Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Nov 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Raindance

AE_freakersball1DJ Little John has been throwing parties for 15 years and shows no signs of stopping
If there is one indisputable fact about electronic music, it’s that it makes people dance. This is so true, in fact, that if you were to go to an electronica show and not dance, something might be wrong with you.

It was this inescapable, lawless dancing that first drew John Edmonds to the electro scene in 1995 (which is, by his account, “early for some, late for others”). Edmonds, now better known around Santa Cruz by his DJ name Little John, was a Deadhead following music around the country, camping out and embracing a lifestyle of freedom—the ultimate expression of which was dancing at music festivals and concerts. Electronic music had a lot more bass and a lot less guitar, but it engendered the same liberated dancing—something he experienced in full force that year on his first trip to Burning Man (which he’s only missed two years since).

“When you hit your best, most awesome dance moments you have a sense of personal freedom, but also community,” says Edmonds. “It’s part of human tradition that dates back to the very beginning.”

Edmonds settled in Santa Cruz around that time, where he attended the underground parties that occasionally cropped up to cater to the electronic scene. A guitarist with a college degree in music, Edmonds was compelled to turn his passion for this new, transformative music into a service to the community. “As a Deadhead, I’d fallen in love with dancing and found freedom in that,” he says. “Then I found it with electronic music, and I felt that I had something to offer.” He was intent on facilitating that dance-induced freedom for others.

AE_freakersball2Edmonds had yet to spin a record himself, but decided to provide a space for the local party community to enjoy DJs of the day like Tom L-G (who still plays around town) and DJ Wool. The latter headlined Edmond’s first party at the Brookdale Lodge in 1995, where, not knowing what to expect, Edmonds watched as more than 500 people showed up to his inaugural event—effectively kicking off his career as a budding party thrower.

Wasting no time, he dubbed his effort Raindance Presents (it was an El Niño year, so the moniker was a nod to the gods) and got to work organizing the Freaker’s Ball, a Halloween extravaganza that would become a signature Raindance event and annual Santa Cruz tradition. Over the following years, he established a handful of other Raindance standbys, like the Chinese New Year party in February and the Raindance Campout in June (this year’s is June 4-6 at the Cutter Scout Reservation in the Santa Cruz Mountains), all while keeping the underground scene thriving with full moon parties and other clandestine ragers. Thanks to Raindance Presents, Santa Cruz Burners finally had a full calendar of local events to keep the fire going throughout the year.

“The ’90s were big for us—some of our biggest events were in the ’90s,” Edmonds says, reminiscing about the days of a booming underground. Raindance events have stayed mostly above ground in recent years, but are still forging fresh territory. “We’re in a renaissance period,” he says. “A lot of the music has evolved and hit this new apex, which means that new things are about to be born.”

From trance in the early days to house, new school breaks to trip hop, dubstep to glitch, Edmonds has always chased the newest sounds and, for the past 15 years, tried to keep Raindance at the cusp of musical evolution. But, as in the spirit of Burning Man, Raindance parties are about far more than music—they are a space for every kind of artistic and personal expression.

”The music is what brings us all together and keeps us there and keeps it so exciting, but there are so many different forms of creative expression,” he says. “I personally like to provide space for creative people to be able to express themselves through music, dance, painting, stilt walking—whatever your creative passion is, bring it, do it, throw it in the mix.”

In addition to any variety of live art, interactive installations, massage, food and sacred altars for people to enjoy, partygoers are encouraged to dress in costume, bring toys (think hula hoops, fire poi and stilts), and just plain let loose. While all of the above—which may appear “strange” to more mainstream crowds—is the norm at these festivities, Edmonds aims for anyone and everyone to feel comfortable in the Raindance atmosphere. “I hope to create a safe container for people to explore, feel free to dance and express themselves,” he says. “It’s not about shutting people out.”

He also hosts a monthly shakedown at the Cypress Lounge in downtown Santa Cruz, where he’s booked notable acts such as Bluetech, Beats Antique and DJ Cheb i Sabbah, and he is working on using his knack for gathering large groups of people to put on more charities and benefits. In the midst of launching Raindance in the ’90s, Edmonds began DJing under the alias Little John, becoming an on-stage entertainer in his own right. Today he splits his time between running Raindance (with the help of “the Raindance family”) and his DJ career, which will hit a new high this year with a planned string of releases. But no matter where his DJing takes him, Edmonds remains forever loyal to the groovers and shakers in Santa Cruz—the scene that, through a serendipitous symbiotic relationship, was both cultivated by his commitment to organizing events and enabled his unique career. Edmonds has made a life of making sure other people have a good time (“a truly unique and uplifting experience—if I’ve done my job,” he says), and he is at his personal happiest when orchestrating.

