How David Bowie Helped Save Dolphins


The late rock star is a hero to activists fighting the dolphin slaughter in Japan.

Photo Credit: 360b/Shutterstock

David Bowie is being remembered as a musical genius, a gifted artist, and a fashion icon. But to whale and dolphin activists, he was nothing short of a hero.

Bowie’s hauntingly moving song “Heroes,” the title track of his 1977 album, has become a rallying cry for people around the world working to end the killing and capture of whales and dolphins at the cove in Taiji, Japan.

The song, which includes the lyrics “I, I wish you could swim / Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim,” accompanies the closing credits of the 2009 documentary The Cove, which brought global attention to the annual slaughter in Taiji.

Most people don’t know that Bowie, a quiet but generous supporter of animal welfare causes who died on Sunday at 69, personally intervened to make sure the song could be licensed for a minimal fee.

Cove director Louie Psihoyos said the movie’s producer, Fisher Stevens, knew Bowie’s wife, Iman. “That’s how we got through to him,” he said. “If we’d had to go through record-company channels, it never would’ve happened.”

According to Psihoyos, the cost of licensing a rock song for commercial films starts at about $25,000 and can reach six figures. After hearing about the film, Bowie insisted that RCA Records make “Heroes” available for $3,000.

“They had to charge something so they weren’t giving it away,” Psihoyos said. “It was hardly worth the time for the record label to write up the contract.”

A licensing employee for Sony Music Entertainment, which owns RCA Records, confirmed that the fee was reduced but said the amount paid “is confidential.”

The song, reportedly about an East German and West German couple who meet at the Berlin Wall—“I, I can remember (I remember) / Standing, by the wall (by the wall) / And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads)”—became a powerful anthem for the anti-whaling movement.

“I didn’t know at the time about his support for animal rights,” Psihoyos said of Bowie. “But it turns out he had a huge heart.”

Ric O’Barry, star of The Cove and founder of Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, said that during the film’s closing credits, “people jump out of their seats and want to do something. That song reenergizes people and helps keep the issue alive. Sometimes I meet people, and when they recognize me, they start singing ‘Heroes.’ ”

“There is nothing to galvanize a community around a movement like a movie, and with every social movement, you always needed songs,” Psihoyos said. “This was a song for that moment.”

The moment lives on. This Saturday in London, thousands of people are expected to march to the Japanese Embassy to protest the dolphin drives, which run every September to March.

Bowie and his hit single will be featured prominently during the day.

“We’re going to make it a massive tribute to Bowie,” said protest organizer Nicole Venter, founder of MEOKO, a platform for electronic music.

Venter said some protesters will be wearing Bowie masks and brandishing banners bearing his image. Meanwhile, a vintage car will lead the march, blasting sounds of dolphins being killed at the cove—and, of course, “Heroes.”

“We will probably play it several times, and people will sing along,” Venter said. “Still, this won’t become a circus. We’re there for the dolphins, but we also want to pay tribute to Bowie.”

The singer, who later sported a dolphin tattoo, was working to save dolphins and whales as early as 1972, when Bowie and the Spiders From Mars headlined the Friends of the Earth Save the Whale Benefit Concert in London.

O’Barry will not be at the protest. He leaves Sunday for Taiji, where police briefly detained him last August. On Tuesday, his Dolphin Project said 35 to 40 striped dolphins were killed at the cove.

“I think London is one of the keys of stopping the slaughter,” O’Barry said.

“ ‘Heroes’ is our theme song, and they’re going to play it loud,” he added. “The Japanese government will have a very difficult time dealing with that PR nightmare. Thank you, David Bowie.”



This article originally appeared on Reprinted with permission.


I was shocked last night when I turned on the news before retiring to learn that David Bowie had died. Bowie was such a powerful influence on my life. He was the quintessential 20th century artist: innovative, paradigm busting, creating culture both musically and visually. Recently he’s been a kind of Greta Garbo of rock. He seemed to disappear for a few years, and then…the amazing new album “Blackstar” and his totally unexpected death. My mind is replaying all the Bowie songs that left such an indelible imprint on my soul. I leave you with the moving “Lazarus” song from his last album:

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

[Verse 2]
Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
I’m so high, it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below
Ain’t that just like me?

