Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Raves

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Even before they were harping about online predators, Dateline NBC had me terrified to leave the comfort of my own home. With their multi-part series on the dangers of 90s raves, I was almost certain that someone was going to randomly usher me into an abandoned warehouse against my will, stick an ecstasy-laced candy pacifier in my mouth, and subject me to endless hours of pulsating techno music and seizure-inducing light shows. You know you're growing up in pretty cushy conditions when your most major fears revolve around involuntary attendance at a wild underground party.




Other generations have all the luck. Their subcultural miscreants were usually tied to some sort of ideological principles. You know, peace, free love, that sort of thing. It's almost as if the preceding counter-cultural movements took all the good visionary underpinnings and we were stuck sorting through the remnants bin. Our take on rebellious youth culture amounted to Seattle Grunge culture and Euro-techno ravers. We may not have been as idealistic as the hippies who came before us, but it could have been worse. After all, we could have been pseudo-intellectual fake glasses-sporting ironic t-shirt clad hipsters.

There were some vague alliances between rave culture and principles, but the connection was fuzzy at best. At its heart, rave culture represented the happy-go-lucky invincibility that characterized the 90s. You know you're getting older when you start drawing broad metaphors between youth culture and the state of the economy, but it's an aging leap I'm willing to make. Raving was youth culture in its purest, least dilute form: wild, irresponsible, and generally under contempt of adults everywhere.

Many of us may have been too young at the time to be a driving force in the rave scene, but that wasn't about to stop us from defiantly sucking our pacifiers in homeroom. Rave trends quickly disseminated from underground phenomenon into mainstream fashion statements. While the raw ingredients undoubtedly varied from rave to rave, here's a rough recipe for a legitimate 90s raver.


Abandoned Warehouse


What's a party without a proper venue? By proper venue, of course, I mean a sketchy abandoned space that may or may not have once been some sort of industrial storage facility. As many of the early raves were a sort of impromptu underground effort, any old enclosed area would have to do. Raves were by no means limited to these settings, but there was a certain charm to illegal party squatting. Or at least that's what I gathered from my avid viewing of numerous multi-part Dateline NBC undercover exposes. They made it seem like every abandoned warehouse in the country was packed fire-code defiantly full of sweaty, effervescent teenagers.



Light Show


If you're going to party straight through to the wee hours of the morning, you've got to have some sort of visual stimulation. Laser light shows were a signature rave feature, with brightly colored strobe-like flashing creating a uniquely headache-inducing effect. I had to settle for my cheaply imitative Nickelodeon brand laser light how generator. I had the power to turn my basement into a wild party light-flashing party scene, but unfortunately I was only 10 at the time. The closest I was coming to raving was chugging a bottle of Surge and nursing a ring pop.



Pacifier

This was one of those inexplicable trends that caught on in a big way despite a total lack of purpose and functionality. Our parents spent months coaxing us off these damned things only to have us pick up the habit again 15 years down the road. I'm still not completely clear on if the pacifier had any sort of representational meaning or if someone just thought it might be fun to start selling them as necklaces to teenagers. Either way, these things were everywhere.



Candy Rings/Necklaces


The more I look at it, the more it seems like ravers all had some sort of serious oral fixation. The ecstasy could only make everything all the more delicious, so it was probably a good idea to keep some highly portable snacks on your person at all times.



Glowsticks


They're sort of like your own personal laser light show. If you get bored with whatever lights the party coordinators are flashing, you can always wave your glowstick super quickly in front of your face. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the drugs probably enhanced this experience somewhat as well.



Ecstasy and/or Cocaine


Speaking of mood-altering substances, 90s partiers weren't really the depressant type. Leave the mellowed-out drugs to the peace and free love hippies. Ravers needed uppers to maintain a decent level of prolonged hyperactivity. If you've got to flail wildly in a warehouse with only the aid of glowsticks and laser light shows to keep you awake, you probably needed a little something to keep the edge on.



UV Facepaint


Again with the glowing. It's a pretty safe bet to say if it glowed, ravers wanted to slather their bodies in it. I suppose it's a bit hard to see in a darkened warehouse, so any light source is much appreciated.


