Starscape's all-night event takes party 'above ground'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Saturday's Starscape event is an all-night party that features the best in electronic and urban music, from drum 'n' bass and techno to hip-hop and house beats.

More than 40 DJs from across the nation and around the globe will descend upon Baltimore's Fort Armistead Park, where they'll take the decks to spin sets for a crowd of thousands.

But don't let organizer Lonnie Fisher hear you call his event a rave.

The Ultraworld Productions founder and Sonar Lounge co-owner says the happening should not be described as such because the nine-hour party is not a counterculture event.

"It's not a rave." said Fisher. "It's every bit of an arts festival."

In addition to five areas of music, the event Fisher dubbed "an underground Artscape" will also feature performance artists, a fine art gallery and a vendor village full of food and other items.

The $200,000 party is drastically different from those that were thrown more than 10 years ago, when the Randallstown native first began working as a DJ in Baltimore and Washington area clubs.

Then, the scene was rife with drug-heavy warehouse parties, and raves were the target of much media attention. But the local TV stations that attempted to expose rave culture, he said, broadcast footage of supposedly drugged-up teen-agers because the image was salable.

"The media wanted a sensational story," said Fisher, who said there was an equal amount of illicit activity going on in the area's commercial, established clubs at the time.

Eager to squelch the bad publicity, he and other promoters began to produce more "above ground" events.

"What the media coverage did was force us to work harder to fight the image," said Fisher, who held the first Starscape festival five years ago.

Underground warehouse parties that featured club music as a small part of the atmosphere -- almost a background element to other main events -- had begun to fade from the radar while promoters started to create events in which drum 'n' bass and techno music were the central focus.

Today, Fisher believes that there's little room for the rave concept in the world of electronica.

"Over the years, the [scene's] focus has narrowed more to the music than to the actual event. It was a healthy development for those of us who all along have been saying 'It's about the music,' " he said.

"Rave is dead as an event. But the vibe, which is what we're after, is not," Fisher added.

At Starscape, that music-induced positive atmosphere is prevalent.

"You can feel it. Everybody in the crowd is on the same wavelength. It's very much part of the appeal," Fisher said.

"What makes it such an interesting experience is that we're after [the vibe] for nine hours," said Fisher, who reported that some attendees will travel to this year's all-nighter from as far away as South America and Alaska.

And when the sun rises over the Chesapeake Bay on Sunday, the waterfront event will finally come to an end at 6 a.m.

That's a lot of party for a price ($40) that can't be beat, Fisher said.

"It's an incredible value when you compare it to other entertainment options," he said.

Starscape's admission charge and upbeat atmosphere have attracted 5,000 people, college-aged to 50-something, to the event in years past, with this year's festival expected to draw a varied mass of thousands as well.

"The diversity of the crowd and the positive energy of the event is the best thing," Fisher said.

He's happy that the festival's clientele represents a cross-section of society, though he admits that the event isn't geared toward or appealing to everyone.

Despite that, Fisher said even those with the slightest interest in electronica or hip-hop should try it out.

Unlike the world of punk or indie-rock, where it can feel like only the most knowledgeable and with-it are welcomed into the fold, the electronic music scene is open to everyone.

"It's not who you know or how much you know. If you're dancing, you'll get accepted -- whether you know who's spinning or not," Fisher said.

"Go without any expectations. ... Meet people, observe the spectacle, listen to the music, and it'll tell you if you're in the right place."

Fort Armistead Park is at 4000 Hawkins Point Road, Baltimore. Starscape will take place from 9 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at the gate or through various ticket outlets. This is an 18-and-over event. For more information, visit www.ultraworld.net.

For more club events, see page 38.

Starscape

More than 40 DJs will occupy five areas at the fifth annual Starscape event:

Ultraworld's drum 'n' bass stage: Photek, Fresh, Dieselboy, Dara, AK1200, Messinian, Mason, Trust, Dstar, Sharpness, DJ Bryce, Lonnie Fisher

The Buzz Tent: Green Velvet, Jimmy Van M, Feelgood, Scott Henry, John Tab, Buster with Rex Riddem, De Rigeuer

Sonic soul area: Thunderball, DJ Lovegrove with Zak, Donny Burlin, Chris Bulla, K Ravi, Graham S, Fluid

DC Skillz showcase: Chris Warin, Cortex, Dee Jay Holiday, Ill-Usion, Mugoth the Destroyer, Soulkiss, Strickt

Hip-hop and down-tempo area: The Trooperz, Impulse, Adam T. Rush, Rockwell, Ruin, Cam One

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