By Bryan Hance
Arizona Daily Wildcat August 28, 1997
I Sing The Highway ElectricThe Electric Highway Tour, perhaps the largest corporate sponsored pseudo-rave in history, came to Phoenix's Compton Terrace two weeks ago. Electric Highway is one of a few roving, raving music fests traveling America right now, but it's the only one that bothered to stop in Arizona, and the only one sponsored by SPIN Magazine and BF Goodrich. Yes, BF Goodrich. This is not a joke.
Right now should be where I whine about the corporatization and downfall of the Arizona rave/party scene, and make jokes about blotter acid hits with the BF Goodrich/Radial-All-Weather tire logo on them. And right around now is when you should wonder why the Wildcat is blowing space to cover some bizarre corporate-rave that happened weeks ago - one that was partly sponsored by a tire company, of all fucking people.
Well, here's why - it really didn't suck. Sure, there was the forced marketing of a few trucked-in wankers, the ones the promo people billed as "the front-line soldiers of the electro-revolution." But, they managed to work them into the lineup in such a way that it really didn't matter. Forget the headliners, there were some good acts, corporate party or not.
Phoenix local Gary Menichello spun a great set. Two of them, actually, because he took over when technical difficulties sent a pissed-off Terry Mullen walking offstage after five minutes. Local hero saves the day, ravers happy, film at eleven.
Uberzone, one of the more anticipated acts of the night, gets my award for best main stage performance. If Roland ever needs a crash team of experts to evaluate and test new equipment, they'll want to call Uberzone. Promoters, please - DJs are still the gods of the event, but equipment-heavy sets like this do shit to your crowd that simply needs to be done.
And then there's The Crystal Method, who had top billing, the best time slot, the full-on 'rock' lighting. Blegh. They played, they postured, they sounded exactly like the CD. And then, miracle of miracles, a thundercloud rolled in, dumped rain and lightning on everyone and made the last part of their set ten times better than it would have been without the added chaos.
One short rain delay later, DJ Icey set up in the second stage tent and resurrected the vibe. That tent brought things full circle. Suddenly it, wasn't hundreds of kids milling around in an open air venue anymore, surrounded by video screens and glitz. It became hundreds of sweaty kids packed into a cheap tent with a grittier sound system, dancing their asses off in the dark to the real thing, the real music and the real feeling.
For what it's worth, BF Goodrich and SPIN get credit for staying out of the way.
In retrospect, the party gets a thumbs up. It had serious potential for blowing up in everyone's faces as the final nail in the coffin of the future of the party scene. Ravers, just like anybody else, love to scream sell-out. The thing is, people ended up having a good time. Despite the amount of glitzy crap the crowd had to put up with, the smaller acts pulled it through. Corporate sponsor or not, it worked.