure this situation out. I’m standing here in my underwear in front of my neighbors,” I said.
“Ok, let me come with you,” he said.
I laughed. “No sir, you can stand right out here with all of your friends, no one is coming inside my house,” I said.
“You better bring your ID out with you too. I’m going to need to see everyone’s IDs,” he barked, frustrated that I didn’t fall for his ploy to get into the house.
There was no way I was going to let them in my house without a warrant. Not only did we have small amounts of psychedelics laying around the house, but we always stayed stocked with at least a quarter pound of weed, and this was back when weed was still a huge deal. If any of those cops walked through that door, every single one of us was going to go to jail.
I had just walked inside the back door and locked it behind me when I heard loud banging at the front door, only the police knock like that, they were trying to surround me. I yelled at everyone in the apartment to stay away from the door, then walked over by myself, cracked the door, slid through and closed it behind me. As soon as I slipped out into the hallway of the apartment building, two huge cops were towering over me.
“We are looking for an individual suspected of vandalism, there were reports that he is hiding in this domicile,” he said in a monotone Robocop voice.
“I was made aware of that by your friends out back, and we are trying to figure out what this is all about. I’m getting some clothes on and getting my ID for them now,” I said nervously.
“OK, well can we walk through to get out back?” he asked. These sneaky bastards were persistent.
“Not at all, it’s just a short walk around the building to the other side, you guys don’t need to walk through, and I don’t give you permission,” I said.
Eventually, they gave up and walked around the building to meet the other cops, so I went back inside, locked the door behind me and ran to get my clothes and ID. When I got back outside, the cops were taking down everyone’s information and doing everything they could to get in the apartment. The situation boiled down to an hour-long standoff in which several other cop cars pulled up to my house in an attempt to intimidate me. In the end, the cops eventually left because for some reason or another they couldn’t get a warrant to get into the apartment. The fool who did the deed and fit the description never walked out of the house, so they couldn’t nab him or even prove that he was in there.
When the cops left though, I flipped out on the guy and kicked him out of my house. The fact that so many people in the game have terrible operational security was and still is one of my biggest complaints about the underground drug industry, people aren’t careful enough, which makes everything harder for the rest of us. The dude basically shined a spotlight on my trap house with no thought or concern for what could have happened to him or anyone else. After that experience, it was apparent that the local club scene was not cutting it for us and wasn’t giving us the type of community or freedom that we were craving from our short time on the island or in the basement of that church. Luckily, I was able to find the MySpace page for Mickey’s crew, Tru Skool Productions, which had listings of all the shows that were happening on the east coast. The first thing to catch my eye was a flyer for a free event in New York that had Lenny Dee listed as a headliner. Lenny Dee is a hardcore DJ that Jerry and I had been huge fans of since we were kids. This would be the first time that we actually recognized the name of a DJ that was playing a show, since we never really paid much attention to the music in the early days. There was no way that I was going to miss this party, the only problem was that Clyde and I had to work at Galaxy that weekend. Clyde had no real interest in going, which meant that we would finally get to take a trip without him, but only if I was able to get out of working. The downside was that I couldn’t depend on him to clear everything with the owner of the club like he did when we went to God’s Basement. I was still somewhat intimidated by Charles, he was very nice, but he always seemed busy and distracted. A few days before the rave, we were working at the club, so I showed up early to talk to him.
(Galaxy aka The Black Hole main room)
“Hey, John! What brings you here so early?” Charles called out as I walked through the door of the club. He was behind the bar cleaning as he usually was before shows.
“Well, I wanted to talk to you about this weekend. Do we have anything really big going on Friday night?” I asked.
“Not really, just another local band and they weren’t that great with presales, so we aren’t expecting much. Why? What’s up?” he responded.
“Well, my favorite DJ is playing this thing in New York, and it’s kind of a rare appearance. It’s just me and Jerry that want to go, so you would still have Clyde to cover the door. If you really need me to stay, I can, but it would be really cool if I could have the night off,” I said.
Charles thought for a minute and got this weird smile on his face as if the wheels in his head were turning.
“Sure, no problem, I’ll still need you to cover Saturday night, so don’t get too fucked up out there. You said you are going to see a DJ though, is that where you guys keep going all the time? Do you go to a lot of raves and stuff like that?” He asked curiously.
“Well yeah, from time to time…You know, for the music, we like the music,” I said, trying to convince him that we weren’t out hustling and downing pills by the handful every weekend.
