Gathering of the Tribe$
First, let us accentuate the positive. There will undoubtedly be good music—if not great music—at Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion on Sunday, the final stop on Moby's inaugural Area: One tour, a massive grouping of diverse sounds not heard on the same bill since the glory days of the first few Lollapaloozas. It might even be the tour of the year. Take a gander: maestro Moby is at the height of his creative powers; the stanky soul of Southern-fried hip-hoppers Outkast will put many a backfield in motion, as will the more serious-minded leanings of the Roots; techno pioneers New Order will satiate the oldsters in the crowd; were this Europe, the presence of DJ culture jammers Paul Oakenfold and the Orb would have sold out this gig a long time ago; the techniques of wet-funk mixmaster Timo Maas are worth at least half an ear, as are the dub house noodlings of French collective Rinrse (even if the annoying way they insist on spelling their name makes me want to hate them); and any chance to witness Carl Cox, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, the originators of Detroit techno, together at the same gig should be jumped at. Better still, this Area: One finale will be without the two weakest links at various dates on the traveling fest's 15 previous shows—the hapless caterwauling of the overrated Nelly Furtado (replaced in the Pretentious Waif slot at Blockbuster by Billy Corgan, who'll be guesting on guitar with New Order) and the deathly dull pabulum spew of the insufferable Incubus. Neither will be missed.
Now, the cold, hard truth. As great as Area: One appears, I can't shake the gnawing feeling that this fest is more about defining target markets and indoctrinating new members of the Konsumer Kulture™ than music—evidence that the electronic/techno scene, for all the creativity between the grooves, is really nothing more than a white-noise soundtrack designed to help corporations separate you from your money. Prepare for a blitzkrieg of advertising when you arrive: there's an official energy drink sponsoring the tour; those hippy-dippy light sticks that the ravers like to wave will be supplied on Sunday by Intel; and then there's the unsavory involvement of the Ford Motor Co., which has so wonderfully co-opted the phrase "Detroit techno" for the ad campaign of their Focus model. Ford even issued a press release touting how proud they were of the tie-in, a copy of which is included in the Area: One press material. It reads, in part, "The Focus car itself will be integrated into the festival culture through exciting interactive vehicle displays and slick Focus-inspired visual imagery during the performances. . . . Focus marketing revolves around technology, entertainment, fashion, sports and music, designed to appeal to young consumers. . . . The Ford Focus and techno music mirror each other in many ways. Focus owners are influenced by technology, style, music and the idea of change, and techno was born from the same roots. . . . 'Techno appeals to a wide, cross-cultural group of people who are unified by this music and scene,' said [Focus marketing manager Bob] Fesmire. 'This music was created partly by the pounding clangor of the Motor City's auto factories.'"
But to really make your nose crinkle, there are also these smelly comments from Bruce Eskowitz, executive vice president of concert-promotion firm SFX, which is co-producing the fest: "The live experience provides the optimum environment to deliver a brand message to music fans. It is refreshing to see a forward-thinking company like Ford embracing live entertainment as a strategic marketing platform." Just remember, music fans: it'$ only ok & oll™.
The Area: One Festival at the Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion, 2575 Glen Helen Pkwy., Devore, (909) 88-Music. Sun., 3 p.m. $39-$59. All ages.
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