Pages (St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN); May 29, 1996
Alice in Technoland
by Will Hermes
This Past Saturday, while Edgefest was presenting perhaps the greatest
assortment of mediocre alternative rock bands (demigod Iggy Pop
aside) that the Midwest had ever seen, a different scene entirely
was taking place on the other side of Wisconsin. Were you are to travel
about 180 miles east on I-94 from St. Paul, then another 60 miles
south down smaller roads into the heart of Wisconsin farm country,
you would have ended up at the Eagle Caves and Mountain Campground,
site of the unofficial, third annual Even Furthur [sic]a
three day "Techno Electric Campout Festival" featuring DJs and future
music bands from both coasts, the Midwest, and Europe.
unofficial? Well, that's Furthur's way. No advertising, no advance
press, just the word-of-mouth of an underground network of ravers,
DJs, and assorted dance music freaks dedicated enough to turn out
(by most estimates) some 4,000 people despite chilly temperatures
and regular downpours. The event's nebulous "organizers" include
Milwaukee's Drop Bass Network, a techno record label, DJ
collective, and event promotion crew; Minneapolis's Communique,
a Drop Bass offshoot overseen by DJ Woody McBride; and Chicago
journalist/ promoter David Prince.
what's most remarkable is how the event seemed to organize itself.
Without any formal security, the overflow crowd (organizers only
expected between 2,000 and 3,000) of mostly teens and 20-somethings
tended to its own needs and took care of its own problems. With
a DIY spirit that's mostly disappeared from the corporate-sponsored
world of punk rock, campers set up oversized tents, trampolines,
BBQ pits, impromptu concession stands, and full-on DJ sound systems.
In true Midwestern tradition, a number of crews were rolling in
a RV stylee (like the Michigan posse traveling with Detroit's
DJ Kikoman in what must've been a 100K+ rig), as well as in
multi-axle Ryder trucks outfitted with strobes, high-powered lasers,
The tribes at Even Furthur
music, therefore, was endless and everywhere. Bass-heavy ambient
techno wafted over from one campsite, old-school breakbeats from
another, hi-tech dub from yet another. As different beats blurred
together with the sounds of the woods (including the noisy fowl
in the campground's small petting zoo who was dubbed "MC Peacock"),
the effect was that of a perpetual sonic Disneyland. And for the
bulk of the campers, most of who traveled hundreds of miles to be
there, and whose music of choice is almost wholly ignored by mainstream
media, it was--albeit cold, wet, and ankle-deep in mud--something
close to heaven.
some of the best mixes came from the large and small side stages,
the heart of Even Furthur was the mainstage, which hosted progressive
live bands throughout the afternoon and early evening on Saturday
and Sunday. Saturday's set was capped first by Chicago's heady Rehab,
a feedback-heavy guitar-bass-drum trio whose rough ambient style
recalls Main or Spacemen Three, except that it's harnessed
to shifting techno grooves layered in by a live DJ. They were followed
by Minnesota's own Low, who seemed a bit baffled by the scene,
but delivered a beautiful and unusual set of their glacially slow
pop bracketed by two long, spellbinding free jams.
course, the bands were tangential to the DJs, who took the mainstage
in force at 10 each night and dropped beats until 8 each morning.
Things started peaking early Sunday (or, should I say, this writer
started peaking; rave mixing can be subjective that way) with Chicago
jungle DJ Phantom 45. Surrounded by wide-eyed supporters--heads
bobbing, hands waving, heads following the kinetic ebb and flow
as closely as the man behind the turntables, whose every subtle
move prompted lunatic cheers--the line between performer and fan
was effectively erased. And listening to the mad roars each time
Phantom stopped the record to allow a few beats worth of sonic freefall,
it was impossible not to see that the music being made was easily
as exciting, and vastly more revolutionary, than anything commonly
that's old news. Meanwhile, Sunday morning wound down (or up) with
various breeds of acid grooves and hardcore techno. This writer
would have preferred to great daylight with something more gentle
and cerebral than 200+ bpm gabber--but the jittery cliques of dancers
still working it at 6 a.m. didn't seem to mind. Monday morning's
lineup featured some chiller groves, with U.K. ambient hero Mixmaster
Morris headlining at dawn--but some of us had to get back in
time for deadline.
rock & roll in the late 1960's, it's become impossible to talk about
the techno scene without focusing on some people's use of controlled
substances. At Even Furthur, along with iced tea and "smart drinks,"
there was a moderate amount of beer, tobacco, and marijuana in evidence,
and other things seemed available to those so inclined, despite
guidelines accompanying every ticket that stressed a no-drug policy.
But while a few overdid it (including one poor guy who freaked out,
busted a car windshield, and got taken to a local hospital after
some friends and two very nice, elderly sheriffs helped talk him
down), the bulk of 4,000 people seemed to know their limits and
watch out for one another.
Even Furthur descends directly from Woodstock-era visions of musically
and chemically created utopias, although with a healthy dose of
Ô90s pragmatism. At some point during Sunday morning, David Prince
told us about his upcoming book, a collaboration with onetime LSD
guru and current cancer patient Timothy Leary called Design
For Dying, slated for release next year by Harper Collins. "Most
of the money from the advance," he confided, "went into throwing
this party." After which he smiled, and dashed off to help the next
DJ set up.