It's hard to know what to believe about British DJ Paul Oakenfold. Thousands of glowstick-sporting club kids and ravers around the world adore him, which explains why his latest mix-CD release, the double-disc opus Perfecto Presents Another World, debuted at No. 114 on the Billboard 200 -- the highest-ever debut for a mix CD. But log on to any underground dance music message board, ask for an opinion on him, and prepare yourself for the inevitable deluge of cheap shots, including claims that his lack of technical skills on the tables often results in the "trainwrecking" sound of poorly matched-up beats. Critics shoot him down because he has made his name by playing the elongated breakdowns, obvious chord progressions, and "soulless" epic sounds of the most nefarious of all dance genres: trance. But hey, the man is actually listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "Most Successful DJ in the World." So how did he get there?
Maybe it has to do with the fact that he was partly responsible for jump-starting the modern-day British club experience. In the summer of 1987, Oakey started promoting a weekly party called "Spectrum" in London's club Heaven, turning Brits on to a couple of friends he picked up while on holiday in Ibiza: acid house and ecstasy. The combination was so potent that, according to U.K. music journalist Simon Reynolds, brawling footballers turned into lovey-dovey dancing queens overnight, and a "Summer of Love" ensued. Of course, his success could also stem from his knack for producing hit singles under pseudonyms like ElementFour, Planet Perfecto, Grace, and Virus. At any rate, Oakenfold is no stranger to playing to crowds of thousands, and after almost 20 years behind the decks, he's certainly picked up a trick or two. Decide for yourself, when he makes his first-ever Cleveland appearance this week.