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass

[Verse 3]
This way or no way
You know I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain’t that just like me?

Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?

South Africa’s anarchist hip hop collective

December 4, 2015

Image courtesy the author

How do you make people realize they’re in chains? For Soundz of the South (or SOS) – an anti-capitalist resistance collective from Khayelitsha, Cape Town – you give them hip hop.

That injunction dates back to hip hop’s origins in New York City. At street parties in the South Bronx in the 1970s, sound equipment was often wired up to park lampposts. Hip hop’s origins were strictly DIY and, most importantly, a direct reaction to the structural marginalization of communities and the racism of the mainstream media. SOS are carrying on that initial spirit through hip hop activism that is relevant to their own struggles.

As a collective of both activists and artists they are committed to decentralization, direct action, autonomy and self-reliance. Like anarchist thinkers Emma Goldman or Mikhail Bakunin, they believe that hierarchies corrupt and only horizontal organisation can eliminate inequality. Besides recording albums, SOS hosts regular meetings and “critical” documentary screenings, weekly slam sessions, organize protests and discussions, attend regular conferences and have set up campaigns such as “Don’t Vote! Organise!” or initiatives to save Philippi High (a school on Cape Town’s Cape Flats). They also started the Afrikan Hip Hop Caravan, an annual series of events (this is the third edition) currently taking place through the end of December.

A recent track was directly inspired by the collective’s involvement in the#FeesMustFall student protests. When I interviewed members Milliha, Anele, Khusta, Sipho and Monde, they were resolute that their music has to be political. “What hip hop should be about is hold accountable those who are in power,” says Anele. The reasons are that it’s a genre young people can relate to, and accessible because, as Milliha explains, unlike punk music, “You need a pen and paper, and the beat will come on its own.” The sentiment is that, when country’s President, Jacob Zuma’s main virtue is a charismatic dance, and bling bling, booze and bitches flood the mainstream, grassroots hip hop is the alternative media.

SOS members, who are also part of other activist organizations such as the Housing Assembly and ILRIG, understand that there’s more to social change than music. To be part of the collective, you have to be involved in regular discussions, protests, meetings, take on tasks, organize, and identify with the principles. Many times on-the-ground work comes first, which inspires ideas for songs. But Anele stresses, what hip hop does do is help listeners wake up and mobilise action. “It demystifies big issues and brings politics back to the people,” he says, or as Monde puts it, “We’re taking whatever is out there and bring it closer to those who can’t reach it.”

The Afrikan Hip Hop Caravan aims to take this kind of awareness across the continent. It was conceived by SOS, Uhuru Network, and various cultural activists in 2011. In each participating African city, there’ll be the Afrikan Hip Hop Conference, to encourage discussion about hip hop’s role in community struggles, and the Afrikan Hip Hop Concert, to give repressed, underground hip hop a platform. 2015’s edition will start in Arusha, Tanzania, and the main focus will be migration against the backdrop of the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa, the European refugee crisis, and shooting of black teenagers in the United States. Inspired by Dakar hip hop artists who got together to stop president Abdoulaye Wade from unconstitutionally seeking a third term in office, the idea is to explore the origins of certain problems, relate them to current issues and transcend borders.

SOS’s involvement in the caravan, as well as everything else they do, is self-financed. Strictly rejecting any funding from corporate brands (saying no to Red Bull for instance, Khusta tells me) to maintain autonomy, SOS decide collectively what happens to any proceeds. Nobody receives money to spend at their own discretion. Instead, Khusta explains, it goes back into the community. As a group with no set amount of members, they’re not interested in branding themselves nor registering with a label – “We don’t make songs for the radio,” says Anele.

