He introduced himself as Ivan. He was about 5Ã¢Â?Â²9Ã¢Â?Â³, with deep black hair that sat in a wild mop on top of his pale frame. He was friendly and chatty, which was good because the line for the Ferris wheel was long. Our conversation started with a comparison of tattoos. Ivan had two more than I but was impressed with my colors. I was impressed with his many piercings. Body art segued smoothly into East Coast fundamentals: Ivan was a Floridian, born and raised, and owed his pallor to a junior year at Columbia in NYC. He paid proper respect to my native Philadelphia, and I complimented his adopted city’s numerous temptations.
The Ferris wheel was one of the many distractions at Global Gathering Festival 2006, a solid twelve-hour day of bands, performers, and DJs held in gorgeous Miami. The performer lineup was a mish-mash of talent and technique. The turnout was in the several thousands, and the crowd mirrored the schizophrenia of the showcase. As dusk approached, I had turned away from the multiple tents, stages, and exhibitions. I am a kid at heart, and the carnival-style Ferris wheel had beckoned me away from pulsing beats and rhythm guitars.
As we inched up the line, Ivan admitted that this morning he’d had no plans to attend the Global Gathering Festival. A music aficionado, Ivan knew this weekend was the start of all things melodious in Miami; but with midterms in Manhattan, who had time to keep track? He was in town for a wedding. An older cousin had enlisted him as a groomsman, with the prospect of family revelry in the Southern sun. It was while his grandmother had been ferrying him back from the rehearsal dinner that the throngs of people had caught his eye. His club-trained ears heard the noise, and he recognized the streams of people crossing the intersection. With the recklessness of youth and the trust of an acolyte, Ivan had kissed his grandmother goodbye, promised to return later that night, and bolted for Centennial Park.
I could sympathize; my own introduction to the proceeds had been haphazard at best. I had planned a trip to Florida, but the only items on my agenda had been beer and beaches. I’d discovered the Global Gathering about two weeks before, and the DJ lineup was irresistible. Steve Lawler, Deep Dish, Sasha & Digweed-who could say no to that? The chance to see Nine Inch Nails sealed the deal for me, and here I was, with new friend Ivan. Through a great deal of luck and kindness, and just the slightest dash of talent, I had been entrusted by ClubPlanet with the duty of actually covering the event as press.
We were silent for a few minutes after boarding our gondola. The Ferris wheel lurched and climbed slowly; below, the crowd at Centennial Park moved, gathered, and danced. My right ear picked up the hammering of a guitar from the far stage, while The Crystal Method slipped into my left.
“Pretty spectacular, ” marveled Ivan. “So many different kinds of people, all here to dance and have a good time.”
I nodded and smiled. My eyes moved among the crowd. I saw muscled gays from South Beach dancing with a group of goth girls. Deep Dish fans exchanged handshakes with Rob Zombies. Piercings and tattoos blended with Izods and Polos; smiles were exchanged, beers bought, and cigarettes bummed. Young and old, heads and preps, ravers and clubbers-the crowd surged with energy and common purpose. The experience was completely adult, but touched on the childlike, the tribal, and the famial in all of us. How was I going to cover an event like this? What could I possibly say about a day one really had to participate in to understand?
“Pretty spectacular,” Ivan repeated, his face breaking into a beaming, wild smile.
“Extremely spectacular!” I replied. “Extremely spectacular!”