Rave Culture: The Number One Example Of Social Deviance Essay, Research Paper
What is a rave? This is a fundamental question that, in a way, I will attempt to answer in this paper, but I will never do it. Raving is a highly subjective experience. One person’s best rave is another person’s worst. Any attempt to analyze rave culture must recognize the highly personal factor of the experience. It is because of this fact that I start off my attempt to analyze rave culture with a series of quotes on the experience.
“…hardcore music being slammed through my body while I dance through my own psychedelic mind trip with a few hundred other beautiful energy-filled youth who accept and embrace the life force of the universe.”
“In general practice, a “rave” often refers to a party, usually all night long, open to the general public, where loud techno music is … played and many people partake of a number of different chemicals, though the latter is far from necessary. The number of people at the event is unimportant … the cost of attendance is unimportant (though in practice, the higher the price, the more commercial the event, and the lower the quality). At a rave, the DJ is a shaman, a priest, a channeler of energy-they control the psychic voyages of the dancers through his [sic] choice in hard-to-find music and their skill in manipulating that music… A large part of the concept of raves is built upon sensory overload-a barrage of audio and very often visual stimuli are brought together to elevate people into an altered state of physical or psychological existence.”
“A contingent of city, state, and military police Sunday raided the Paradox Club in the 1300 block of Russell St. where at least 600 people — some as young as 14 — were attending a “rave” party at which drugs where available, a Baltimore police official said yesterday”
“I walked into the space, and was immediately struck speechless. The bass was rattling the mirrors on the far wall. There were laser beams everywhere. The music shot into the core of my body and I moved, I just moved, all night long. People I didn’t know gave me water when I was thirsty. People gave me candy and hugs. For one night, I was one with the universe, I was one with my neighbor, and I was one with the music.”
“But the people who came to dance the night away … never made it inside the door … the event was called off … and the crowd ordered to disperse by local police … standing by to assist local officers if necessary were seven members of the Green County Sheriff’s Department, the hard helmets and visors of their riot gear reflecting the overhead street lights.”
“We negotiated the stairs down to the dancefloor, we began to slide in contours to the rhythm, becoming immersed in it, the bass curling round the spine which felt like it had been loosed of its inhibiting rigidity, like it had slipped the bounds of all that was holding it — us — back, and we could just flow, loose, warm, alive … in a second we were amongst the throng, synched right into the matrix of bodies and sound; transported, transformed, together … the feeling resonated through us as the drums thrashed upwards towards climax” (Collin 3)
“Mr. Gimble said the rave … was an … irresponsible and uncontrolled event … we have a responsibility to let parents know we will protect their kids … we can’t have an event where kids 12 and 13 years old are drinking, smoking, and having sex on the floor.”
“… but what struck me more than the immense sensory bliss was the amazing group of people who shared this experience with me-six thousand young, beautiful, high humans having one HELL of a good time together. No fights. No one crying in the corner. No one sick in the stairway. Everybody smiling. People would walk by and actually touch each other. Some people were naked. Some were dressed like aliens. Six thousand brothers and sisters of all races, classes, and sexual orientations. Living equality. Beautiful.”
“Charges Pending Over Concert/Drug Bash Over Weekend … Sheriff Richard Galster said his office first heard of the gathering of mostly college age hippie-type people on Thursday … it was being sponsored by a group called RAVE. No one seems to know what the letters stand for or who the group is … to the locals, the [concert-goers] looked like creatures from another planet”
-unknown newspaper article-
So, what is a rave? I end this section with an amalgamation of quotes. Some are from ravers, some from articles, some from newspapers. Some you have read above, some you haven’t. What is a rave, indeed.
“It’s all about the music … it’s all about the vibe … it’s all about the people … it was being sponsored by a group called RAVE … six thousand brothers and sisters … my body feels so alive and full of energy. I can feel my nerves reaching out and carrying me away … we have a responsibility to let parents know that we will protect their kids … we’re pagans. we worship big walls of sound … the hard helmets and visors of their riot gear reflecting the overhead street lights … it is our way of expressing ourselves through music, through passion, and through our love of getting together … Baltimore County calls for an investigation of “rave” party … with a few hundred other beautiful energy-filled youth who accept and embrace the life force of the universe … attending a party at which drugs were available … peace, love, unity, and respect … riot gear reflecting the overhead street lights … soaked to the skin we just keep on dancing, grinning … if this hippie shit has anything to do with you, we’re closing you down … we will protect their kids.”
