I was feeling nostalgic, and visited relics of a well spent youth.
September 30, 2018 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Anyone who was a teen in the 1990's probably climbed out of a bedroom window with one of these in the pocket of their JUNCO's, In the mid 1990's midwest, teenage rebellion wore body glitter, platform shoes, and danced all night in abandoned warehouses to electronic music. It had piercings, and tribal tattoos, and despite the passage of time that so often makes one regret those choices, still looks badass in pictures.

We were young, not necessarily angry, but as youth is wont to be, desperate to carve out a place in the world to call our own.

1990's rave culture was colorful, frantic, and equal parts wild and sedate if you were in a smaller midwest city. It was exciting with a touch of danger in larger cities due to the accessibility of some club drugs. It smelled like pot, stale cigarettes, and Boones Farm Strawberry Hill with notes of patchouli and sandalwood.

Most in their mid 40's look back on their teen years fondly and I am no different. I recall with a racing heart how grown up and mysterious it felt to roll up to the record store in my Pontiac Sunbird and hand over an orange and twenty dollars and whisper the secret word that allowed me to buy a ticket.

I also laugh at how foolish we were to take risks like sneaking out of our parents houses to pass around Boones Farm, and Maddog, or on occassion, a bong in a parking lot behind the public housing complex down the street from the abandoned warehouse where we would hand over our tickets in exchange for the privilege of dancing all night, and if we were really lucky, the chance to make out in a corner with an attractive stranger whose name we would forget, if we ever knew it at all.

For anyone who wants to read more:



posted by Sequined Ballet Flats (56 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Man, those JNCOs were ridiculous. Even back then, I had no interest.

I have a friend from HS who still travels the world DJing. He's a really nice and interesting guy, so I'm glad for him but raving was never my scene.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 6:08 PM on September 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Ah, the magic of Kai’s Power Tools. I remember it well...
posted by Thorzdad at 6:25 PM on September 30, 2018 [19 favorites]

There was a club we went to for raves called DV8. Sigh.
posted by k8t at 6:54 PM on September 30, 2018 [10 favorites]

I was on the fringe of rave culture, via being involved in the local BBS scene and having a taste for adventure. I also saw a lot of people get deeply fucked up within it -- mostly related to drugs -- both in high school and in college, which was close enough to Detroit that some folks went to the city often. There were efforts to test drugs with orgs like Dance Safe but still, a lot of lives were ruined.
So while I enjoyed these links, especially the NPR one, I also look back on that time with great sadness.
posted by k8t at 7:02 PM on September 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

I was a freshman in college in 1992, and I remember seeing these upper classmen hanging out at this one table in the caf. One guy perpetually dressed in black Adidas tracksuit and kangol cap. Another hippie chick with dyed hair, fingerless gloves, and a flourescent wardrobe. Their friend was a bald, black man with Stussy hoodie and a chain wallet. I pegged them right away for raver kids, and I wanted to say but I was a very easily intimidated freshman. I'd sit nearby at lunch or dinner and eavesdrop on their conversations, on their endless debates about which club to go to tonight, and if it's worthwhile to head out early because they had some "free entry before 9pm passes"

In the meantime, I learned how to use e-mail and I subscribed to the NE-Raves mailing list, which included a weekly copy of the Rave-O-Matic an updated calendar with all of the parties between Montreal and Philadelphia. One day, I printed out a copy on the computer lab dot-matrix printer. It probably ran to 15 pages, and I walked over to the club kids table and tossed the stack in front of them.

"I have a car," I said, "and I want to go to one of these events, but I don't want to go alone. Are you guys interested?"

And they paged through the Rave-O-Matic like it was the Dead Sea Scrolls. "Where did you get this?"

"The internet. Come on, let's pick a party."

I hung out with that crew for my entire four years of college, right through the mid-90s and the heyday of the New England Primary parties, which were all raves themed around a primary color like Green, Red, and Baby Blue. The latter was in an old ski-resort and involved walking up and down four different hills to dance at different tents. The drive back, in the midst of a Sunday dawn, was beautiful, but I remember one of my companions in the back seat moaning, "you guys, I'm 27! I'm almost 30! What am I doing with my life?"

Unlike the stereotype, we were all straight-edge kids. No drugs. No alcohol, even. We just showed up at the club before 9pm for free entry, drank water all night, and then drove home. The only money out of pockets might be a slice of greasy pizza at 3am. It was a fantastic way to be young for a while.

The crowd didn't hang long past graduation. I drifted into goth/industrial, and stopped going out to raves, but from time to time, as I'd drive out to Western Mass or up to Vermont, in the early evening, techno on the car stereo, I'd think of those trips.

Then, four years after graduation, a friend of a friend came to town who had ecstasy connections, and she took it upon herself to introduce us to MDMA and be our fairy drugmother. Then I was back into it. Driving out west or north for an all night party, but older, a little less excited, a little more jaded, but then I took E at a party for the first time, eight years after I had started going out, and I walked into this conference center that washed my soul in bass.

