Oakenfold Rocks EMF

San Diego is not known as the bastion of so-called “”rave”” culture. There aren’t very many clubs that cater to big-name DJs, and finding a massive — a party on a gargantuan scale — out in the middle of the San Diego countryside is a bit of a hassle.

UCSD prevents the DJs and Vinylphiles Club from organizing an event such as last year’s “”Movement,”” which flooded the Price Center with wonderful music and colorful people.

So it was nice, for once, to head down to the San Diego Sports Arena for the Electronica Music Festival, rather than to make my way to, say, Indio to find a comparable line-up.

Settled in the concourse of the Sports Arena were two areas of kickin’ breaks and deep house. In the Main Concourse area, Barry Weaver, Nigel Richards and local DJ Jon Bishop entertained a small crowd of people sweating and grooving to the music.

Downstairs in the House Arena, Angel Alanis and Jon Williams kept the dancers alive with hard-hitting house and techno.

But the two main stages were where all the people were. On the floor of the Sports Arena, thousands of revelers were waving their glow sticks and struggling for room to dance.

Main Stage 2 catered to those who know and love Moonshine Records. Veteran DJ Donald Gluade and labelmates John Kelley and Dave Aude played to a packed crowd that was jumping and shouting at every break and every snyth line.

Main Stage 1 had the names that most casual fans of electronica would know. VonShock, Taylor and Mark Lewis pumped up the crowd with their eclectic sounds of progressive house and trance.

But as 1 a.m. approached, the dance floor became more difficult to navigate; it came time for the world-famous Paul Oakenfold to take his place behind the decks. Appearing in a polka-dot shirt, Oakenfold made his way onto the elevated stage and extended his arms out to the crowd before clutching his heart in appreciation as candy ravers and casual ravers alike erupted into cheers.

Oakenfold’s resume is impressive: He has performed in places such as Liverpool, England’s superclub Cream, dropped mind-expanding tracks in Ibiza and even opened for U2.

Oakenfold is no stranger to the West Coast, either. By playing massives last summer in Southern California and more recently at Coachella and San Diego’s Club Montage, Oakenfold is definitely trying to stake his claim here in the West Coast music scene.

While the first hour of his two-hour set wasn’t very impressive, Oakenfold picked things up in his second hour on stage.

The god-like influence of Oakenfold became apparent as he pulled the crowd in closer with each bass line and drum beat. Then, in classic Oakenfold fashion, he dropped in a couple of vocal tracks and closed his set with thick layers of trance-synths that directed dancers into a frenzy.

Before the audience realized what had hit, Oakenfold was done, but Dave Ralph picked up the pace and energy of Oakenfold and rocked the crowd until the very end, at 4 a.m.

Watching the throngs of people actually dancing until the end was magical.

And as you stumbled out of the Sports Arena and waded through the flyers for the next party, your only regret was that Oakenfold didn’t play longer, and your only hope was that San Diego will host more events like the Electronica Music Festival.