Rave Party Culture
By Nancy Borrego
Imagine yourself being apart of world with no boundaries, no racism, no prejudice, no sexism, no rules, no guns, and no hatred- simply a world filled with peace, love, unity, and respect. A world where you can express yourself in any way you feel comfortable; a place where you feel no fear, just a place where you only feel love and joy from everyone around you. This is how I can best describe the culture of a rave and its people. My friends had told me that raves were something else, but it wasn't until I saw it with my eyes that I could prove that the fascinating stories to be true. Raves are an evolutionary type of party that everyone should experience. In a society that is constantly changing, raves have come to be a part of evolution. The same way when we had rock 'n roll era, hippie era, disco, and rap, we have come to find the rave era. For some, rave has become a way of life, as is the case with my "key informant" named Ted. If culture were learned, then raving would be considered a cultural behavior.
When one examines any culture, it is always important to know its point of reference or its history in order to have a more comprehensive knowledge. The history of raves itself is quite uncertain as to when and where it had originated or who introduced it, especially the raves in America. There is no official dating or exact location on the founding of a rave. Rumors have been told that the first actual rave began in England and Germany. It's been told that raves started out as a secretive late after-hour parties held in clubs, commercial buildings, and even private homes for invited guests only. Its popularity did not uncover until the early 1990's when news and media exposed the finding of these hidden parties (or rave) to the public. Surprising, the public did not perceive the news report to be dangerous or harmful. Instead, more and more adult and teen partygoers became curious and seek to attend these secretive parties. The rumors also stemmed from the fact the most renounce rave DJs (disc jockey) came Germany and England. One such popular name is Paul Van Dyke, a German DJ who is extremely and highly demanded by club owners around the world for his presence and performance at their clubs.
In the early 1990's, the first raves were held in San Francisco and New York; it eventually reached the city of Los Angeles. During its early stage, raves were considered illegal and private parties that were most often broken down by police. Today, that is not the case. Instead, raves had become a legal and public party due to its popularity and high demand from partygoers. Its growing popularity can best be compared to the "Wood Stock of 1960's" where hundreds of thousands of people showed up and policemen were unable to contained the people so they supported them by trying to maintain orders. Now, raves became such a huge event that city officials have come to realize its success and have become more supportive by providing patrols and security guards during a rave event.
Raves today may be considered a cultural generality because it has transcended from its point of origin (Europe) to other countries around the world. During its early stages, when it was best known as an underground party, very few people have limited knowledge and access to it. Within a couple of years, raves have become extremely popular and more accessible to the public.
There are many types of raves. Indoor raves- usually held in clubs; house rave- self explanatory; and outdoor raves- which are more popular because they are either gathered at a camping site, regional park, or a secluded open field. More people attend outdoor raves because there's no capacity limitation, and there's no "no-smoking" law. In the summer of '98, Los Angeles Coliseum held a public rave where they recorded up to 100,000 people; a camp-site in Temecula have claimed over 75,000 attendees; and one held at Santa's Village have tallied over 50,000 ravers.
All raves carry names. And some of these names are usually associated with club where raves are held. To further explore my research, I have attended the following raves: "Insomniac," "Giant," "Matrix," and "Crystal." My key informant, Ted, also shared his experience at "Electric Daisy," "Juju Beats," and "Awakening in Neverland" in this writing. The ones that I have attended are held on specific nights only. "Insomniac" opens on Saturday, "Giant" is also on Saturday, "Matrix" happens on Wednesday, and "Crystal" is good for Friday, and these are indoor raves held inside clubs located in the city of Los Angeles. The outdoor raves are the ones that Ted had attended.
There are three major elements to a rave. (1) Music, (2) Ravers (people who attend the raves), and (3) Drugs.
The music played at the rave that I've attended consists of techno, trance, and some form of divergence from it with a high level of bass and very fast paced. The background noises include high pitch whistles, keyboards playing fast consistent notes, quick beating drums, as well as enticing dropping sound created by strings. The music had very little lyrics if any at all. The lyrics are somewhat repetitive and included many sexual or deviant suggestions that I have found to be very disturbing. The composer of the music is the DJ, who also acts like the master of the "ravers" for it is he who controls their mind via the mood of the music, the laser lights, and his speakers. Dancing also associates with music. The dance style in a rave is usually a lot of jumping, somewhat like "break-dancing," and swirling heads and hands around with glow-sticks. But according to my friend Ted, dance style is insignificant, "what matters is that you feel the music and move to the beat."
