Rave Culture In North Carolina
October 24, 2007 5:43 AM   Subscribe

see also, hyperreal

The Raver Manifesto

The origin of PLUR

Foam Party at Buzz at Nation in Washington DC, 1999
posted by empath at 6:20 AM on October 24, 2007

Any SERavers in the house? I punched out in 97, but that's because of about a billion things having nothing to do with the music.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 6:40 AM on October 24, 2007

Copyright 1998? Why old raves? Or has hip-hop permeated just about everything now?
posted by chef_boyardee at 6:57 AM on October 24, 2007

The main difference in North Carolina raving is the vinegar based MDMA.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:00 AM on October 24, 2007 [15 favorites]

Chef -- from my experience, the mid-to-late 90s were a sort of golden age for rave chronicling. You had a convergence of new media, millenial anticipation and the first full flowering of rave culture, which led to a palpable sense of zeitgeist. Couple that with the fact that, in the mid/late 90s, .edu domains still outnumbered .coms on the Internet and most online material at the time lent themselves to a certain sense of pretentiousness.

To put up a web page with a few pictures and low-bandwidth sound samples was to be a participant on the cutting edge of multimedia experimentation. Posting your thoughts on how this community was a harbinger for a kinder, better future was to place your fingerprint on a moment of history. Little did any of us imagine how fast history could move, leave us behind and make our initial scrawling the equivalent of "Best Friends Forever!" on a high school yearbook.

Except, of course, multimedia.
posted by bl1nk at 7:06 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was on SERaves, DCRaves and NERaves for a while, but eventually just cut that back to DCRaves, and then quit that one, too, when Buzz started their messageboard.

I think it's nearly impossible to overstate the sense of optimism and creating a new future that a lot of people had at these parties. I remember saying during a NYE 1999/2000 party to someone: "We're all going to get rich, we're all going to be happy, and we're all going to live forever." Of course, I was bent out of my mind at the time, but I really believed it.

We really thought we were remaking the world, and why not? A lot of us had completely remade ourselves.
posted by empath at 7:48 AM on October 24, 2007 [6 favorites]

Part of it as well is that in places, raves transformed into club nights as police cracked down on rave gatherings. Certainly I'm still writing about the music and cultural groups that emerged from 90s raves (and there are a few folks still doing it), but it's now less about illegal, DIY warehouse parties, and more about above-ground club events.

What's really interesting is how the former-raver communities try to maintain a distinction between themselves and the pre-existing mainstream club-culture, which used to be their nemesis.
posted by LMGM at 7:51 AM on October 24, 2007

Then they cracked down on the club nights. In DC, Buzz shut down not once, but three times -- Once after a 'fox five' hidden camera sting, again after they were raided by DC and military police in 2002, and then finally when the city just condemned the entire neighborhood to make way for a new stadium. It's currently going on in one of the nicest clubs in town, and the conflict between the old-school 'ravers' and the hip-hop/club crowd is definitely there.

The vibe is definitely not like it was when you just walked in the front door and random people would ask if they could hug you.
posted by empath at 8:00 AM on October 24, 2007

Fight The Power -- The UltraWorld story as told by Lonnie Fischer who currently owns Sonar in Baltimore.
posted by empath at 8:29 AM on October 24, 2007

Quadrant Park and Blackburn representing.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:38 AM on October 24, 2007

Tunnel Rave in Pittsburg.
posted by empath at 8:45 AM on October 24, 2007

empath -- I was an NERaves lurker for most of my college years from 92-96 and would usually have multiple printouts of the Rave-O-Matic taking up space in the backseat of my car, as we shuttled from one party to another.

I dropped out of the scene about a year before graduation, strangely because I found goth/industrial kids easier to bond with and befriend -- largely because, while there is some drug use in the goth scene, it's not as prevalent as it is rave culture, and so one is not always suspecting how much of one's friendship is based on pharmeceuticals and how much is based on genuine feeling.

I got back into the scene again around 2002/2003 after, in a strange example of memetic recycling, industrial clubs started playing more "futurepop" which was basically German trance with angsty lyrics. All of sudden, my goth friends started wanted to go to raves, and I went along as tour gude. Revisiting raves without the boundless sense of optimism and just as a fellow out for a good evening of sweat, beat and glitter was kind of fun, but in the way that one-off reunion sex with an ex might be -- a fun reminder of good times, followed by a bittersweet reminder that they're no longer a person that you love.
posted by bl1nk at 8:57 AM on October 24, 2007

A friend of mine threw a D&B night in one of the side rooms of a Goth club, and one night I showed up there when VNV Nation was in the main room. The site of 2500 goths dressed all in black being gloomy to what was basically 3 year out-of-date dutch and german anthem trance was pretty disconcerting.

Also, goth's cannot dance, even when presented with quality dance music that they seem to be enjoying in some way.
posted by empath at 9:05 AM on October 24, 2007

Also, goth's cannot dance

bl1nk and I have friends that could prove you so wrong.
posted by nev at 9:17 AM on October 24, 2007

empath -- some scenes are more wretched than others, and as nev points out, Boston's had enough crossover between scenes that it tends to be rather exceptional.

Also, at least goth DJs in Boston have been open minded enough to bring more techno into their playlists. So it has not been uncommon to go to the bread-and-butter industrial nights at Ceremony and ManRay(rip) and find, say, The Orb, Underworld or Amon Tobin sharing space on a playlist with VNV Nation or Skinny Puppy.
posted by bl1nk at 9:23 AM on October 24, 2007

Only if they can beat this guy in a dance battle.
posted by empath at 9:24 AM on October 24, 2007

Oh, DC had a huge goth-rave crossover because the only major goth night for years was at Tracks 2000 which had rave music on the other side of the club on the same night. I started out goth-ish and ended up in the rave scene.
posted by empath at 9:25 AM on October 24, 2007

Part of it as well is that in places, raves transformed into club nights as police cracked down on rave gatherings.

This is definitely true in the Bay Area, and here we also had the situation during the dot-com boom where suddenly every budding DJ had money to buy their own turntables and soundsystems. There were way too many damn parties, and I think everyone got burned out. This coincided with a lot of illegal venues in SF being re-developed post boom into housing. However, a number of illegal spaces in my town continued to have parties (it helps that cops here generally have better things to do than bust parties, and that our former mayor was pro- art/warehouse culture). In fact, I'm going to a bus-in warehouse party to see Meat Beat Manifesto in a couple of weeks.

industrial clubs started playing more "futurepop" which was basically German trance with angsty lyrics.

Yeah, the goth kids here called that "electro", for some unknown reason, being entirely unlike 80's throwback electro played by EDM djs. A friend of mine booked the main floor of a club in which the back room had a goth night. When he had some other friends of mine come in to play the really heavy, dark, and frightening drum-and-bass/grindcore they were making at the time, it was interesting to see how most goth kids went to hide in the back room, and a very few who were absolutely thrilled came out and dance.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:41 AM on October 24, 2007

bl1nk and I have friends that could prove you so wrong.

If that's true than you'd be the only ones.

That shit is so beyond beyond beyond dead anyway.
It's all pretentious fat chicks like Artemis, those hideous all-over-print anime short sleeve button down shirt nerds [bonus points for pony tail with the sides shaved], and sweaty balding IT guys in cheap-looking Hot Topic bondage gear doing the "Help Im stuck in a spiderweb I cant get out of dance."

I'm not even gonna mention the gawky dudes in their dusters walking thru the club thinking they're Neo, when they come across more like comic book store clerks reeking of Febreeze and bad taste.

That whole scene is deader than the rave scene, which is dead as fucking Dillinger. And Im an almost 20 year dance scene vet saying this.

The exciting new stuff is the indie/underground-ish stuff coming out off France. It's new blood and a refreshingly new take on things. Even if alot of it is heavily styled after Daft Punk.

In summation: RIP the rave scene and the Goth scene. Two genres that have outlived the hell out of their mission and their potency.

VNV Nation still however, rules.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:55 AM on October 24, 2007 [6 favorites]

To me, all the action right now is in the French House, Baltimore Club, New Rave crossover stuff.
posted by empath at 9:56 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

In fact, I'm going to a bus-in warehouse party to see Meat Beat Manifesto in a couple of weeks.

Oh radness. You have any info on that?
I saw them a few years back at.....I wanna say DNA Lounge. But I cant recall.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:57 AM on October 24, 2007

To me, all the action right now is in the French House, Baltimore Club, New Rave crossover stuff.

Empath knows what's up.

