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
Published: July 3, 2013
Q-BURNS: The scene had gotten so out of control, and many of the clubs were not exactly discouraging the behavior, so the “crackdown” was no surprise. I knew something was going to go down when kids started to stumble into my store during the day completely out of their heads just to shop and listen to records. It was a bit unnerving for an open-minded person like me, so I couldn’t even imagine how someone in local government was going to react.
WOHELSKI: I think the scene in Central Florida and Orlando, specifically, had been existing under the radar in a bubble for a long, long time. By the summer of ’93, drugs were quite present and some clubbers’ personal behaviors began to get a little “messy” and irresponsible. While that happens with any sort of alternative culture – not just dance music – city and state officials can let a lot of things slide as long as a scene is policing itself and keeping things as discreet as possible. But when you’ve got people overindulging and even overdosing at the same clubs and parties consistently, creating what could be perceived as a potential nuisance or public safety liability, it’s going to get on the powers-that-be’s radar real quick.
FORTIER: Closing clubs down early sent shockwaves through clubs and promoters and the clubs just did fewer events. I think if the clubs would have kept doing events, but closed them early, at 3 a.m., things could have kept going relatively strong.
TOBIAS: At a fateful Wednesday staff meeting, John Locke [owner of the Edge] sat us all down and told us that we were going country, and that everyone still had a job there ... except me, of course. That turned out to be OK, because the following day, DJ Sandy and I went to Firestone like we did every Thursday, and the moment we walked in the door, management took us upstairs and hired us on the spot.
FORTIER: As our scene grew, the industry grew and opportunities opened for us, such as gigs in other cities, spending more time out of Orlando than in Orlando. I think that the so-called “third wave” or next wave of upcoming DJs did not have the same philosophy. I think there started to be more distractions within, and with that, I think, a bit of decay over time.
Q-BURNS: It only takes a few fearless, motivated people doing big things to create a scene. I feel that too many of those in Orlando either left town or got discouraged and stopped after the “crackdown.”
DJ SANDY: It’s heartbreaking watching something you and others built get destroyed by greed. The scene is back now, and I hope the promoters read this and take note: Don’t kill what you work so hard to produce [just] for money.
Orlando’s Lasting Influence on EDM
WOHELSKI: In today’s resurgence of EDM, it’s great to see a next generation of ravers take the foundations that we built and make them their own. Not only did a lot of great DJs and producers come out of this scene to be recognized internationally, but quite a few industry heavy-hitters including myself and Paul Morris [head of booking agency AM Only, started in Gainesville in 1995 and currently books clients including Skrillex, Boys Noize, AraabMuzik, Disclosure, Bauer, Sasha and many more] have left our marks on the dance music business as we know it today.
> Email Jason Ferguson and Bao Le-Huu