In South Africa music has played an important role in the struggle of oppressed people. President Jacob Zuma must be aware of a rhythm’s convincing power – when it’s election time he brings mainstream DJs to the township. That’s why SOS don’t want listeners to switch off to their beats. Following Bakunin, they believe a “sweet” democracy that demands gratitude for pseudo-freedom distracts from important realities. “And that’s what we have, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, to make people realise they’re in chains. They are working and creating wealth for others to enjoy,” explains Anele. Unfortunately, he continues, many anarchist comrades don’t get hip hop – “They see a lot of black power and think it’s nationalism” – but he’s convinced that there is no line between anarchism and hip hop. Hip hop is the voice of the working class.

*The Cape Town Afrikan Hip Hop Concert and Conference will take on December 12th 2015 at Moholo Live, and on December 13th at Buyel’mbo Village, Khayelitsha. If you can’t make it, watch out for Freedom Warriors Vol 3. and The Afrikan Hip Hop Caravan Collaborations from 2013 to be released soon.

“We’re your local Velvet Underground”: This season’s one essential box set is the “Complete Matrix Tapes”

Six CDs of Lou Reed and the Velvets, at an old pizza place in 1969, captures a masterful band, playing to no one

"We're your local Velvet Underground": This season's one essential box set is the "Complete Matrix Tapes"

It is December, the season for deluxe CD box sets. I’ve been making my way through some interesting ones: the Ork Records box with essential rare singles (and a superb accompanying book) from New York’s punk era; the Velvet Underground’s six-disc expanded edition of “Loaded”‘ and Bob Dylan’s “Bootleg Series Volume 12,” which collects alternate studio takes and demos that Dylan recorded in 1965 and 1966. It is available either as six discs, 18 discs (!), or a two-CD package that contains the highlights. To me the highlights are already overkill; these alternate takes and rehearsals are interesting enough if you like to hear versions that didn’t quite work, but they are not truly compelling. The one box I find myself listening to over and over is “The Complete Matrix Tapes” by the Velvet Underground.

In 1978, a sophomore in high school, I bought my first V.U. record, the double LP “1969: The Velvet Underground Live” (hereafter “Live ’69″), at Disc-O-Mat in Grand Central Station. At that point the band’s first three albums were out of print; the only records available were their fourth album (“Loaded”), “Live ’69″, and “Live at Max’s Kansas City” — which is an interesting document of their final show with Lou Reed, but sounds pretty dreadful (it was recorded by Brigid Polk, in mono, on a portable cassette player, and suffers greatly from the absence of the band’s drummer, Maureen Tucker, who was pregnant and on a hiatus from the band).

I holed up in my bedroom, fired up my Onkyo receiver and Acoustic Research turntable and listened while reading the liner notes by a young Elliott Murphy:

It’s a hundred years from today and everyone who’s reading this is dead. I’m dead. You’re dead. And some kid is taking a music course in Junior High and maybe he’s listening to the Velvet Underground . . . I hope someday they’ll teach rock and roll in history classes. I hope that the music on this album is one of the more important elements of that class.

Forty-four years removed from the date he wrote those notes, it seems Murphy was on to something. This particular live album has been studied and greatly expanded since, culminating this year with the release of “The Complete Matrix Tapes.”

“Live ’69″ was my favorite record for quiet Friday afternoons with my girlfriend (OK, we also listened to Gloria Gaynor and the Bee Gees and “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel). My girlfriend was two years older than me, had hung out at Studio 54, and had actually met Lou Reed at Max’s Kansas City. This confused me, because in my ignorance I didn’t understand why she would have been in Kansas at all.

This was the most romantic record I owned, from “Lisa Says” to “I’ll Be Your Mirror” to “Over You” to “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together.” Reed’s vocal phrasing is quietly sexy and so are the tempos. The Velvets demonstrate so well the power of repetition. Overall there is a great balance to the mix; it might be a just little murky but it feels right. Moe Tucker often plays with a mallet in one hand and a stick in the other and goes easy on the cymbals, leaving more space for vocals and guitars. And one of the great pleasures of this record is the tasteful lead and rhythm guitar playing of Sterling Morrison.

