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Organic ’96 Offers Fresh Alternative (June 24, 1996)

Organic ’96 Offers Fresh Alternative

By DENNIS ROMERO
JUNE 24, 1996 12 AM

SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST —  KROQ is here broadcasting live, several heavyweight label executives are checking out the scene, and so is a capacity crowd. Organic ’96--an all-night synthesizer-based dance music affair with perhaps the most artistically laudable lineup of its kind ever assembled in America--is a critical success.

But the question on a lot of people’s minds (including those label folks) is not about the critical, but rather the commercial. They want to know: Can dance music festivals like this one, which ended early Sunday, fill the void left by the highly lucrative Grateful Dead tours and at the same time bring a fresh alternative to “alternative” rock festivals gone stale (read: Lollapalooza)?

Perhaps the question is left unanswered. For Organic’s organizers, concert promoter Philip Blaine and a music agent who went under the moniker Chaotica, cost, apparently, was no object. Besides bringing top British acts such as the Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Orbital and the Orb to the stage (along with several other acts and deejays), they sprung for state-of-the-art Turbo sound (of Pink Floyd fame), more than 80 computer-controlled lights, a 70-watt laser that shot out tree-trunk sized beams and, of course, the vast grounds at Snow Valley Resort, providing a techno-hippy vibe. With more than 6,000 paying customers (at $25 to $30 a head) drawn by heavy promotion in print, radio and on the street (fliers), Blaine said it was a “break-even situation.”

It’s too bad it couldn’t be more profitable, both for the promoters and for the future of music festivals. Despite being hampered by low nighttime temperatures (low 40s), the event was world-class. Underworld, a critically celebrated duo, programmed a nonstop techno trip with ambient bridges and ecstatic eruptions that had the crowd eating out of its hand. Orbital’s trip was much the same, with the Hartnoll brothers and their trademark flashlight shades (making them look like aliens) programming exalted sounds while backed by sublime computer graphics (heartbeat monitors). The only letdown, and a slight one at that, was the Chemical Brothers’ set, which sounded more like a pre-programmed medley of their greatest hits than an improvisational take on their rock-inflected break beats.

Ironically, more than 30,000 are expected to go to see some of these very acts next weekend--in England.

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Dennis Romero

Dennis Romero is a Southern California journalist who has covered popular culture, youth culture, raves, ecstasy, marijuana, electronic dance music, surfing, the housing crisis, wealth disparity, crime and other topics extensively in the span of 25 years. He participated in the Los Angeles Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the L.A. riots.

Before joining NBCNews.com in 2018 as daily contributor he worked as a 40-stories-per-month staffer at LA Weekly. He's also been a recent contributor to the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times. His work as also appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the Guardian. He's been on the feature writing staffs of the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Emmis Publishing's Ciudad magazine. He's appeared on CNN, Investigation Discovery and Reelz multiple times to speak about stories he's covered. He's participated in panel discussions organized by Zocalo Public Square, the National Hispanic Media Coa…

Gangster's Paradise Lost

LA CityBeat
Nov. 6, 2003
By Dennis Romero
Cover photo by Steve Appleford Losing the mural, it seems, was a sign of the times. In 2002, when the city renovated the recreation center at Stoner Park in West L.A., the last remnants of the Westside's Latino gang culture were told that the building's big Chicano-era mural would be temporarily removed to accommodate construction, but then returned. The big tableaux from the side of the building was an homage to the Mexican flavor of the neighborhood, and a point of homeboy pride.
But when Mayor James K. Hahn presided over ribbon-cutting ceremonies celebrating the completed makeover last summer, the mural was absent, and the homies still haven't seen it. (A council district field deputy who keeps his eye on parks in the area said he has no idea what happened to the artwork.) Today, a few survivors of the Sotel 13 gang, which has claimed the park since the early 1950s, still congregate at the rec center each weekday at 3 p.m. – lik…

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