Particle- Area 51 Sound Test 4/20
As I stare down this blank page, I must admit that I feel somewhat like a novice climber staring up into the sky to see the peak of Everest appear within the heavens. How does one go about explaining the sheer elevation of this weekend’s monumental Particle performance, and how they carried us all to new plateau which none of us even imagined existed? The legendary Area 51 found within the small town Indian Springs, Nevada was alien enough to a kid growing up in the fast and furiously wonderful land of Los Angeles. It seemed that the town only consisted of only two gas stations, a motel, the air force base, and a tiny little casino/bar/diner that housed the evenings’ performances, named Dirty Moe’s. The Area 51 Sound Test Festival’s daily concerts were held on either one of the two adjoining stages, which rotated rapidly and professionally between bands. Desolately beautiful mountains surrounded the stage on all sides, some that even had snow capped peaks, but also visible were numerous air force hangers that could have housed any number or outer-worldly things. But I must digress and attempt to describe the task at hand, that which took place within the confines of Indian Springs’ local gaming establishment between the hours of 3ish and 6ish this past Sunday morning.
Character would be the one word to describe Moe’s properly. Consisting of only two black jack tables that opened for business at 7pm and an assortment of five cent priced video poker and slot machines, Dirty Moe’s Casino had a small stage located within the bar area that housed such bands as Government Grown, Ominous Seapods, Juggling Suns, Particle, and an assortment of others throughout the weekend. The walls of the snug dance area housed an assortment of items, ranging from the traditional moose and antlers to the not so widely seen bedpan wall ornament. Character.
The desert air had turn cold surprisingly fast Saturday evening, and bands that had originally been scheduled to play outdoors were transferred to Moe’s stage. Needless to say Particle’s time slot was pushed back almost two hours, hitting the stage after a powerful Juggling Sun’s set at 3ish in the morning. Even with having played that afternoon on the main stage, Particle didn’t seem to be affected by this change of plans at all, rather it became more of an intimate party that allowed everyone to strut their stuff and give all they got. Opening the show with the Latin funk based song iDepinga!, the band quickly shook the sleep out of folks’ eyes and got them on the dance floor. Steve quickly proved that he was ready to funkify this local hangout as he displayed his new keyboard stand that allowed him to join in and dance while he supplied the tunes from either the Moog or the Korg or both. The mood quickly shifted into the heavy, dark funk of Girth of Nation, which announced that time was no longer relative as people began to boogie as if it were the first show of the festival. The song opens with a technical guitar riff that suddenly leads into a raging solo by Charlie that proves that Particle refuses to label themselves simply as a funk band.
As the night progressed, or I should say morning, the band kept the tempo high and powerful. The crowd began to stare at each other in awe as they ripped through a Knee Knocker that ventured into Ready Made Gangster which finally found a landing area in the vicinity of Ed + Molly. Having an average song length of fifteen minutes, Particle seemed to be creating the true sound test of the weekend by seeing who could outlast them. And it seemed that many folks were up for the challenge.
My personal favorite moment of the morning had to be Maya’s Waltz. If there were any stop signs left in Indian Springs, Nevada, they were all uprooted and tossed aside by the end of Maya’s. So many classic moments existed within this tune. Who knew that Charlie could play slide guitar with a beer bottle, and a Heineken no less? No one knew his secret talent, not even the band. Recognizing that they were as surprised as all of us was completely priceless. As Gould lay down the thick, playful bass line, an unexpected drum solo was placed into the hands of Darren. Laying off the beat, and then speeding it up, Darren showed the crowd that his arms felt zero fatigue at 5 am. The band chimed in seamlessly at the end of D’s solo and ended what had to be one of the finest moments of Particle these ears have had the opportunity to witness.
As the first notes of Ghost Highway appeared after Steve noted that we had all "passed the sound test," I knew that it was time for an important stretch as the sun slowly began to add its glow to the dark desert sky. This tune took care of all those folks in limbo that weren’t sure if they had enough energy to keep going or not. It proved that they didn’t and that Particle’s energy was starting to knock folks off like birds on a wire. The few, the proud, the artificially stimulated still had enough octane to keep going and by the time Roads to Breeze (@ 3am) started (actually it was more like 6am, don’t let the name fool you) back flips and Russian Pogo moves could still be seen on the dance floor. I would step outside to view the sun rising over the mountains, offering its multiple shades of red and pink to the landscape as Particle could be heard in the background bumping out of Dirty Moe’s. As the song came to an end, the band decided that they had successfully completed a night of magic and pure musical joy, but that thought quickly vanished as Steve announced, "Well, schools out, but you are all welcome to stay after school." Gould started once again bobbing his head from side to side and giving the biggest grin any bassist could manage (especially at 6:15 in the morning) as they kicked into a classic tune, Pipedream. All of us took the joy of the moment and milked it for all of its tangible energy as the muscles gave way to let loose for one last tune. We all laughed and smiled and shook our heads in disbelief of what we just experienced. There is nothing like a pleasant surprise except for an amazingly, funky, boogie until it hurts, laugh until the tears come pouring down, incredible musical performance. And that is exactly what we received that fine evening in a little bar/casino that went by the name of Dirty Moe’s.
As the band left the stage and took a well-needed stretch, they seemed to be just as in awe as all of us. It was decided that all who had enjoyed Particle’s extravaganza to the full extent were to adjourn outside for a group photo in front of the casino. The laughter was contagious as the camera caught the final moment of a night that will forever find a place in my soul. Thank you Eric, Steve, D, and Charlie for proving to me that expectations exist only to be destroyed and creating a new foundation on which this band will only continue to build upon into the future.