This year at the Whole Earth Festival (WEF), the party was at the DJ Stage, coordinated by Kelly Scott, also known as Kelly D, a UC Davis staff member. Tucked away from the booths and food stands was the DJ stage, which set the scene for two nights of high-energy music and dancing.
“I hope it’s crazy,” Scott said over the phone earlier last week. “We try and make it … a friendly environment, a place where people feel like they can let go a little bit.”
For him, WEF is a special event because “there’s a lot better connection in the crowd.”
The connection was in full force at the festival Saturday evening. Large patches of carpet were scattered about the Wellman Pit, and two projection screens surrounded the turntables. The DJ setup stood underneath a wooden canopy that resembled a temple, with banners of global spiritual symbols. Scott said the significance of the structure was meant “to connect [people] with something a little bit larger than themselves.”
Lining the rail leading down to the dance floor were inspirational quotes, such as what a Shinto priest said to an American philosopher: “I think … we don’t have ideology. We don’t have theology. We dance.”
With the sun going down, a diverse group of brave souls made its way to the dance floor, attracted by bass-driven, repetitive melodies. Everything from break dancing on the carpet squares to barefooted dance steps ensued.
On the turn tables was DJ Tao, founder of the WEF DJ stage who has been entertaining crowds yearly since 2003. He said that a message of unity runs consistent with the theme this year, Mending Our Web.
“The power of music and dance can bring people together,” Tao said. “It can unify people.”
The unity spread to attendees of all ages, including Colin French, a well-spoken 10-year-old Davis resident who enjoyed the ambiance of the DJ stage with his mother. While some may lump electronic dance music into a singular genre, Colin appreciated the subtleties between the DJs.
“Different DJs play different things. Some are more active, or more low key, but it’s still really good.” When asked about DJ Tao, Colin said that he noticed how he “started off low key and fused songs into each other.”
Colin was right on. DJ Tao started off with mellow beats and drawn out bass riffs, lulling the crowd of eclectic dancers to slow sways. But almost imperceptibly, the beats got heavier and faster, with melodic hooks looping above the rumbling bass. By the end of DJ Tao’s set, the dancers – including Colin – were letting loose on the courtyard floor. With flailing arms and gyrating bodies, they were unified, just as Tao predicted.
As night set in, white lights illuminated the temple along its wooden frame, and above hung a white circle of cloth that shone projected images. The images rotated between various iconic images, such as religious symbols and planet Earth.
The seamlessly changing imagery coincided with the continuous music pumping through the system and reflected upon the eclectic mix of dancers.
Saturday evening at the festival ended with Kelly D spinning a medley of remixed Beatles songs. The crowd sang along with Lennon’s “All you need is love,” but a little music and dancing doesn’t hurt, either.
Chris Rue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.XXX