It's odd to think of raves as retro, but countercultural phenomenons tend to age quickly. While in the 90s raving seemed edgy and dangerous and unspeakably modern, in retrospect it loses a bit of its luster. Not literally, of course. I imagine that UV facepaint bonds to pores for life.It was a pretty wild ride while it lasted, but for now we'll just have to relive the experience (or vicarious experience) through the magic of memory. So grab your glowsticks, pop in a pacifier, and beware the judgmental Dateline undercover reporters; it's rave reminiscing time.

28 comments:

Shannon SVH said...

Man, I used to really hate those raver kids, with their neon and their backwards upside down visors and their stupid pacifiers. Of course, the "ravers" I knew never actually went to raves, they just wanted to look the part. Kinda like how I wasn't actually a witch, I just dressed like The Craft.

Melanie's Randomness said...

I just missed these. I was born in 1985 so I was too young when these were really big. I do remember seeing kids with the bracelets EVERYWHERE!!!

Literary Crap said...

My psychoactive drugs professor made us watch the Dateline specials on raves (that'd he recorded on VHS when they originally aired). All I could think about was how ridiculous those raver kids looked. And how obnoxious it was that they constantly had to reassure themselves that they and everyone around them was high.
"Are you rolling? I'm rolling!"

Literary Crap said...

P.S.

Pacifiers:
When you do ecstasy, you grind your teeth and lock your jaw! The pacifier (and candy jewelry) give them something to suck on to prevent destroying their teeth and tongues.

The UV paint and the glow sticks do enhance the high.

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1980, and when I was in 8th grade people started wearing pacifiers to school. They ended up being banned, along with wallet chains (weapon).

Anonymous said...

I was too young for this trend, but this posting totally made me laugh so hard! Great job.

Sadako said...

It IS weird to think of raves as retro. I remember being kind of young and overwhelmed by the whole rave thing (yeah Dateline!). But now kids of today probably think of them the same way we think of...disco balls. I feel old! :D

makara said...

The pacifiers and candy necklaces were a direct link to all of that ecstasy it wasn't just for looks... i have literally seen people break their teeth they were grinding them so hard on that drug... some of us were truly just there to dance.....

Anonymous said...

Hey guys- a little information for you- the rave scene isn't actually dead....Infact, there was one under the Sunshine Skyway last weekend in St. Petersburg, Fl ;) and yeah, you're going to have epic jaw pain the next day if you don't have gum, candy, a pacifier, etc to chew on...The whole ideology (if you can call it that) behind the rave scene was PLUR - Peace Love Unity Respect - the candy kids still go around to this very day spreading their neon love with their acronym to all the people that still like to rave (at least in florida we didn't forget how to party...)

90's rave baby said...

teeth grinding= it all depends on what drug your takeing but im 21 and all ive heard is that it can carode your teeth

over herre in melboure Austrlia were keeping it stroung :D

SD_Girl81 said...

gawd! i miss those days... i was 15 when i started going to raves, stopped when i was 19.... i'm 28 now. Those were the best carefree days!
Still love the music :-)

Ashlin said...

Raves are still big. They aren't necessarily underground anymore, but the same general principle is there. Nothing like being mid20s and seeing all of the 15-16 y.o. kids running around tripping balls because it is ostensibly an 'all ages' music festival. I see younger types wearing candy and raver style clothes on occasion out in the real world and a friend's younger sister was talking about how there is an unofficial 'take e at school' day. Seems a bit much, but I was a bit of a later bloomer/sheltered kid, so I don't exactly know what it was like irw in the mid90s.

Anonymous said...

This site is horrible, it's supposed to be about children of the 90s, but it's for young adults of the 90s I guess. You should have called this site Children of the 80s

Robb said...

Honestly, there are many of you that I could educate for days on this topic. The rave scene is NOT dead but has changed dramatically. I’m 18 years old and love living the life of a raver. Hearing stories from older friends, aunts, uncles, etc. I’ve found that "Old School Raves" and modern day raves are basically the same except most now are "all age music festivals." People judge ravers because of their drug usage, clothing choices and many other things. We are called ignorant, hoodlums, menaces to society. I’ve been raving for 3 years now. I attend Texas Tech University and withhold a 3.5 GPA. I participate in many sporting activities and am on the Dean’s List. So when saying a raver is stupid, you might want to know the person first. Ravers are some of the nicest people you will EVER meet. We do live the life of PLUR - Peace Love Unity and Respect. It’s what we're about; it’s what we rave for. And btw, face paint does not enhance a high. "We ravers don’t stumble and fall, we trip and roll." have a good day everyone.

tugz said...

