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A rave superstar joins Ybor City's club scene

A ketamine-and-ecstasy frenzy turns into an impromptu dance party.

Glitter, angel wings, drag makeup and lingerie swirl amid fetish, androgyny, fog and blacklights.

It's the late '80s or early '90s, and Superstar DJ Keoki spins what becomes the soundtrack of the club kids — the bored-youth-turned-paid-partiers who helped create the rave scene.

Keoki came to New York from Hawaii. He earned $3 an hour with an airline, working the dead-end gig because he wanted to travel. What ultimately happened? He would wind up abroad without money to see anything.

Keoki joined the party scene when he met infamous club kid Michael Alig, jailed for the grisly murder of a scene drug dealer. He started busing tables at Manhattan's Danceteria in 1985, unsuccessfully begging club promoters and owners to let him DJ.

His big break came when the DJ didn't show up to a celeb's party at another Manhattan nightspot where he bused. Keoki said he had records and could spin. The manager's reply was half encouragement, half pragmatism — a blunt "I don't (care) what you play, kid. I just want this place packed," followed by: "Go get your damn records."

Rave's heyday might be over, but Keoki Franconi recently started a Saturday-night residence at Ybor's new Club Tantra. On a recent night, costumed clusters and solo dancers with glowsticks rocked to gritty, deep beats with spots of light electronics.

Tbt* chatted with Keoki about what he's been up to recently.

What brought you to Tampa?

I used to play (in Ybor City) all the time. I was doing shows at Monarch in Palm Beach. I think that I said: "I think Tampa would be a great market. It'd be nice to have a home." … I've been a nomad most of my life.

What's good about being a resident as opposed to traveling?

You start to develop a communal feel. You know what to expect. You don't know what to expect.

Has your style changed over the years?

My music is out there — dark and different and really dramatic. It'll create an atmosphere, you'll be able to feel it. I think that people were always pinpointing that I was doing something new.

Have your musical influences shifted?

There's so much good music out there these days. I'm still being cutting-edge in the sense that I'm always looking for the newest things.

So what do you think about having Tampa as an anchor?

I haven't been this excited in a long, long time. It's like a circus coming to town every week.

Otherworldly costumes and the masquerade aesthetic were big with the club kids. Still into wild getups?

I'm like the Pied Piper of the room. I'm always a club kid, a club kid at heart. I hope I never stop being a kid.

. IF YOU GO

DJ Keoki

The DJ spins between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. at Club Tantra (formerly the Amphitheatre and Pop Lounge), 1609 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. myspace.com/tantraybor.

A rave superstar joins Ybor City's club scene 07/30/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 2, 2009 10:24pm]
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