"Oh, this is why people do it."

I kept that up for maybe two years, before drama and foolishness split the group apart. We all largely got through it intact, though our fairy drugmother eventually moved on to another town after she burned some people for unpaid rent.

Then a couple more years passed. It's 2003. I had just gone home to visit the Philippines for the first time in 20 years. The Iraq War started as I was in the air. I arrived jetlagged but full of thoughts and feelings. My raver goth friends were exchanging email about this party at the Asylum in Springfield, and it had been months since I hit up one of those parties, but I figured fuck it, I'm not getting any sleep anyway.

I did that party sober, just being the designated guardian for anyone who was having a bad trip or a weird headspace. It was a good way to return to the experiences I had when I first started hitting up these parties more than 10 years earlier. It was a good occasion to call this done.

Now a lot of those friends still go to parties, but it's dwelling within the big tent of burner culture. DJs at industrial lofts. All night events in secret parks in the city. Regional burns with sound camps , glowstick, and fire workshops. I'll go sometimes because a night of moving to music is still cathartic for me. But I've been sober to these events for 15 years, and I'll usually head home before the sunrise, to sleep in my own bed.

Those club kids from that cafeteria table spent a few years renting a small house in a scruffy neighborhood of Boston called Jamaica Plain. I'd go by a few times and it was pretty typical early college squalor. Mattresses on the floor. Milk crate bookcases. Furniture scrounged off what was tossed out on the street. But it was my first experience of people my own age living in their own place. Now, I live in a condo that's a block away from that place, and I walk past it everyday on my way to work, and I think of sleepy dance kids pushing 27 and wondering what the rest of their life would be like.
posted by bl1nk at 7:33 PM on September 30, 2018 [101 favorites]

We're still working on testing drugs and it really feels like we're getting there. There's a few sensible countries in Europe who've been doing it for ages. The Loop in the UK really kicked off a couple of years ago and are just starting up in Australia. I help out with KnowYourStuffNZ and yesterday we heard that the Health Minister in NZ wants to explore how to make pill testing more available.

No-one ever going to say that drugs are safe, but we know how to reduce the risk - testing before people ingest, support during trips, immediate medical care if it needs be, support services after.

Overall. what will make the biggest difference is getting away from the attitude of just necking dodgy pingers and hoping for the best. It doesn't need to be a lottery.
posted by happyinmotion at 7:36 PM on September 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

I saved all my JNCOs (and they still fit) so I will forever have a Halloween costume ready to go at a moment's notice that elicits equal amounts of horror and laughter from everyone I come in contact with.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 7:44 PM on September 30, 2018 [20 favorites]

I cannot lie I had a pair of JNCOs in middle school that I could fit my math textbook in the back pocket of

forgive me, I knew not what I did
posted by skycrashesdown at 7:48 PM on September 30, 2018 [10 favorites]

I don’t know anyone who snuck out to go to raves because I don’t know anyone who had to sneak out. That may say more about the relative wildness of the raves in eastern Iowa in the late 90s than the permissiveness of the parents.
posted by epj at 7:58 PM on September 30, 2018

Man, I spent my college years wondering where everyone got their awesome huge flared pants. Had I known what JNCOs were I wouldn't have been wearing XXL Levi's.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:05 PM on September 30, 2018 [7 favorites]

They were the true Utah Saints. At the going down of the sun we shall remember them.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:07 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

At raves in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1990's, I was usually one of the oldest persons on the dance floor. I came to raves via friends in the Grateful Dead scene who had discovered this parallel scene that focused on entranced dancing to music.

Now, after twenty years, most of the friends I have now are from the rave scene and average 15 years younger than I am.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 8:17 PM on September 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

oh god, the first wave of research chemicals that didn't require you to be a chemist yourself.
posted by aramaic at 8:55 PM on September 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

In the 1990s? Heck, I have fliers in my pocket right now!

Socal-Raves mailing list member of 26 years checking in. (Yes, it still exists and is occasionally active! And it was one of the very first (if not the first) regional rave mailing lists, founded in something like 1988 or 1989.

Ok, the fliers in my pocket are for my own DJ gigs, and ok it's not actually a rave - but house music is alive and well despite everything that's happened to it in the last 30 years from attempts to ban it to excessive commercial success. There is some really fantastic new house music out there - YouTube search: Pablo Bolivar, DJ Koze, HNNY, Maxwell Cooper or even Jon Hopkins and start mining sideways through the recommendations. Check out the Sekoia YouTube channel (defunct, but still gold.)

I even went to a local outdoor farm party that had a good 300 folks dancing nearly till dawn, and I wasn't even the oldest person there. (Though I definitely was by dawn.)

