By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Several in attendance recall that the water situation turned dire. Lines stretched endlessly to get to water stands, and some people started drinking out of a faucet along the wall. In the bathrooms, sinks overflowed as people clogged the drains with paper towels and dunked their cups in to cool off. The scene had overheated.
"It was just gross. It was grossly bloated," says Louis.
Bizz, ever the entrepreneur, admits some envy looking back on Transit.
"Ultimately, we wanted to do the big show," he says, talking in his mile-a-minute voice. "After Dark was upset because we thought we should be doing the whammy. Was it big? Hell, yeah! Did it wake everybody up? Hell, yeah!"
When Channel 2 broadcast a report from the party, it woke up parents and police. Raves, which had barely surfaced as a blip on the national media radar, now exploded into mainstream awareness.
"It was as if electronic music and techno music and drug abuse went hand in hand," says Louis. In another interview, he adds, "When you got story after story after story of kids too young to be out caught on tape on drugs and dressing like straight out of The Wizard of Oz, these images, they're unsettling at best and definitely raised eyebrows for people across the globe."
Around this time, with calls coming in from parents, authorities ratcheted up pressure on the local gatherings. Lieutenant Dennis Gafford in the narcotics division of the Houston Police Department supervised FAST, a forfeiture and abatement support team that targeted the rave problem through code enforcement and undercover drug stings.
No one in the dance music scene will deny that drugs were a part of the rave movement. What frustrates them is the fact that dance music was unable to disentangle and distance itself from the stigma left by that movement -- and that police squashed the growth of the music by sending a chill through the party scene.
"I'd say that it wasn't uncommon to experience these types of events along with techno music," says Gafford. "But we certainly weren't about to condemn a particular type of music as involved in the drug culture."
Yeah, right. DJs, promoters, fans and the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund, a national nonprofit formed to protect the industry, would hardly buy that, even those who concede that the scene needed to be cleansed. Mister Spacely was spinning at a warehouse party in 2001 when police burst in with their flashlights shining and loud voices demanding that he shut down the music and call up whoever was in charge.
At a Galveston rave that year, police arrested 84 people. Kelly McCann, a promoter for the Scooby Doo Crew, had been throwing the Lovefest beach parties biannually for a few years prior to Transit. He says that two helicopters were used that night to spotlight crowds of people so that police could charge in, grab them and throw them in the paddy wagon. "It looked like a war out there," says McCann. A major party called Cyberfest in Katy ended similarly in disaster as police blocked off roads and barricaded entrances the night of the show.
Along the way, the very term "rave" was discarded.
"After Transit, the heat was on when the city came down on us, especially houstonraves.com," writes VJ, founder of the Web site. "We actually branched off into houstonparties.net in order to beat the heat At one point it was very difficult to do anything, and I feared being shut down by the officials."
As anxiety spread that each new party would be a bust (literally), presale revenues plummeted, and promoters like McCann tried shifting to circuitous -- and comparatively geriatric -- event titles like "An Evening With." (As though Sting or James Taylor were going to show up with an acoustic guitar rather than a DJ toting a crate full of records.)
Hyperia, our Twilo just east of downtown, opened in 2000 on the premise that dance music could be pushed into the clubs. Neil Heller, a longtime player in the local club business who ran Hyperia, sensed the momentum shifting in that direction. "The timing was perfect," he says. Elsewhere, particularly in California and New York, such a model had worked, though not without struggle.
Here, though, "the stigma of rave just became overwhelming," says Heller. He declines to offer details, but he does note that "Hyperia was definitely in the crosshairs for not only the city but also the national scene." In November 2002, after frequent police activity, the club closed.
On New Year's Eve this past year, the Scooby Doo Crew held its final party as well. "The scene had outgrown the name," says McCann. "I looked around at my parties and I said, 'I'm the only 35-year-old here.' "
Brotha Jibril is quick to point out that he's far from being the most prolific DJ in town. He points to legends like Chris Anderson, Andrei Morant and his roommate, DJ Bizz.
"Those guys saw a lot more action than I did. Way, considerably more than I did," he says, leaning back from the mixing board downstairs at the town home he shares with Bizz. If electronic dance music and epic parties were a hurricane force that ripped through the underground in the mid- to late '90s, Jibril caught only the tail end of it.