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Raves

We’ve all seen them before. Maybe at a bus stop, in our schools, or at the coffee shop. “They” look odd enough to frighten a circus clown, but for some reason, they always smile when you look their way. Perhaps it’s that their hair is the color of the sunset or that their pants look like they could house a small family. It could be that their headphones seem permanently glued to their ears and that they’re never afraid to groove on the sidewalk. Whatever the reason, you know that “they” are not quite normal. You may call them “freaks,” or “punks,” or simply “those crazy kids.” But if you did, you’d be misled for “they” are not you’re average young people, no, “they” are ravers.

Before we go any further, I think I should first dispel some rumors and ease your mind of the negative thoughts that must be sweeping through it. What do you think of when you hear the word rave? Drugs? Hoodlum kids running amuck? Loud music that interferes with the whole community’s sleeping habits? Violence? The dictionary defines the word “rave” as a numerous amount of things, such as “an act or instance” or the verb “to talk with extreme enthusiasm,” but this is one case where Webster has got it all wrong. What is the true definition of a rave? In most cases, a rave is simply a dance party where guests experience a sense of camaraderie and elevated consciousness through the presence of music. This means there is an abundance of dance expression, interaction with other such ravers, and a positive mood change. And while there are sometimes drugs involved, there is absolutely no deliberate disturbance of the peace and zero tolerance for violence. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s divulge into the history of this invigorating phenomenon.

The exact origin of raves is unknown, though many say the gatherings are reminiscent of American Indian religious ceremonies, like pow-wows. The first modern raves are said to have occurred in English warehouses around 1987 and were focused around homosexual males. Since then, raves have grown more than anyone might think possible. With this growth has come evolution as well. Raves are now held in nearly almost city or town, whether it be heavily populated or in the middle of cornfields. Customarily, they are centered in abandoned warehouses decked out in black lights and strobes, but they have taken place on beaches, in caves, and virtually any other place with enough room for the 500-1500 person congregation. The genre of participants has expanded to include anyone, male or female, heterosexual or homosexual. Usually the attendants are from the age of 18-27, but some are as young as 13 or as old as 50. And unlike their English predecessors, the raves of today are not entirely underground. You can find out about raves through the grapevine, on the internet, or from flyers. These flyers are strategically located where most ravers are located, like coffee shops, vintage clothing shops, and independent record stores. The people in charge of these raves are called promoters and are often ravers or ex-ravers. They tend to be males slightly older than your average raver, but once again, anybody can do it. Promoters are in charge of creating a safe environment and ensuring that everybody has the best experience possible.

Like a car without wheels, a rave is useless without a good DJ. DJs are like the masters of ceremony for these raves and responsible for all music played. They spin with one goal in mind: to get their listeners dancing. Electronic music is practically the only genre played due to its heavy dance pulse and message-less rhythm. This type of music includes techno, house, and jungle, which are all similar types of the dance-oriented beats. As raves are often a way for the sojourner to escape from their daily woes of work or school, it is vital that the music is as monumental as a religious experience. The music is a mediator, a way for the patron to set themselves free. The freedom is expressed through dancing and ravers often lose themselves to the tempo as if in meditation. The music is intended to lull the conscious mind while simultaneously accentuating the subconscious mind.

Since raves have tendency to focus on heightened senses, drugs are sometimes present. Popular rave drugs include LSD, MDMA, and Ketamine HCI. LSD is more commonly known as Acid and is known for distorting and intensifying sensory input. But even ravers do not advocate the use of acid because if things go wrong while the user is under the influence, a rave full of friends yet to be made can quickly become a dank warehouse crowded with frightening strangers. MDMA is the drug-of-choice and is known as Ecstacy, which is in turn nicknamed either “E” or “X.” E increases the feeling of love and is accompanied by slight hallucinations, however, has less potential for dismaying trips. Lastly is Ketamine HCI, which is referred to as Special K. Special K is an intense dissociative psychadelic. When ravers are under the influence of such drugs, they can often be seen with pacifiers in their mouths or medical masks that cover the mouth and nose. The pacifier serves as a hindrance for the teeth-grinding that is a popular side affect. The masks are spread with a thin layer of Vicks Vapor Rub, which enhances the high. Although drugs seem so prominent in the rave society, there are many drug-free raves and the amount of such is dramatically increasing. Also, whether it be drug-free or otherwise, alcohol is not commonly present at the parties.