I have a huge box of 1990s LA fliers at my friend's place. It's probably long past time to try to scan them and even sell them.

I still miss my green velvet denim JNCOs. I wore them to pieces, and they eventually died on the dance floor when I got my (actual) shell toes caught in the hem and tore out the inseam so roughly that I couldn't sew it back together for the last time. It blew out to the knee, and at that desert rave they turned into some funny looking cutoff shorts and that was that.

They were so, so soft and comfortable it was like wearing PJs all day. I have never, ever seen any denim like it anywhere since then that felt as thick, strong but flowing and soft. I scrabbled all over hard desert boulders and gritty concrete warehouse floors for years in those things and they never actually wore out, just fell apart.

You could fit a full sized 1.5 liter water bottle in all the pockets except for the coin/watch pocket, and you could practically fit a whole pack of cigs in that. This particular pair was devoid of the huge embroided JNCO branding that plagued later seasons. I'd totally wear those around my hippy town today if I had them, and people wouldn't even blink an eye with all the weird things people wear around here.

Though now that I think about it, I'm not sure how I'd like dragging frayed oversized cuffs through all the rain and mud, much less trying to ride a bike and not have the chain eat my pants.

I would also probably love to have my oversized Eurofunk cargo/painter shorts. They had the best pockets and were made out of some totally lurid striped black and avocado green canvas or broadcloth or something.

On a completely different set of hands I used to show up to a lot of undergrounds and proper raves intentionally dressed like a huge nerd, like khaki pants and short sleeve button downs and stuff. I learned that it was a great way to filter out jerks that judged people by their looks, and it was really handy to be wearing something relatively normal looking whenever the cops showed up to bust a party.

Hrm, what else? Looking back, almost all of my friends are around and alive and well and doing well for themselves. Some have families and regular jobs. Some are still involved in music. Some went on to become pretty big names and are still playing and touring. Some folks have started projects like sound companies, art festivals, magazines. A whole bunch of my favorite early DJs are even still out there playing and doing well (Doc Martin, for one example. I can't believe that dude's still alive!)

Almost everyone I know from that era still listens to electronic and related music, from avant garde and ambient to experimental to plain old house and techno and more. My last major art/music festival involvement was only about 5 years ago, and younger friends have attended current fests I know are produced by peers and friends of friends.

I would not be who I am today without this music. I would not be the writer that MeFi knows because I first honed my writing and rhetorical skills on the Socal-Raves mailing lists arguing with some really smart people. I would not have the radical self acceptance and lasting self worth and self care that I know today. I would likely know a lot less about consent culture and nonviolence. I would know a lot less about LGTBQ culture and racism, too. I would definitely know a lot less about emotional communication.

I would be a much shittier, poorer and less interesting and vastly less content human being if it wasn't for this music and these people in my life.
posted by loquacious at 9:19 PM on September 30, 2018 [34 favorites]

At raves in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1990's, I was usually one of the oldest persons on the dance floor. I came to raves via friends in the Grateful Dead scene who had discovered this parallel scene that focused on entranced dancing to music.

I was a youngster in the 90s and I remember when Deadheads started showing up to raves, all tie-dye clad and spin-dancing.

There weren't too many of you but we generally took it as a sign we were doing things right, and it was rad to have "elders" join us and regale us with tales and even offer wisdom and safety advice.
posted by loquacious at 9:25 PM on September 30, 2018 [13 favorites]

Admittedly, I haven't dug too hard to find out, but is there any good reason as to why rave posters evolved this particular way? They perplexed the hell out of me when I first stumbled over them in 90s college dorm life, usually because my dormmate had left them out. I was such a nerd and I couldn't make heads or tale of them, and she sure as hell wasn't going to explain them to me.

If the answer is simply "because it looks cool" then okay got it message received but there's a part of me that keeps searching for a higher meaning and I guess that's the part that maybe just needs to shut up and dance.
posted by offalark at 9:37 PM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

So. For the 80s kids it was an army medic pouch with an AC/DC T-Shirt. Can of hair spray and a six pack of Pabst for a nite at the arcade sans bonfire.
posted by clavdivs at 9:43 PM on September 30, 2018

Toon Town. San Francisco, New Year's Eve 1992. For that one evening, it was the center of the universe, ask anyone who was there. I used to have hundreds of posters and T-shirts and I have no idea what happened to them. Yeah, there was a lot of acid and E. And aging Deadheads and art school students and future dot-com millionaires. It was awesome. I went to illicit warehouse parties with DJs I was supposed to be impressed by who went by names like "Moby" and "Chemical Brothers" and "Aphex Twin" and had the flyers to prove it. We'd typically end up in sleeping bags in Golden Gate Park at 8 am and spend our Sundays there in the grass recovering, all with a DJ continuing to spin records. And this being the early 90's we went out on school nights to see the Pixies, and Jane's Addiction, and Primus in 500 person capacity clubs.

