Walking through the field of dirt in Bicentennial Park at the Beyond 2002 Super Festival at 1 p.m. on Friday gave off the unusual aura of being at a low budget state fair. The first 100 people in attendance resembled extras from the Harmony Korine faux documentary Gummo. There were lots of mullets, hot dogs, seemingly motherless children and overweight white people rocking cornrows and extra large tie dye T-shirts.
Would Stone Temple Pilots, Busta Rhymes, Less Than Jake, Rabbit in the Moon and Outkast all have played here over in the course of 72 hours? You could have gotten high from the sketchiness in the air, but then again you probably failed to show up.
Three stages that catered to hip hop, local rock acts and electronica remained almost entirely empty throughout the first day. A “SoBe Bus Stage,” constructed beside the half-pipe to entertain vert skaters, BMXers, and observers, continuously played a mixture of Marilyn Manson and abrasive disc jockey mixes. When professional skaterboarders Tony Hawk and Andy Macdonald actually dropped in on the half-pipe and landed some tricks, it was a sigh of relief and credibility.
As the hot sun turned necks redder, Dubcat, consisting of various members from the Long Beach Dub Allstars and the ska band Hepcat, played a refreshing set of West Coast party music complete with loyal Sublime covers like Scarlet Begonias and the fitting April 29, 1992 (Miami). As their toothless, tattooed lead singer downed Heinekens, and the six other members wailed out on saxophone, drums, guitars and turntables (well incorporated scratching for once), the peaceful outdoor vibe was hard to enjoy as seven security guards stood silently in front of the stage. They wore ridiculous, instructional frowns on their faces and held their muscular arms tightly crossed; it was laughable considering that there were more dust tornadoes near the stage than people.
At 6 p.m., ska’s eternal tour horse pranksters Less Than Jake took the stage. The band’s spiky-haired lead singer, Chris, held back a giant smirk as he scanned the crowd. “I sure as hell hope Busta Rhymes brings some people out here, ’cause it looks like Miami’s going to lose their ass on this one,” he said, before the band launched instinctively into Automatic from their 1996 album Losing Streak.
A few kids skanked and got their DC Shoes dirty as the band thrashed through surprisingly energetic renditions of old material like My Very Own Flag, and two unreleased songs from an upcoming album. Originally from Gainesville, Fla., the band seemed at home regardless of who was watching and tried desperately to get the “wall” of security guards to join them on stage for beers and dancing. “You guys haven’t done sh** all day,” Chris plead. His comment received uncomfortable jeers and cold stares from men who exemplified the total opposite demographic that prefers their suburban flavored candy core music.
By the conclusion of their set, confetti was in the air and enough people had gathered in front of the stage for Roger, the band’s dread locked bassist, to risk crowd diving. As Less Than Jake closed with All My Best Friends are Metal Heads, and a toddler working for the “Gettin’ Busy” sex education campaign handed out condoms, the festival had unleashed some indefinite potential.
“Somebody say blunt, say blunt, blunt,” an intelligent member of a group called the Blunt City Crew said into a mike underneath a lonely tent at the Hip Hop Elements stage. The festival’s potential had declined, and concertgoers could only hope that the spirit of rap music’s future had taken the day off to pay nostalgic respect to one of its electric godfathers, Soul Sonic Force.
Noted for being an indirect influence on Miami Bass, the group started out with some rather suspect Dirty South booty calls. Things didn’t get interesting until they brought out their flamboyant Indian chief, monk, Zulu and Egyptian-themed costumes. Covered in orange lights and green lasers, the group passed out tons of plastic Zulu necklaces and waved giant golden Ankhs in the air. They were freaking 12 on stage before they laid rhymes over Afrika Bambaataa’s timeless 1982 anthem Planet Rock. It was a colorfully odd hip- hop performance that would’ve have made George Clinton proud.
During soundchecks, the beer vendors were doing their best business of the day, and by the time Busta Rhymes took the stage, hundreds of drunken revelers had brewed some much needed energy inside the park.
When Busta and fellow Flipmode Squad member Spliff Star ran on stage and ripped into M.O.P.’s Ante Up, Budweisers’ happy customers promptly returned Busta’s adrenaline. The dreadlocked rapper’s bellowing growl on As I Come Back, easily seduced the crowd down a path of hysterics before he calmed them with an educational lesson in melody with the Genesis hook, As we welcome you after the future…
As a Goodyear blimp went by with an American flag lit in red, white and blue, Busta had the need to stretch his rights as a citizen and smoke some weed. “Yo, can we smoke in here? Yo, police, security we can smoke weed in here?” he asked. Apparently the answer was “yes,” because Spliff Star lit up a blunt and they shared numerous tokes. Security brought out their flash lights as a puffing epidemic went air born off stage.
Busta took off his shirt, revealing a beer belly, and a girl with long red dyed hair followed his lead, revealing some Kodak worthy plastic surgery. Spliff Star doused her with Aqua Fina as Busta gave everyone a fiery round of Scenario.
He opened up a bottle of Courvoisier and started chugging as Spliff helped out with the lyrics to Pass the Courvoisier. Spliff took over from there and boasted about his Cowboy style exploits with one of last night’s groupies. Their set practically made the day worthy of a $45 ticket and Rabbit in the Moon was still to come…along with two more days of music.
Orlando’s notorious Rabbit in the Moon unveiled some entertainment that was the electronica equivalent of a big budget Gwar show. A pulley carried Bunny, the group’s frontman, over the stage in a straight jacket as he pretended to have a seizure and attempted to escape into the audience. Before their set was over, he had used a giant gun to shoot sparks over the crowd, passed out 3-D glasses and oriental flags, worn a suit of mirrors that reflected light, slain a dragon with a sword, played a theremin, had half-naked girls dance in Kabuki makeup spinning fireballs, and flexed in a muscle suit. The music consisted of a long irrelevant trance afterthought.
Walking out of the Beyond 2002 Super Festival at 1 a.m. left a recollection of arrival that was as thin as the day’s unfortunate turnout.