This double album contained performances from October and November 1969, live on stage at two clubs: The End of Cole Avenue in Dallas, and The Matrix in San Francisco. The Matrix was a former pizza shop, converted into a nightclub by Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane, and the Velvets played a series of shows there in November. The band’s lineup was their second classic one, following the departure of John Cale, who was replaced by Doug Yule after the release of “White Light White Heat.” The result was a very different band, and by late 1969, certainly a groovier live band. Cale is undeniably a brilliant musician, arranger and producer, and when he goes a lot of the avant-noise experimentation goes with him. But without him the band records a quiet masterpiece, their closet-like third album, featuring delicate, muted guitars (plus some not-so-quiet ones) and pretty vocal harmonies for which some credit must go to Yule.

By late 1969 the band, whose first three albums sold poorly, had been dropped by their label Verve, and had not yet been signed to Atlantic. Between contracts is the smartest time to record a live album, because in those weeks or months you actually own your own performances — which otherwise belong to the label that signed you. In the early 1990s two bootlegs (one from each night) from Dallas 1969 expanded on the Texas recordings heard in “Live ’69″ (these are now officially available as “Live at the End of Cole Avenue”). And 2001 saw the release of the “Quine Tapes,” exciting recordings made with a cassette player by Robert Quine (later mind-blowing lead guitarist with Richard Hell and then Lou Reed), who had attended V.U. club shows in St. Louis and San Francisco.

But while Robert Quine was recording the Matrix shows to a portable cassette deck, Peter Abram, co-owner of the club, was simultaneously capturing four-track recordings of the band’s performances. These are the only multi-track live recordings of the band in existence. Abram set up separate channels for vocals, bass/drums, and electric guitars running into an Akai half-inch tape reel-to-reel tape machine running at a high-quality 15 inches per second. After the gigs were done, he had some quick mixes made of about 40 minutes of material, material which some five years later made it onto “Live ’69,” apparently without Abram being informed. But for years there have been rumors that a there was a treasure trove of further recordings in Abram’s possession, just waiting to be released.

Last year two discs of this material, newly mixed down from the four-track, were released inside the six-disc deluxe edition of the Velvet Underground’s third album. This year, on “The Complete Matrix Tapes,” we finally get to hear all the extant Matrix recordings, some four hours worth, in new, cleaner mixes with less noise and better separation.

Sterling Morrison said somewhere that these live shows represent the band as they sounded in small clubs, but not in bigger rooms where they would play louder and with more abandon. And we know that their early shows (as part of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable) were sometimes described as a sonic and visual assault on the senses. What is startling about these Matrix gigs is just how empty the club sounds at the end of each song. The low turnout might be on account of these shows taking place on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and on Thanksgiving itself — but you get the sense that this band did not have a big following.

On the exact November nights that the unsigned Velvets are playing a renovated pizza shop in San Francisco, the Rolling Stones are across the country at Madison Square Garden and Baltimore’s Civic Center, recording what will become “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” Some critics and fans will tell you that is one of the great live rock albums, but to my ears it is not particularly exciting. OK, it’s cool to hear their wonderful new guitarist Mick Taylor on his first tour, but the truth is that the final “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” contains a numerous vocal and guitar overdubs, recorded months later at Olympic Studios in London, so you are left wondering what is live and what isn’t. And the sound of the album is somehow enervating rather than alive. Like many live arena-rock albums, the drum sound is literally neither here nor there. A good drum sound is at least partially a function of the room it is recorded in — and though this is Madison Square Garden, what we hear is the sound of a band spread out on a dead stage. At any rate, the performances themselves do not improve on studio versions of “Sympathy for the Devil” or “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

If it was Lou Reed’s fate to be playing in small clubs that year, we are all lucky to possess these well-balanced recordings of an ensemble playing on a small stage, watching and listening to each other. From the opening seconds of this set you feel like you are standing right there, in the best possible spot in the room.