The next year, I was looking around at grad schools and saw some flyers for "raves" at the Urban Outfitters in D.C. and figured, yeah, I could make it work at Georgetown. Sadly, the DC warehouse party thing seemed mostly sponsored by Bud and was frequently cancelled at the last minute while my friends in Frisco got rich doing fuck all with venture capital in dot-com companies while they prepped for the first Burning Man festivals. But few of them held onto their new wealth while all of them held on to the warehouse parties for far too long. But me, now I'm a big wig at the cracker factory, with a mortgage and 2 kids and shockingly little access to art and drugs and I guess things have gone ok. I guess.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:11 PM on September 30, 2018 [12 favorites]

I used to show up to a lot of undergrounds and proper raves intentionally dressed like a huge nerd, like khaki pants and short sleeve button downs and stuff. I learned that it was a great way to filter out jerks that judged people by their looks

I spent a lot of time at goth/industrial shows and clubs in all white for much the same reason. Plus my friends said it made me easy to find in the mosh pit.
posted by Candleman at 10:16 PM on September 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

Admittedly, I haven't dug too hard to find out, but is there any good reason as to why rave posters evolved this particular way?

I think it was a mix of influences, including how difficult/slow DIY graphic design was even up until the mid 1990s. People were using all kinds of things for layouts including plain old ink and paper, home 'graphic design" programs like Print Shop in addition to pro tools like Photoshop, Illustrator and CorelDraw!

I remember doing some flier work and actually having to struggle with processor and workflow time, and there were plenty of times where it was in the realm of "Ok, that's not what I wanted but we're out of time and we need to print ASAP. and I can'r redo all this work again."

The tech behind fliers ranged all over the place from black and white photocopies on plain white copy paper to dayglo card stock.

The more underground or inner city parties in the US often relied on mom-and-pop quick print shops - the sort of place where you'd get church or funeral programs printed, or menus for a take away restaurant, which is where you get the single or dual color fliers that have colored ink on colored paper. These ones are actually printed with an offset printer and plate, not photocopies.

I've also seen screenprinted fliers in this single or low color style, and I remember seeing many where they were just blending or dribbling multiple colors of ink in the screen for rainbow effects and fades and stuff.

Then desktop publishing, scanners and tools like Photoshop really started to take off, along with the ubiqutous Kai's Power Tools, particularly the texture and fractal explorers. Other tools like the Fractint fractal generator and explorer also gave access to a lot of the cyber-psychedelic imagery.

The glossy full color fliers didn't really start taking off until the early to mid 1990s. It started a sort of arms race among promoters, complete with rock star designers. (LA example: Stimuli Graphics, aka Tom Allain. That guy was pushing the limits and boundaries of graphic design for years, creating some of the most stunning, beautiful and artistic posters and fliers I've ever seen even to this day.)

The mid to late 1990s is when rave flier design really hit it's oversized peak. Promoters were handing out wall sized posters folded up as fliers. There were a lot of custom die cut fliers, including fliers with brads or rivets so there would be rotating/moving parts to the flier. Custom die cut fliers were not cheap and even in 1990s dollars some of these fliers must have been pushing significant fractions of a dollar for each flier. One of my favorites from the era is a cool little die cut flier that folded up into a tall pyramidal prism.

It got ridiculous. I remember coming home with thick stacks of brightly colored paper in totally odd shapes and sizes. Even now in my flier box it's a huge mess because none of those die cut fliers or oversized posters wants to stack nicely with all the other sanely sized fliers like the 4.25" quarter sheet fliers.

Bringing it back to the question - like a lot of graphic design, usually the designer is working for someone else. It's extremely rare you get a promoter that A) did their own design work and B) was actually good at it or C) recognize and reward good design work by someone else.

In the rave scene it was likely to be some kid with a computer (like me) working for free or cheap for some promoter who may or may not be totally mad or have issues with their ego (not unlike any other small business owner) and so there's the classic designer's conflict between what they know looks good and what the promoter actually wants, so you end up with more DJ names, more text, bigger/weirder fonts than is prudent.

You can see examples of these kinds of design choices and processes all around you even today - just open your junk mail. It's the same thing, really. Instead of advertising a car wash or Chinese take out restaurant or a muffler shop, they're advertising something esoteric - an experience or vibe and a space created by music.

Some of those choices were really overt and in your face, like "No, really, this party is all about taking drugs and listening to weird music" because no really that's what that crew was really all about, and it was an act of rebellion in the Just Say No era to be that blatant about it.

So there ended up being a lot of hype in rave and party fliers, as well as all kinds of themes and aesthetic choices. And often those choices were made by someone thizzing their fool face off and just winging it or being intentionally weird. Even back in the early rave flier days there was a lot of snarky/sarcastic/weird stuff where if you take it at face value it doesn't make sense, because they might be making fun of someone other crew's flier style, or even be self-mocking a current trend.

