Youthful, razing and feverish, the rave scene became the '90s-era bad cousin of toke-toting '60s rock concerts. In this era, parents feared the devilish goings-on of late-night warehouse rendezvous and alleyway exchanges regarding early-morning plans. Our apparently club-happy, suit-spackled lawmakers even passed the controversial RAVE act to curb these nasty dead-of-the-night musical drug bops.
Figuring out how to safely navigate this musical Operation Late-Night has become the goal of every sweat-spilling dance punk and underground music lover who likes to stay out after 2 a.m. Some of them have found an alternative to electronica binges, a mutation of hippiedom that hasn't come under the siege of moralistic legislation: jam bands.
They love their music. They love their drugs. They love to stay up late. Ravers without the glowsticks, someone once called them, and it's not far from the truth.
But these jammers' ability to appease both the concerns of parents and indulge the tastes of nocturnal kids is what keeps their improvisational interplay thriving into the wee hours without legislators siccing their proverbial drug dogs after them.
And the fiery orbit of space-sounding sex-rock of Particle is at the forefront of this jam-band party. Their concerts are epic. Their followers are called Particle People. Their music is fluent and danceable. It's a rave with no illegal strings attached.
Self-described as "space porn," Particle's stuff floated to the surface of American music when bassist Eric Gould, keyboardist Steve Molitz, drummer Darren Pujalet and guitarist Charlie Hitchcock emerged from a thriving Northern California rock scene in October 2000. A late-night boat party on San Francisco Bay brought the four acquaintances together for an impromptu jam, and while their initial sound was described as rough, they say that was their earnest appeal.
By 2002, Particle had played South-by-Southwest, Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, in addition to 150 other shows around the country. Dates with Ben Harper, Ween and Widespread Panic-as well as sit-ins with Page McConnell of Phish, Stefan Lessard of The Dave Matthews Band and The Doors' Robbie Kreiger-have all cemented Particle's peppy electronic enthusiasm in the minds of dance-happy Birkenstock thrashers.
With smooth segues and admirable stamina, Particle easily navigates through one instrumental piece after another. Don't expect vocals, but don't expect ear-bleeding guitar hooks, either. Do expect a sonic trance with a peak-and-crash flow of grooves that often reaches, well, orgasmic proportions.
A healthy disregard for meter or time measure aids a near-obsessive regard for audience enjoyment. Don't like the current riff? Worry not-it won't last long. These ADD funksters move quickly to something more appealing.
What Particle is selling is a musical experience-this is no rudimentary concert. Arrive at any destination on their tour and you will find dedicated Particle People adorned in their party-time best. Spilling from the doors will be Particle's blend of funk, rock, jazz, electronica and groove. Emanating from the stage will be a multi-media display of lights, visuals, video and photos. Particle's packing houses tighter than their '60s hippie counterparts packed bowls.
And while Particle and other jam bands lead the musical debauchery parade from the midnight-to-sunrise hours, they are content to leave the hardcore habits to their '60s-era hippie and Clintonian rave counterparts. Sure, they can stay up late, but you won't find a Bush or Lott knocking at their party door.
This ain't no sissy late-night club party. This ain't no wussy slide-guitar jam. But it's definitely the best thing in between. ©
Particle performs at the Belly Up, 9:15 p.m. on Dec. 13. $12. 858-481-8140.