Music

[Review] Rabbit in the Moon, House of Blues Orlando: An Out of Body Experience

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If you raved in the 90s, chances are you had the pleasure of seeing Rabbit in the Moon live on more than one occasion (if you didn’t, I’m so sorry!). My ‘scene’ days began many years ago, at a small club in Tallahassee, FL. My friend was in town for a visit and she talked me into going to see this “crazy group of guys” named Rabbit in the Moon. When Bunny came on, I was sitting on the floor, talking to someone I’d just met. My friend came running up and said, “Get up! He’s on!”. I had no idea what the heck she was talking about, but assumed it couldn’t possibly be as amazing as she’d been made it out to be.

I will never forget the moment I stood up and saw Bunny for the first time. I have no idea what I was expecting from that show, but I can promise you, it was nothing like what I experienced. Aside from the fact that he was swoon-worthy, he had such a stage presence about him, I was left awestruck and dying for more. Monk’s DJing, combined with Bunny’s stage act, provided the perfect setting for ravers who were in it for the full experience.

My life was changed forever that night. If you were fortunate enough to be a part of the scene during that time, you will understand this. Literally, everything changed for me that night. I heard music like nothing I had ever heard before. I was overwhelmed by the love and acceptance all around me. I met people who would later become family. In one night, just like that, I had found my tribe.

For several years after that, I fully immersed myself in the scene. I saw some of house music’s legends, before they were legends. We were all (including the DJs) young and naive. Together, we figured life out. We grew up together.

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photo by Garth Solburg

Like the rest of the world, there came a time when it was necessary to start focusing more on real-world responsibilities and less on this beautiful life we had all created together. Many of us moved on to other towns, married, and settled down into adult life. I lost touch with several friends but, for the most part, I still remain in contact with everyone that meant something to me during that time. We can go months, or even years, without talking, yet pick right back up where we left off. Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed.

I’m pretty sure that everyone that ‘grew up’ raving in the 90s shouted for joy when RITM announced they would be playing a very special show for us at House of Blues Orlando. No one really saw this coming, but everyone jumped at the opportunity to organize a reunion. For months, we messaged back and forth, talking about the old days, wondering if the vibe would be the same and, most importantly, would Bunny bust out the angle grinder?! What other tricks did he have up his sleeve?

Rabbit in the Moon @_rabbitinthemoon @hoborlando @vzn1 #rabbitinthemoon #houseofbluesorlando

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After months of anticipation, August 19th was finally here. You know you’ve gotten older when everyone’s biggest concern is that the main act doesn’t start until midnight. A big group of us met for dinner beforehand and we all wondered how in the world we were going to stay awake long enough to see Rabbit in the Moon do their thing. We all agreed – if the music is good enough, it shouldn’t be a problem.

I suppose we should have known that RITM wouldn’t let anyone but the best warm their audience up. From 8pm until midnight, we were treated to four grade A performances. Circle K threw down a drum and bass set that had everyone talking for hours. Once his set was over, Sage Armstrong, Monk, and Will Clarke took us on a musical journey through time.

Sage played lots of funky/techy/bass house, reminiscent of much of the Dirtybird and Fool’s Gold sounds, two labels he’s closely associated with.

Monk played a wide array of sounds, with bass being the connecting tissue between it all. Tech and electro house, breakbeats, and old school hip-hop popped up throughout his set.

Will Clarke rocked the ‘booty house’ sounds, which definitely got the crowd pumped. His set fit perfect with the bass-heavy southern electronic styles on display for the evening.

With technology allowing DJs to play anything and everything they can load on a laptop, much of the sets sounded familiar, yet reworked in a manner specific to each DJ. Lots of unreleased material cozied up right next to some classic club sounds. It was clear that all the DJs felt the incredible energy in the room and were all determined to play memorable sets in support of RITM’s big party.

As mentioned, the buildup for this show was months in the making.  So, when it was time for the stage setup to change, the energy in House of Blues Orlando was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  Everywhere I looked, people were exchanging hugs and smiles, shaking out their arms and legs as if they were warming up to go into a football game.  The crowd started chanting “Raaaaaabbit. Raaaaaabbit” as the emcee chanted his own encouragement for the crowd to get loud. Not a problem for us, as we all couldn’t wait to see what was just behind the curtains.

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photo by Jen McKinnon

From the start, it was obvious this wasn’t going to be your average night at the club. With the crowd still yelling “Raaaaaabbit. Raaaaaabbit,” David Christophere began with the familiar five note refrain referring to encounter of a third kind. The encounter was truly underway. Soon after, Bunny emerged in full RITM space suit, stomping his way toward the edge of the stage. The crowd gave their love back in full force as a roar erupted in the house that blues built. It’s kind of a full circle feeling for me, considering the space and alien visitor theme RITM was cultivating. I felt like I had been introduced to a sound and show that was not of this world some 20 odd years ago. I remember being so blown away by the music and, ultimately, a scene that seemed ahead of its time. Not just in the music, but also the social and interpersonal nature of our relationships. We built bonds and friendships that transcended traditional labels. Those same bonds and friendships, as well as excitement for music, were on full display this night.

They brought me back to my youth, pulling out all the stops. Bunny, along with a crew of dancers, moved through different vignettes, including the mirror ball suit, a LED-suit, and the grinder! Bunny and crew pulled a “white rabbit” out of the crowd at one point and busted out the angle grinder a la Man in the Iron Mask style. A fan favorite since the beginning, even though Bunny was grinding his own iron-masked face back then.

When the first strains of “Phases of Out of Body Experience” were heard, it was as if a whole crowd could have their neck hairs come to attention in unison. Glowsticks showered the crowd and the Bunny started to really hop. Not content with a simple crowd surf, Bunny then hopped in a giant bumper ball and rolled over the crowd. Electric.

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photo by Jen McKinnon

RITM encored with their remix of Goldie’s classic “Inner City Life” into their classic remix of Sarah McLaughlin’s “Possession,” which flexed their longstanding remix prowess. The music echoing in so many memories, you could see people everywhere mouthing the lyrical refrains. It was also impressive to see how the stage show has grown over the years. This was a full-blown performance with a real sense of deliberate and thoughtful presentation being designed to compliment the music.

Just like this crowd, RITM have grown up, but they haven’t lost the youthful exuberance and drive that kicked their careers and lives off, so many years ago. As the night drew to an end, contentment could be seen everywhere as friends hugged, laughed, and smiled their way out of HoB. This night exemplified what we all felt and knew was a special and unique time in our lives. Never going back, but forever carrying on.

View the full photo gallery HERE and a few more favorite moments below:

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above photos by Garth Solburg, below by Jen McKinnon

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Full photo gallery HERE

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