It was telling that I didn't see any neo-hipster hippies in the audience at Ben Harper's set, which I had to wade through a couple of times due to a miscommunication with some friends I was trying to meet. There weren't even as many as I'd expected watching Animal Collective, who are shaping up to be the 2Ks' Grateful Dead and are thus among the leading repopularizers of tie-dye—they were playing across the park from Harper, the 2Ks' Bruce Cockburn.
A lot of them had bailed on AnCo for Diplo at the Perry's stage, which I don't blame them for at all. AnCo's jams were too flimsy to cut through the muggy air, while Diplo was slaying with a giddy rave set, his kuduro and baile funk cuts shelved for the time being in favor of more accessible beats.
Any questions as to whether or not rave is back should've been put to rest by this weekend's goings-on at Perry's, Diplo's set in particular. Within a couple of minutes of getting over there, I saw several dudes in pulled-down-low visors, a guy in a Mad Hatter hat, a handful of people in goggles, and (neatly summing up the neohippie-rave crossover) a long-haired, shirtless guy wearing a pacifier on a necklace made of carved wooden beads.
It wasn't just the clothes and Diplo's house-heavy set that made Perry's feel like 1997 again. The whole area was crackling with ecstatic energy—not necessarily pill-induced either, though let's just say I saw a lot of pacifiers. It was the same kind of we're-all-in-this-together party vibe that justified rave's many, many downsides.
That feeling actually ended up providing me with one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had at a concert. I was wandering through the Perry's crowd, just kind of people watching, when I ran across an unexpected mosh pit. Dozens of yards from the stage, in the middle of the mob gathered for Diplo, there were maybe eight guys, all with buzz cuts and mostly shirtless, slamming into each other with much gusto. I barely got done thinking "This is kind of weird" before it got even weirder, turning suddenly into a straight-up fistfight.
It was a bad one. Out in the middle of the crowd there wasn't any security presence at all, and the brawl was far longer and more severe than the almost perfunctory fights that are immediately broken up in less-packed venues. These guys were serious. Faces were bloodied, elbows were deployed, and any guy who ended up on the ground was swarmed and kicked the shit out of. It was so chaotic I couldn't even tell who was on what side, or if there were sides at all. The reaction from all of us around the pit-gone-wrong went from startled to slightly amused to sickened as the fight went from the usual meathead idiocy to something really wrong.
The scrawny young hippie-ish raver guys standing around the pit could have just taken off. The crowd was dense, but it would've been possible—though it probably would've panicked a bunch of people and made the situation worse, and of course it wouldn't have addressed the fact that it looked like someone was going to end up seriously injured. Things passed some critical point and a bunch of them jumped into the brawl. They started dancing as hard as they could—and it worked.
After a couple of seconds there were so many dancers surrounding the fighters that they couldn't see one another. They apparently decided that beating up all these dancers to get to their targets—no matter how easy it probably would've been—was too much effort. One buzz cut chased another out into the crowd, but otherwise the fight just evaporated.
"Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect" was the big motto for ravers back in the day. It was supposed to sum up everything that raving was about, and even though it was more often a wish list rather than a description of what was actually happening, it still occasionally felt like something real. But it's never felt realer to me than when I saw those kids take control of a bad situation and defuse it with nothing but positive vibes.