We saw Justice at Mezzanine with Midnight Juggernauts (somewhat nurave) a few weeks ago and it was fully mega. Everyone went apeshit. Same with Klaxons at Fillmore the weekend of Love Parade.

So much exciting new stuff happening.

Of course, Im a dork, so I only found out about Baltimore Club Music from watching The Wire :P
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:00 AM on October 24, 2007

(check my website in my profile to listen to some recent mixes of it.)
posted by empath at 10:11 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I saw The Klaxons and Soulwax back to back at Transit in Philadelphia and a friend of mine said after Soulwax dropped James Brown is Dead and ravers with Glowsticks started moshing and stage diving: "I think that pill I took three years ago just kicked in."
posted by empath at 10:14 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I work for an indie rock radio station. I've spent hours arguing with my colleagues that rave culture was deliberately crushed in many parts of the world. And for this my tight-pants wearing friends think I'm some conspiracy freak.

In Vancouver, the cops used a 100 year old city bylaw created to keep sailors and loggers from dancing with under-aged girls to shut down raves all over the city... well that, and fire-code regulations.

But in the States there was the RAVE Act, and in the UK there were amendments to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act that were designed to stamp them out at the Federal level. That is pretty much the definition of a conspiracy.

I came to raves in my late 20's and they were the most fun I've ever had at a music event. Too bad they're dead. Kids today are missing out with today's so-called "DJ Shows"
posted by Rusty Iron at 10:17 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

as being a part of the balitmore/dc/virginia rave scene in the mid 90s I can say the following things contributed to the end of the rave scene.

-cops, they made it impossible to throw parties any more. everyone was getting busted no matter what, clubs had to move into legit venues.

-therefore drugs were harder to bring in and it had to be way more discreet. I´m sorry to the dismay of anyone who doesn´t believe this but that scene was fueled by hard drugs, lots of them, things that I don´t even think exist anymore.

-the music hit a plateau, in my opinion.

-everybody became dj´s. If you were a star before 96 you were safe. There aren´t any real national dj stars after that time.

-Style hit a plateau. people just weren´t pushing the envelope of fashion style anymore like they were in the early 90s. The scene just became a caracture of what it once was.

-People grew up. The people who really made that scene what it was had to get jobs and couldn´t afford to stay out all night. The next generation dropped the ball or just sucked or whatever.
posted by LouieLoco at 10:20 AM on October 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

They're still cracking down. Just a few weeks ago in Harrisburg PA an illegal island party got pusted and 150 people got fined $1500 dollars, and the ones that couldn't pay in cash ended up going to prison. Just for going to a party.
posted by empath at 10:26 AM on October 24, 2007

Rusty, Im tellin ya that early-days-of-rave feeling is back.
You just have to hit up the smaller Indie Dance Parties.

It's a total rebirth. Theres a real energy to it again and everything hasnt been codified to death yet.

One of the things that sucked about the rave scene, was that by 95 (and in some places as early as 93) the "anything goes" thrill had been replaced by a cliquish need to dance in a certain fashion, dress a certain way, etc.

What was rad about the early-90s parties was that feeling that anything could happen. It wasnt self-aware enough yet to have repackaged itself and sold itself back to the kids.

And while you're right about the RAVE act etc, I'm personally of the mind that the dance scene was killed by awful prog-trance music and Mega-DJs. You had the insidious effect off music that was too boring to dance to unless you were on drugs and DJ's with artisitic pretensions wanting to be "serious artists" who felt themselves "above" rocking a dancefloor, opting instead for plastic anthems that took 45 minutes just to build to a tepid breakdown. Trance alone made the dancing aspect of the culture somewhat beside the point. Why dance when you could pop an E and watch a douche twirl a glowstik on a string?

Tiesto just played the LA Sports Arena a few months ago and they offered bottle service at tables on the dance floor. The "scene" is officially in Elvis 77 mode and at this point deserves to be put out of it's misery.

The Ed Banger-type crews have come in the night to slit the throats of all the bloated, pretentious, mega-DJ douchebags and its not a moment too soon I say.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:28 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh and Im not anti-drug at all BTW.
But I am anti-drugs for their own sake.

Sitting around on drugs like a vegetable watching lights blink just makes you a chode.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:30 AM on October 24, 2007

Senor Cardgage, I have sent you a (mefi) mail.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:31 AM on October 24, 2007

(I point that out here in case you use RSS to read MeFI .)
posted by oneirodynia at 10:32 AM on October 24, 2007

Senor Cardgage, I want to believe.

Roger that re the mega-DJs, though I have to say I'd still go see Sasha or Oakenfold any day of the week. That is if I weren't a father now.

I posted this link earlier, but I'll post it again. It's a parody of Jack Chick comics explaining what went wrong with raves.
posted by Rusty Iron at 10:37 AM on October 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

Actually, Sasha has retooled himself and sounds reinvigorated these days. Saw him at Ruby Skye like last winter (or was it the winter before) and he rocked the place.

Never was much for Oakenfold, tho he will always get a "pass" from me for producing the best Happy Mondays record. :P
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:41 AM on October 24, 2007

Thanks for the Chick thing Rusty.
Funniest thing Ive seen all day, and TRUE.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:48 AM on October 24, 2007

I'm going to see Paul Van Dyk tomorrow night, and Carl Cox on Friday, so the superstar DJ scene is hardly dead. But you are right about it being Elvis '77. I bought table service a few weeks ago for MSTRKRFT, and while it was fun, it's definitely not the same as sitting in a cuddle puddle getting a backrub from a girl wearing angel wings and a glowstick halo that you just met, while you're both having the best night of your lives for the 4th week in a row.

But that era is well past, and probably shouldn't come back for a variety of reasons.
posted by empath at 10:51 AM on October 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Im with ya dude.
My new girlfriend is still into (gulp) Tiesto and Im trying to break her of that. When we saw DJ Mehdi she loved it and reacted like it was this amazing thing she never knew existed, so there is hope for her.

But anyhoo, because of that shes making me go to the Giant NYE thing down in LA that Tiesto is headlining. MSTRKRFT will be there too, so that's how Im handling the abject terror of it all. That and the fact that we can hit up Roscoe's after.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:55 AM on October 24, 2007

Pictures of the night I opened for Tiesto (no pictures of me, though, unfortunately)
posted by empath at 10:59 AM on October 24, 2007

Wow at this link.

Um... I was a raver in 1989. It was my senior year of high school. I can attest to the immense sense of freedom and future social benefits that this culture had on me.

I attended my first warehouse party in November 1989. I remember every fiber in my being telling me that this sound, this music, was the future. I was listening to "Welcome to Techno City" by the legendary Juan Atkins. At this time, ecstacy was legal and pharmaceutical grade in Dallas and I ingested it. Not frequently, but still...

I began funding and throwing parties out of my own pocket around 1994.

Joined a DJ collective in 96.

And subsequently lost somewhere in the neighborhood of five grand, while also helping throw one party that netted 20 grand.

Imagine if you printed up flyers, set up three tents in a field that was three acres big, made $20,000, and eight thousand people showed up.

Imagine if when the sun came up, your body flooded with ecstacy, surrounded by friends, you were dancing and the entire body of people felt like it was levitating.

A rolling wave of sound, then literally, several hundred people's hands, filled with sunflowers, shot into the air at the same time and everyone screamed the word YES. YES. YES.

Look around. Tears are streaming down everyone's faces. You genuinely feel like the vibrations from eight thousand people dancing will draw the Earth's energy into a light-beam of pure goodness and shoot straight up. People cannot ignore it. You have CHANGED THEIR LIVES FOR THE GREATER.

An informal survey of the party reveals that people from as far away as Scotland have come to your party... without being paid or booked to play. There are famous people there (at least, famous to you).

Shyly, Roy Davis Jr. asks if he can play a sunrise set, even though he isn't booked. You laugh and agree, asking your boyfriend to wait an hour to play The Orb, et al.

Imagine opening XLR8R magazine a month later and seeing photos of your parties. Your dj collective is world famous now. You are putting out records. You are all going to be a cultural force that is going to make a positive impact on Texas, and maybe, just MAYBE, the world.

You marry your DJ sweetheart and enjoy 10 years of parties, events, nightclub ownership, your own record label, and you see your friends disperse and tour the world. You see them open their own record labels in different cities.

Now, imagine that slowly, everyone gets married. Has kids. Become alcoholics. A vast amount of them become addicted to methamphetamines. As in, sixty percent. Including your husband. He turns into someone you don't know and leaves you in crippling debt. Your "friends" are suddenly protecting him and lying to you. You are forced to flee everything you know and, with a good credit rating and a decent job, have to start over your entire life from scratch. Your identity doesn't exist any more; but then again, there is opportunity in that, too...