A whole lot of it was just the tools that people had available. It was actually really difficult to NOT design some weird cybernetic/psychedelic looking thing using DTP in those days. Seriously, go look at some vintage computer hardware manuals or advertising from the early 1990s, or almost any advertising at all. Kai's Power Tools was frickin' EVERYWHERE, as were the use of wild new fonts, weird font effects and just doing all kinds of ugly, weird, anti-design things with the current DTP tools. Look at an old yellow pages phone book from the 1990s - it's chock full of crappy CorelDraw! designs with weird font choices. Replace all the text with DJ names and raver terms and you're more than half way to a vintage rave flier.

This is the cultural ground that gave us weird shit like the Bondi Blue translucent iMac in the later 1990s. This is the same cultural ground that gave us translucent third party pager cases in lurid colors. It gave us Hypercolor t-shirts, and neons and bright, lurid oranges and citruses as hot, trendy home furnishing colors.

It really wasn't a coincidence that Ikea was filled with lurid colors in unlikely combinations right after the 1990s. That was about the time when 1990s era ravers started furnishing their first non-college era apartments.
posted by loquacious at 10:24 PM on September 30, 2018 [31 favorites]

I was always the sober (or “just drunk”) kid in a crowd of rolling fools all through high school. I still remember how bored I was after prom when everyone else just gave each other back rubs until they fell asleep.
posted by q*ben at 10:40 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Man, I still fondly recall the time I ended up as a random pseudo-employee (holy shit, we need somebody to staff the booth! Find someone! Anyone! That guy! You! Wanna get paid for a couple of hours?!) at a nascent internet trade show in Moscone. Guessing it was 1995? There was a drawing to win an Indy, which I didn't win (although, technically, I shouldn't have entered at all as I was "staff" for the time being).

...anyway, once the trade biz was done I ended up at a rave in North Beach and ran into a half dozen folks who'd literally flown in from Japan to go to this specific party. That's when I learned that vinyl clothing is, um, awkward and that amyl has a specific smell that I'd encountered before but until that moment I'd had no idea it was amyl.

I want to say the E was Mitsubishi, but that's chronologically unlikely so it was probably the rocket ship one instead.

...man, trade shows used to be a hell of a lot of fun.
posted by aramaic at 10:47 PM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

The graphic design story told by the progression of rave flyers is fascinating, thanks loquacious. I was keeping flyers more just to track the local Detroit rave and music scene and to keep memories of the parties. Now 20 years later, they're great to help jog a lot of old memories, but regrettably I tossed most of mine during a big move long ago, so I'm glad there are sites like this to archive a lot of the flyers.

Found one of the first Detroit parties I ever went to here, now if only they scanned the back (pretty sure it was 93 or 94, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, Eddie Fowlkes, and possibly Derrick May).
posted by p3t3 at 10:51 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I was in grad school the undergrads all seemed to be rave kids. We grad students considered ourselves too mature for this, but really we were maybe 5 years older at most. So rave culture was this mysterious thing I observed rather than participated in. Still, I enjoyed this post, as well as this article: I wore JNCO Jeans for seven days to find myself.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:28 PM on September 30, 2018

Thank the pagan deities for raves and band camps. Band camps got me to different places on the West Coast, which got me to raves in LA. Goody two-shoes me won a lot of music awards and was sent to LA pretty often. Which found me in my Evangelical-church-approved attire, total absence of punk or goth or hippie signalling, dancing in abandoned LA warehouses in the middle of the night. Those raves alongside the hippie scene in Eugene are a major reason my soul stayed alive. Fleeting secret moments I never thought I'd be able to share outside them.

Being in Europe now is pretty great since it infused a lot of the culture here too, for our generation (X) and younger. It's no end of fun to have youngsters talk about trance and pot, ask if we oldsters know about that sort of thing, and see them dissolve into incoherent giggling when I with my corporate-acceptable haircut and clothes, smile knowingly and say, why yes, I do, and share a story. Quite a few others have stories too.
posted by fraula at 12:05 AM on October 1, 2018 [10 favorites]

I was one of those teenagers who thought that the "end of history" characteristic of the 90s extended to fashion. No longer were we going to mine the past for new trends to shock people with. The key sins of the past had been marked out and circled by older kids: bell bottoms, leisure suits, big hair. Ostentatiousness wasn't that attractive (and really, most fashions only caught on because they were led by people who looked good in anything), and we could just stick to more modest styles and enjoy our t-shirts and jeans and not try to march under some kind of ideological clothing banner.

I grew up in the pacific northwest, so it just seemed natural that the whole country were finally dressing "like us" (though it bore little relation). A bit of flannel in buffalo check or plaid, some sensible boots, and no need to replace your jeans the moment they got a bit care-worn. Seemed just obvious!