He laughed, “I’m sure you do, that’s the big thing now though, the DJ’s are bringing out the crowds, and we could use some of that action around here. Why don’t you guys try bringing some of your DJ friends out here sometime? I’ll give you a weeknight or something, and we’ll see how it works,” he said.
“That would be really cool, but we aren’t very well connected or anything, I think we only know like one DJ,” I said, thinking of Satoshi.
“That’s all we need. Just think about it, and maybe talk to your guy and see if he is interested. It can’t hurt, I’ve really been looking to bring some stuff like that here, but I don’t know anyone from that world,” Charles said.
It turns out that Charles was even more relaxed than we thought. He didn’t care about us taking nights off to go to raves, he even wanted to bring raves there. We talked for a while about the music scene and what he knew about it. His family was from Europe, and he said that electronic music was much more mainstream and widely accepted over there, it turned out that he was actually a big fan. It was cool of him to have that kind of faith in us, but I didn’t believe that we had any chance of doing anything successful at that place, and I was terrified of trying and failing. When my partners in crime showed up, I told them about the crazy proposition that was thrown my way moments before. As I was explaining what happened, Clyde interrupted.
“I thought you weren’t trying to blow up the spot and let on about the kinda shit we were into?” Clyde said.
“Dude, hold on, let me finish. I told him we were going to see a DJ and he put it together. It seemed like he already had a pretty good idea about what we are into anyway, but he’s cool with it. He wants us to try to bring DJs here,” I said.
“I told you he was cool as shit, and ya know, that’s a good idea, bringing DJs here is something I always wanted to do,” Clyde said. He was much more confident than I was right off the bat.
“I can probably get Satoshi’s number and see if he’ll do it,” Amy suggested.
“That’s a good idea, I don’t know any other DJ’s, so he’s our only hope,” I said.
Unfortunately, when we did track down Satoshi’s number and called him later that night, he was a bit too snobby to play for an unknown crew at a weird location. He was afraid that playing a show in a spot like ours would damage his reputation and make it harder for him to get other bookings.
“Bummer, we gotta be able to find someone that will be down to play for us,” Jerry said after Amy hung up the phone and broke the news.
“We all just gotta start asking around,” Clyde suggested.
That was the type of let down that I was unfortunately expecting. For as loving and accepting as the people in the crowd at raves can be, those who find themselves in the spotlight are often unapproachable and egotistical. Outsiders like us who were just simple hustlers with no clout or much to offer were invisible to the movers and shakers in the scene. There were many exceptions to this rule, but it’s no secret that DJs can be notorious for their massive egos. Later that night, we mentioned our predicament to one of the bartenders, and she coincidentally knew a DJ who was hungry for bookings. She gave us his number, and we were able to set up a meeting at his place for the following week.
A few days later was our trip to New York, but I can’t remember many details because the pills up there were dopey and strong, but the details of the evening aren’t entirely relevant to the story anyway. The most memorable part of that night was really the drive home. I got lost and drove in the wrong direction for at least an hour until we ended up in Long Island. When we finally got back on track, I remember passing by an airport runway that was situated directly beside the highway. I looked over at one point during the drive and saw a 737 landing on the road right next to me, which I thought was a hallucination until I watched it roll down the runway towards an airport filled with dozens of other planes. A few hours down the road as the sun was coming up, I stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break, but I accidentally walked into the women’s room because I misread the sign. To my surprise, the bathroom was filled with horrified old women who looked like they were on their way to church, so I ran out of the rest stop humiliated without ever going to the bathroom and sped home as fast as I could. When we got home, Clyde was still up from the night before brainstorming about the possibility of throwing our own rave.
“Hey, guys! I think I found us another DJ!” Clyde shouted as soon as we got in the door.
“Awesome man, I’m going to bed,” Jerry said, before walking back to his room.
“Really? How?” I asked, sitting down next to him on the couch as he passed me a blunt.
“I went through all of the contacts in my phone and called them up to ask if they knew any DJs. I got a few suggestions but the only one I was able to track down was this guy named DJ Konvikt,” Clyde explained.
“So, what do we gotta do now?” I asked.
“Well, we still gotta meet with that other guy on Monday. We need to come up with a name, and then I think we can get a date from Charles,” Clyde said.
We never did end up getting to sleep that morning. When Jerry and Amy woke up late in the afternoon, we were still up plotting the rebirth of the Baltimore rave scene, and I was starting to think that it was actually possible. We had a club practically at our disposal, and there was very little competition in the city, we just had to figure out how to put the pieces together.
