My Greatest Nightmare: How I Accidentally Went to a Psytrance Party and Had a Good Time

I asked for it, really.

Friday night before Halloween, I suggest to my boyfriend Lucas that we do something a little out of the ordinary. I’m getting ready to spend the majority of the weekend at work, ultimately miss the In Plain Sight-headlined party at Asheville Music Hall, and circle back to the reasonable Monday night when little more than trick-or-treating with the kid is in the cards. So when he insists we go out to Sol Bar for this week’s installment of SOL Vibes, I’m admittedly not so enthused. I was thinking something like Korean food and a makeout sesh in a parking lot. How is this different?

“But Starseed’s playing,” he presses, a sweet glint in his eye. He’s referring to Michael Starseed, the high energy, tech DJ he first danced in love to at the Bunny Hop party last March. I acquiesce because Lucas is being cute about it, but when I look up the event page, I feel I must make mention of certain facts.

“You know it’s a psytrance party,” I announce, scrolling through a list of “dark psy/forest” DJs I’ve never heard of. He is surprised to hear that, not familiar with Starseed’s alleged psy side, but he ignores my obvious desire to make a thing of it. After a frustrating number of outfit changes I end up in my purple wig and a long-sleeved mini dress. I hate all my clothes and am being kind of a brat about it.

The club is, to my honest surprise, packed when we arrive. Ghouls and punks, wicked fairies and cheeky “A Clockwork Orange” thugettes mill about, everyone lit up with the spirit of Halloween but somehow also the spirit of psytrance. Asheville knows this is neither my nor househead Lucas’ cup of tea and are clearly bewildered at our appearance. I’m just as surprised as they are; I don’t know how the hell to dance to those drilling rhythms, and if I can’t dance or cry to it then what is the point? I park it on the smoking deck and allow the experience to unfold.

Ramin eventually plops down next to me and leans over, sensing my slight discomfort, to break it down in that comically pragmatic way he does so well: “It’s all in the shoulders; just move your shoulders back and forth and people will think you know what you’re doing.” I crack up at the idea, that this is somehow just a matter of learning a new dance move. Amused and yet unconvinced, I take a bathroom break.

On my way back through the jerking, flailing tangle on the dance floor, I decide to give it a shot because I’m ultimately just boring myself (and Lucas, who’s really trying not to be annoyed with me). From the outside looking in it seems silly at first, rowing my shoulders back and forth to the violent, penetrating thumps. It’s too fast! How does anyone feel anything? Why is everyone having such a good time? What am I missing? I ask myself desperately, not typically someone who struggles to have a good time.

But eventually, frustrated with my attachment to the idea that I can’t do psytrance, I let it go. I’m tired of it, fuck it. I can and I will! Suddenly, the sharpness of the crowd becomes somehow softer, the BPM so high my body concedes and moves more slowly. And there, between the dozens of shoulders and the living autumn altar, I’m feeling…good. I’m feeling connected to the electric mass on the floor, my body-hugging dress, and the smiles of my friends and strangers around me.

Lucas is overjoyed when he sees I have pulled my head out of my ass, though he’s still curious when Starseed is going to show up. He gets Shawn Ivy’s attention next to him. She knows things.

“Starseed? Michael Starseed? Hahahaha. Oh, Lucas,” she belly laughs at him. “No, different Star Seed. Two words,” she sweetly explains, tore up with laughter.

“There’s another Star Seed?!” He blinks blankly in amazement at first, then breaks into a smile. “We were tricked!” he jovially proclaims, grabbing me firmly by the waist. Slightly disappointed but happily mindfucked, we get back to wildly shaking our shoulders.

I never thought I would say psytrance helped me access something deep and good that night. Still not something I would ever want to hear outside of a social setting, it’s sound for the sake of movement, a fierce core of energy for the sake of shaking shit up, and a magnetic playground for the weird and wonderful.

Over our last cigarette, we see that the fake nutsacks on the Clockwork Orange girls are no longer enough to keep them warm, and they accept a kind offer from another barely dressed girl to wear her coat. They are all relieved when she tucks inside to retrieve it. But what she brings back out is not a coat.

It’s PIZZA. An entire box of pizza.