Suddenly you don't like house music any more. Rave is a four-letter word. Anything with a 4/4 beat brings back bad memories for you; your former compatriots, when you see them, look nocturnal. Shifty. Diseased.

You stumble upon the occasional post online or link to photos of parties thrown by "new ravers on the block" or "neo-ravers." Your youngest friends were maybe 6 years old when you were raving; to them, it's "retro night."

You look back on the past and realize that for a while, you had it. Shangri-La. Nirvana. You had respect, community, music, freedom, love, a real family made by choice.

But the thing about being part of a zeitgeist is, that moment passes. I've read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and I know that I was part of one... and now, it's been superceded. It's a joke, like disco was in the mid-80's.

Oh well. I have my memories, and I look forward to Life 2.0.

But I can't look at anything with the word RAVE in it and not feel saddened and tainted by it.

If you were there, you know. If you weren't, my god, I wish I could show you what it was like.

We can never have that moment again. But me? Je ne regrette rien.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:00 AM on October 24, 2007 [251 favorites]

Oh and empath, I'm sure we could rhapsodize together about how hard it is now to find parties where the vibe is thick these days. People who have never "felt" a party, drugs or no, just cannot understand it. It's like explaining how sex feels to a virgin; you either get it or you don't.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:04 AM on October 24, 2007

I think Unicorn just won the thread.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:10 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Unicorn, I identify with that a ridiculous amount. I remember one particular field party out in West Virginia where someone showed up with kingpin amounts of liquid acid and MDMA, and basically the entire party was candy-flipping. One of the DJs late in the night keyed in on this and started playing pink floyd remixes... the whole party congregated around that tent and started holding hands while the sun came up and Wish You Were Here was playing. Just an absolutely amazing moment. The vibe was almost a physical thing you could touch.

A NYE party where we sold the club to three times the legal capacity and had a line around the block until 3am and where the cash was literally over-flowing the till in the box office.

And then a few years later going to sketched out 'after-parties' in basements with sheets put up over the doors and windows to keep the daylight out, while everyone has been up for 2 or 3 days tweaked out of their mind talking about complete bullshit.

Friendships lost, nervous breakdowns, bankruptcies, suicides.

What goes up always, always, comes down.

But I definitely agree on the Je ne regrette rien. I wouldn't do it again, but I don't regret a second of it.
posted by empath at 11:21 AM on October 24, 2007 [7 favorites]

Oh yeah and meth. Cant forget meth.
Fuck meth. That had a hug negative impact on the scene.

Im pretty damn open-minded narcoticswise, but fuck meth.

Know a LOT of people that have salvo'd their potential with that shit.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:26 AM on October 24, 2007

Meth killed the rave scene more than anything else, IMO.
posted by empath at 11:27 AM on October 24, 2007

The scene isn't dead by any stretch - those of you complaining about pop-trance and superstar DJs simply aren't connected to it anymore. I still go to a few word-of-mouth only parties out in the middle of nowhere every year. Yeah, it's a bit different than it used to be, but the vibe is similar and I have just as much fun. I have plenty of fun at the legal parties in SF too.
posted by MillMan at 12:02 PM on October 24, 2007

Unicorn on the cob, empath and Senor: you've made me all very nostalgic. Went to a crazy weekend in the UK at a private estate this summer, where about 500+ former ravers, now many in their 30s/40s with kids, relive that life for a hedonistic weekend. It's an annual party and because it's on private grounds, it can't really be busted.

I also imagine that a lot of former raver types head out to places like Burning Man for their annual fix. The Winter Music Conference in Miami is also a mecca for such types. Not sure what Ibiza, Bali, etc. are like nowadays ... but here's to hoping ...

Moi aussi, je ne regrette rien, except the demise of raver culture and easier access to all-night euphoria in a little pill.
posted by Azaadistani at 12:10 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I felt compelled to log in just to tell Unicorn that post speaks more truth about the cycle than anything I've ever read.

I remember getting into the scene a bit late--around '94--and feeling that vibe. As a guy that never really fit in during high school, raves were by far like a social home where anyone was accepted and everyone had a great time so long as the cops didn't show up. Even in '94 and '95, Denver's scene was still relatively unpretentious and far from overtly cliquish. What a fucking surreal time those few years were for me and my close friends. Rabbit in the Moon. Live. Amazing. DJ Vitamin D. Many others.

Of all the times I had at raves, I remember most of all one morning with close friends watching the sun rise over Red Rocks after an amazing night at a rave in northeast Denver. It's one of those moments that really captured and defined how absolutely free life can be, even if fleeting.

And then I remember the other side. Friends going too far. Some of them, dead. A scene crushed from within, along with the police. Commoditizing and eventual oversaturation. I went to a 'rave' in 1997 in Wisconsin after finding a rare flyer in the area advertising it, and wished I hadn't. It was utterly depressing to see what it'd become.

I look back on those relatively careless days fondly and even spin up some old soundboard sets from raves I was at that I've been lucky to find over the years. I still have the majority of flyers I gathered back then stashed away in a box that I pull out to show friends who missed those golden days. But for all the nostalgic wishes, I know it'll never be the same. Life rolls on, and that's just how it is.

No regrets.
posted by vanadium at 12:19 PM on October 24, 2007

I think the real dividing line between 'clubbers' and 'ravers' is that a big chunk of the rave crowd were the freaks and the queers who created their own little utopias every weekend where everybody could just be who they were and there wasn't that much judgement. A ton of the big name DJs that people were flocking to see were either gay or just geeky, and that went for the promoters and and the decor people and everything else. Nobody cared what you were before you walked in to the party-- hell half the people didn't even use their real names.

Where as the 'club' crowd were decidedly hetero and flashy and all about showing off and status and doing the whole 'pick-up' thing.. music was just background music, and most people going didn't make it their whole lives like the rave kids did.

While the music and to a lesser extent, the drugs crossed over, the attitudes didn't. Which is why the vibe isn't the same at clubs, even though it's the same DJs, to some extent.
posted by empath at 12:24 PM on October 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

I also forgot to mention the inherent adventurous fun of dialing up a number at 8pm just to get the location of a rave.

Beyond the times had at the raves themselves, sometimes the journey to get there--the absolute mystery of what to expect when you got there, and the people you met along the way (many times looking for the same parties)--provided great memories in themselves.
posted by vanadium at 12:26 PM on October 24, 2007

I went to a 'rave' in 1997 in Wisconsin after finding a rare flyer in the area advertising it, and wished I hadn't. It was utterly depressing to see what it'd become.

There was a rave boomlet 1999-2000 that was when I got into it. What was amazing to me was standing at a club having the best night of my life at a party with 3000 other people having the best nights of their lives, amazing music, smiles everywhere -- and I was talking to this guy who was a few years older than me, who was saying -- "Meh, the scene was better 3 years ago".

I think everyone only gets one Summer of Love before the e-honeymoon wears off. Whichever year that was, was IT and nobody else's Summer of Love could possibly be as good as yours was.
posted by empath at 12:30 PM on October 24, 2007 [7 favorites]

empath, I did the post-rave club scene for a good while, and I tend to agree.

Anyone who's been to midtown Atlanta at someplace like the now-defunct eleven50 on a night with Van Dyk or Oakenfold in town can pretty much attest to that. It was far more about what you wore and looked like--and the frat boys coming down to score E--than the music itself, which is more or less why I dropped out of the scene completely. Completely devoid of a cohesive vibe.
posted by vanadium at 12:30 PM on October 24, 2007

I think everyone only gets one Summer of Love before the e-honeymoon wears off. Whichever year that was, was IT and nobody else's Summer of Love could possibly be as good as yours was.

It could have also been that their scene was just different than what I'd been used to. Looking back at what I wrote, it was actually a pretty bad apples-to-oranges scene comparison. I still maintain that being at a rave where no one's dancing and everyone's trying to score drugs doesn't exactly fit the definition of success, though.
posted by vanadium at 12:33 PM on October 24, 2007

Empath, I think youre both right and wrong.

I agree with everything you said, yet also think things have gotten progressively stale and crappy over the years.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:39 PM on October 24, 2007

I still maintain that being at a rave where no one's dancing and everyone's trying to score drugs doesn't exactly fit the definition of success, though.

Agreed. But there were parties like that even 'back in the day'.
posted by empath at 12:43 PM on October 24, 2007

I agree with everything you said, yet also think things have gotten progressively stale and crappy over the years.

