For the second week in a row, I ventured forth in the wee-est of hours. Eighteen-and-over raves, house-music festivals like VMC and what few afterhours remain are what fill, for many, those pesky hours between 3 a.m. and dawn. I cannot say whether the Fabulous festival was actually “the largest ever nightlife and dance music event,” as the flier touts, but the turnout definitely was fabulous.
Sunday, November 2, 3:01 a.m.—wait, 2:01 a.m.
There is a powerfully pungent-sweet smell shared by four things: cheap beer, pot, Red Bull and body sweat. One nostril inside the doors of the Orleans Arena, I get a strong dose of all of the above, and it nearly sends me running outside, but the god-awful discordant hodgepodge happening on Fabulous’ outdoor festival stage has me rethinking that plan. Then the beat drops, and all is well—quite good, even.
I stroll around the arena’s perimeter; the Orleans’ graveyard-shift staff (septuagenarians, mainly) looks stoked. There I encounter my first group of festival-goers: slender boys, not a day over 18, shirtless and wearing tiny backpacks. Somehow managing to converse with pacifiers in their chattering mouths, they demonstrate the little glowing toys that will entrance them when they hit the arena floor.
The hallway reminds me of St. Mark’s place in New York, carpeted with loitering kids and counterculture adults with Peter Pan complexes. I used to take the No. 6 train from Grand Central to reach this crowd, to try to join them, but for all my hippie garb and a willingness to pierce things, I just couldn’t get past the veil of drugs and so remained an outsider. Just like tonight. Only the music can unite us here.
Portal 14 is as good as any, so I follow, ironically, a young girl dressed as a white rabbit, through the dark door and down the stadium stairs to the arena floor. Beautiful, ethereal sounds are emanating from the stage and the speaker stacks where DJ Armin Van Buuren is a slight, blond thing dwarfed by the huge works around him.
Close by the stage, fans of varying ages and ethnicities press tight to see and feeeeeeel the vibe. I first join the Asian Mom-fia, then the kandi ravers. The girls wear naught but little girl briefs, bras, baby backpacks and yarn-hair wigs. They suck on lollipops, play with glow sticks and stomp in well-worn furry boots. One girl scalped a teddy bear, turning his ears into her helmet. She dances feverishly with a tall, shirtless backpack-toting boy in raver pants and goggles. Someone has scratched his back so deeply tonight as to draw blood—but, in his ecstatic state, it must feel so good. The girls grind on one another, and massages are given freely. In the warehouse behind the stage, entire groups sit like rhesus monkeys, scratching each other’s scalps and hugging and kissing. I missed the Summer of Love, and these kids aren’t old enough to have caught a Grateful Dead show, but there appears here to be an Indian summer, a brief revival these kids’ parents probably didn’t count on.
The bleachers are sparsely populated, the bars empty. I trod and trip over crushed water bottles, spent glow sticks and fliers for Perfecto at Rain. To the back of the arena, people dance or sit like snowboarders mid-mountain and let whatever they took work its magic while they play with spinning glow-globes.
A girl dressed as Santa’s Asian Helper has an audience of three boys mesmerized by her spinning, glowing dumbbell as she performs a mystical fraternity ritual with them sitting in a perfect line before her. To seal the deal, she shows them her crotch (they’re more interested in the glowing dumbbell) and blows smoke in their faces. I think she just married them.
Van Buuren holds up one finger in a distinct Euro-point dance move, and then smacks an invisible Dutch ass. A joint floats past my face, water rains down from a launched water bottle, and a guy in evil, drippy Joker makeup breathes beer on me. “Sophisticated” isn’t the word.
A disembodied voice urges, “I need you to give all your energy to Armin Van Buuren!" who then promptly packs up and moves off stage. We are plunged into darkness for a good 20 minutes before seeing the familiar Mickey Mouse-head silhouette of Deadmau5 behind the decks; a creepy death dirge precedes him.
Seated comfortably in the top bleachers, I look over the now-full stadium. Everyone is so concerned with their outfits, drugs or toys, I wonder if they’re even hearing the music. The same song has played, three times, but did they even notice? Maybe next year the party should move to a club. At least then the under-21 crowd would be restricted. But then they might be sent back to more risky locales to do their raving. This playpen of sorts is at least supervised, even if they themselves have not been. Play on, kiddies, play on.