Disc 1 opens with a short introduction from Reed: “Good evening, we’re your local Velvet Underground. . . We’re particularly glad on a serious day like today that people could find a little time to come out and have some fun with some rock and roll. Because these are serious times.”

A glance through that week’s New York Times headlines confirms that it was a heavy week (though surely no worse than weeks in October and November of 2015). On Tuesday the Apollo crew splashed down in the Pacific; this was the good news. That same day Lieutenant William Calley was officially charged with the premeditated killing of at least 109 men, women and children at Songmy (the My Lai or Pinkville Massacre). John Lennon announced that he would return his OBE, partially in protest of British support the Vietnam War. President Nixon made a couple of important announcements himself: 1) the U.S. would not engage in germ warfare but could still use chemical weapons for “defensive purposes” and as a defoliant, and 2) he was introducing a draft lottery for the war in Vietnam, to be implemented next week. Perhaps this is what Reed is referring to.

And then he introduces “I’m Waiting for My Man”: “This is a song that was written under the influence of dreams and it’s about one man’s journey from uptown to downtown.” This unhurried performance of the song approaches 12 minutes in length, and features rambling new lyrics that are not on their first album. That original recording, with John Cale’s trademark unrelenting eighth-note on piano, is much quicker; it is downright anxious. Now, with the piano part removed, it almost sounds as if the band is playing on heroin, instead of nervously waiting to score.

Next up is “What Goes On,” in an outstanding version that is already part of my beloved double album, but presented here with less room sound and less tape hiss. I have always loved this one, so different from the studio take but at least as compelling, a hypnotic nine minutes that feature both Lou and Sterling on rhythm guitars while Doug Yule takes the solo on organ. And at the end of these nine minutes, a polite smattering of applause; maybe there are 15 people in attendance.

With two sets each night, the box contains multiple takes of songs, sometimes four each (“Heroin” and “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together”). As they’ve been playing shows all year long, everyone is playing their best and they seem to know the songs inside out (despite the V.U. legend that they only ever practiced the beginning and end of the songs, and improvised the rest). Lou Reed is singing with attitude and sometimes fire (particularly on “I’m Set Free”); his phrasing is playful but dead-on.

There is a lot of music here. Highlights include a rousing and never-before-heard version of “Sweet Jane” at its original slow tempo, with Reed a singing couple of alternate verses that he later abandoned; the seldom-played “Venus in Furs”; three beautiful takes of “Some Kinda Love” and three of “Over You,” one of them markedly slower. As a band you are always searching for the perfect tempo but this illustrates that there is more than one way to play the song well. There are improved mixes of the “Live ’69″ performances of “Sweet Jane,” “Rock N’ Roll,” “Lisa Says” and “New Age.” “Rock ’N’ Roll” rivals the studio version in its power. “New Age” is sung here by Reed (whereas Doug Yule takes the vocal when they later come to record “Loaded”). The new mix brings out drum fills I have never noticed, and the build-up to the final chorus is sublime, the Velvet Underground at their best. Disc 3 contains a 36-minute version of “Sister Ray”; there are other bootleg performances of this out there but nothing that sounds nearly this good.

And lastly there are some enjoyable introductions from Reed, like the one for “I Can’t Stand it Any More” which is he says is a song about the sorrows of the contemporary world. He jokes about his years at college in Syracuse: “I passed with honors in Kierkegaard. . . After that communism was the only answer for me, I thought. And if you can’t be a communist and make money, you have to be a rock and roll singer.”

Dean Wareham fronted Luna and Galaxie 500, and currently plays with Dean & Britta. His most recent release is the album “Dean Wareham.” He is the author of the memoir “Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance.”