I think so, too. Since 2001, really. Though, like I said before, I love the whole blog-house/french-house/nu rave thing. But it's not the same. It's not revolutionary, it's retro.
posted by empath at 12:51 PM on October 24, 2007

love the whole blog-house/french-house/nu rave thing. But it's not the same. It's not revolutionary, it's retro.

Yeah, Im fully with ya on that. But the feeling I get at those parties really feels fresh. The kids are doing it a different way.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:53 PM on October 24, 2007

Though, like I said before, I love the whole blog-house/french-house/nu rave thing. But it's not the same. It's not revolutionary, it's retro.

I'm with you there.
posted by vanadium at 12:55 PM on October 24, 2007

"Fuck meth. That had a hug negative impact on the scene."

An appropriate typo, that.
posted by Durhey at 1:14 PM on October 24, 2007 [5 favorites]

Well, I still go to the Detroit electronic music festival every year, if I can, and that's fairly close to the same vibe... but yeah, it's still different. I prefer actual, real techno and minimal stuff (even laptop deathmatch style) to bigger parties. I will still support the dregs of the scene, but there are a lot of energy vampires out there I just can't make eye contact with anymore.

The raves I went to were mostly house music, and it certainly wasn't a gay thing. Although the biggest DJ we ever had play was probably Derrick Carter, and he is definitely gay... I also knew Michael Alig and a bunch of the Party Monster people too, though, so you know, I've seen the spectrum!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:19 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I never really took part in the US rave scene of the 90s. But I am from Tennessee and I can confirm that if something is catching on in the South-East, that is because it is about 10 years outdated.

In the early 2000s I lived in Belgium and Northern France. It is there that I was really exposed to electronic music.

Now I am in DC and every time I go out to an event I leave disappointed. I just dont feel it here 90 percent of the time. I felt like the crowds in Belgium were SO into the music and the event. Also, there was no pseudo-rave glow-sticker-type-people that I can remember.

Oh well..
posted by pwedza at 1:20 PM on October 24, 2007

I never got into the rave culture when it was hot. My step-brother did, and threw some of the biggest raves in the San Diego area in the early '90s. I did, however, get into goa and psy trance in 2000 and beyond, having moved to the SF Bay Area. I know, there are people who slag on it, but I find the music much more interesting than most "electronica," particularly house, and you don't get many candy ravers and teenage runaways, and also not as much E. The trance scene has been around as long as the rave scene and had its own ups and downs, and has almost disappeared in the US, though not elsewhere. In fact, I'm planning on moving back to the SF Bay Area sometime next year to be more involved with music there, which is what I should have done in the first place ... So, I'm kinda glad that raves, per se, are considered dead. Trance parties are not exactly raves, but they are close enough to look that way to the law and people outside the scene. The underground parties are where you can still find that old rave spirit, and there's still quite a lot of innovation going on, if you keep your ears open.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:41 PM on October 24, 2007

I'd like to point out that the candy raver thing was also something I never really experienced first-hand. Most of the things assorted with raves (glow sticks, pacifiers, vicks vapo-rub in masks, LED stuff, phat pants and whistles) were all things my party people ridiculed. We never called our parties raves... outdoor parties were called ranch parties, and our series was called "Earth." Every year there was an Earth party. Individual parties in warehouses, clubs and abandoned buildings were just called parties, although we did have a hotline and often planned up to three parties a night (the "official" one with flyers, the "real" party where sound system 2 was set up for when party 1 got busted, and the "emergency afterparty" spot, which was only known by the people with the generator and the decks in case we had to fall back to someplace like a public park.

I have never sucked a pacifier, used the words "rolled so hard" or had my back rubbed by a 13-year-old girl. That's all stuff that came along AFTER my generation had their day... because it seemed like it was our little brothers and sisters' way of joining up to what we were doing.

I'm guessing we surpassed a lot of that weird stuff simply because the people that came over and founded the DJ collective I belonged to were from Nottingham, and had been inspired by the Hacienda.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:47 PM on October 24, 2007

I'm apparently too young to understand this post, but I do work at ibiblio. :)
posted by tarheelcoxn at 3:45 PM on October 24, 2007

Most of the things assorted with raves (glow sticks, pacifiers, vicks vapo-rub in masks, LED stuff, phat pants and whistles) were all things my party people ridiculed.

i think that's probably a class thing. In my experience the candy ravers tended to come from lower class backgrounds.
posted by empath at 3:54 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Candy Ravers




Such a wide variety of dipshits often come from such a narrow socio-economic strata.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:22 PM on October 24, 2007

Agreed on the utter deadness of the old rave and goth scenes.

Agreed that the European stuff, esp. French, is where the musical hotness is now.

However, I'm not really into Justice; their stuff is a bit too blunt and simplistic. Give me Digitalism, or better, Simian Mobile Disco, any day. (And Daft Punk has never gone out of style.)

Also, the "nu rave"/"indie dance" scene has just as much cliquism, faddishness, etc. as any I've ever seen. Unfortunately I feel like it has imported certain of the most annoying qualities of the indie rock scene -- esp. the sense of exclusivity, the fetishization of retro/geek/thrift-store chic, and the obsession with the newest, most obscure record, act, or DJ of the week.

Some of the new stuff rocks (e.g. Vitalic, Digitalism, Simian Mobile Disco). Some of the new stuff seems pretentious and massively overhyped (e.g. Klaxons).
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 5:19 PM on October 24, 2007

P.S. Forgot to say: Yes, I was on SERAVES back in the early to mid '90s. Went to a number of parties in Florida. Never did drugs back then... the music itself was my drug. For a while, PLUR seemed like it just might change the world.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 5:21 PM on October 24, 2007

when ecstasy was legal - i have a chum who has some tales from houston in that era - they survived through the crappy post bit unicorn describes as well - it made me think of people that climbed hills to watch sunrises who now can't leave the house.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:42 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Great post, and I also want to give a big affirmation of the ongoing awesomeness of VNV; there's nothing out there even remotely coming close to what they're doing (except maybe Covenant or Seabound in a pinch)... they're as much an innovative band as they are a delivery system of transformative messages.
posted by moonbird at 9:36 PM on October 24, 2007

Of course, I was bent out of my mind at the time, but I really believed it.

Never been to a rave nor been interested in that subculture -- I'm more in the whiskey-and-Motorhead corner of the hypercube, probably -- but I do identify with that statement, I gotta say.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:38 AM on October 25, 2007

Every recent generation seems to have at least one ecstatic dance scene like this-- for me, it was the Grateful Dead (which managed to keep at it from the 60's through the early 90's [i was a serious deadhead for most of the 80's]); for others it has been the jam band scene and for others, the rave scene.

All of these scenes get spoiled when people move from psychedelics to harder drugs-- the 60's got fucked up when people went onto speed, the 70's by heroin, the 80's by coke--and from what people are describing here, the rave scene has fallen prey to meth.

There's no evidence that using one kind of drug pharmacologically sets you up to use another (AKA the "gateway" theory) but I do think that when you have learned via personal experience that what you have been taught about drugs by society is nonsense, you are more susceptible to the really dangerous drugs than you would be if you were initially taught about the relative harms, rather than people trying to tell you pot is as bad as heroin.
posted by Maias at 12:19 PM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Trance Dancing goes clear back to the Eleusian mysteries -- voodoo, the Shakers, Tarantalla, whatever.. it's all the same thing.
posted by empath at 12:23 PM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow, a lot of the posts reflect my experience as well.

Winnipeg, 1999. I was definitely late to the party but only 17 and the city was experiencing a little "boomlet" of it's own in the rave scene.

I witnessed the E get full of more and more meth until half the intoxicated people at the party were just doing meth instead of pills.

By my time, the totally illegal venues were done with. The questionably legit venues were in their final days and more and more events were shifting to clubs.

I started going to parties with a tight group of high school friends. This circle quickly expanded to a loose group of many, held together by the house parties on the weekends where nothing else was happening.

Surprinsgly soon, the group includes more and more of the people throwing the parties and the dj's. Friends who only played at house parties were soon playing huge rooms at the biggest events the city had. I helped out with a few parties, mostly with one specifically which turned out to be one of the most memorable nights of my life.

A big UK hardcore DJ was flying in to headline our party. He shipped his records to Canada because he's not allowed to work in the country and travelling with his crate is suspicious. His plane was due in within a couple of hours of his slated set time. Nothing like the last minute, right? I am taking a smoke break in the staff room when I get a phone call. He wasn't on his flight. Our friend (another promoter and Canadian producer) who was picking him up was going to stick around the airport for a bit. I hung up and went catatonic for a few minutes, running through all the plan b's I could. Twenty minutes later the call comes that he caught another flight and we're on time. Awesome.