But rave culture was that weird sniff of the new. It was as if someone had had that itch to do what the 50s in the UK had done to Edwardian fashion, or the 70s had tried to do with Art Deco, and the ravers mined a post-punk neon 1980s Max Headroom vision of the future to do this mess all over again. Marky Mark showed up on stage with a tiny raver backpack, and it was back to the same old mess.

I once sneeringly asked a kid in JNCOs why he was wearing a skirt. I'm not proud, but I had so bought into this feeling, not unlike the post-war culture, that we were just finally all going to be dull and normal from now on and not try to shock the adults with new youth culture affectations. I think it was important that someone shock us out of that, if only gently.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:19 AM on October 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I graduated high school in 1994, but living in a small town in a dry county in Kentucky and making the mistake of trying to go to college there, I missed this entirely. Which is a huge shame, as I was HUNGRY for something like this. I ended up hanging out with some third-rate art school assholes for a year, enduring an endless cavalcade of microaggressions and derision for being a girl (at the time it seemed better than hanging out with the Greeks or people who thought they were going to become lawyers).

I moved to Houston in 1996, but I loved with my dad in the deep suburbs, went to my job at an oil company and home, and was deeply alone and disconnected.

Really enjoying the post and people's reminiscing.
posted by jeoc at 3:54 AM on October 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I was about five years too young for rave culture, and too much in Alabama. But I had a couple pairs of JNCOs that I wore with a Pinky and the Brain cut-off tee, and a pair of yellow suspenders, and I thought that I looked super cute. Oh! And my enormous platform Candies! Why can you not get the REAL kind of 90s platform sneakers anymore? It was really the best solution to being five feet tall. Jeans too long, everything else too high up, just strap five inches of rubber to your feet.

I did get to go to one desert rave in my early twenties in Phoenix. True to form, around 9pm I crawled into someone's tent and slept through most of the party.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 5:55 AM on October 1, 2018

Oh, I forgot about Hot Topic. I guess you can get real platform sneakers still.

Does it seem to anyone else like Spencer's gifts got stuck in the 70s and Hot Topic got stuck in the 90s? What store do the kids get their cool things from these days? How can I be a cool adult?
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:01 AM on October 1, 2018

I found myself looking up a bunch of the record stores where tickets were listed as being available. More of them than I would have thought were still around, which warmed my heart.
posted by ITheCosmos at 6:38 AM on October 1, 2018

Oh man, I went to my first rave in about 15 years, somewhat by accident and had a blast. Shambhala out in BC. Totally reconnected to a part of my past I had forgotten about. Worry not ancients, the kids are alright and doing fine.
posted by Damienmce at 7:07 AM on October 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

y'all I have to work today. This post is unfair to my productivity.

memories and love.
posted by nikaspark at 7:16 AM on October 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I still have the Syrous "Pharaohs head" flyer somewhere in a box, as well as a several others (delerium, citrus, Atlantis) from the Canadian rave fliers <3 section on the first link. They made for great wall art back in the dayy
posted by some loser at 7:40 AM on October 1, 2018

Most in their mid 40's look back on their teen years fondly and I am no different.

I'm in my mid 40s. I graduated in 1989. I look back in my teen years with no small amount of horror, and relief not to have to go through that again. It was in my 20s when I actually found some like-minded geeks.

I also never heard of JNCOs until someone was nostalgic about them on the internet a couple of years ago. For people who did, do you consider yourselves Gen X, or later? Because I feel like there's a gap here I'm not seeing across.
posted by Foosnark at 7:55 AM on October 1, 2018

What store do the kids get their cool things from these days?

Dolls Kill, according to my 15-year-old.
posted by jeoc at 8:00 AM on October 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I didn't pick up any fliers until the first Coachella, back in 1999, but I was fascinated by rave culture as something near-by but never close enough. I grew up a couple hours north of Los Angeles, and I'm sure there were small raves in my neck of the woods, but I never tried to find them, guessing at the time that there was nothing really happening around me. There were stereotypical ravers at high school, sporting the oversized JUNCO's at high school. The closest I got to hanging out with "a real raver" was a public speaking type class at the local community college, where I befriended an older student somehow (I was pretty shy and not too outgoing). She handed me a DJ Ellis Dee cassette (Acidfest, specifically), and that was the second tape I wore out, after Bjork's Post.

But I loved electronic music, as I still do. But back then, it was mostly super-expensive import CDs or ratio FTPs (upload 1 MB, download 3, that kind of thing) on a dial-up modem, so I'd queue up a bunch of things to upload before heading to bed, hoping I didn't get disconnected in the middle of the night, just to see what those random files sounded like. Then I picked up the first Happy 2B Hardcore mix CD (previously), and some Moby and Aphex Twin, and confused my parents and siblings with that weird electronic music (my mom liked God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters by Moby), but I never did drugs to enjoy it (much to the confusion to my little sister, who was a minor "3rd wave" raver, in the early 2000s -- "I understand how you listen to all this music!" "But I don't do drugs." "Really?").