“I feel most alive when I’m getting ready for a big event, getting the sound ready, building props, talking to everybody,” he says. “To me it’s like, if you’re a painter, you have your canvas, you have your paints, you have an idea of what you want to paint, and that’s your thing. For me, it’s like a three dimensional, living, breathing painting that I set up, and create this whole interactive art space of music, sound, artists.”

Smiling, he adds, “There is a lot of random beauty that happens within that.”


Top photo, GET FREAKY: Little John poses with members of the Raindance family, (from left to right) Kimchi, Laurel, Ginger and Alia, at the Freaker’s Ball, Raindance’s annual Halloween party.
Comments (6)Add Comment
Bringing the rain
written by The Scritch, April 10, 2010
Little John (Juan Grande to those in the know) and the Raindance crew are responsible for many of my fondest Santa Cruz memories. The effort they put into creating a shared experience is nothing short of inspirational.
...
written by X0x0x0x0, April 09, 2010
GREAT ARTICLE !
Those girls have names ya know!
written by rosey lakos, April 09, 2010
I was so excited to read this great article on Raindance, but was immediately put off by the image caption that failed to identify the ladies in the picture by name. These are NOT just party go-ers, these happen to be some VERY important ladies that help to make Raindance what it is.
I fell in love with my husband almost a dozen years ago at a Raindance Freakers Ball and have a very special place in my heart for them. Please do these awesome women justice by giving them proper image credit.
thanks
rosey
Awesome
written by Rodleen Getsic, April 09, 2010
Totally cool Little John.
...
written by brentugly, April 08, 2010
It took 15 years for GT to figure it out... better late than never.
...
written by DJ Tom LG, April 08, 2010
Thanks for shedding some light on some overlooked Santa Cruz history. There is so much rich music history here in town and after a decade and a half of serious music, art and performance Raindance deserves this recognition.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Pop Life

The pop-up dining trend is freeing culinary imaginations and creating a guerilla version of event dining around Santa Cruz

 

Over Hills and Plains, Riding a White Horse, Bow and Arrows in Hand

Saturday, early morning, the sun enters and radiates the light of Sagittarius. Three hours later, the Sagittarius new moon (0.07 degrees) occurs. “Let food be sought,” is the personality-building keynote. “Food” means experiences; all kinds, levels and types. It also means real food. Sag’s secret is their love of food. Many, if not musicians, are chefs. Some are both. The energies shift from Scorpio’s deep and transformative waters to the “hills and plains of Sagittarius.” Sag is the rider on a white horse, eyes focused on the mountain peaks of Capricorn (Initiation) ahead. Like Scorpio, Sagittarius is also the “disciple.” Adventure, luck, optimism, joy and the beginnings of gratitude are the hallmarks of Sagittarius. Sag is also one of the signs of silence. The battle lines were drawn in Libra and we were asked to choose where we stood. The Nine Tests were given in Scorpio and we emerged “warriors triumphant.” Now in Sag, we are to be the One-Pointed Disciple, riding over the plains on a white horse, bow and arrows in hand, eyes focused on the Path of Return ahead. Sagittarians are one-pointed (symbol of the arrow). Sag asks, “What is my life’s purpose?” This is their quest, from valleys, plains, meadows and hills, eyes aimed always at the mountaintop. Sag emerges from Scorpio’s deep waters, conflict and tests into the open air. Sag’s quest is humanity’s quest. Sag’s quest, however, is always accompanied by music and good food.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of November 21

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Pie Fidelity

A little Thanksgiving help, plus sip and shop locally at the Art, Wine and Gift Bazaar

 

What should be on everyone’s bucket list?

Hang gliding, because you're free as a bird. Jenni, Santa Cruz, Student/Administrative Assistant

 

Soquel Vineyards

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it’s time to be thinking about the wine you’re going to serve with that special dinner, be it turkey, ham, a roast, or something vegetarian or vegan.

 

The Kitchen

Chef Santos Majano talks beer-friendly food at Discretion Brewery