Once a rave has established it’s music, all that is left to make it a success is the ravers themselves. All ravers become susceptible to “The Vibe,” which is the feeling any event leaves you with. However, where raves differ is that the vibe is so powerful that many become obsessed with it and see it as a form of telepathic energy that has a profound impact on their lives. The vibe can also be used to describe other ravers. If somebody around a raver is not happy or enjoying themselves, they posses a bad vibe. However, if everybody is rhapsodic, vivacious, and sprightly, they would say the rave had a good vibe or that the people contributed a strong vibe. A strong vibe is the result of a powerful bond between ravers. This can be associated to the raver philosophy, which is PLUR. PLUR stands for peace, love, unity, and respect and is prominent at any rave. The unity is especially marked because of the affection between ravers, no matter how different they are. Once you’re dancing, you are bonded with everybody else on that floor that you are dancing with! Because of this motto of PLUR, it is customary for ravers to approach complete strangers and express more love and compassion than one may normally vocalize for their dearest friends. One could attend a rave alone, and if the vibe is strong, leave with a thousand friends. The more diversity that is in a group, the more respect there is. It’s accepted that everyone is different.

Speaking of being different, there is still the issue of appearance. Exactly why do those kids have goofy hair and glowsticks in their mouths? Color is a key roll in rave fashion. Nearly everything worn is bright and neon so it can be illuminated underneath the flashing lights. Also, bright colors are synonymous with happiness, therefore, ravers will often wear bright things to help promote a generally fun, pleasing mood. Many clothing articles are often glow in the dark to gain a great visual affect under blacklights. Glowsticks are used in dancing, also for the visual affect. All clothing is worn to be functional, but it helps if fun attributes are added. For example, it is customary to wear baggy pants that allow your legs more moving space, but instead of having solid colored pants, rave pants will often have reflective taping or loops to hold glowsticks. Tighter shirts are beneficial to lessen the contact with clothing that could interfere in dancing as well. Tighter shirts allow your arms more movement. T-shirts or tank tops worn are often adorned in neon colors with pictures and illustrations of fun characters from children’s stories or TV shows, like Dr. Seuss, The Care Bears, My Little Pony, or The Powerpuff Girls. This is to promote the jubilant air at a rave. Jogging shoes, especially Adidas, are extremely popular also because of their comfort and benefits for dancing. But just as important as the clothing articles are the accessories. Candy jewelry is often worn, as well as any brightly colored beaded necklaces, multiple glittery bracelets, bright makeup, and anything shimmery! The clothing is another way to express yourself at a rave, so it is also endorsed to dress strictly for comfort. One could wear anything to a rave and be accepted. In the words of a webmaster named Seanbaby who has a website on rave fashion, “If you want to make an outfit out of saran wrap and wear a tin foil space helmet, no one there will make fun of you.” And it’s true! No matter what their personal style is, ravers will always be themselves.

Unfortunately, there are still people who refuse to believe that a rave is centered around love and peace. Police officers seem to enjoy shutting down raves, much to the dissapointment of eager dancers everywhere. Authorities are under the impression that a gathering of young people will most definitely result in trouble, so they use minor infractions to shut down raves while they are just beginning. Some reasons may be fire code violations, noise complaints, traffic flow impeded on nearby roads, infractions against public assembly, loitering, or violation of curfew. Though one would have an extravagantly difficult time trying to get a group of ravers to fight, police fear that criminal activities will break out before the night is over.

And when the night is over, everyone goes home fulfilled. A raver once said “If you wish to change your thoughts, go to a psychiatrist. If you wish to change your life, go to a rave.” For while you are just ending another dull day in a monotonous life, “they” are just getting ready. “They” are beginning to meet up with friends. “They” are preparing for their day. Because for “them”, the day does not begin until the first record spins. “They” are ravers.




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