When one examines any cultural movement, it is always useful to examine the roots of that movement. It is the history of the movement that gives us some understanding as to why we are now. It is only when we first trace the roots that we can see the leaves clearly. Rave culture can be traced back as far as you want to trace it. It can be traced back to Native American religious ceremonies. It can be traced back to the sixties Be-Ins and Love Ins and Acid Tests. It can be traced back to anarchist revolutions in Italy and France. It pulls energy from many different directions. For the sake of this section, I only want to look at actual raves. When examining the rave culture in America, one reaches the unique problem of having no sources. It is not documented, except through tiny bits of magazine articles, mentions in newspapers, and through the memories of those involved. I will examine the evolution of techno music later, but, needless to say, it had its origins in Chicago and Detroit disco clubs and gay dance clubs, and also in progressive music from England such as Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode. England and America traded musical influences back and forth during the late seventies-early eighties until techno finally started to be formed.
The actual rave movement, however, combining this new music with dancing, occurred in England. At almost the exact same time, raves started popping up in Manchester and Ibiza, a noted English vacation spot, in late 1987 and early 1988. It was during this time that two unrelated groups began throwing all-night dance parties in England, Schoom and Genesis P. Orridge’s baby, Psychic TV. Schoom incorporated house music and ecstasy, whereas Psychic TV took a more hardcore edge. At this same time, the rave phenomenon was taking hold in Germany, most notably in Berlin. The popularity of raves grew in both countries, and soon the little all-night dance parties were drawing thousands of kids. They were also drawing DJs from the United States. In the early nineties, the rave scene began moving across the Atlantic to America, fueled by American DJs eager to take this incredible thing back home, and English DJs eager to expand their horizons. The first US raves were held in San Francisco, long noted for its liberal and psychedelic culture. From here, they moved to Los Angeles and the rave scene was born in California. The rave scene that was born in America was one of complete illegality. Spaces were not rented, they were broken into. Two hundred kids would show up on someone’s private beach, set up their speakers, and dance until the cops came. Ravers that have been in it since the beginning eagerly talk about the early days of running from cops while holding a speaker above their head, or of continuing a rave in about seven different spaces over the course of one night.
Frankie Bones, a New York native, was one of the US DJs that was spinning in England. When he saw that the scene was moving into America, he wanted to bring it to his hometown of Brooklyn. He started a series of parties called Stormrave in early 1992. The parties started out small, 50-100 kids, and Frankie resorted to projecting videos of the massive raves in England to show kids what it was all about. It was during this period of Stormraves that many DJs made their debuts. Now household names among ravers, Sven Vath, Doc Martin, Keoki, Josh Wink and many others began their careers at Frankie’s Stormraves. It was in December of 1992 that the rave scene started growing. Frankie held a party at an abandoned loading dock in Queens that drew over 5000 kids from New York and neighboring states. According to rave myth, this was when Frankie made his speech about peace, love, unity, and respect, which were to become PLUR, the foundation of the American rave scene. It was also during this rave that three guys from Milwaukee decided to come check it out. These guys later were to form Drop Bass Network, based in Milwaukee, and now one of the bigger promoter groups in the country. They also introduced the scene to the Mid-West. The rave scene grew in America in 1993 and 1994. While the rave scenes in England and Germany were becoming commercial empires, the American rave scene still had its fresh idealism. There were now raves happening across the country, in all of the states. The rave scene was here. Now, as I write this at the end of 2000, I am amazed to see how recent this history is. The entire rave scene has come about in my lifetime. In fact, I have been involved in the American rave scene for one third of the time that it has existed. Now that I have examined the roots of the US rave scene I would like to expand upon them and examine the tree and the leaves that have grown from these roots.
There are three things that are common to every rave I have ever been to. These things are intrinsic parts of the scene. These are the physical things that have defined the scene from the beginning. (I will get into the spiritual and psychological things a little later). They are music and the dancing that the music inspires, people, and drugs.
Part I: The Music
“Clear the area of the dodge-CORE-rupt neGETive patriarchal, earth destroying, war machine. Technology should be used for omniversal JOY and E-qualit-E. INFORMation Trance-mitted through music creates a new mediA different to that controlled by those who fill it with obvious and SUBliminal info to oppress us … When SSSSOUND empowering info saturates the frequencies======an NRG is let Loose that will set the stage for ssssssweeping, mutually beneficial CHANGE. And so with a dodgey van, an array of finger-synched LOOps, assorted BLEEP chorus calling for local and globALL Revolution. REALIZE: EQUALIZE.” (Luckman)
The music at a rave is techno, primarily electronically created music that generally has a high level of bass. It tends to be fast-paced, running from between about 115 Beats Per Minute (BPM) to 300 BPM, with the most common being about 120 BPM to 140 BPM. Incidentally, ravers prefer 120 BPM because it simulates the heartbeat as heard in the womb. “Overall, techno is denoted by its slavish devotion to the beat, the use of rhythm as a hypnotic tool. It is also distinguished by being primarily, and in most cases entirely, created by electronic means.” (Barnard) Normally at a rave, a DJ “spins” to create the music that the ravers hear. The act of spinning is the art of mixing songs together using different pitches, different speeds, and an equalizer to create an ever-flowing, ever-changing wall of sound. In effect, artists record techno songs, which are then reinterpreted and mixed with other techno songs, creating a spontaneous new song.
