Strangers With Cande

How sweet rave promoters B3Cande are

But they did stop. Secret warehouse rave parties were routinely busted by police, which meant Ballou and his friends were consistently blowing the $25 cover charges they spent. Then there was the absence of big-name talent willing to play the LA/OC area.

So the budding entrepreneurs hatched a plan in 1997: bring superstar DJ Frankie Bones back to California from New York. At the time, it seemed a mission impossible. They had no connections, and Bones once loudly swore —while spinning at a 1993 rave—that he'd never return to Southern California. But B3Cande shocked him with a double-whammy of integrity and persistence. After a friend of Anderson's put up $12,000 to throw the rave, Ballou wore Bones down by repeatedly calling his Brooklyn record store and promising him money upfront.

That first party went off without a hitch, and B3Cande soon earned a reputation as honest brokers—go to a B3Cande event and not only will you not get gouged, but you also will actually get to see the DJs advertised on the fliers.

They quickly realized their hobby could become a business. Ballou dumped plans to go to college, Alper dropped out of Cal State Long Beach, and Anderson eventually quit his job parking cars in Newport Beach. Planning big parties during the day and promoting in clubs after sundown meant more work than they had ever done before, but they felt they were doing a public service by creating safe places to rave, despite unforeseen costs, both logistical and financial—from the undercover vice cops who showed up at their events to the thousands of dollars they've had to spend to hire on-site paramedics and security. The cleanup bill for one rave alone totaled a cool $30,000.

Stubbornness and plain dumb luck got them out of dilemmas that would have had other promoters begging to cash out. They once lost $60,000 when fire marshals cancelled their third rave just hours before the starting time. Amazingly, their investors were understanding. But the worst was still to come: the wrath of the national news media rained down on them when five teenagers died after driving off a San Gabriel Mountains road following B3Cande's 1999 JuJubeats rave. No drugs were involved, and police said the accident could have occurred any time, any place.

But Fox News, Hard Copy, Rolling Stone and a slew of tabloids covering the incident branded B3Cande as devious pied pipers leading a generation of teenagers into debauchery. The trio were never charged with a crime, but the tragedy continues to shadow them. They're still embroiled in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the parents of the accident victims, and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS)—which granted the permit to stage JuJubeats—embarked on a national review of their permitting policy. The review was never completed, but don't plan on raving in the San Gabriels any time soon.

"It's hard to make a case that all-night, amplified parties must take place in a national forest," says Marlene Finley, assistant director of recreation for the USFS's Pacific Southwest region.

But B3Cande refused to leave the party. "We were sad and heartbroken about the tragedy, but it didn't make sense to stop our business. We'd let the scene down if that happened," Alper says.

Their persistence has led them to the forefront of a sort of Rave New World. The commercial breakthroughs of DJs like Moby and Fatboy Slim have finally exposed techno and rave culture to large American audiences. And the past year saw the doubling of attendance at all the massive raves; Nocturnal Wonderland, held over Labor Day weekend in Indio, skyrocketed from 25,000 to 42,000, while B3Cande's How Sweet It Is is expected to draw 35,000 on Saturday, up from 12,000 the year before.

It's a big accomplishment for these promoters, who evolved from fanboys into businessmen. But their profits are still razor-thin—enough to keep the trio living like college freshmen; each lives in a small apartment in Huntington Beach and drives an unsexy pickup. The mega-raves aren't a guarantee of consistent cash flow, either—Ballou, Alper and Anderson must also look for additional gigs, like promoting weekly clubs such as Funktion, held each Saturday night in downtown LA.

But they plan on mega-raves getting even bigger, both nationally and locally. Alper says he has been in negotiations with the newly remodeled Anaheim Convention Center for more than a year now to hold a big party there. Eventually, they believe they'll start making the kind of money that mega-rave promoters in Europe do.

"We're getting in position," Anderson says. "We'll be the most powerful promoters around when it pops."

How Sweet It Is, featuring Roger Sanchez, the Jungle Brothers, Doc Martin, Christopher Lawrence, Donald Glaude and others, takes place at the Lake Perris Fairgrounds, 18700 Lake Perris Dr., Perris, (949) 460-6947; Sat., 6 p.m.-6 a.m. $35.
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