Virtual Woodstock

Come all ye faithful, be ye friend or be ye foe, and throw down your weapons, toss out your prejudices, shred your inhibitions, lift up your arms and rejoice. For there's a new and pure and mighty sound on the horizon, and it knows no color other than kaleidoscopic, and it knows no limit other than that of your imagination. A celebration for a Benetton world, made possible by the peace dividend and made popular out of sheer necessity. They're calling it Divine Playground, and that's exactly what it promises to be.

You've undoubtedtly heard the news: Divine Playground, a sundown-to-sunrise outdoor Bayfront event to end all outdoor Bayfront events. Like world-class, dig? With an international consortium of DJs and whiz kids, all the accoutrements a hypermodern age can muster (cyber lighting, fractal video, zero-gravity machines, and the like), and seven (count 'em) of the phattest, dopest acts to come along the spiked pike in quite some time.

The throwdown's being billed as a rave A you know, that peculiarly British phenom where thousands of like-minded souls can lose their minds in peace. But to deem it as nothing more than a rave would miss the point. Sure, it's rave inspired, but more it's a coming together of clans, a Lollapalooza with a smart bar, Monterey Pop for the X Generation.

Check the bill, in no particular order. There's the trippy, loopy sound of Brit techno vets 808 State, hot on the wheels of their smoothly evocative longplayer Gorgeous, and now boasting the sugar-coated voice of Mr. Echo and the Bunnymen himself, Ian McCulloch. Mainstream radio may never have heard of them, but you've heard them, in one club or another, and they probably made you move your feet as well.

Next up, groove and pump to House of Pain, those hard-core Blarney rappers from California, whose "Jump Around" (the "O.P.P." of '93) has at some time entered your personal space whether you like it or not. The frontman, Everlast, is ex of Ice-T's ultradope Rhyme Syndicate, so you know he's got flavor.

And what about the latest in megaindustrial thrash, Rage Against the Machine? Another Cali outfit, these West Coast cats use their guitars like assault rifles and their wit like chainsaws. In fact, Rage rages so jarringly they make those other darlings of the noise set, Helmet, sound like Mel Torme. Bring earplugs for their set.

And there's more. Stereo MC's, this scribe's choice for the definitive in cool, crank out a polyracial concoction of funk and soul that could soothe even the savagest of Beastie fans. They boast a groove so smooth you can slip on it, and a beat so fine you'll want to box it. Plus, to top it all off, they've got a conscience. That means enlightenment as well as body rocking is on their agenda. And that alone is worth the price of admission.

Oh (convicinced yet?), there's another British concern, Utah Saints, this week's techno kingpins, whose "Something Good" (with a Kate Bush loop) has moved many an X-head to the throes of a lifetime. Sheer machine poetry in manic motion.

And that's not all folks. Late add to the bill is the alternative hipsters Meat Beat Manifesto, a sort of Human League for the Nineties. They've been around, so if you've been around, you'll know what's up with them. Less obvious but also added is Wool, woven from former D.C. hard-core metal rockers Scream.

But Divine Playground, to be sure, is not merely about the bands. It's about the event. And everything on the eye-popping Kenny Scharf mini-poster promoting it hints that it'll be much more than a mere night to remember. On the DJ side of things there's Super DJ Dmitry of the one and only Deee-Lite; New York earth shatterers Keoki and DB; two from the Orlando Posse, DJ ICEE and Robbie Clark; Germany's Sven Vath; Detroit's Derrick "May Day" May; De Niro's daughter Dreena; plus two Miami movers and shakers, Tech Man 1 (alias George Alvarado), one of the May Day originals, and mighty Murk affiliate Carlos Espinosa. There'll be no shortage of sounds while you trip the night away.

Add the heavy-duty lights, mind games, smart bars, "chill out" areas, and rave gear, and you have a recipe for revelation.

A word or two must be said on behalf of the Divine Nationwide Network, the muscle and vision behind Divine Playground. Spearheaded by L.A.'s rave rainmaker Philip Blaine and the tag-team Detroit veterans Vince Bannon and Amir Daiza, the Network boasts delegates from fourteen cities, who each add their own regional pull in the form of spinners from places such as San Fran, Portland, Chicago, Toronto, Boston.... Geoff Gordon of South Florida's pre-eminent Cellar Door provides big-time cache, and key Miami operative Norman Bedford, aided and abetted by the Rave Doctors and Zeal, lends street savvy and local credence. Promoters (be they inconsequential or not) on their own are normally undeserving of ink. But with an event of this magnitude, and a coalition of this force, the ink is more than justified. After all, they're breaking the rules. Shouldn't we?

So there you have it, Divine Playground, one world under a groove. A gathering of tribes, meeting of minds, a bold new leap for the future of humankind. Those in the know already have their tickets. Those who don't? Try getting out from under your misconceptions and just go see what all the fuss is about.

Divine Playground takes place beginning at sundown Saturday at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd, 460-2277. Admission costs $20.

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John Hood