I hope that all of you are having a good day today. I want to share something with you folks that on the surface might not seem to have much to do with DANCEFLOOR THUNDERSTORM, as it’s an event that happened just eight days ago–not an incident from the 90s glory days as chronicled in the book. However, I think you might change your mind about that after you read about what happened at Avalon Hollywood last Saturday night, September 3rd. It was going to be an old-school trance fest, as the headliners were the double billing of Christopher Lawrence and John “00” Fleming. There are few trance artists in the world that have longer pedigrees than these two, and having known both of them for a long time now (nearly twenty years in Christopher’s case), I’ve seen them do some amazing things with audiences. If you’re into trance, a night with these guys will not disappoint…and this was certainly the case at Avalon this night. Trading off on the decks on a constant basis, they brought the energy level in the room to a spectacular height.
However, something else was going on that neither Christopher nor I was aware of…something particularly intense and powerful that was going to transform this ordinary night out into something bigger. Much bigger. I’ll let Christopher tell the story at this point–this is from his Instagram post about that night.
“I can’t begin to explain what a privilege it is to have John “00” Fleming [as my] best friend and DJ partner. I have never met someone with as much integrity behind the decks and in everyday life. On the night of our set at Avalon Hollywood last weekend, John received the news that his mother had passed just before we left for the show. He never mentioned this to me even as we drove to the show and did our prep and sound check. True to his professional nature and dedication to his audience, he kept silent knowing that I would worry about him if I knew and that it might effect our eight hour open to close show. How he found the strength to do this I will never know.
At Avalon that night he played the most powerful set I’ve ever heard from him. We have played many sets together but this one stood out from the others. There was a particularly intense part when John had been playing pounding techno and the crowd was loving it. I went up to him to tell him how much I was digging it when he suddenly made the dance floor erupt with an incredible emotional melody.
It was only the next day when John told me of his mother’s passing that he said the powerful techno set followed by the euphoric release was when he had been thinking of his mother. It made that intense part of his set all the more special and explained the raw emotional roller coaster his sets had been throughout the night.
John’s mother was always extremely proud of him with good reason and I know she was looking down on him that night. I felt very honored to have shared the stage with him.
It was important for me to let you know what an incredible person John is. So perhaps show him a little more love as he sets out on a three day tour of back to back open-to-close sets in Australia.”
This is my photograph of the moment that Christopher was talking about. When I look at it today, it almost gives me shivers, it’s such an epic and transformative moment…and I happened to catch it and immortalize it. I won’t say it was completely by accident–I was there doing my job professionally, as I always strive to do–but as Christopher said, John was the only one in that room who truly knew what was going on. I didn’t know. Christopher didn’t know. Nobody on that stage knew. So for me as a photographer, to know that I serendipitously caught the instant where John is just about transcending into some higher plane, and knowing (now) the circumstances behind it…well, these are the moments that keep photographers going. This is what we live for–knowing that we got it.
Here’s a link to a YouTube video that I shot that also captures the atmosphere pretty well. Sorry about the noisy quality.
On another, more sobering note, I wish to express my condolences to John Fleming. I know this can’t be an easy time for him, in spite of the big outpouring of fan emotions thanks to Christopher’s post. And as usual for him, he’s going straight ahead into more work, even during this trying time. I hope that he continues to get support from the public in the future, because of course you can’t really just cope with something like this.
Anyway, as I said at the beginning of this piece, I believe this has a lot to do with DANCEFLOOR THUNDERSTORM, because just as back in the day, electronic music has the ability to take a moment and transform it, to shape it into something bigger, something more sublime…and dare I say, universal. This is something that has not changed over the decades, from the classic rave days to today’s EDM world. Thus, the spirit of DANCEFLOOR THUNDERSTORM is very much alive on today’s dance floors, in spite of the fact that the audience has inevitably changed over the years. That Avalon crowd wasn’t made up of old, grizzled rave veterans like myself. It was a largely twenty-something audience that was going for Christopher Lawrence’s and John Fleming’s trance just as passionately as their old fans back in the 90s and 00s. It’s heartening to see that spirit has been passed intact from one generation to the next. It’s why, even in the light of the numerous incidents that have been plaguing festivals as of late, that I still have faith in the future of electronic music. This thing is now too big to simply go away–it has woven itself into the fabric of American pop culture so deeply that it will never be completely removed.