Janis: Little Girl Blue–Amy Berg’s valuable documentary about singer Janis Joplin

By David Walsh
5 December 2015

Janis: Little Girl Blue, the documentary about rock and roll singer Janis Joplin (1943-1970) is currently playing in New York City and Los Angeles. It will have a digital and television premiere on PBS’s American Masters early in 2016. Wewrote about the film when it was shown at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Written and directed by Amy Berg

Amy Berg is making a name for herself as an interesting documentary filmmaker. Her Deliver Us from Evil (2006), about a Catholic priest who admitted to molesting and raping 25 children, and West of Memphis (2012), about the frame-up of a number of young men for the supposed “satanic” murder of three eight-year-old children, were both systematic and compassionate.

In Janis: Little Girl Blue, Berg turns to the life and career of rock and roll singer Janis Joplin, who was immensely popular for the last several years of her life until her tragic demise from heroin and alcohol in October 1970.

Joplin grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, a sea port on the Gulf of Mexico and at the time the center of a large oil refinery network. Her father was a mechanical engineer in the oil industry. In high school, as Little Girl Blue details, Joplin felt persecuted and an outcast.

The civil rights movement and the social developments of the late 1950s and early 1960s were obviously critical to the course of her life. One of her first musical memories, Berg’s film notes, was hearing folk singer Odetta’s version of “Careless Love.” Joplin tried folk singing in Austin, Texas, before first moving to San Francisco in 1963, where she sang but also developed a methamphetamine habit and became “skeletal.”

After a brief period back home in Port Arthur, Joplin returned to San Francisco in 1966 and became the lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company, a “psychedelic rock” band. A major breakthrough took place at the Monterey Pop Festival, one of the first of the large, well-publicized music festivals, in June 1967, where she sang a memorable version of Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain.”

Janis: Little Girl Blue

Berg’s film follows the vicissitudes of Joplin’s professional and personal life. She left Big Brother in 1968 and went out on her own as the leader of her own band. She continued to use serious drugs. A friend says blithely, “We shot heroin for fun.” She eventually took off for Brazil to clean herself up, where she fell in love with an American traveler.

Berg treats Joplin’s life with a great deal of sympathy. The singer, who exuded confidence and bravado on stage, was beset by anxiety and insecurity. She told a Montreal reporter in 1969, “Send me your review. I agonize over all of ’em. Man, I’m really neurotic. I really want people to love me.”

Joplin’s recordings are not generally as good as they could be and she tended, as filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker remarks, to “shout and scream.” It will elicit cries of outrage from some, but, in my opinion, there is very little of the “San Francisco Sound” that stands the test of time: too much self-indulgence, too many drugs, too much self-delusion.

However, anyone who saw Janis Joplin in person, especially in a more intimate space, is not likely to forget it. This writer saw her in concert three times in 1968 and 1969, including on a bill with B.B. King only a few hours after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968. I have never from that time to this seen a performer as generous and as giving—and as vulnerable. One almost inevitably fell in love with her.

Janis Joplin in 1970

Her last boyfriend David Niehaus comments in Berg’s film that Janis “could feel everybody else’s pain.” She could not be oblivious, Niehaus explains, to suffering, her singing represents an “entire honesty.”

Laura and Michael Joplin, Janis’ younger siblings, participated in the making of Berg’s film and are interviewed in it. They were present at the public screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2015. Each makes a highly favorable impression. They spoke with considerable affection, four decades or more later, about their elder sister. Laura described Janis’ emotional life as a “roller coaster” from early on. She made clear that her sister hated “racism” (Port Arthur had an active branch of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s) and felt strongly about “integration” and “equality.” Footage of Janis’s mother, after her daughter’s death, reading a letter from one of Janis’ admirers explaining how the singer had affected her life, is also very moving.

The final and perhaps most apt comment in Little Girl Blue comes from John Lennon, on a talk show following Joplin’s death. Lennon observes that no one is asking the most important question, why people take drugs in the first place. He suggests that it comes from a “problem with society. People can’t live in society without guarding themselves from it.”

Last Wicked Full Moon Rave


TBT: Joey and I (on the left) at the last successful Wicked Full Moon Rave in 2001 on a beach near Santa Cruz in California. The Wicked rave collective attempted another FMR in 2001 but the police escorted the crew and participants out of Santa Cruz County. These free beach parties defined the early rave community in the Bay Area.