A few days later, we met with the DJ that the bartender set us up with, he went by DJ Hero. We met at Hero’s apartment, which wasn’t far across town from ours. Hero had a small DJ setup in his room, but he played on CDJs instead of vinyl turntables, which was kind of a big deal back then. In those days, DJs that played on vinyl had a lot more respect, and CDJs were seen as sort of “training wheels.” Even though we knew very little about the music at the time, this was a small bit of knowledge we picked up from hearing people talk trash at parties. Still, we had no intention of being picky about our DJs since we had so few options at the time. He played a short set for us and from what we could tell he did a good job, even though we really had no clue how to judge what he was doing. All in all, he was a good enough DJ, even if I were to judge him by the standards that I have today, but this guy was one of the most conceited people that we had ever come across. This was the type of attitude that we had come to expect from DJs, but this guy took it to a whole new level. After Hero played his set for us, we endured an hour-long brag-fest about the fancy clubs he had been to, the drugs he had access to, the girls he had been with, the money he made, and any other lame type of narcissistic claim he could conjure up. Before we left for the night, Hero started to press us about his payment.
“So, I’m gonna require at least 200 bucks and some drinks to do this,” Hero said as he reorganized his CDs after his set.
“We can handle that, no problem,” Clyde responded without hesitation.
“Cool, I’m gonna need that up front too, I don’t want to be chasing anyone around at the end of the night,” Hero said.
“Nah, we don’t roll like that, we keep our promises,” I said.
“Cool, What’s the dress code at this place? Do they have VIP tables with bottle service?” he asked.
I laughed. “No, this isn’t that kinda place, this is more of a rave, something more underground. We want to do something a lot different from those DC clubs that you are used to going to,” I said.
“A rave huh? Well, good luck with that, I guess we’ll see how it goes, that’s a tough sell these days,” Hero said condescendingly.
“Yeah, we know, we want to do something different. That shit is alive and well up north, in Philly and New York. We have been to all sorts of crazy shows recently. There’s a market for that here, there just isn’t anyone serving it except for Moonscape,” I said, feeling defensive.
“I get it. I just like to play for a crowd, so as long as you guys follow through, we’re all good,” he said.
“Don’t worry about that, we’ll take care of you. We should get going though, we got a lot of planning to do for this,” Clyde told him, and with that, we said our goodbyes and went home.
After the meeting, we were hopeful about our party coming together, but I was starting to get a terrible impression of DJs. Luckily, the next day my faith was restored when we met with Konvikt at Galaxy to talk about the show. When we got there to meet him, he was already at the bar waiting for us and having a drink. I could recognize his face from his MySpace photo. We noticed immediately that his attitude was entirely different from the other DJs that we met. This conversation ended up being the polar opposite of the one we had the night before. Instead of trying to show off, Konvikt just talked with us about his favorite music, his favorite parties, his favorite drugs, and just like that, he became the fifth member of our crew.
At one point in the night, I told Konvikt, “I really like your vibe man.”
Then I paused for a minute, realizing that I stumbled upon a possible name for our party.
“DUDE! That’s what we should call the fuckin party man!! VIBE!! Let’s call it Vibe!” I said with excitement.
Jerry turned to Clyde, “That’s actually an excellent idea, I think that’s the best name any of us have come up with yet,” he said.
“Yeah, I like it,” Clyde responded as he nodded his head.
“I’m feelin the Vibe,” Jerry said smiling and spinning around on his barstool.
“Now I think we got everything we need. Oh shit! I forgot to ask you how much you needed to get paid,” Clyde said.
Konvikt laughed, “Don’t worry about paying me anything, just give me a bar tab or a pill or something. I’m not trying to bleed you guys dry before you even get started, I want to help you build this shit,” he said.
It was then I started to realize that Hero may have taken advantage of our ignorance the night before by asking for a fee that he would have never been paid elsewhere. That’s not to say that 200 bucks isn’t a fair price to pay for a performance, but Konvikt had way more experience, he could play vinyl, and he was down for the cause. We were still going to follow through on our promise, but at that point, we were really wishing that we had talked to Konvikt first, because we may have never even reached out to Hero in the first place if we knew how things were going to go. Either way, we had our DJs, and we had our name, so before we left the bar, we talked to Charles to get our date. The date we were given was just two weeks away though, and it was a Thursday, so we had our work cut out for us.