Raving has become a popular topic these days, and it also ends up in the news for negative reasons, but do we ever wonder where did all of these raves came from? Similar to the highly populated events in the U.S., electronic dance music (EDM) began its journey in the underground European music scene in the 1980’s. These events were essentially composed of individuals born during Generation X from 1965-1980 (Anderson). Many events were held in clandestine locations like warehouses, nightclubs, and farm fields. European raves were commonly established by a small group of people and were often invite-only. Events like these were created by DJ’s and producers who have a passion for the growing techno music subculture and American house music (Benson). Dance music is now existent in everyday life, “today you can regularly hear dance music in upscale-city restaurants, at spin and aerobic classes, or as background music on video games” it’s more common than one would expect (Benson). The developing list of existing genres in electronic dance music are dubstep, drum & bass, hardcore, trance, post-industrial, techno, house, and many more subcategories. Towards the end of the 1980’s smaller sized raves, both legal and illegal, began appearing in the United States. From the progression of EDM, to a fast growing drug epidemic, the electronic dance industry has become a part of the young adult society. Over time, raving has become more modernized generating what we now call rave culture.
The rave scene firmly reemerged in 2010 with the Electric Daisy Carnival located in Los Angeles. This specific festival is one of the most popular and is commonly known in the U.S. Information for events like these were often spread through secret flyers, website postings, and text messages (Anderson). Whereas today, we have social media, paid promoters, and planned reoccurring events all over the world. A common organization of raves include, numerous rooms with amplified sound systems, multiple large subwoofers to produce deep bass, and several DJ’s switching off every hour or so. The crowd is often entertained with laser light shows, fog machines, visual effects, and projected images following along with the music. Nowadays, many raves have psychedelic themes such as Alice in wonderland or Aliens with tons of neon colored decorations.
Participants often carry items termed “rave props” such as beaded bracelets, which are commonly referred to as “kandi”, lollipops, and stuffed animals. Many ravers, “live by the mantra PLUR which stands for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect” and even inquire this concept into their daily lives (Le). Now these events are vastly populated with new and younger recruits, that is, Generation Y, born within 1977-2003 (Anderson). Raves are now held at huge venues suitable for thousands of people at a time with lineups that consist of hundreds of DJ’s. Therefore, these events were created by Gen X and revised by Gen Y to ultimately create the rave scene that is prominent today.
The increasing amount of festival goers comes with an increasing amount of illegal drug use. Designer drugs have become a growing epidemic in today’s rave culture. These “designer drugs” range from ecstasy (MDMA), mixed with who knows what, to more psychedelic options such as acid, shrooms, ketamine, and GHB (Rome). The most predominant drug actively present in modern rave culture is methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA which is, “a drug similar in composition to amphetamine; in its pure form it is an offwhite crystalline substance, but it is commonly pressed into pills… ecstasy or E, is a stimulant that produces euphoria, increased energy and confidence, agreeableness, a sense of emotional connection and closeness with others, and an increased appreciation for sound, color, light and touch”. In order to keep raves legal, organizers have created drug safety checks to endeavor prevention of drug use or at least safe usage. Many festivals have specific areas termed as a “safe spaces” where trained professionals remain on sight during an event in case of drug overdose or sudden injury. These extra measures are taken to ensure ravers ultimate safety and security. In 1996 a random survey was conducted of students attending Tulane University, Ellen Rome discovered that, “use of ecstasy was reported by 24% of those surveyed… [and] 5% of US 16-year-olds reported [using ecstasy]” while taking part in the rave culture.
Some festival goers say that, “ecstasy itself seems to promote a solidarity aspect of rave culture with individuals experiencing the same effects as those around them” because drug use is very common in the midst of large crowds (Acosta). Intermingling with like-minded individuals, who also may take designer drugs, and have similar tastes in music helps to create a sense of interconnectedness within the rave culture. Some ravers may claim that, “the effects of ecstasy itself are linked to feelings of closeness” which helps participate in the mantra PLUR throughout the festival (Lynch). In today’s society, raving is perceived as a place for like-minded individuals to come together and share a mutual passion for electronic dance music.
The word “rave” still evokes many different responses depending on which generation or whom you may decide to ask. Raving has grown into a unique subculture existent in the U.S. since the early 1990’s. The modernization of raving has led to gigantic million dollar festivals hosted annually, headliner DJ’s from all over the world, extravagantly themed events some even related to a holiday celebration. This generation of ravers will never have to stress about illegal underground raves, or noise restrictions like those of earlier generations.
Acosta, Alexis. “Subcultures and Sociology.” Grinnell College, 2017, haenfler.sites.grinnell.edu/subcultures-and-scenes/ravers/.
Anderson, Tammy L. “Understanding the Alteration and Decline of a Music Scene: Observations from Rave Culture.” Sociological Forum, vol. 24, no. 2, June 2009, pp. 307–336. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1573-7861.2009.01101.x.
Benson, Thor. “A Brief History of Raves in the U.S.” A Brief History of Raves in the U.S., ATTN: 7 Nov. 2015, archive.attn.com/stories/3978/history-of-raves-united-states.
Le, Angela. “Rave Culture 101 – Guide to Raving.” IHeartRaves, IHeartRaves, 21 June 2016, http://www.iheartraves.com/pages/rave-culture-101.
Lynch, Lucas. “Youth and the Development of ‘Rave’ Culture – There’s Research on That.” Youth and the Development of “Rave” Culture, The Society Pages, 27 Aug. 2018, thesocietypages.org/trot/2018/08/27/youth-and-the-development-of-rave-culture/.
Rome, Ellen S. “It’s a rave new world: rave culture and illicit drug use in the young.” Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine 68.6 (2001): 541-550.