I wrote and posted this piece on sfraves ( after the last FMR:

“My first rave was a Wicked Full Moon many, many years ago. That night was an epiphany for me — a genuinely transformative experience of the highest order. I learned so much that night. It wasn’t called PLUR then, but it was the same thing. A new way of loving and respecting other dancers. The sharing of a mystical bond. The union of flesh and spirit. I thought that night that I could spend an eternity with these people and be happy.

When I heard of the Wicked FMR location — that we were going back down Highway 1 to those mystical days on the beach — I was astonished and elated. It had been six years since a Wicked Full Moon. I never thought I’d dance on a beach near Santa Cruz to Wicked house music again.

But, I thought, can one have a renegade on those beaches now days without being busted? To help assure our success we made a special pre-dance ritual to the great god Apollo and Pan, and I left a candle burning on the outside altar when we left. The gods rewarded us with a perfect night: a radiant full moon awesomely reflected on the ocean, cloudless sky, shining stars, agreeable climate — and absolutely no squad cars:) I mean, the party went off perfectly.

All of us driving down were from back in the day of the first Wicked FMRs. We were so charged with anticipation. Me, I got on a metaphysical roll when we got out of the car and started walking down those familiar railroad tracks, and I’m still in that place now. Non-stop bliss, brothers and sisters.

We arrived early to help with the set up. Then power up at 2 AM and those first few beats. Markie!!! A collective shout of joy went up from the crowd. The tribe was together again. Ravers under a full moon. It doesn’t get any better than this.

I wondered who would be there after all these years. Familiar faces I hoped, but I was also eager to see many newbies in the tribe too. A tribe without new blood dies. Again, everything as one would hope. Lots of old friends and so many lovely new faces. But the same eclectic mix as in the old days. Hippies young and old. Costumes. New school ravers. Fire acts. Drummers. People swimming in the nude. Hip hop kids. And, to my joy, many of you from sfraves. I was really hoping some of you would experience this thing that is so important to me — I wanted to share it with you — so I’m very grateful to all of you who danced with us last night. Ryan and his girlfriend, Mutex, Becca, Usa (former list member and HK crew), and many more — every one of you made the night special for us.

The music — WELL, it is Wicked. Markie, Jeno and Garth are at their best doing a full moon. In this case, the house that Jack built was built on sand. Stronger than concrete to my mind. Jeno, that sweet shy gifted man. If you know him you know how hard it is to get him to smile. This morning he was one happy little boy. And Garth dancing about in the DJ area. People doing what they love, yes.

Visuals and special effects. Hell, you have Mother Nature. Nothing better.

My favorite thing is greeting the dawn with my tribe. The morning star was shining brightly. The moon setting in the ocean. Dawn breaks. Flights of birds. Some bats whizzing around on the cliffs. Freshness in the air. Dancing and the beats as the sun comes up. Then…you get to look into your brothers’ and sisters’ eyes. Really see them. And what you see is a look that is both far away and meditative, yet loving and open. Immediate connection. At that point I took a walk on the beach. Every person I met smiled with that look and said simply: “Good Morning.”

We left at eight (before I wanted to, but I wasn’t driving) and the party was still going down with Garth’s moving house music.

It was great fun walking back up the tracks with all the happy ravers. Such a feeling of unity, of shared fun. One moment on that walk sticks in my mind. A beautiful hippy kid in a sarong was walking ahead of us. He had trouble keeping it on, and he didn’t have much underneath. So we shouted to him that it was so hard for boys to keep their skirts on these days. He blushed bright red. Then we caught up with him, and he looked at us with that FMR dawn look and said, with much feeling: “Good Morning.” We all hugged.

For me, folks, this is what raving is all about. These moments. You dancers. The music. And, the best, a full moon. That’s why I have not stopped raving and dancing. I never will. And I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that all of you have many moments like this as you grow into a community that really is all races, all creeds, all ages — dancing together as one.

Much Love,