He plays and the already orgasmic crowd absolutely goes off. Winnipeg is a big hardcore / experimental city and this guy had the old grumblies dancing right beside the candy kids. 1000 partiers crammed into an old pool hall in the basement underneath a sketchy dive bar. The energy was incredible.

I got out of helping throw parties shortly after this, though my friends continued. My absolute last effort was a short lived club night at a local dive bar where my friend worked. One manager supported us while the other was on our case and eventually led to us stopping the night. It just wasn't worth the hassle from this guy.

That final night though, was classic. Four big local acts and the first two went fine. Then on comes Fishead and rips the place a new one. Already the jerk manager was telling us to turn it down because we were shaking some of the hotel rooms next door.

Not to be outdone, our final act of the entire run of the club night takes the tables. Venetian Snares may as well have thrown the volume knob out, showing no regard for hotel patrons, managers or ear drums (as expected).

This ended up being far longer than anticipated. I find myself surprisingly nostalgic for those days.
posted by utsutsu at 12:39 PM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

These posts are really interesting. I assumed most ravers (most "real" ones, anyway) weren't of the glowsticks and whistles style, but I never realized quite how relatively cool of a scene it was compared to what I was envisioning.

What's a really cool scene that never tapered off into awful debauchery? New Wave? Those guys all seem to be alive.
posted by abcde at 2:45 PM on October 25, 2007

Wow. Unicorn on the cob's paean to the rave scene evokes Hunter S. Thompson's famous Wave speech about the hippie culture of the late 60s. Bravo.
posted by killdevil at 2:53 PM on October 25, 2007

Note: Also check out "Sounds like Techno"
posted by honest knave at 4:26 PM on October 25, 2007

Wow. We had raves in Texas?

I was here in Dallas in 1989. I frequented Deep Ellum and other places in the DFW on a semi-regular basis looking for a 'scene' or some place where -- we were always looking for THAT thing whatever it was and we didn't know what we were looking for but we always thought we'd recognize it when we saw it.

There were fields. There were warehouses. There were all kinds of places where things that flyers called Raves were scheduled. Sometimes they happened. They were never THAT THING. I would hesitate to call them Raves. After awhile all I saw were long lines to get into them, and so I'd go somewhere else, where there were no lines, where you could hear the musicians play, where the audience didn't appear to be as stoned out of their minds. We created our own thing. We never changed the world. We gave up trying. We settled for hanging on to the world as it continued to spin and revolve, and we managed after a fashion to stay still, and for the most part we succeeded in not making the world worse.

Guess that's the diff here. We did alcohol. I can't speak for my own fair-weathered friends, but I didn't do Ecstacy, so the Dallas I remember from the 1980s and 90s is remarkably different in my memory to the one Unicorn describes... I don't recognize her Dallas.

At least Unicorn has that illusion in her memory banks. The illusion that at one time she and her fair-weathered friends had their hands on the lever connected to the fulcrum that could move the planet toward greater illumination. My memories consist of intense conversation and soap opera antics among those around me, and trite laughter and loud music and occasional worshipping of the porcelain god, but I don't recall any moments where my hand was anywhere near that lever and fulcrum.

I got a glimpse at that lever and fulcrum a few times, but it just shrugged at me, and I lost it in the crowd.

I remember laughing at the wannabe ravers in those lines, waiting to go inside a dark, hot, loud, place thinking they found THAT thing. They seemed to me hollow manifestations of happiness - wait-ers for Godot - with their pacifiers and their glowing mouths and their gravity defying hairstyles and thin bodies vibrating artificially, going through the motions of re-enacting what we've read had been happening elsewhere on the globe.

Raves happened elsewhere. I don't know what you'd call what happened in Dallas. I wouldn't call them Raves.

The wannabes seemed to be mimicking what they'd seen or heard about, trying to recapture something they never had, rather than just be who they were. I remember laughing, and the me I see in my memory was just as laughable. Just as pathetic and trite and pretentious and completely clueless who he was, but thought it was cool to make fun of the people who thought they were cool. What a vicious cycle.

At least Unicorn has that illusion that I don't have. Does that mean she won? I guess it does.

The Raves happened wherever I was not. Like cockroaches when I'd walk in, the Rave would disappear in the shadows. The Raves of Dallas, if they ever exist, eluded me, and therefore I equate them with my childhood memories of Santa and the Tooth Fairy - bedtime stories we tell ourselves were real so we can sleep at night with the hope - the illusion - of a brighter tomorrow. Or at least a less gloomy yesterday.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:48 PM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Empath: "goth's cannot dance"

I once witnessed a goth who could dance. She was sensational. However, she wasn't dancing to the music that was playing. She undulated and spun and frolicked about the room to a rhythm entirely her own, which came from another place.

Some, regardless of the label we place upon them, dance to the beat of a drummer we can't hear. Therefore, we are the ones who fail if we judge them with our ignorance.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:01 PM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

ZachsMind: The first time I went to a rave, I didn't remotely get it. I didn't understand the music, I didn't understand the people, anything. I left after 30 minutes.

It wasn't until I went back a second time and did E that I really understood. There was actually one particular moment when I was walking up the stairs from the dancefloor, and the DJ dropped Red Alert and that bassline hit, and my ass, which had never even thought about dancing before just MOVED. I didn't even think about it, I just did it. And within minutes I wasn't a wall flower watching things from the side, I was AT A RAVE. The whole thing has to be in your head. I know people that did it without chemical assistance, but I did it with it, but once I had it, I didn't really need to do it again (though I did, again and again and again and again and again -- far too many times)

A few weeks later, I was there while Paul Van Dyk was playing, and my ride got thrown out of the club. I was basically left there, for the first time on my own devices, without being able to use my friends as a crutch. Within hours though, I had made a half a dozen new friends (some of which, were, in fact, fair-weather, but there are some people I met that night who I am still friends with 8 years later -- something I can't say for people I grew up with, even.). As some one who had always been shy (see any of my posts in the various introversion threads) the whole thing was fucking miraculous to me, whether it was the chemicals or the music or the scene, it didn't matter.

I have one specific memory of that night, when he played For An Angel. I was on the dance floor dancing (remember, I never danced) with people who I had just met that night, nobody trying to pick anybody else up or show off, just a thousand people around me absolutely losing their shit to the most beautiful music I'd ever heard, and the club blasted jets of liquid nitrogen, filling the air with mist, and TIME STOPPED. I couldn't see anything around me but white and the faint glow of glowsticks, and he music swirling around me, I felt like I could die right then and my whole life would have been worth living just for having that one perfect moment, which seemed to stretch for an eternity around me in all directions. Ironically, it was a moment I had all to myself in an ocean of people. It stopped, and the mist started to clear, and it seemed like all of us were looking around, thinking -- can you believe how great this is? And the whole night, it seemed like everywhere I turned around someone wanted to hug me. I had never been in a place that felt more like Home.

You can belittle that all you want and say it's not real, but I don't care how it happened. Our emotions-- all of them -- are chemically based. Serotonin is serotonin whether it comes from your brain naturally or artificially -- the feeling-- happiness, joy, contentment, love -- they're the same. There's only one love. And I got it the way that I did, and I don't regret it for a second. I took myself to the absolute fucking limit of what a human mind can experience. I'm sure lots of people have felt joy, or love or whatever, I have too, I've done it naturally, but nothing has ever topped that moment and nothing ever will.

After that night, I spent the next couple of years trying to understand the scene, how it worked, how that feeling happened to me, how the music interacted with the crowd and the chemicals.. I started DJing, promoting parties. Eventually I started getting gigs at the same club, opening for the very same dj, playing trance to the next group of kids having the best nights of their lives. Even when I was up there playing songs and literally having 3,000 people jumping up and down and screaming because of a song I played -- I would have rather been them. Because I'd had that moment once, and I knew what it was like.

I dunno, when you have a life changing experince like that (and it was life changing, that night -- I literally got rid of all of my gloomy, depressing friends from my home town-- the weekend D&D and Quake games were over for me that night-- within a few months, I had a new GF, I had a new job, I moved out of my parents house, I picked up DJing), it's hard not to think of what you were doing as being revolutionary, to project the changes happening inside you into the world at large -- Why does everyone have to be so sad? Why does everyone have to fight? Why can't we all just listen to music and dance and love each other? I mean from my current jaded perspective it all sounds so juvenile and naive, but man did it feel real at the time. I was going through something for which I had no preparation -- you go through life expecting certain things, career, family, marriage, thousands of people have done that before, you've seen movies about them -- you know the score-- but how do you prepare for feeling infinite, ineffable joy? And more than that, how do you deal with it when it's not earned? When it comes from a $25 pill? How do you take something so completely impossible and integrate it into your life? Everything I thought i knew about myself and what I was capable of being was wiped out in one night.

