This is the full 26th chapter of my book Paper Squares and Purple Stars: My Life as a Rave Outlaw. I have decided to share the whole book here for free. The book is already available for purchase at www.raveoutlaw.com, and the mobile game is coming soon, www.immortalgames.co.uk.
Chapter 26 – Choice and Consequence (Winter 2010)
I felt things beginning to slip away, and I could see my crowd drifting towards other parties and supporting other crews. Silver Spoon Promo had all the biggest headliners on a regular rotation at their club downtown, making it the hottest place in the city every weekend. If that wasn't enough to contend with, there was another rich kid DJ from DC that was making a name for himself hosting upscale club nights. He called himself Broski, and he seemed to have a lot of support among my audience, which was starting to make me nervous. I was looking at this guy as a new rival, so I was surprised to get a message from him one day asking to meet up and talk business. I was curious to hear what he had to say, so I agreed to meet with him later that week, at a restaurant halfway between our respective homes in Baltimore and DC. I showed up just after 11AM and he was already there, sitting at the bar drinking a beer, with a pile of papers scattered around next to his glass. He greeted me kindly when he saw me walk in and then asked if he could buy me a beer. I laughed and told him I would have a water instead, not ready to confess that I was a recovering alcoholic. After talking and getting to know one another for a while, we got down to business. He said that my crew caught his eye because he handed out thousands of surveys at Moonscape the previous year and one of the questions on it was “What was your first rave?” Overwhelmingly, most of the people under the age of 25 answered with the name of a Good Vibes party, like 75% or something.
“I knew you were doing something right, so I had to talk to you,” he said.
He invited me to be a part of a conglomerate that he was forming called Empire Raves. He said that he was trying to get all the crews in the area to combine forces. It seemed like a great idea, but I was hesitant because I didn’t want this guy to swallow up my company, and take everything that I had worked so hard for, so I turned him down and gave him a counter-offer. My ego was focused on one specific vision of the future, which was the continued growth and development of the “Good Vibes” brand that had essentially become my life. I was also distrustful of anyone who wanted to collaborate because of the bad experiences that I had with my former associates. I declined the offer on merging with his crew, but I said that I would like to throw collaborative parties with him instead, as “Good Vibes & Empire Raves,” which would allow me to maintain full control of my company. He took me up on my counter-offer, and we threw a halfway decent party at a club he had access to in downtown DC. Our party together was decent, and we got along fine, but there was still some unspoken rivalry, since we were both extremely ambitious and chasing after the same crowd. He must have learned a few things in our short time together because immediately after our collaboration, he started to break away from the stuffy DC club scene and got involved in more daring underground parties. One of his most notorious shows was a renegade party at an abandoned Circuit City that his crew broke into. The whole chain of Circuit City stores went out of business during the economic crash of 2008, and many of those buildings were still sitting empty. Somehow, he managed to find one that he could get into. Apparently, he monitored the place every single night for weeks, watching for police activity, searching for potential dangers, and plotting various exit strategies. The instructions told everyone to park at a church down the street and sneak through a fence which led directly to the back door of the Circuit City. They were unable to wire power to the building, so they ran generators and had them set up in an area where they weren't sending exhaust fumes towards the party. When we reached the area, I called Broski, and he came out to meet us and escorted us inside. He led us through the first floor of the store, which was entirely dark, empty and silent, then up a set of stairs deeper into the building where I began to hear the party. A dark hallway poured into a massive conference room, where hundreds of party people were raging out. I was thoroughly impressed, and already starting to regret my decision to not be a part of this.
Around sunrise, the music came to a stop, and people began to panic, as those familiar whispers of danger crept through the crowd. I asked Broski what was up, and he said that there were cops outside, but he wasn’t sure if they knew about the party. His lookouts said that a single cop car was parked outside with its engine running for a few minutes, but never got out of the car. There were a few close calls with party kids almost leaving and walking out into the lot while the cop was there, but luckily the staff managed to keep everyone inside. The car didn’t stay there long, but nobody wanted to take any chances of the cop returning with backup, so the crew began breaking down the equipment and packing up. I helped Broski load the DJ gear into a suitcase and grabbed the side of a speaker as his crew began carrying everything down the stairs. They were able to get everyone out of the building before any cops came back, and the sun was starting to rise, so the party was just about over anyway.
A few days later, when Broski and his crew went to scout the venue again, they found that the windows were barricaded, the doors were closed with stronger locks, and there were big “no trespassing” signs everywhere. The city even put a fence up around the building. The cops may have caught on, but not until everyone made it to safety. It was a perfectly planned renegade. As time went on, Broski continued to see more success. He was even able to sell out Club 42, the venue that I failed with a few months before. He pulled a sneaky move by not disclosing the location beforehand and saying it was in a warehouse space. He was able to get away with it because he ended up using the unfinished storage room that I cleared out for my show. It turned out that the owners of the club found value in the space after all. It was a good idea for him to not advertise the fact that it was technically at Club 42 because people really did not like that place, but it isn’t something that I would have felt comfortable doing. He learned during our time together that there was a lot of appeal in creating an underground environment, and he started to pivot his company in that direction. He even called his alleged “warehouse party” at Club 42 “Psychedelic Adventure,” and filled his flyer with drug references, just as I had been doing for over a year. Everyone in the scene was there that night, even my whole crew was there, but I couldn’t make it. I had a show at Galaxy that I hoped would be huge, Down the Rabbit Hole 2, the sequel to one of my biggest parties, but maybe about a dozen people actually showed up.
