Photo by Jeanne RiceAfter two mysterious cancellations of their mega-raves, Huntington Beach promoters B3Cande say they've found the guilty monkey-wrenchers: Riverside County officials.
In a suit filed Feb. 4 in Riverside Superior Court, B3Cande alleges that two Riverside County Sheriffs officers intimidated elders of the Torres-Martinez Indian Tribe into canceling contracts with B3Cande just two weeks before their March 16, 2002, annual mega-rave, How Sweet It Is. B3Cande found an alternate venue in Pico Rivera, but, the suit alleges, the Riverside officers intervened with officials there, and the group's rave permit was abruptly revoked two days before show time.
"The sheriffs were obviously using scare tactics, intimidation and propaganda to get their way," said B3Cande's Brian Alper. "But until we can prove it in court, which is what we intend to do, people are going to believe what they want to believe. This is our chance to show that we really got screwed with."
The suit asks for $25,000 to compensate B3Cande for slander, libel and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. Attorneys for Riverside County declined to comment.
B3Cande started throwing parties in 1997 and have become one of Southern California's top rave-promotion companies. Their mega-raves, including How Sweet It Is and JuJuBeats, attracted 20,000 to 35,000 people and grossed $1 million each, said Alper. Despite the big grosses, Alper says, the B3Cande promoters lived modestly, doling out most of their income for DJs, security, cleanup crews, insurance and other expenses. The secret to their success, however modest, was customer service.
"We worked really hard to get people to trust us so they'd come to our shows," Alper said. "When our events started getting cancelled, we started losing people's trust. That was the biggest hit we took."
After the 2002 cancellations, Alper says, B3Cande couldn't find any rave venues, and he and his partners, Brett Ballou and Brock Anderson, put the company on hold while they got outside jobs. Anderson returned to his pre-rave work as a valet at a Newport Beach restaurant; Alper and Ballou work as event managers for Irvine-based Vision Entertainment, a promoter of car shows and Long Beach's Beach Fest.
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B3Cande is hardly alone in the clampdown. Alper noticed a distinct chill in the rave nation beginning in late 2000 as the federal Drug Enforcement Agency partnered with local police departments in a campaign to crush consumption of the so-called rave drug Ecstasy. "It was too much of an ordeal for promoters to pull off an event and too much of an ordeal for attendees," says Alper. "They weren't treated as average concertgoers. They were treated as ravers, which made them targets for police. The freedom of dance was taken away."
The result was that many mega-raves—including Southern California's largest, Nocturnal Wonderland—were driven out of business. When the big raves collapsed, an array of smaller businesses felt the pain. Ron D Core, a DJ and owner of Costa Mesa's Dr. Freecloud's Mixing Lab, said ticket sales at his business have dropped 20 percent since last year because raves are no longer an option for dance. Instead, he says, people are going to clubs.
"It's a new trend, not by choice," Core said. "It's a sign of the times. Between law enforcement, new laws being passed, and venues being harder to get, there's a lot of roadblocks for promoters and partygoers."
Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, Alper hopes the good times will come again. "But we'll never be able to do an event the way we did before 2000," he figures. "There will be no events attracting more than 10,000 people again. Rave has taken too much of a big hit."