Not saying there weren't bad moments, or times when I went too far in pathetically trying to get back to someplace that was forever over the horizon, but I do feel sorry for people that will live their whole lives without ever feeling that -- either chemically or naturally induced. If I hadn't felt it myself, I'd have told you it was impossible, but I fully believe it's possible to get there through meditation or just through dancing and music if you're willing to let yourself go completely. Religious ecstatics seem to manage it all the time-- The lyrics to God is a DJ aren't coincidental, after all.

Okay, now I'm off to go see Paul Van Dyk, who happens to be playing at a club downtown tonight. I'm going to be completely sober, because I have to work tomorrow, but I'm going to be on the dance floor, and I'm going to let myself go and allow myself to just be fucking happy and forget about everything else in the world. Because I still remember that moment, and I know what I'm capable of feeling if I let it happen.

That's what Rave meant to me, and it's my last word in this thread :)
posted by empath at 6:53 PM on October 25, 2007 [20 favorites]

(to ZachsMind, I should clarify)
posted by abcde at 6:59 PM on October 25, 2007

Empath: "It wasn't until I went back a second time and did E that I really understood..."

An earlier draft of the post indicated that the difference between my Dallas memories and Unicorns was whittled down to essentially this: I did alcohol. I didn't do Ecstacy. Originally I had gone into greater detail, but summarized that portion to "I don't recognize her Dallas."

In an attempt to not make this twice the size of Texas I'll summarize it to this: I don't participate in anything that requires me to "do E or X" in order to fit in. If I had to drop anything in order to experience a Rave, that's why I never saw one.

I recommend "Erik The Viking" to anyone who still needs clarification. I'm metaphorically the sole Christian in that story.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:01 PM on October 25, 2007

Well, I tried to make it clear that not everyone needed to. I did, though.
posted by empath at 12:02 AM on October 26, 2007

I didn't need the chemicals to get there, and instead of speaking to the culture, I think that put me in a unique position to see the problem. I think the culture itself, at the end of the day, was a response to the problem. And it didn't work, and it still doesn't work, and the problem remains.

I met Ed in 1994. I had moved out of my parents' house at 16 and was renting a room in a house in some brand new neighborhood down the street from the supermarket where I worked full time, putting the rich peoples' food in their cars for them. Stacey was one of my co-workers, she was a super cool girl and Ed was her boyfriend. Growing up in NorCal, I was already exposed to the skiing / snowboarding / smoke-up scene, and that's the context Ed and I got to know each other in. That, and countless hours of NBA on SuperNintendo. But Ed was into these rave things. Sounded a little out there, to me, but the music was pretty cool...so, what the hell. Let's go to one of these mystical glossy-card-invite things.

My first experience was in a warehouse in Oakland. Ed played a set early in the evening, I think then he was still young on the scene then. I remember a lot of drugs that night. A LOT. They came free to Ed, and by default that meant me too, but I remember very clearly the reason that I didn't want them. I wasn't afraid of trying them, I was in fact deeply curious, but I was even more intrigued by a room full of a few thousand people who were all trying to escape something that would still be there the next morning.

I was in awe.

Pacifiers weren't a big thing in that scene yet, but I remember when I saw them in later years how poignantly ironic they were (to me, at least) as an icon of the era. Every single person there was trying to pacify something that was wrong in their soul - some deep dark thing that wasn't quite right. I was no exception - I may have been sober and trying to do it through deep, intimate conversations with strangers about the very problem itself, but that was my way of participating. Some were doing it with the dancing, some with the hugs, some by spinning the vinyl, and most with the help of the chemicals. But everyone was there for the same reason - to try and feel a peace that they couldn't find anywhere else in their life.

Ed got to be fairly successful in the scene and pretty heavily into the shrooms and the E and occasionally other stuff. Stacey disappeared at some point. For a couple of years I would go with Ed, off and on, to the empty office buildings or the eucalyptus groves by the coast, or wherever else the gathering would be, but the changes of scenery never changed the nature of the event. A few thousand people hoping that somehow, some collusion of sound and chemicals and symbiotic gyration of bodies could make all that was wrong be right, if only for a little bit. But all it can really be is forgotten.

One day a few years ago I was driving home from the airport to my parents' house, the same one I moved out of when I was 16. The roads from the freeway to their place took me directly by the house Ed used to live in - the house that had been the closest thing I had to a home as a teenager. Except Ed's house was now a Walgreen's. Bright and shiny with a deep black asphalt parking lot overlooked by transplanted palm trees.

Nothing changes. We're born, we grow old, and then one day we will die. Some people use religion, some use alcohol, some use music, some use success on wall street or the baseball field. But at the end of the day, we're all just trying to forget about the problem. The ravers, at the end of the day, weren't that different from anyone else.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:21 AM on October 26, 2007 [9 favorites]

Okay. Let me try to re-evalutate my own rhetoric. This thread has actually haunted me today and I'm trying to figure out why. I think there were Raves back then here, but I didn't see them. There were a lot of things going on back when I was in high school and college. I was oblivious to a lot of shit back then. Twenty twenty hindsight. I look back with bewilderment. People I looked up to SO didn't deserve my idolatry, and people I dismissed as unimportant I SO should have revered as the special precious souls they were.

"If you were there, you know. If you weren't, my god, I wish I could show you what it was like."

I was almost there, but I don't know. I could have been, and after seeing what it did to some people I once loved, I thank God I never saw what it was really like.

I'm thankful that I'm oblivious. I never saw where they ended up. I only saw where they were going. I only saw them leave, and I kick my ass every now and then that I didn't try to stop them. Interventions were a relatively new concept back then. A man who can't swim is in no position to save drowning people.

They put their hand on the stove. I did not. I miss them. Think I'll go not cry now.

You wish you could show me what it was like.

I SO don't want to see.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:16 AM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, ZachsMind... but there is still something very good in there, and I was never a raver myself.

Psychedelics and other drugs can give you peak experiences, positive life-changing experiences that would be difficult if not impossible to achieve any other way.

But these things are drugs. This means they have side-effects ranging from minor to fatal, in particular the whole cluster of negative effects in the habituation-addiction continuum.

It is a thorny path, but as adults we have to make these decisions. The majority of people in the West encounter things like alcohol and caffeine and learn to use them in moderation for enjoyment and productivity.

The government acts as a punitive force in this area, thus pushing the good drugs, the grey area drugs and the bad drugs into one big box where you have to go if you want to experience drugs at all.

If the government truly cared about the welfare of its citizens, they wouldn't be dealing out draconian punishments for personal choices that people have been making for millennia, but instead spending a tenth the resources guiding people to make wise decisions about how they use drugs, and even more, which drugs they use, keeping a reign on positive but dangerously habituating drugs like ecstasy (to be used only under supervision a limited number of times), meliorating the damage of harder drugs, and trying gently to push people towards better choices, drugs with lower toxicity and lower risk of habituation like marijuana and LSD and mushrooms, coca leaves rather than cocaine.

Drugs are still dangerous! LSD or mushrooms have triggered people into madness before (although alcohol of course is always the #1 catalyst drug for insanity, more than all others put together). Life changing experiences are by their very nature dangerous. Stimulants can kill. Relaxing drugs can make you useless in life. Care must be taken! It's called "experimentation" with drugs for a reason.

But if drugs were legal then the rave scene would never have progressed to meth. Everyone always knew that meth was attractive but bad bad bad.

If drugs were legal but monitored, you'd know that you could get a little acid almost no questions asked ("I see you've passed your acid test -- but let me ask you a few questions about dehydration anyway") but meth would require a battery of tests and a controlled environment and is simply dangerous. Most people just want to get high sometimes, it'd be easy to steer them in the right direction without having to jail and kill a lot of them. With proper guidance instead of indiscriminate punishment people would have done the right thing.

So I'm sorry about your friends, ZachsMind. Very sorry. But they were destroyed because the government views drug users, a significant percentage of the country, to be evil criminals on the order of murderers and rapists, rather than citizens (and taxpayers who are paying the government's salary) with a potential medical problem who need to be helped.

