Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Beacham

(A side-view from the balcony, Sasha)

Since moving to Sonoma I have had to own a car, as well as having a 45 minute drive to work, each way.  In the car is a stereo with a cd player and cassette deck.  For the first few months I dug out boxes of old cd's and have been blasting rock and roll, and country, and soul and various electronic stuff.  But I've had this case of old cassette tapes from the years of 1989-1994, approx.  These were explosive years for me and helped shape the next 20 years of my life in almost every way.  They are tapes of old house music.  Much of it that was centered around a very popular underground club that I used to go to, The Beacham Theater in Orlando, Florida.  Aahz.

So, my car has been like a careening time capsule for the last few weeks, darting from here to there and back again.  I've only made it about halfway through the tapes in the case but each time I get in the car I feel transported back into time, sometimes vaguely, sometimes sharply.  The memories that attach themselves to music being of all kinds.  I can still see the flashing lights, the colored beams cutting across the mechanically induced fog, the columns of lights executing their orchestrated chandelles.  I can remember the pulsating energy, the absurd and unexpected sounds and sudden stops of the music, the joyous returns, the darkness, the inexplicably beautiful, and the strange.

There was a core of energy at this club, on the main dance floor, directly in front of the stage.  It was where the speakers were often the most focused, and in closest proximity.  It's where the ones who were there to dance were, giving the body's energy expression in the most concentrated, and yet open and free ways.  The tiered platforms moving up and away from the dance floor towards the back of the theater were populated with listeners and observers, with all of the energy of the room centered around, and focused upon, the sounds emanating from the speakers. Sometimes you would walk towards the back of the theater and everybody would be staring forward, as if into nothing, as if into something.  Perched upon the balcony, overlooking it all, was the dj,  Kimball Collins.  Well, he ended up there once dj culture had started to really take flight, and him along with it.  Regrettably, the only picture I have of the inside of the club is of a guest dj that played there.  It seems unfair to Kimball, and to Stace Bass on lights.

1989, it was as if something exploded.  The dance scene in Orlando had been evident, but in a different way - often morose and dark - either gothic, alternative or industrial.  There was little sign that something so vibrantly thrilling, and of collective elation, would suddenly emerge.  Out of something relatively typical came something extraordinary.  I felt at the time, and sometimes I still do, that it was going to change the world.  In some ways it has.  Of course, in retrospect it is easier to see that the elements were there all along. The history can be traced and more easily understood now.  But at the time it seemed to just magically emerge out of fog machines and speakers, out of the sweeping lights of the night.  It seemed to simply happen, almost fully formed, in a single summer, in a single place.  

Others might disagree and say that it wasn't until 1990 or 91' that it really erupted, and that there were other places involved.  But that's their story, mine was here.  At various times the theater was called Pure Energy, Aahz, Egypt, and World War III.  Perhaps there really were several euphoric explosions...  The name Aahz eventually stuck.  Now, when people refer to it they use that term or simply "The Beacham." 

The experience was many things.  It was both openly communal and intensely personal, and everything between.  My previous friends thought that perhaps I was involved in a cult.  Some of them couldn't understand how dedicated I became to it.  Almost everything else in life faded into the background and a line emerged between my life there and the prior life I had.  Most of my inter-personal interests were centered around that place, that music, those people.  

The drugs.  I would be neglectful to not mention them.  Looking back they probably became a bigger part of the experience than they needed to be, though none of it would have ever happened the way that it did without them.  There was much excitement to be had, but the drug "ecstasy" accelerated those euphoric moments of elation in indescribable ways.  Never before has a drug been so appropriately named.  My only regret is that I did too much, for too long.  Nothing more needs to be said here, perhaps another time.   I only mention it because it would be a lie to deny, or ignore.

Well, it's nearly impossible to try and relay such a powerful internal experience.  So much of it just seems silly when put into words.  It's like explaining to somebody that you still cherish the memory of a recurring dream from the distant past, then trying to describe the dream.  I only wanted to reflect that I have been having a great time listening to those old cassette tapes by dj's like Kimball Collins, Dave Cannalte, Chris Fortier, Icee, Sasha, Robby Clark, Jimmy Van M, Rich Rosario, Andy Hughes, Jerry Boaze, even myself...!!! There's no better way to remind oneself to not get too nostalgic than to re-live one's own recorded errors.  I can feel them coming minutes in advance, back from the past to haunt me some more.  

But it has been a lot of fun and each day I look forward to it.  It helps pass the time on the drive.  It will, of course, also pass and I will put the tapes away again soon.  I wouldn't try to inflict any of it on anybody else.  Rachel says the older electronic stuff is too "dated" for her, and not very "musical," most of it.  That is its primary charm for me now, that it's tainted by neither too much sophistication nor technique.  It occurred before there was even much of an "industry" for it.  It is unashamed at being expressive and filled at once with vibrancy and error and love.  It sounds how being young feels.

"And time won't take my love away..." - Black Box, Ride on Time