The annual benefit for Vanderbilt’s college station 91 Rock has been a part of the local rock scene since the days of The Questionnaires, Shadow 15, and The Wrong Band. But in recent years, the benefit’s emphasis, like the station’s, has shifted toward dance music, hip-hop, and electronica. If anything, though, listener response is bigger than ever. Where four years ago the station felt lucky to draw 150 people, last year’s 91 benefit wedged about 1,800 writhing ravers into Marathon Village for a dusk-to-dawn blowout with some of the country’s hottest DJs.
The size and scope of this year’s edition, which takes place all night Saturday, indicates the kind of impact 91 Rock has made on the local dance-music scenenot to mention the respect it’s getting on the national tip. For starters, the event has been forced to move from Marathon Village to the James E. Ward Agricultural Center on the fairgrounds in Lebanon. Not a place ordinarily known for its block-rockin’ beats, the ag center is nonetheless the only venue capable of withstanding the 2,500 scenesters that 91 is expecting. Station manager Eric Watts says WRVU has been getting calls from Detroit, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, and caravans from across the Southeast are said to be slouching toward Lebanon.
This is due largely to the perseveranceand connectionsof Brad Robinson, a Vanderbilt electrical-engineering major who has hosted the influential “Club 91” show for the past four years. Robinson graduates in May, and when he moves to San Francisco this summer, the show will shut downas will the massive 91 Rock benefits, Watts predicts.
This year’s event will feature three separate halls for house, hip-hop, and jungle, each staffed with cutting-edge talent from the nation’s dance-music hubs. Each room takes its cue from a different 91 show:
Club 91: Robinson’s own room scored a coup by nabbing Erick “More” Morilla, the cover boy of this month’s DJ Times magazine. A DJ and producer from New York, Morilla is probably best known for his project Reel 2 Real, which yielded the dance-floor blockbuster “I Like to Move It” a few years back. But his Subliminal Records is creating a buzz in clubs up North with a new sound that layers vocals and disco flourishes over beat-heavy house music.
L.A.’s International Hooligans aggregate sends old-school vets Tony B! and DJ Orlando, who’ve been in the business more than 15 years. In one of the night’s few live performances, dance diva Gisele Jackson from New York will be on hand with her international hit “Love Commandments,” and Nashville’s Audio Transit and Chattanooga’s Samm-e round out the bill. Adding to the experience: a light show and two 10-foot screens with dancing 3-D South Park figures. Hell, you don’t even get that on South Park.
911 Emergency: 91’s street-legal hip-hop show weighs in with a can’t-miss exhibition set by Total Eclipse, the East Coast champion turntable wizard from the New York X-Ecutioners; he’ll man the wheels of steel at about 2 a.m. “It’s gonna be off the hook,” says DJ Egon, who cohosts “911 Emergency” every Friday evening with local rapper Count Bass-D. Egon is equally souped about the rest of the lineup, starting with a set by J-Live, the New York rapper who had the huge underground 12-inch singles “Longevity” and “Can I Get It.” The West Coast is represented by the Beatjunkies’ world-class mixmaster Rhettmatic from L.A. and by avant-garde producer Peanut Butter Wolf from San Francisco. Kentucky’s John Doe kicks off the night.
91 Abstractions: This room is presided over by 91’s DJ Chek, who has done as much as anyone to introduce ever-mutating dance-music forms such as jungle, acid jazz, and drum-’n’-bass to Nashville. On hand will be A-Sides and Sci-Clone from London; Bobble and Little Jen from Atlanta’s 20hz Cartel; Nashville DJs MK2 and Lary Breaks; and Mayday from Bowling Green. There’ll also be an appearance by Ed Crowell, the dreadlocked Hollywood DJ from the recent Levi’s commercials. As in the other rooms, screens and a light show will help set the mood.
For anyone suffering sensory overload, 91 is providing a “Chill Way Out Zone,” a room outfitted with a giant full-floor cushion and trance music from Nashville’s 91 Noise Crew, Tig, and Ambivouac. In the “Friends and Family Room,” you can groove with 91’s DJ Ron, D-Funk, and Cool Hands, along with Huntsville’s Flip C, Birmingham’s Beethoven, and Nashville’s Ajani Elles and Digital Information Systems. In addition, there’ll be black-lite art, clothing vendors, a massage table, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, and a new VW Beetle on displayall for one low admission price of $15. “The same lineup would bring $35 in Philadelphia or New York,” Robinson claims.
To get there, take I-40 east 28 miles to Hwy. 70 west at Exit 239B. The James E. Ward Agricultural Center is one mile down on the right. Contrary to all the media misconceptions about rave culture, Robinson says, the event is totally safe: Plenty of security guards will be on hand, and alcoholic beverages are not permitted. For more information, call 343-7816but don’t be surprised if the voice mailbox is full.
Chalk it up as a rare triumph of quality over quantity. Revenant, the Nashville “raw musics” label operated by avant-folk guitarist John Fahey and local attorney Dean Blackwood, completely sold out its first pressing of Country Blues: Complete Early Recordings (1927-29), a superlative compilation of early works by seminal West Virginia musician Dock Boggs. Boosted by rapturous reviews in the national pressas well as new interest in Boggs generated by the Anthology of American Folk Music reissueRevenant sold its entire stock of 3,000 copies in a matter of weeks. According to Blackwood, the label literally can’t press copies fast enough to satisfy demand.
Maybe the good press Revenant has gotten in Spin and The Village Voice will pique interest in the label’s other releases. On Tuesday Revenant ships Salvador Kali, the new solo album by Rick “Sir Richard” Bishop of the Arizona ethno-rock ensemble Sun City Girls. A collection of mostly improvised guitar and piano instrumentals that proclaim influences ranging from gypsy folk to Dixieland swing, Salvador Kali is the most accessible release yet from Revenant’s “new music series.” Upcoming Revenant titles include compilations by slide guitarist Jenks “Tex” Carman and pioneering black country music artist DeFord Bailey in May, with a retrospective on rockabilly/blues artist Charlie Feathers slated for July. For more information on Revenant titles, e-mail Revenant1@earthlink.net.
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