Tangentially, perhaps PLUR should be adjusted a little to mean Peace Love Unity Responsibility (instead of "Respect"). I think "respect" is well-covered by "love" and "unity" and responsibility for one's own actions and for the well-being and spiritual development of others is the thing the world needs today more than anything else.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:38 AM on October 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

There is very little detail I can share with you surrounding the events of what was dubbed "Connecticut's First Rave". It was the spring of 1992, to the best of my knowledge, but it could have just as easily been the fall of 1991. Skip and I arrived at the Ron-A-Roll skating rink sometime in the early AM. We were looking for friends, but instead found a couple of tabs of early morning sunshine, which we quickly ingested.

Within moments, I was lost. The apes were dancing around the monolith. A funkier, dancier version of the theme from 2001 played. Skip morphed into shape in front of me. I managed to form words to the effect of, "Everyone's a monkey." Skip could only laugh as his face melted completely of his head.

Later experiences at raves would tell me this was a primitive event. Most of the attendees were in plain clothing, jeans and such. Some of the attendees were dressed for the clubs, but mostly everyone was very casual. There was no ecstasy to be had. LSD only cost a dollar a tab, but was still rare. Weed was the drug of choice.

Just as I could make sense of the monkeys, the sun rose, literally. The doors opened and a low hanging globe of obnoxious light poured into the roller rink. Panic. What was happening? Were we being busted? How am I going to get home? Certainly no one expects me to drive like this.

Herded out like sheep, we spilled into the parking lot. I found Skip, who still hadn't reconstituted a face. "Dude, man, I can't drive." Laughter ensues. Strike that, hysterics ensue. We are besides ourselves. The fact that we can't drive is cracking us up. The parking lot is slowly emptying in the background. Someone slips us some vitamin C. That will help us how? We take it anyway. It's like eating the sun. It tickles. More laughter. We sit in the car with the ignition off, which cracks us up even more. The parking lot is empty.

A van pulls up. It's our friends. We are to follow them. More laughter. I'm fucked up and following a friend who's equally fucked up to a destination unknown. We stop laughing just enough to drive, but the journey is hysterical. We're driving. Where did all the monkeys go? Why were there so many primates in CT?

We're in a parking lot in Hartford, CT. We have no clue how this magical "Saab" thing got us here. We can't find the friends we followed. The area is desolate, but there is a door. We go in. Trance music. Many other people with hairy tongues in need of babysitting. An open bar? We party until the afternoon, when we are finally sober enough to remember that we have a car. The after party was my first rave. What came before it was just the set up. It was where the wheat was separated from the chaff. We danced to some of the best music imaginable. Trance became hip hop and vice versa as the DJs changed sets. These were the other people like me in CT. This is what life was about.

Somehow this story ends with Skip and I driving some random hippy to Providence, which leads to me getting kicked out of my house, which leads to me being homeless for six months. This tells me, by the process of elimination, that the events of that night took place during the winter of 1992. I went to several raves in the following fifteen years, but as the culture grew, the part that I enjoyed slipped away. The underground clubs that sponsored the after hours became too hip for me or went away. Fashion, trends, and ecstasy played larger roles than I was comfortable with. The music stopped being as good. The drugs got many times more expensive. And then I just fell out of touch with the whole thing.

I'll never forget the dub of DJ Dan/DJ Ron that the hippy left in my car. It was the musical memoir of that period of my life, but even with the advent of the internet, I have yet to find the source for the music.
posted by sequential at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

"'I'm sorry about your friends, ZachsMind. Very sorry. But they were destroyed because the government..."

The gov't didn't make their choices for them.

I too wish drugs had been legalized at one time, because one only has to look at how bungee jumping has come and gone to see that had drugs been handled better, drug usage woulda been a fad. Those who had to try it would have, and except for 'hobby enthusiasts' it would have largely been rather meh today. Perhaps more R&D resources would have been invested to design 'functional drugs' rather than just recreational. Drugs that would make people feel better in every day life, would have few side effects, and users would still be functional in work and play. Maybe.

However, if drugs were made legal tomorrow, it wouldn't be like bungee jumping. I fear it's too late for that. And I could be very wrong about the bungee jumping comparison ever being practical. That's a best case scenario. Drugs can give people the illusion of life-changing experiences, but a lot of things can do that. Running a marathon has been known to bring about euphoria in some people, and it's arguably as simultaneously dangerous and beneficial.

The US Gov't did what it did with drugs cuz it feared the worst case scenario, and it was right correct to fear it.

I question looking back at the rave phenomenon with rose-colored glasses, is all. Unless you were using at the time, it didn't look pretty. It felt like how a parent must feel watching children at a playground recklessly jumping off the top of the slide or monkeybars. Sure, most of the kids could perhaps do that without serious injury, but what parent wants their child to be the one to find out it can kill them?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:19 AM on October 26, 2007

I would just like to point out that Tylenol kills more people every year than ecstasy has ever killed, total.
posted by empath at 12:14 PM on October 26, 2007

Zach, the government did what it did about drugs because of racism, pure and simple. Every one of the early drug laws introduced in this country was passed because of racist rhetoric-- the first anti-cocaine laws in the South, because, I shit you not, the police believed the drug made blacks impervious to bullets and feared they would rape white women. The first anti-opium laws in California because of fears that Chinese laborers would use them to seduce white women.. with marijuana, it was Mexicans.

And then we went on to prohibit anything else we could find that produced a high and wasn't introduced by a pharmaceutical company for a medical purpose.

Ever wonder why tobacco-- a drug that kills 50% of its users-- is legal, while marijuana, which doesn't cause cancer or schizophrenia or anything more than the munchies, is illegal?

it's not because of any rational choices. it's because tobacco was america's first cash crop (saved the colonies economically) and marijuana was associated with foreigners.

I think the monkeybar analogy is a good one-- no parent wants their kid to be the one who gets hurt, but if you make all playgrounds completely safe, they are not fun at all. Fun involves risk. Ideally, we work to minimize risk, not increase it.
posted by Maias at 1:10 PM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fun involves risk.

From my outsider perspective, my perception of the US rave scene compared with Britain and Ireland was that it was a lot easier. More spaces, and more remote. Much lower population density. More money involved and a higher SES stratum involved and far less police pressure. More heterogeneous. Not as many gangsters or rackets, and the dealing network was much more decentralised. In general, less risk, and less of a pressure cooker atmosphere. I have a suspicion that's why Europe is overweighted in musical and scene innovation/mutation compared with the US.

I was largin' it all through the late 80s and 90s and, yes, into the noughties, and somehow I missed the bit where a majority of the people I know who were also into it became cripplingly addicted to stuff like meth. In fact, now that they are in their 30s and 40s, most of the (some former, some not) 'ravers" are now housewives, or DJs, doctors, or professors, or musicians, or sysadmins, or designers, or even, in a couple of instances, cops, or basically indistinguishable from their age peers except they maybe tend to like more electronicy stuff now than rock or hip hop.

Any time I hear people say things like "this scene's shite now" I think of the flashback scene in the club in Human Traffic (probably the greatest movie about largin' it ever made) and just smile politely.
posted by meehawl at 10:41 PM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Interesting topic and very good posts, but this really jumped out at me:

I took myself to the absolute fucking limit of what a human mind can experience.-empath

Can't help but think "huh??", it was just a drug/music/mass-hypnotism induced feeling....but whatever, maybe you *were* at the limit of what your mind can experience. Still, that should rather read "limit of what my mind can experience."
posted by CrazyLemonade at 12:37 AM on October 27, 2007

Skip and I arrived at the Ron-A-Roll skating rink

I was at that rave! I never would've remembered the name of the rink in a million years.
posted by nev at 9:04 AM on October 27, 2007

Heh, empath thank you for adding that little Foam Party link upthread ... CapBallroom/Buzz/Nation seems like such a long time ago. My first memory of that party was buying a pack of smokes from the cig vending machine (!) and passing them out to people.

At the time, I didn't smoke. What a great time.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 12:31 PM on October 27, 2007

nostos algos. This thread is really bringing back some memories. I do wish I could relive it, moment-by-moment. Those days held an intensity of experience that is lacking for me nowadays.

Perhaps that's a good thing, perhaps not.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:12 AM on October 28, 2007

It's funny that I am exactly 4 years older than Unicorn, and while I was aware of the scene going on at the time, I completely missed it, didn't get it, thought I was too old for it. My own analogue was the "grunge" (yeah I know) scene in Seattle in the very early 90s. I was as deeply immersed in that, as many on the thread were into rave culture. It followed a very similar trajectory, albeit with a very different aesthetic, to what is described above. Such promise, joy, excitement early on... unravelling into debt, destitution, alcoholism, heroin addiction and death for too many.

