The 20th anniversary of rave culture's American birth is coming next year, and already it feels like the happy face era is making a comeback. In Los Angeles last month, Electric Daisy Carnival, a two-day dance fest with origins in the glow-stick underground, claimed attendance of 135,000 people. And rave veteran Destructo's new-school Hard festivals (the next one's Aug. 8 at the Forum in Inglewood) are getting bigger and bigger. Frankly, geezers are coming out of the woodworks. Orbital even regrouped to celebrate its own 20-year mark.
Add to that list a name from Orange County's hand-raising heyday, one Simply Jeff. (He might say, don't call it a comeback - he's been here for years). The OC DJ churned out some of the more compelling sets and mix-CDs of the 1990s and became a headliner on the national party circuit. His "funky breaks" style was as loose as they come. Well-spaced kick drums were spiced with sparse snares and the occasional hip-hop sample. While other spinners, including DJ Dan, moved away from the sound, we always credited Mr. Jeff for sticking with it. But alas ...
It looks like Simply Jeff redux has moved on to four-on-the-floor, electro-flavored stylings. (He still revisits break-beat bridges though. Check out his remix, with Swedish Egil, of Shannon's "Let the Music Play:" myspace.com/simplyjeff. We can't entirely blame him. Funky breaks died a long time ago. Some DJs still spin its predecessor, nu school breaks. But even some of that genre's biggest proponents, such as Adam Freeland, have move on to straight 4/4 genres or even band-based rock 'n' roll.
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The problem with breaks is that people sometimes don't know how to dance to them. The lack of an emphasized kick drum on each beat causes some folks to skip a step, even though they don't need to. The thump-thump-thump-thump of four-on-the-floor music (house, techno, trance) leaves not one beat to chance. And so a breaks DJ is a rare thing these days. Too bad. The genre bridges the gap between hip-hop and electronic dance music as it harkens to our break-dancing past. If trance is sometimes soulless, breaks is all heart. The resurgence of electronic dance music in pop, in fact, is giving us shades of rave's break-beat glory. Witness Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow," a funky breaks track in pop clothing. Twenty years on, if we can bring back punky colors, disco flavors, indie sensibilities and mega-raves, we can bring back the breaks. Jeff, we have a special request.
Simply Jeff headlines Relentless Beats 2009 at the Hudson Theater, 295 E. Caroline Ave., San Bernardino. 18+. Tickets $15 advance. Doors at 8 p.m. Info: plurlife.com