I am actually doing a presentation for a Pharmacology class which is based on the drugs of the times and the sub-cultures that they inhabited. For those with few brain cells left it means who did them and why. I found this in my research and not only having been alive at the time but having worked for the company that threw some of the largest parties the US had ever seen(hint-One is still going strong with it's flower power and I was there when the other was still a wonderland and not a festival)I was a Raver before it became fashionable. I agree the intention of these assemblies went from people gathering in order to stand up and show our government that we would not allow them to control our lives. That this is what we would do if they tried and did do to show they couldn't. The lights, music, and drug use were meant to agitate, kinda like rubbing it in their face what we were doing and they could not stop us. While all those elements are still key the reasons as to why have been lost, and dateline did not help with it's distortion of details about what happens at parties and to beware. While I may not be as active as I once was I still give support to those who, like myself, remember why it started. I also have to give props to the person who wrote this. Your depiction of what goes on and why I found hilarious and appreciated the honesty of someone who would admit that all they knew was what they had seen, but would not feel they are by any means the authority that so many others, with the same information and resource, would claim to be.

mark dev said...

god!! those were the days.. i'm 30 years old and miss the days of raving so bad.. all of my best memories were of state palace theater in new orleans or warehouse parties in all kind of random spots.. i was pretty hardcore in my late teens and early 20's. i'm just glad i got to experience it before it got taken over by total douchebags that knew nothing of P.L.U.R. peace, love unity and respect.. after my first rave when i was 15, my while life changed. i was accepted and finally found where i belonged. whats sad is that things have changed so much. there's not even any good drugs left out there. ecstacy is not the same and i haven't seen LSD in almost a decade. i'd love to relive those days.

Big Daddy said...

utter bullshit. all ecstacy related deaths were due to ppl fake ecstasy or not drinking water and staying hydrated. its actually a very safe drug. no one is dying of ketamine or nitrous either. you ppl and your propaganda about a scene you know nothing about. every nightlife scene in the world has drug use: concerts, top 40 nightclubs, hotels, jazz clubs. i think, as the owner of Virgin Records stated, that the drug users choose the scenes their into, not the scenes making drug users. idiots and your sensationalized stories...

tee_cee823 said...

how did i NOT run into this any sooner?? This is the most ridiculous thing i have ever read. Raves have definitely changed, and are increasingly getting popular than they were back in the 90's. I do hate calling them raves though, I definitely prefer to call them music festivals mainly because you will find TONS and TONS of people that are truly there for the music...but i guess it's still a rave lol.

it just so happens drugs are part of the scene, so be it! it's what makes these events. it is sad to see little kids running amuck all messed up BUT they are 18 and over now and it's just a lot better without all the irresponsibility.

but the way they portray it in the news is nothing how it really is. you can't have 40 year old reporters researching this topic cuz they know NOTHING. you cannot blame the drugs itself for killing anyone, they just need to learn how to take it responsibly. yes, it's a drug but it's exactly what BIG DADDY says. people don't know how to take care of themselves when they've taken x.

and the people you meet at these events now, most are real people just enjoying their play away from work. don't judge someone just cuz they have attended a rave. it's just a little fun.

Bluefemme said...

I was a raver in the early 2000s. I wish I was able to go to the early raves when they were called, Underground parties! When you were called a "groover". Raves were probably the happiest times of my life. Dancing and dressing up was so much fun! I felt like I was a kid again carrying Elmo, dressing up super bright! But it seems like now a days raves are not what they used to be. Before you just wanted to dance all night and be by the speaker all night and feel the music! Now kids just want to run around naked in tutus and act stupid. That's what it seemed like the last time I went to EDC.

Bluefemme said...

And PLUR was big in the early raves!

Sarah Fiola said...

The beauty of being 10 is a bottle of Surge and nursing a ring pop is all you need for an instant "rave" in your basement. Thanks for writing this post.
Sarah
twowaylisten.blogspot.com

martinhollis said...