Thanks all for glimpse inside. I think I finally get it.
posted by psmealey at 6:41 AM on October 28, 2007

Meth killed the rave scene

So damn true. Kids don't even call pure MDMA ecstacy now; they call it molly. "Ecstacy" means MDMA and meth.
posted by Tlogmer at 11:28 AM on October 28, 2007

Also, goths cannot dance, even when presented with quality dance music that they seem to be enjoying in some way.

Compared with ravers?


Oh my fucking god, that was funny!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:41 PM on October 28, 2007

Only if they can beat this guy in a dance battle.

To be fair, "Techno Viking" was assigned to lead the 2000 Berlin FuckParade, and a certain attitude was expected as part of the performance.
posted by meehawl at 7:21 PM on October 28, 2007

I'd like to add that I've been around the music biz for many years and alcohol has destroyed more people than all other drugs put together -- except that the destruction by alcohol is slower and less spectacular.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:19 PM on October 29, 2007

Every decade or two gets one of these, so everyone gets to have a taste of the cultural soup du jour during their teens or twenties, then reminisce nostalgically a decade later on it, while it's going on around them again for the next batch of youngsters.

What's really going to hit you hard, is when you start reading people waxing nostalgic for a scene you never even heard of you're so far out of the loop. Then you will feel old.

Small aside: I know every age bracket thinks that their fad cultural zeitgeist is better or somehow more important than the young'ins, but the older I get the more I realize that it's completely true. And I really pity the kids today, because they're going to think of the 60's like I think of my grandfather and WWII and the generation of hat-wearers and Lindy hoppers—that's just way to far removed to really appreciate or "get" it.

The sad part is watching the ad executives pounce on the corpses of past collective moments like this and turning it into a way to sell you fucking tennis shoes. That's why I'm glad guns are still legal.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:21 PM on October 30, 2007

Civil_Disobedient: no great surprise. The ingredients for any of these "cultural zeitgeists" are probably quite stable: optimistic / disaffected youth (two sides of the same coin) + some kind of new artistic (generally musical) movement to fasten on to and create a collective / subcultural feel + drugs of one description or another.

No surprise that whatever one was in when one was on the strongest cocktails & when the scene was either big enough to feel like a revolution, or small enough to feel like a band of outsiders keepin' it real, is going to be the one thought of nostalgically. It's hard to reminisce about somebody else's trip, isn't it?

So, mutatis mutandis, I'd say that the mods are roughly equal to the flower children, who are roughly equal to the punks, who are roughly equal to the goths, who are roughly equal to the ravers, who are roughly equal to something we haven't heard of yet, but which people will be waxing nostalgic for, probably already.

At the end of the fad, the same also applies each time: people settle down, have kids & have things sold to them by advertisers, and there's inevitably a string of corpses & shattered lives as well.

In Australia, you could add to that a whole bunch of native animals fucked up by loud noises & flashing lights (they're largely nocturnal), garbage & other human waste left behind by the supposedly gaia-lurvin bush doofers. The animals - being older than us, at least in terms of belonging to the place - were no doubt thinking: "hey, you kids! get out of our bush!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:20 AM on October 31, 2007

What's really going to hit you hard, is when you start reading people waxing nostalgic for a scene you never even heard of you're so far out of the loop. Then you will feel old.

I'm sure that's going on already, but I'm so damn old, I don't even know where people are even talking about such things.
posted by psmealey at 9:57 AM on October 31, 2007

I was here in the Texas scene, and had the similar experiences to many here. It WAS fantastic, hopeful, joyous...

And yes, it will happen again and again with different generations, different music, different party favors...

I think this neo-tribal/folksy organic/digital hybrid stuff is the next wave.... Animal Collective, Black Dice, Sunburned Hand of the Man, etc. The kids are eating that stuff up.
posted by Espoo2 at 3:06 PM on October 31, 2007

ah, yesterday. I remember it like it was yesterday. the pulsating electronic genetics of a 4/4 exterior; the continuous overstretched egos of a pharmacologically-inclined interior.

never having gone to events littered with the dying remains of ancestral aching souls, those harboring hidden inclinations to go backwards, taking care of their agendas much like the tweak (methamphetamine) that goes through veins of the unwary, those searching to relive something singular... my participation has been, in contrast, unifyingly and untemporally breathtaking.

not subject to the impulse for large crowds and power centers, the modern context for waves of sound that I have experienced is an existential culture, each participant connected to the music as well as one another through a dynamic with no archeology, detached from its history as much as it is detached from its future by both the specific characteristics of the time it is taking place in, as well as the unique perspectives of everyone involved. The legal tensions surrounding organized events have driven them away from urban centers and towards desolate landscapes or rural areas, away from the eye, and towards the earth (or less figuratively, towards a sense of place). Along with that, sonic production has reached a technological apex, so it has become increasingly more important to understand the intricacies of musical possibility than the structure of the current technological methods. The neurological environment has been altered significantly and has never been as varied as it is currently due in part to the restriction by law enforcement agencies of staple psychedelics and entheogens like LSD and MDMA. The proliferation of pharmaceutical drugs on one hand and "research chemicals" (mostly mescaline and psilocybin analogues) on the other has led to uniquely individual experiences that help redefine the social role the individual plays in a greater unifying musical theme.

it is a zeitgeist of sorts, but so little of the time does its essential character reflect the synthesis of the past and the past progressing towards the future. it originates nowhere, resides nowhere, and ends up forgotten, if not by an individual, by a society whose sole focus is progression - by a society that uses the "NOW" as an excuse for the future and not the other way around - a society that is in fact made up of individuals, who will only reach the catharsis of agreement when the final unambiguity of life chills them out of themselves.
posted by flyinghamster at 3:12 PM on November 9, 2007

ah, the memories. my first electronic event was in 94, but i didn't really explore the world of 'rave' 'til 95. the initial events i attended were full moon gatherings outside of seattle... you'd call a number, drive a few hours into the woods, then walk down miles of trails to get to the party. for quite awhile i had no idea that there were events which cost money.

i also had been collecting rave flyers for several years prior, but didn't connect the flyers with those events in the woods at all. i thought the flyers were for clubs and just liked the graphics. i s'pose in some ways there was no connection between illegal/break-in parties with infolines and $20+ concertraves.

regardless i fell in love, and soon i was volunteering for hyperreal, subbed to NWraves and SFraves and SEraves and NEraves and pretty much all of them at one point or another, spending all my time chatting on vrave, travelling around north america to attend events, etc.

i can't say i really agree that those days are dead. i'm older and weirder, but i still love travelling to mutek/sonar/detroit electronic music festival or whatever they're calling it this year. i still get the same rush on the rare occasion that a beautiful track is played. i'll still dance from sundown to sunrise if something's played that's worth the effort.

periodically i do get all sentimental and peruse youtube for ancient electronic music/rave videos. i'm sure most of these have been posted on mefi at one time or another, but here are a few on the offchance that someone out there hasn't seen them and might dig 'em:

sharevari - detroit 1982

rave reenacted with lego men

acid house party circa 1989

emotion in perth, australia circa 1993

1993 toronto rave documentary

i'm sure there's better ones, but these still make me smile.
posted by groovinkim at 6:31 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

So apparently speed killed the "hippy" scene.

And now people are saying that speed apparently killed the rave scene (along with fatigue, crappy laws, etc.)

Well, can someone ship about 1 kilogram of speed to Nic Harcourt so we can kill whatever scene that awful music he plays on "Morning Becomes Eclectic" is part of?

Fuck, there's only so much pseudo-bucolic twangy post-post-post whatever hipstery melancholy whiny eclectlicrap that you can take before you ... you ... whine about it on a blog somewheres. Shit.

Please help.
posted by redteam at 4:15 AM on November 12, 2007

+1 unicorn...thanks so much for writing that (coming a bit late to this thread, but it's certainly been making the rounds)

- full moon gatherings in the mojave
- integral gatherings in the woods north of LA
- packing 500 people in abandoned basements covered in liquid Tide while the blacklights made us all glow like aliens
- setting up our soundsystems on random side-roads outside bakersfield after the park service kicked us all out of our location and keeping the party going another 5 hours...
- the adrenaline rush, the jolt of glee, of hearing that muffled thump over the hills, the first sign of flashlights in the distance after turning left at the pile of rocks, right at the burned-out VW, and driving another 4 miles on sand

and i'll even add...

- thousands of people going absolutely fucking bonkers when eat static's alien spider woman on stilts emerged into the audience under a massive glowing red brain

(i've even kicked it with redteam at a few of those!)
posted by Señor Pantalones at 11:27 AM on November 13, 2007

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