The second element is the ravers themselves, people who participate in the raves. Ravers are a unique crowd. They wear very diverse attire, ranging from casual street wear to sophisticated Hollywood trends. I have seen some kids wearing a pair of Converse shoes along with a day-to-day sweat pants. On the other hand, there are girls who wore feathered tops with leopard-printed pants, metallic skirts with glow-in-the-dark tops and psychedelic make-up. I have also witnessed some people chewing on pacifiers, tenderly holding dolls, wearing Disney hats, and mostly ravers are seen playing glow in the dark joysticks. These crowds appear to be between the ages of 19-30 years old. Seventy percent of them are white people of middle to upper class. After talking to half of the Caucasians, I have found that most of them attended raves because they wanted to be a part of a crowd, whose culture is filled with love and unity. This is like another home for them to go to. They can leave their troubles and worries behind at a rave. And raving was their niche. I believe, for these people, this is parallel to Mexicans, Asians, and Blacks joining a gang and being a part of another "family."
Thirdly, and most importantly, drugs are a big part of raves. Approximately 90% of the people that attended raves are under the influence of some kind of drug. According to my friend Ted, in the beginning acid and marijuana were the most common drugs until the appearance of ecstasy. Ecstasy used to be a diet supplement, until medical studies proved the danger of its side effects. It never became a legal medicine and was not approved by the FDA to be sold over-the-counter. The government banned the usage of ecstasy and labeled it as an illegal drug. Just alike any other illegal drugs, people are able to put their hands on ecstasy and use it. Ecstasy has become overly popular in the raving culture. Ravers simply call ecstasy by its short name "E" or "X." Ecstasy takes other names as well according to its color, shape, and brand label. Other names include green triangle, red triangle, yellow star, blue Smurf, white Buddha, brown sugar, Calvin Klein, Superman, Mitsubishi, Rolls Royce, 007, and the list goes on and on as different type of "E" gets smuggle to the hands of the users. The market price ranges from $15 to as high as $25 per pill, which is a more profitable selling product than marijuana. Thus, even drug lords have shifted their attention to selling ecstasy.
Today, ecstasy has become the drug of choice at raves. Many people "drop" ecstasy at raves. "Drop" refers to swallowing a pill of ecstasy. According to my key informant, Ted, it "enhances pleasure and sensation, and it makes the music feel more alive." It also influences people to be more friendly and happier. Strangers were very hospitable. The sense of love and unity fills the room. And even though I was sober, I could feel it too. People smiled a lot more, they massaged one another, and they dance everywhere. Others were found playing with the glow in the dark joysticks to provide visual delight for everyone else. I have never witnessed such a culture as this of a raver. Their environment was like a school playground; and the ravers act like innocent kids playing together, making conversations with anyone and everyone, with no prejudice or hatred. People would also gather in groups and talk of peace, love, unity, and respect. Today, those four words have come to be known as "PLUR," a popular word among ravers.
Although ecstasy influences the mind and the senses of the users, it is still considered to be more safe and clean than other type of drugs. I have talked to ravers while they were under the influence of "E." One guy (name Tuck) tells me that he saw mathematical formulas displayed on the walls, which were simply laser beams bouncing onto the walls. An Asian fellow, by the name of Albert, reports that he was seeing people's body part getting separated; such that half of a body would depart from the rest of the body part. During one outdoor rave, a girl shares her experience with me. She tells me that she heard the stars calling her and that she felt the stars with her hands when she looked up at the sky. But, all and all, most of these people still agree that they felt safer using "E" than any other drugs, including drinking alcohol. They feel that they were still able to control their negative and positive influence; meaning that they were willing to do things that they felt comfortable with. Unlike being under the influence of alcoholic beverages, ravers are able to maintain their sexual behavior because they are still intact with their conscience. For those of you (guys out there) who think that if you give an "E" to a girl you'll be able to easily get her to go to bed with you, you might think otherwise. It's easier to "pick up" a person who's drunk and loss conscience than a raver who has "dropped."
Culture change has come with raving due to the fact that the attire has changed the taste in music, hairstyle, and the purpose of going out to a club. It is no longer a priority to go out to a club or a dance with the intention of "picking up" (when a person tries to meet new attractive people of the opposite sex). The main purpose of raving is indulging in oneself personal pleasure. Meaning that people usually go to raves to expand their minds with the music and drugs.
For those of you who have not seen the world of raving, I recommend that you open your eyes to their world. "Hippies," during the '60s, can relate to this culture when they used to "expanded" their mind and shared their thoughts among a group of people who offer nothing but love and peace. The rave scene can be a utopia for just one night. But during this night, people forget about their worries and their unhappiness. Even though, ravers know that reality will hit them when they have to return to work on Monday, they will never forget the night before. The music and the effect of "E" will be with them as long as they wish to remember the rave. "Keep the peace and spread the love amongst the world we live in." These are the words of my fellow ravers. And to them, I say, "thank you. Thank you for opening my eyes."