I was heartbroken, and I felt betrayed by the scene, and by my friends. I knew that Charles and Galaxy weren't very popular at the time, but I thought that I had an army behind me, or at least a few loyal friends. Once again that self-doubt set in and I felt that the universe had finally caught up with me, to give me the failure I deserved. I am not proud to say it, but I became very resentful. I was frustrated by what I saw as a bait and switch tactic to get people excited about a venue they hated, and I also felt like he was ripping off my style. I began thinking that it was probably foolish to turn down the offer to join his crew, but that was another idea that I was having a hard time coming to terms with. As Broski and Empire were rising to prominence, I realized that Galaxy was doing nothing but holding me back, and it was time to move on. It was getting to the point where people were straight-up telling me they wouldn't go to any shows at Galaxy, even mine. Charles was also starting to owe me a lot of money on back pay from my job as a booking manager at the club, so one night I asked him to front me as many pills as he could, and I left without looking back. Later that week, I sent him an email telling him that I was tired of being treated like dirt and not being paid for my work and that my crowd didn't like his club anymore so I wouldn't be coming back to do any shows there. I told him he could consider our debts even, but obviously, I didn't go into detail through email, I made it sound like our business was entirely above board and professional, just in case we were being watched. Charles did write me back a day or two later, but to this day I don't know what that email said, because when I saw his reply, I closed my eyes and deleted the email. This is a strategy I use to get the last word in situations where I know I'll be cutting a person out of my life, I simply make sure my eyes don't see their reply, thus preventing them from getting inside my head. Enzo and his crew left with me and even offered to invest in my parties, so I guess Charles had to find a new connect after we were gone. While we were on the hunt for a new venue, we rolled deep into all the Philly parties to serve the ravers with doses and pills. I usually made enough to get by but was never ballin or anything because I always played it safe and didn't take too many risks. I only stuck to the people I knew, and I never sold to strangers. The other guys weren't so strict, they all took enormous risks, especially Enzo, but they always came away clean and had their pockets filled with money at the end of every show. It was somewhat intimidating working with them at times since their lifestyle was much more hardcore than mine was, and they always had tons of money while I was broke. They were always generous and willing to help me out, but they were way deeper in the game than I ever intended to be. They also each spent a fair amount of time in prison in the past, and that wasn't a trade-off that I was willing to make. I always felt a little bit of pressure to take greater risks than I usually would just to keep up with them. Most law-abiding citizens don't think that selling drugs is work, they think it’s all just free money, but it’s one of the hardest and most risky professions out there. Their base of operations was in Philly, so I began taking regular trips up there to pick up packages of rolls and acid. We hit up a few parties there too, but the city still hadn’t recovered from the God’s Basement fallout, and it wasn't just the cops we had to worry about either. Even the underground spots like Ghetto Meadow became unusable after local gang members found out about the party and began robbing people and getting into fights. Eventually, promoters in the city were forced to do more mainstream events at clubs or hire off-duty cops for their shows, just to ensure the party wouldn't be shut down before it started.
One night, we went to a party at a roller skating rink, and there were at least a half-dozen off-duty cops at the door patting people down. I decided not to risk it and left my stash in the car, but the other guys just stuffed their shit in their shoes or their pants and managed to get through. Even with the cops moonlighting at the front door, it was still one of the best parties I had been to in a while, probably because it was at such a unique venue.
There was a dance floor in front of the DJ booth, but most people spent the night skating around or hanging out by the bar. Everyone from the old days was there, I even ran into Mickey. I caught him by the bar late in the night when the party was packed. This was the new Mickey, not stressed out and running around like the old days but hanging out and having a good time.
“Hey, how are things going at Galaxy?” Mickey asked.
“I'm not too sure actually, I left there a while ago, things just started to go downhill. Charles was sabotaging the place,” I said.
“Yeah, that doesn't surprise me, that kinda shit comes with the territory, it's a part of the game. So, what's next?” he asked.
“I want to do bigger shows, but I need to look for better venues…” I said, trailing off, not really sure of the real answer to his question.
“You're always gonna wanna be doing bigger shows at better venues. This lifestyle will leave you running in circles. I'm not trying to discourage you, you're good at this, you're giving a lot to the scene, but I don't want to see you give so much that there’s nothing left,” he said.
There was an awkward silence for a moment, I was unsure of what to say.
Mickey continued, “What I mean is, keep on throwing parties as long as it makes you happy, but not a second longer and don't let this shit become your entire life. Have other interests, have other goals, dream bigger than this man, because this can only go so far...Like, what would you want to do with your life other than raves? If you could do anything?” Mickey asked.
“Well, I’ve been thinking about being a writer. I'm not great, but I've been writing sometimes at home, after parties when I’m spun out and can't sleep. I want to write something important someday, something that will make people think more deeply about the things that are wrong with this society and how to fix it,” I said.
“Good! Don't give up on that shit. This scene is such a small corner of the world bro, and you got the ability to transcend all of this,” he said.
We didn't talk for much longer, because as usual, in the middle of our conversation we were both pulled in different directions by random people demanding our time. The party would soon be over anyway, and it wasn’t long before Enzo and his crew were ready to leave.