Techno music has its origins in gay dance clubs and hip-hop. (Actually, it has its origins in the ceremonial drumming that was central to many native cultures, but that comes later) Chicago DJs started mixing their dance music with a drum synthesizer and house was born. From house, came acid house, which involved adding the Roland 303, a synthesizer that was able to produce different layers and pitches. Then the music continued to evolve, into techno, both “Detroit” style and Hardcore. Detroit techno tended to be pounding; the soul of house music was eliminated. Hardcore is basically a really hard and really fast version of Detroit techno. From here, we get further permutations. Breakbeat uses hip-hop samples and reggae tunes. Jungle uses a lot of percussive bongo and drumming sounds, as well as bringing in chants. Darkside utilizes minor chordal progressions to create an “evil” feeling. Trance was developed, very melodic and hypnotizing music that tends to be on the slow side. Then obviously we have acid-trance, hardtrance, and trance-house.
The most recent permutation of techno music is gabba or gabber. It is hardcore taken to the extreme. It can run up to 400-500 BPM. It generally has bass so low and hard that it has been known to physically damage things. There are no vocals, no soul-just very hard, very fast music. Oftentimes gabber uses ‘terror’ samples, of death, murder, beatings. The samples of women crying out to “Join in the vibe” are gone. The samples of a man screaming, “I’m gonna kick your fucking ass” have taken their place. The essence of techno music is that it is in a constant state of flux. Every day a new style is created, old things are combined in different ways, and new things are invented. DJs mix two different tracks and a new song is created. This is the essence of rave music. It feeds and grows on itself. It is a constant process of mirroring things in on themselves to create an entirely new thing that is combined with something else to create a new thing, etc.
So, we get to the dancing. Dancing is, to an extent, yet another reiteration of the music. The music that the DJ creates spontaneously is a text. “The dancer then in turn re-interprets this text through movements of the body…the “reader” therefore, whether in the role of dancer, DJ, or user of sampling technology contributes a mindset that is culturally specific and productive in itself.” (Roberts) The DJ then must sense the communal energy of the group, and adjust his mixing accordingly. The DJ provides the path for the ravers to walk on, as the ravers change direction, so must the DJ. It is a constant process of energy being transmitted and refracted, creating a tangible feeling. Rave dancing can be highly stylistic, or extremely vulgar. The beat is the driving force. Whether one is doing highly choreographed dance moves or simply thrusting their body back and forth ceases to matter. It is losing oneself to the beat, becoming one with the music by letting the music control your movements.
Part II: The people
Ravers are a unique crowd. While rave culture espouses individualism, a come-as-you-are mentality, there are definitely many similarities among ravers in general. The typical raver is between 17 and 25. He is equally likely to be a she. He or she is probably white. He or she probably came from a middle-class family, and is reasonably well educated. Rave fashion could be the topic of an entire paper. There is a definite sense of individualism within the rave fashion scene-you are likely to see someone in jeans, someone in black vinyl pants, or someone in costume. However, many people fit into a definite “typical raver” mold. For males, baggy pants are the norm. Many people claim that this is because they are easy to dance in, but I offer a different perspective. Baggy pants are not practical. They are not professional. At a distance, they look like pants, but close-up they are absurd. They cannot be worn to work. Baggy pants have long been associated with deviant cultures, from hip-hop, to skateboarding, to snowboarding, to raving. A very tight shirt, no shirt, or a sweatshirt is also common for males.
For females, it gets more interesting. The typical rave girl has short hair; it is often in barrettes. She wears a baby doll dress, or pants and a cut off tee shirt. She is often sucking on a pacifier. Infantilism in general is very predominant among ravers. Pacifiers are common, stuffed animals are common, lollipops are common, shirts emblazoned with cartoon characters are common. In a sense, this embodies the culture. It is a regaining of innocence and forgetting about problems for a while. It is a recreation of that time in our lives when play was the most important thing and it didn’t matter that mom and dad were fighting or having money problems or that there was a hole in the ozone layer. Outside of a rave, many ravers appear “normal”. Many have jobs in technological fields like computer programming. Many are college students. Raving is not an “all-the-time” culture, as the hippie movement was and is. There are no ravers that simply go from rave to rave and hope to get money by selling tee shirts in the parking lot. (Except for maybe DJs, promoters, and venders who make their living at raves). Rather, raving is a temporary activity separate from the daily lives of these individuals.