I mean, damn girl, that’s a trick and a treat. They all dig in to the warm embrace of pepperoni, coats be damned. Hats off to you, Psytrance Pizza Fairy. You shook that shit up.

NEW RELEASE: Marley Carroll DJ Mix ‘Summer Turns Fall’

To celebrate the end of a long, gig-intensive summer, Marley Carroll released a new DJ mix yesterday. And aren’t we all so glad he did. Titled Summer Turns Fall, the 48 minute mix is a lesson in transition, from the sun-fueled funk house beats to chilly, weighted scratchwork that reflects these deepening nights.

It begins on the dance floor in my mind, KC and the Sunshine Band’s cover of “I Get Lifted” a damn good groove early on, which has served as a staple in the MC DJ set list all summer. But afterward I am somewhere else altogether.

As the beats swell up, strip down and rise again, Carroll creates a potent tension with his silvery sensitivity to the turntables. And then carefully, gracefully, he releases it, each track a lush new environment for the mind to explore. It’s like walking into another room on mushrooms. The imagination does not soar–it digs down and treks–from the bright, honey morning forest to the mysterious side of some wild island, where shadows speak and beams of full moonlight strike the scales of nightswimming fish like chimes.

Summer Turns Fall carves out an irresistible telling of the shift from poolside to fireside, without and within. Pairs nicely with cloud-watching, driving, or jaunty daydreaming in a doctor’s office.

Listen on SoundCloud here

Download from Bandcamp here

Marley Carroll in a Hammock Haven: An Intoxicating Mix at Highland Brewing

Photo by J Smilanic

Photo by J Smilanic

For a company that specializes in laying your ass out in outrageously comfortable hammocks, Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) knows a lot about parties. The festivities at Highland Brewing last Friday proved that.

As part of Highland’s (apparently months-long) 20th anniversary celebration, the brewery and ENO teamed up to host the July 11-12 events, parties to punctuate Night Flight, a four-mile race that benefits the Asheville Parks & Greenways Foundation. Now, I don’t know about any of that because I don’t run unless it’s to catch a plane or a concert, but yeah, I’m always down for hammocks + drinks + music. So when I pulled into the parking lot and the sprawling ENO Lotus Lounge unveiled itself before me, I knew I was exactly where I belonged.

The grassy area behind the brewery is just pleasant as can be. There’s an outdoor bar on one end of the field serving a handful of choice Highland beers, but silly Sally that I am, I go for the faceless white wine. The Lotus Lounge stretches its petals out, hammocks of every color strung between them; the kids dart under and around them like ants disturbed from their magnetic march, crawling over each other to snag any available part of parachute material as if it were all covered in honey. Anyone and everyone I want to see in this moment is here. I smoke mad cigs in processing how lovely it all is; the midsummer air is still thick and hot as the sun slips toward the horizon. A forest surrounds us.

Of course, my attention quickly falls on the guy in the DJ booth at the center of the lotus: local producer Marley Carroll. His familiar dark blond head bobs up and down to his beat, which for the time being is not much more than a general funk/pop playlist to please the masses. But I’m excited for what’s to come because I’ve just recently seen him at the Asheville Music Hall 4th of July show. And in combination with fellow locals BomBassic and Canadian producer Elaquent, it’s the hottest Asheville electronic show I’ve attended maybe ever.

As the night wears on and the kids exhaust themselves and their parents, Marley’s set moves deeper into his true style. I am posted under a lotus petal in front of him, dancing madly in the psychedelic lights, meeting his eyes from time to time because, I admit, I am way turned on. He begins to peel off originals and remixes, his transitions seamless, his (literally award-winning) scratching expertly sensitive.

Marley’s flawless fusion of heavy house beats and minimal, liquefied glitch makes his particular sound remarkably original and lush. Densely-packed layers of sound operate off one another, some stomping, some tapping, some swimming in open water. My body moves all the while, celebrating every molecule of this moment with ultimate conviction.

So, I just bought his album SingsYou can look forward to that review because it’s, oh, only blowing me away.

Big-ups to Highland Brewing, ENO, and Marley Carroll for the satisfaction. You will all be seeing me again. Bwahaha.