The one "rave" I went to was a Super Secret "call this number after 3 PM on the day of the event and we'll tell you where it is" type thing ... at a little coastal community center. I had a blast, but I felt like I was still missing That Rave Experience.

That didn't stop me from dancing whenever I enjoyed the music, which was often a sign to others that I was the one who had something to share or sell, because I was asked at a handful of different events if I had anything. Even when I was with a group of friends, the drug-seeker would single me out. But it seems I'm growing up, and/or so are people around me, because the last time I was dancing with a huge grin on my face, I wasn't asked for drugs, but invited to a weekly dance event that has its own Facebook page.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:12 AM on October 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I ended up at a rave in North Beach

Where?! I wasn't in North beach until 2000, but I can't think of a space big enough, besides Bimbo's.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:38 AM on October 1, 2018

I'm in my mid 40s. I graduated in 1989. [...] I also never heard of JNCOs until someone was nostalgic about them on the internet a couple of years ago. For people who did, do you consider yourselves Gen X, or later? Because I feel like there's a gap here I'm not seeing across.

I'm the same age and graduated a year later, and ravewear was definitely available in cities. I worked at Urban Outfitters in Boston in the early 90s and we had all the giant pants and extra long hoods and wallet chains and baby barrettes that a raver could need.
posted by xo at 8:43 AM on October 1, 2018

I still carry around a mental geography of San Francisco party spaces and busts: Acme warehouse that’s still abandoned on Howard, Mission Dance studio, Cyborganic that’s now SPUR HQ, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park when it was still under construction for Urban Wasteland parties, a few North Bay theaters and National Guard armories, Casa Zimbabwe, the carpet warehouse near Hegenberger, Kommotion on 16th, Home Base, the dirt racetrack out of Vasco Road.

I did many flyer and mixtape designs for groups like Harmony, Cloud Factory, Happy Kids, and others throughout the late 1990s when I was most active. I still probably have a box of them someplace.
posted by migurski at 8:50 AM on October 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I could see the trend hitting the Florida Suncoast a bit later I suppose. And I went to a community college and then commuted to a pretty square state university, so I guess I would have missed any hints of anything cool happening at the time.

I did see kids in the mall in silly giant pants a few years later in St. Louis, I just had no idea what they were called.
posted by Foosnark at 8:50 AM on October 1, 2018


I honestly cannot recall for the life of me -- I actually went back earlier this year and wandered around for a while trying to find the place (which, honestly, is not as pathetic as it sorta sounds, it was just in a "hey, I'm randomly in SF for the day let's go looking!" kind of way). It was actually quite disconcerting -- "I think I recognize that place" followed shortly by "none of this looks the way I remember" followed by "am I actually in a different city?" Like one of those Star Trek episodes where spacetime has been fractured and people walking through the same room pass through slightly wrong realities in the space of a few footsteps.

I still probably have a box of them someplace.

Scanning project!
posted by aramaic at 8:54 AM on October 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

aramaic - don't feel bad about not being able to identify that old North Beach party site. San Francisco has changed a lot in many parts of the city since the 90's.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 9:09 AM on October 1, 2018

I was never into raves, but the Plastikman logo is as indelible in my mind as a symbol of the techno era as a cartoon daisy is to the hippy era.
posted by me3dia at 12:21 PM on October 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the explanation, loquacious. My hungry brain needed that.
posted by offalark at 12:44 PM on October 1, 2018

The JNCOs were too big for us. If you wanted to be cool, you had baggy Quicksilver jeans, with the diamond logo on the back pocket. Simple Shoes, Rusty pullover, FUCT chain wallet, No Fear cap, hemp bracelets.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:05 PM on October 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do the Germans have a word for jealousy of other people's nostalgia about something you really couldn't get into back in the day?

Asking for a me.
posted by whuppy at 1:54 PM on October 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

>>What store do the kids get their cool things from these days?

>Dolls Kill, according to my 15-year-old.

Oh bless you, jeoc. They have exactly what I want -- 90s revival platform sneakers.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 2:01 PM on October 1, 2018

My mom and friends called my JNCO style jeans from Ross "clown pants" and they were right to. My friends tried to carry me by my pant legs and it tore and I stapled it together and continued to wear them until mom threw em out. They were very handy for stealing from the snackbar line and could easily fit pie slices, pizza hut slices, and other junk food in the pockets as I stole from the school and sold my designated lunches for pocket money. I have never been to a rave in my life and did not do any drugs including alcohol until I was 20 years old. I did used to fantasize about going to raves, though.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:47 PM on October 1, 2018

I played a rave once. Our music was electronic, but not at all dance oriented. People hated it. I was on lots of acid, & my painting of a black Jesus fell off the wall, and the frame broke, sending glass into the lair of styrofoam peanuts on the floor. I got down on my hands and knees picking out tiny peices of glass as kids danced around me in socked feet.
posted by broken wheelchair at 9:40 PM on October 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

The generation gap I'd say is that this JNCO thing only happened to the last few years' worth of the Gen X cohort. Mrs. Hobo is less than a decade older than me but she says she always thought she was too old to be Gen X and as a teenager I always felt like Gen X was the kids a few years older than me.

