COLUMBIA, Maryland — Moby's Area:One festival is a rave, a carnival, a rock concert and a parade of the latest in halter tops and sun visors all rolled into one sweaty, heart-pounding $36.50 package.
The tour made its second stop Friday at Merriweather Post Pavilion, a place so pastoral and idyllic it seemed an unlikely spot for a rowdy 10-act rock, hip-hop and electronica show that would unfold over nine-and-a-half hours. (Click [article id="1445187"]here[/article] for photos from the show.)
The gates opened under warm, sunny skies at 1:30 p.m. By 2 p.m., DJ Jon Tab was spinning inside an air-conditioned dance tent in a far corner of the pavilion. Outside the tent, muffled bass beats lured concertgoers to explore what was inside.
"I didn't know it was going to be this cool," 16-year-old Jim Werner of Fairfax, Virginia, yelled over the thumping of the music inside the tent.
"I feel like I've already gotten my money's worth," he said, looking up at the complex lighting system and two overhead screens that were flashing images of scantly clad women and city scapes. It was the scene of an underground rave, if not for the blatant sponsor logos everywhere and Intel's Digital Music Zone set up 50 yards away.
An hour-and-a-half later, Tab and Rinôçerôse had already finished their sets in the tent, and by 3:30 p.m. Lieven was about to take over as DJ.
Just before 4 p.m., Canada's Nelly Furtado, the first of the main stage acts, opened her 40-minute set to a mid-sized audience on the pavilion's main stage. She charmed listeners with whimsical moves and the dancehall/dub influences that were laced in and out of her set, which included her hit "I'm Like a Bird."
Immediately following her show, DJ Carl Cox was up inside the tent. Scheduled to perform for two hours, Cox's hypnotic, three-decks mixing style was like a mating call to the show's teens looking to dance. Cox raised the stakes and worked the crowd of more than 2,000 into a frenzy. Light sticks distributed by representatives from festival sponsor Intel swirled with the beats as the place became more packed by the second.
Outside, the Roots, followed by California funk-metal outfit Incubus, played to a swelling and increasingly more interested crowd, which rose to its feet when Incubus played its radio hit "Pardon Me."
With pop, rock and hip-hop all heard by 7:30 p.m., it seemed as though Moby's goal for the festival — exposing the music that he loves while creating an eclectic and fun atmosphere — had been met even without the headlining performance.
And then came the show's apex, one act early. A little after 7:30 p.m., Outkast began a set that brought a previously scattered crowd of all ages and races together into one arm-waving mass. The Georgia duo had as many as 14 people onstage at once dancing and singing. The duo played the early hit "Elevators (Me & You)" and had most of Merriweather singing the chorus to "So Fresh, So Clean."
Across the lawn at the tent, Paul Oakenfold replaced DJ Juan Atkins, and a line of about 200 teens frantic to get in had formed outside the tent's door.
"Oakie was part of the reason I came here. I mean, I paid $80 for orchestra tickets to see Moby, but I definitely wanted to see [Oakenfold]," said Wes Davis, 18, of Harrisonburg, Virginia.
"Everything's happening so fast, we had no idea who was coming on when," he said, adding that he hoped some people would leave the tent so that others could enter.
That never happened. After people in line tried to jump the fence to get into the tent, security donned helmets and whipped out megaphones and carefully moved the crowd away from the gate.
"This sucks. I'm pissed that I paid this much and everything's happening at the blink of an eye," said Amanda Challis, 21, of Baltimore, who was among those outside the gate.
The lock-out didn't get everyone down, though. Between sets from Outkast and Moby, a crowd of concertgoers gathered near the gates where Oakenfold was audible and danced in the grass.
"We can still hear it, and Moby's coming on soon," said Kristen Breamer, 17, of Alexandria, Virginia. "We're happy."
Darkness arrived and headliner Moby was center stage among pulsating lights and lasers. Accompanied by a three-piece string section, he opened with "Hymn."
Wearing an Area:One three-quarter length T-shirt and black pants, Moby zipped around the stage and touched every instrument within reach. He drew heavily on 1999's Play, and had Diane Charlemagne on hand to do live vocals for "Honey" and "Natural Blues." A bikini-clad Nelly Furtado came onstage for "South Side."
The performance seemed to be formulated to appease everyone, with hip-hop tunes such as "Bodyrock" and rave anthems such as "Go" both on display.
In the end, Moby introduced "the people with whom [he] plays music" after taking off his shirt and throwing it to the audience. Then he dismissed the musicians, telling the crowd he would play the fastest song ever written as his closing piece.
Moby stood in front of his keyboard with a blue light shining on him. The music was slow at first, and Moby raised his arms over his head and punched his fists in the air with the rhythm of the music. As the beat became faster, so did his movements.
Midway through the song, Moby stepped up onto the keyboard and continued to slam his fists into the air. When the song was over, he threw his arms up and thanked the audience.
For a feature interview with Moby about the tour, check out [article id="1445022"]"Moby: Beaming Into Area:One."[/article]