Live: IDentity Festival Walks The Line Between Raving And Raging At Jones Beach
Jones Beach Theater
Saturday, July 28
Better than: A rainout.
3:47 p.m., Babylon-bound LIRR train
Seated across from me are two college girls, a blonde and a brunette, and one college boy. They're wearing neon and denim, a combination I will be seeing a lot of today. His shorts are shock-salmon; the blonde is carrying a leather-studded purse with matching belt. I overhear him complain that his Orlando fraternity recently cancelled a partythe implication is that it's one fairly like IDentity, the traveling EDM festival they're heading towardbecause a brother "made a racist joke about Mexicans."
Brunette: "What?! God, get a life!"
4:50 p.m., Jones Beach Theater pavilion
I'm moseying around the concession area between the arena (where Eric Prydz, Showtek, and Arty will play) and the second stage out back (Noisia, the Gaslamp Killer, Le Castle Vania, and Static Revenger). A DJ on a tiny stage third stage plays chugging filtered-breakdown house that wouldn't be out of place in 1996. An extremely drunk kid accidentally jostles me, then asks where the bathroom is.
There are no politics at IDentity Festival, only endless, nonstop logos and catchphrases. The actual term YOLO ("you only live once") is only on a handful of T-shirts I spot, but it's the guiding principle. Everyone seems to be trying to outdo everyone else in the "I don't give a fuck" sweepstakes. That's what teenagers do, of coursetell the world what utter bad-asses they are. These kids aren't necessarily advertising their own wantonness so much as advertising that they're advertising their own wantonness. But the depth and degree of it is enough to make me queasy.
The operative word is RAGE. Two booths are set up to sell items with that phrase; others had it in their arsenal. Hundreds of kids parade the term; one shirt crosses the V out of RAVE and inserts a handwritten G. Is that what people are going to start calling these things now?
Maybe that's the right word. Better that than the other words I see everywhere: SLUT, BITCH, WHORE. This crowd is mostly 14 to 18; there are some college kids, but not nearly as many as high schoolers (or junior-high schoolers). Seeing girls that age peacocking around with that stuff written on them is disorienting, and not just because my own rave years coincided with riot grrrl, where writing those words on the body was a form of radical rebellion. Here, in a sea of neon Daisy Dukes, it's more like wearing a logo for the sake of being cool, because your clique at school will give you a hard time if you don't. I feel sorry for all of them.
The Eye is playing on the main stage: acid builds, dubstep drops. I'm at the tail end of the main floor middle, in a long aisle that funnels kids into the pit; the guard saw my press badge and let me through. I'm carrying a notebook, which helps. Two very short girls suddenly whip through the middle of the aisle, under everybody's hands, charging into the melee. The Rage (RAGE!) Against the Machine-sampling "Control the Future," by L.A.'s Villains, is whipping them into froth, and though I'm standing back, it's hard to resist music at this level of physical closeness.
Soon, though, the DJ is dropping House of Pain's "Jump Around," and the Doofus Hype Man begins to rap over it, because "Jump Around" is one of those rap songs D.H.M.s can rap without falling all over themselves, though this one is doing his damnedest. It's my cue to leave. Right before I do, I notice one young girl in the roiling VIP pit who can't be more than 15. On her neck, written in hot-pink liquid-gel, is SLUT.
On my way to the outdoor stage, I see a dude's T-shirt, in the style of the much-copied "John & Paul & George & Ringo" design, that says in part: PUMPS & TANK TOPS & HAIR GEL & HOUSE MUSIC. I try to imagine the reaction of your average house-music-as-church genuflector, and decide it's too cruel.
Out back, Static Revenger is wearing ridiculous-looking rabbit-ear-antenna headphones, and playing bassy music to match. It's drizzling, but no one's brought an umbrella, because to properly RAGE is to be impervious to the elements. Since I'm only person here that isn't wearing a staff T-shirt and is over college age, I did bring one, and use it. Soon, I notice a kid filming me with his phone. I turn around and his friend is dancing alongside me. I approach the filmer and ask him to send me the link when it goes on YouTube. He asks why I'm taking notes and I tell him.
"You wanna quote memy personal opinion?" he says seriously, followed by a meaningful pause. Sure. "This is awesome." It is an exchange I will have, verbatim, twice more today.
It's this kid's first ever party. "I've heard about these before, but I didn't expect it to actually be like this."