Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2001
Source: Fort Worth Weekly (TX)
Copyright: 2001 New Times, Inc.
Contact:  1204-B W. 7th St. Suite 201, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Author: Colin Maycock and Carey Hix
Bookmark: (Raves)


The State Helps FWPD Send Raves Back Underground.

In a move reminiscent of religious leaders burning Beatles albums in
the wake of John Lennon's renowned "We're more famous than Jesus"
comment, the Fort Worth Police Department and the State Attorney
General's Office have decided that raves are no longer welcome here.
The police and representatives of the AG's office met with Ridglea
Theater owner Richard Van Zandt just under two weeks ago and told him
that should one more rave occur in the theater -- or more precisely,
should one more citation be issued during a party -- the business
would be closed under the terms provided by the Nuisance Abatement
law, a tactic used last year in Orlando, Fla., to pressure some of
that city's dance clubs. "Dance music represents good things."
dark-haired, slight raver Bo Barnett said. "It talks about how
beautiful everybody is, about dancing all night, about loving
everybody, about getting your groove on," he said after a rave earlier
this year. "That's what the whole scene stands for. The word 'rave'
doesn't mean a drug-induced party where a bunch of kids gather
together and get fucked up. That's not what it's about."

The Fort Worth Police Department is convinced otherwise. It contends
not only that illegal drug use is rampant at these parties, but that
raves are the perfect cover for distribution. After 12 arrests were
made at the Ridglea by an undercover unit of the Narcotics Division
during a December 10 rave, police revoked the theater's authorization
to employ off-duty officers and strongly suggested that Van Zandt
consider canceling future raves.

Van Zandt decided not to fight for the kids' right to party. "I have
done battles in the past. I have taken a fire chief to court in his
own city hall, and I beat him," Van Zandt said. "There were some
issues in the military that I took on because I knew that I was right.
This, however, is not a battle that I choose to fight with the police
department because I don't think it will benefit the Ridglea. I don't
think it will benefit Wesley [Hathaway, Van Zandt's partner] and I
personally or professionally."

Unfortunately for the area's scenesters, narcotics officers collared
another 10 people at a subsequent rave in the new year. That's when
the AG's office was called in. The office's spokesperson, Tom Kelley,
said that given the number of citations already issued, they were
prepared to close the Ridglea unless Van Zandt was willing to cooperate.

FWPD claims they are not opposed to raves per se, merely the criminal
elements that accompany them. "We focused on the activity, not simply
because it was a rave," Capt. Clifford Cook of the West Division said.
Twenty-two arrests over two nights from an audience of at least 2,600
people equals less than 1 percent of the crowd.

Rave promoter Dave Skinner of All 4 One Productions said that he was
"saddened by the loss of an outstanding venue," and noted that one of
the attractions of the Ridglea was that it "was guaranteed to be a
safe place for kids."

Since the National Institute on Drug Abuse issued last summer's "Drug
Alert Bulletin" on ecstasy and other club drugs such as ketamine and
GHB, different local authorities have made efforts to contain or
suppress raves. Cities as disparate as New Orleans and Des Moines
have, since the beginning of January, launched initiatives to
eliminate or radically curtail their rave scenes. New Orleans
authorities, for example, have reinterpreted mid-'80s crack-house
laws, which make it a crime to make a building available for drug use,
to indict the owners and promoters of the State Palace club over the
hosting of a rave.

Long before the Ridglea Theater started scheduling raves in 1998, the
local dance scene was well entrenched. The first Fort Worth raves took
place in 1994 shortly after Matt Pruitt of Tech Sun Records met D.J.
Carl Howard, a member of Anomaly, the city's first party crew.
"Anomaly was responsible for Fort Worth's first renegade rave parties
that were held in such exotic locations as empty warehouses and
abandoned cul-de-sacs," Pruitt said. In those days, if 600 people
showed up and paid the $7 admission charge, the event was a success.

As the popularity of Anomaly's parties grew, the promoters became
increasingly ambitious. Hagize, Anomaly's primary agent, organized a
party in an abandoned mattress warehouse off Vickery Boulevard. That
event, which Juan Atkins headlined, marked the first organized sting
by the police on a local rave, Pruitt said. The police operation was
primarily one of harassment. Minutes before the party was to begin,
the police surrounded the entire block, began arresting party goers,
and handed Hagize several tickets. The bust put an end to Anomaly,
Pruitt said.

Only momentarily silenced, the electronic beat surfaced shortly
afterwards, according to Pruitt, in an abandoned Haltom City warehouse
where 800 people congregated to hear the musical machinations of the
popular D.J. Icey. Five minutes into Icey's set, which was encased in
total darkness save for two small red and green lasers suspended from
the ceiling, the police raided. Apparently the police were a little
nonplussed by the event. "They had just run up on an abandoned
warehouse with over 800 kids dancing to weird music on an incredibly
loud sound system in complete darkness," Pruitt recalled. "This was
virgin territory for the boys in blue."

Despite the attentions of the city's finest, the tenants of the
warehouse, along with Pruitt, began hosting events that were to become
the quasi-mystical legends of the local scene: the Big House and
Haltom City Warehouse parties. These functions were the starting point
for many of Fort Worth's most prominent d.j.'s, such as Pruitt, Joel
Alamo, D.J. Love, U-Chin, Waric Cameron, and Frankie Vega.

In late 1996 and early 1997, clubs began recognizing the commercial
potential of electronic music and started to hire d.j.'s to play for
the crowds who had tired of the legal difficulties associated with the
warehouse renegades. From 1997 to 1999 people flocked to places such
as 8.0, Underground X, and the Aqua Bar.

Raving at the Ridglea began in the late '90s, when a collective called
Zedan Productions began organizing large events there. In June 1999,
Disco Agent's John Phunk (a.k.a. John Peacock) started a series of
raves known as the "Funktown parties," which attracted more than 700
people. After the Dallas club Decibel closed in winter 2000, the
Ridglea Theater emerged as the premier site for raves.Just because the
police are cracking down now doesn't mean the raves will cease, Phunk
said. "They will continue on in some form here in the Fort Worth
scene, albeit underground again, like in the beginning," he said.
"Some rave-scene members actually embrace the thought of it going back
underground. That way it can recapture some of its lost luster and
magic."It might seem ironic that the Fort Worth Police are suppressing
a scene that had been making extensive efforts recently to police
itself. The drug usage is not as rampant as it once was, Phunk said.
"There is a sober revolution going on now that is putting the drug
abusers in the minority, where they belong," he said.

Van Zandt, on the other hand, cannot afford to be quite as sanguine as
either the police or the ravers. The loss of the revenue generated by
the raves, between $10,000 and $20,000 a month, puts the future of the
theater in jeopardy.

He pondered the future of his business. "One area that is out there
that we really have not tapped in to," he said, "is corporate events."
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