I used to go to Labryinth from 94-97 and all the bigger raves like Hardcore Heaven, Fusion, Helter Skelter. From what i remember coke wasn't big at all. It was pills and speed. The dummys were to give your teeth something to do. Some of the things missed was a vicks, poppers,UV waste coat and ADIDAS - normally the side poppered track bottoms and of course whistles and horns ;-)

OldSkooler said...

I went to raves from 95-2000 mostly in San Francisco with a year in England (although towards the end of that period the scene really tanked thanks to that stupid Dateline Special that caused more average Joes to show up at parties). I went to mostly small underground parties or outdoor things out in the boonies.

It was a magical moment in history (just like the late 60's & summer of love)--these kinds of things cannot and should not be sustained for they will lose their special-ness. The events that happen now should not be called Raves because they have no association with that magic; they should be called dance music festivals or post-rave scene or something.

Nova Luehrs said...

The rave scene is in no way dead. It never died, just subsided for a while. I could come in a school you on all the things you talked about, telling exactly why and what but looks like this post is too old to care. ;D

dreamcrate said...

Yeah it died around the middle of 1997 and especially after dateline airing their version of the scene. What can I say everything has a timespan and just as "hippies" "beatnicks" "ravers" had their time as well. There is no more PLUR, man I can't even tell you how many phone numbers of nice people I had back in 95-97. At a recent attendance I just kind of noticed that people weren't very sociable with each other and just there to catch a buzz.. There is no movement, there is no cause, there is no real artistic expression... Oh well.. Glory days are over!!!

Simon Gurnett said...

Sydney had a wicked rave scene from about 1997-2003, I believe this was due to electronic music producers & Dj's hit a purple patch and the tracks would give you goosebumps and shocks and tickle your eardrums for a week after to boot!! Examples like: Yves De Rueter - Back to Earth (rave mix) , DJ Scot Project - Thunder in Paradise (DJ Scot Project Mix) , Hennes & Cold - The second Trip (DJ Scot Project Mix)...and many more! Nothing like watching a live DJ Scot Project Set and hearing tracks like - overdrive!! Total EARGASM! ..... Remember drugs are bad mkay

Jason L. said...

I was deep into the underground scene in the late 80's and into the 90's. In the earliest days there would be a "secret" location for each party. You'd have to either be invited by somebody that was in the know or come across one of the handmade fliers that got circulated with the location on it. Generally the fliers would only have a few words on them. If you didn't know what you were looking at the you could have easily dismissed one as a vague note. This kept the authorities at bay. In terms of who we were and why we "raved"; My experience is that many "Kids" came to the scene as the product of broken homes. The 80's had the highest divorce rate in American history up to that point. Many of us were searching for a way to escape sterile and depressing lives set into motion by our unhappy parents. Poor and lower middle class kids lived a dull latch-key existence. School was boring, home was like poison, and we had ZERO faith in anything society had to offer for our futures. So, we found each other through the music. We got high and we danced to rid ourselves of a lifetime of stifling numbness. Kids of the era were experiencing a cultural limbo. We had no major cause or movement to believe in. The underground scene gave us a reason to leave our bedrooms. The scene belonged to us and we could finally claim something as our own. My only regret is that so many people lost themselves along the way. Many of my friends OD'd and died or got busted and sent to prison for the various things they did while living on the fringes. One of my friends got so lost in the drug trafficking aspect of the rave scene he wound up murdering someone. In my opinion, all any of us wanted was to have a purpose. The music gave us that purpose. I just wish we would have been wiser, maybe less distracted by our intoxication. In the end, many of my good memories were ruined by the tragedies that eventually ensued. We forgot that there was living left to do in the daylight. If I could offer a warning to the "Kids" of today--Don't get so high that you can't remember why you loved the music in the first place.

Cathy Brown said...

Hi, everyone - I'm an editor who has been hired to put together a book on the 90's rave scene on the east coast, namely NYC. Any of you who happen to have attended parties at the Skate Park or any rave put on by ACME Labs, and who would be open to sharing memories or photos you may have, please contact me. Cathy csabrown@hotmail.com and put 'rave info' in the subject line. Thanks!

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