By the time JNCO were big, the core of Generation X had already graduated into a terrible recession and had no spare cash to spend on goofy rave trousers. Conversely, I was the segment of that generation that dropped out of university to join the dot-com boom. I notice this most strikingly when I re-read Farley's comic The Guy I Almost Was, which shows how people just a few years older than me hit the economic waves in completely different ways.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:03 AM on October 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was a freshman in college in 1992, and I remember seeing these upper classmen hanging out at this one table in the caf.

Can relate. I was a chemical engineering freshman, they were all in film, design, architecture. I would overhear them talk about awesome parties, I was dying to tell them that even though I looked like a loser nerd with my org chem and unit processes books I'd been tripping solo for years.

For unrelated reasons (hello mental health) I dyed my hair bright green, stopped wearing shoes, and quit giving a fuck about studying.

That is when they invited me to sit at the table.

I hung out with them and went to some great parties. From warehouses to massive outdoor parties to small gatherings with DJs flown in from all over the world.

I could not keep up with this crowd money wise, and in the end this killed the friendship (sorry I can't spend a whole week reminiscing with you at a private beach in Costa Rica) but I was growing and producing all kinds of natural entheogens (I did pay some attention to my chem and bio classes), so I got kind of adopted.

I was the go-to person if you wanted traditional prehispanic stuff, and at the time there was an aspect of mesoamerican pride in the rave culture here. You know, Mayans and Toltecs were the original ravers (and our king Cuauhtémoc the first Mexican punk, but that's another story).

I was the dude in the dark by the DJ with the dosage and drug interaction tables and a calculator, figuring out how many pre measured gelcaps of magical botanicals you should take based on body weight and what stuff you'd already taken that night.

Never sold, always shared, and I got much in return.

I got to meet tons of people and go to amazing places. I had some awesome adventures, from living for weeks in paradise drowning in love and kindness to the terror of being held in small jails in the middle of the desert and having to deal with heavily armed bad guys and authorities.

I miss those times sometimes, they helped me become who I am, helped me with the massive guilt and self loathing that I got growing up in a toxic family. Helped me be happy when I became a dad that grills on Sundays and has hobbies.

But one of the things I really enjoy is messing with the younger kids. Last month a table of 20 somethings at work were talking about their plans for the weekend. I let them condescendingly explain to this old one what DMT is, and how they got a couple doses and a cabin in the woods for the weekend.

Then I told them about the time where I walked 300 kilometers down the coast in a week, eating half a gram of shrooms every few hours, dining on mescaline and clay beads, to make it just in time to a rave by an airstrip in a private beach, where my chemist was waiting to trade her little eyedroppers for my bags of botanicals. And how if I were to do it again I would have packed fewer tools and more wet wipes.
posted by Dr. Curare at 9:27 AM on October 2, 2018 [11 favorites]

Man, I wish I'd learned about the usefulness of wet wipes back in my desert raving days. I didn't learn that trick until I started bike touring and backpacking. Do you have any idea how many dust/dirt boogers you get dancing all night on a sandy, dusty dance floor with like a thousand other weirdos kicking up dust?

I haven't been able to hoodwink and youngsters for whatever reason. It's like they look at me and just know. Instead of explaining things to me they ask questions. I don't really care either way, which is one benefit to getting older, a health amount of not giving a fuck anymore.

And thus I'm turning into Uncle Grandpa like Thomas Fehlmann (The Orb, etc). I get to tell wild stories about the underground back in the day. Heck, I played my last DJ gig in a nice wool blazer, cardigan and stripey sweater. I looked like an affable college professor.

It has actually been a nice place to be. I have nothing to prove. My skills and music are on lock, and I'm increasingly being regarded as the best dance/house DJ in town because I actually have 25-ish years of beatmatching and mixing experience and I don't have to be hype about it like the other big DJs in town. People know I have solid skills and will deliver every time.

The part I like about this the most is I can just get out of my own way and not partake in the hype. So when people show up to my shows or I run into them around town, my questions are about them and they are very sincere. I don't have to spend any energy talking about how rad the show is going to be, it's all about them, the dancers and participants.

People ask me all the time when the next one is. I don't have to sell or push anything.

The opposite of this is one of my DJ cohorts who's head has recently blown up and he can't stop talking about how awesome he is and expecting everyone else to want to talk about the same thing.

Guess which strategy is paying off and building a community?
posted by loquacious at 11:10 AM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

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