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Cover 07/03/2013

Dance dance revolution

An oral history of how the Chemical Brothers, all-night raves, and a massive club scene made Orlando's EDM scene legendary

Photo: , License: N/A

Eddie Pappa aka DJ Icey

Photo: Photo by @kimballcollins, License: N/A

Photo by @kimballcollins


On July 4, 1993, there was a gigantic rave at the downtown Orlando club, the Edge. This wasn’t unusual in the slightest, as the Edge was one of several downtown nightclubs that regularly hosted huge crowds at electronic dance nights. But this landmark event signaled that, although this was the beginning of something big globally, it was already in full swing here. U.K. headliners the Dust Brothers, then known only in cloistered dance music circles, were making their U.S. debut. That act would eventually become the Chemical Brothers.

The 1990s was formative in the electronic dance music awakening of America, and that fire-catching cultural momentum would vault Orlando to the vanguard of it all. As one of the premier global epicenters of the rave big bang, the city found itself on equal footing with not just New York or Los Angeles but also with the trailblazing U.K. scene (English breaks DJ-producer Nick Newton named his 1996 record Orlando), even siring its own sound (Florida breaks).

Back in the city’s O.G. days, the house music scene was a legitimately underground thing and not the province of bros. It was a freak and renegade scene filled with new reality. It was all about music, drugs and the fellowship that stemmed from the mounting velocity of a burgeoning counterculture. But it was also incredibly popular, with weekly club nights at venues like the Edge, the Beacham, and Firestone (see sidebar, The Places) drawing thousands of kids who – quite literally – danced the night away, often emerging from the day-glo darkness into the morning sun as late as 9 a.m. But responding to the growing drug problem, the city passed an anti-rave ordinance, a crackdown that eviscerated a major subculture in mid-stride. This is the story – told by those who were there – not just of a pivotal night in Orlando’s electronic music culture, but also of a music culture that was itself pivotal.

The People

Dave Cannalte started DJ’ing in Orlando in 1987 at a club called Park Avenue for an alternative dance night called “SPIT.” He later became the head music programmer for Disney’s Pleasure Island (most notably DJ’ing at the video club Cage and the massive dance club Mannequins). Along with Kimball Collins, he was co-resident of AAHZ nights at the Beacham. By the mid-’90s, Cannalte had established himself internationally as one of the top progressive house DJs and continues to DJ around the world, as well as maintaining daily operations of Promo Only, a DJ
music service.

Robby Clark began DJ’ing in town in 1987 and has had extensive stints at Visage, the Parliament House, the Edge and Firestone. He also maintained a 20-year residency at Southern Nights and has DJ’ed sets across the U.S., Canada and Europe. From 1990 to 2000, he and his sister, Terri Clark, owned and operated Underground Record Source, which is widely considered to be one of the most important dance-music record stores in Orlando history.

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