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.

In Plain Sight Brings the House Down (to One World Brewing)

in plain sight

Photo via mountainx.com (2012)

I turn down the hideaway alley to find a line of prospective patrons waiting outside the venue. I’ve never encountered a line here before. I ask the guy ahead of me if they’re at capacity or if this is just a smoker’s circle.

“Yes, we are waiting,” he says in a subtle lilt. Buttoned up and tucked in, I surmise he’s not from around here.

“Guess it’s a busy night,” I say. “In Plain Sight is playing.” He offers a blank stare.

“Local house DJs.”

“Oh! We are from Ukraine. House music is in our blood.” I take this as a good sign for the night.

As I light up a cigarette for the wait, my Ukrainian friends and I are joined by this fetching girl in a ‘90s throwback flower print mini dress. The doorman informs her we are at capacity, news to which she looks genuinely disturbed. Hey honey, it shouldn’t take long, we’re all cool here. It’s when he asks if she is actually one of the band member’s girlfriends, who does have a spot on the list, that she is visibly relieved.

There it is.

“Yeah, they said you would be showing up. I’ve been holding a place for you, love.” Door guy continues to cajole her as he swings the metal door open, to the rest of us adding “the perks of being a musician’s girlfriend!” I remain silent but am tickled inside. Yeah, the perks are sexy, but it hits me how the flip side of being intimately involved with a professional musician is a little less glamorous: rigorous practice and touring schedules, knowing when to give a creative opinion and when to shut the fuck up, frustration, jealousy, intermittent neglect. A relationship of this nature requires an ironclad emotional intelligence, and there should be full-on training for it. Bless you, baby girl in the pretty dress.

The irony of this situation is that for the first time in ages I did not bother securing my own guest list spot since I wasn’t sure if I would in fact make it, and the show was free anyway. But tonight I’m totally cool hanging on the other side of it again. I have plenty of cigarettes.

Set in the underground, speakeasy-style, One World Brewing turns up for In Plain Sight. DJs Lucas Ledford, Ezekiel and Nomad in the Dark make up the trio, who switch off on the tables every 20 minutes or so to keep the pulsing rhythm continuously flowing by way of their individual talents. It’s extra satisfying to finally be in front of In Plain Sight, as I tell you what: I’d been mistaking them for some other group I don’t dig for, like, two years. Can you imagine! It was only at a Moog event in June that I realized who they actually are: bringers of straight up, down ‘n dirty house + techno in a local music scene seriously lacking in it. Where the fuck have I been?

The DJ tables are set up against the brewing room, the eerie green glow from which is the only light in this dark corner. The dance party is in full swing, a typical mix of Asheville types bumping and grooving together. I don’t speak to anyone on the floor, though I’m glad they’re all here; in a sea of bodies I am going into forgotten conversation with my own. My heart declares itself upon the foundation of the strong, repetitive, unembellished beat; I close my eyes and blazing visions of color bleed from my core like spilled ink. Streams of fevered sweat are rolling sub rosa down my chest, under the thin layer of my shirt. I can’t tell which beat is the kick and which is my heart.

Halfway through the set, Nomad in the Dark (aka Ephraim Dean) steps out from behind the tables to greet me. “Are you Backstage Sass?” He must have recognized me by the RBTS WIN tank I’ve (seriously) been rocking for two weeks.

“That’s me,” I confirm, my face aglow, my eyes wide. He might think I’m on drugs. I’d might as well be. He thanks me for coming out and further extends his appreciation for my role in the music community, what with my being an outspoken super fan and all. As if my heart wasn’t warm enough right now.

These guys are clearly a friendly bunch. Their popularity is palpable; it seems almost everyone on the dance floor at one time or another steps behind the speakers to talk to them, except me. In Plain Sight, indeed: the kind of group who is fully here, available to and merging so naturally with their audience.

Which leads me to believe we’ll be meeting again. Watch out, fellas, you’ve got my impassioned ass for a fan now too.

Missed IPS this time around? Catch them August 14th at the New Mountain SOL Bar.