Part III: Drugs
Drugs. The big ‘D’ word. Drugs have been a part of the rave scene since the beginning. Yes, it is possible to go to a rave and not do drugs. Yes, it is possible to be a raver and live a drug-free lifestyle. No, a rave is not dependent on drug use. Nevertheless, one cannot separate the scene from the drug use. It is impossible. Anyone that says otherwise is a liar. In England, the rave scene originated with MDMA or Ecstasy. In America, it was LSD or acid. It was common to see blotter art on flyers. Raves were named Dose or Acid Test. Raves are ways of changing the psychological state of a human being bringing them into a different plane of existence. This goes hand-in-hand with psychedelic drugs. At first, acid and occasional marijuana use were the only drugs seen at raves in America. Then, Ecstasy moved in. It became the raver drug of choice. Ecstasy broke down barriers of communication. It enhanced pleasure and sensation. Music became physically pleasurable. Strangers became people to be loved. Ecstasy broke down egos. It was a perfect fit with the happy family that the rave scene was trying to create. Today, Ecstasy is still popular, and acid is still used by a sizable minority. However, as greed has taken hold within the scene, Ecstasy is no longer pure. It is usually cut with baking powder, or worse, various pesticides and poisons. Nitrous Oxide has become popular. Within the last year or so, hard drugs have moved into the scene, crystal meth, heroin, and even alcohol.
Drugs are a frequent topic of debate among ravers. Some think that drugs should be done away with entirely. Others think that only drugs that increase the vibe should be allowed, namely marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy. Still others think that the rave scene is about personal choice and determining which drugs are good and which drugs are bad is imposing personal morals on others. The fact of the matter is, as the rave scene is appropriated (which I will examine later) into mainstream society, fewer people are concerned about the vibe, and more concerned about being wasted. This is where the ketamine, the meth, and the heroin come in.
“The actual concept of raves is not new-it is as old as time itself. At the base level, raves are very comparable to American Indian ceremonies?where music is the key towards pulling oneself into a unique emotional and psychological state.” (Weber) This is the basis of rave culture. It is a very spiritually aware culture that focuses on an altered state of mind that is caused by music and, in many cases, drugs. It is the rediscovery of music as a spiritual tool. Terrence McKenna is quoted in the song Re: Evolution as saying “the emphasis in [techno] music and rave culture on physiologically compatible rhythms?is the rediscovery of the art of natural magic with sound, that sound properly understood, especially percussive sound, can actually change neurological states in large groups of people that are getting together in the presence of this?music. [They] are creating a telepathic community-a bonding that hopefully will be strong enough then to carry out into mainstream society. (Barnard) The rave scene uses technological means to recreate ancient ceremonies in which dancing to music was used as a spiritual tool. It is a conjoining of ancient beliefs with the tools of today. It is not a culture that denies where we are at as a society today, but rather uses where we are at today to go somewhere else.
This is the essence of the “vibe” so commonly talked about in circles of ravers. There is a tangible energy that goes along with dancing to extremely loud beats with hundreds of other people. I use a personal story to relate this point. I was at a rave in the middle of nowhere. I had driven over six hours by myself to get there. It was about four o?clock in the morning. I was dancing to incredible music, when, suddenly all of the bass dropped out. I was sweaty. I was exhausted. The bass started to come back in slowly and I turned to the girl dancing next to me. We made eye contact and we both smiled a knowing smile. In that brief second, I knew that we were in the same place, that we were there for the same reasons, that we loved each other, that we loved the world, that we loved what we were doing.
Raves are a shared experience. A sense of unity often develops among ravers in which personal creeds, race, gender, age, sexual preference and everything else that our society places so much emphasis on simply fades into the background. “There is a magic moment that can happen at a rave?when everyone is dancing you experience a feeling of collective organism, and I think people that have had this experience view the world differently afterwards?the world is not made up of individuals vying for power, but rather?one throbbing thing.” (Dotson) The rave culture is definitely a culture of paganism and, to an extent, hedonism. It is a religion based on shared experience. Individual religious beliefs are integrated into the larger, unified experience. Many rave flyers use pagan and religious symbols. Enlightenment is a common theme, as well as love and kindness. There is a sense of discarding dogma in favor of karma. You can have your rules and your prayers, we have this. “We live hard?we commune with the midnight hour and ride it out until daybreak armed with lights and lasers and booming bass. While our parents are in bed, we hug [each other] and hear a sound so moving that we throw ourselves into it?seeking to [break] that barrier that tries?to keep the body separate from the sound?Hemingway had his bullfights. We?have our music?we live passionately.” (Roberts)
Another phrase commonly thrown around in circles of ravers is that of PLUR, which stands for Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. Its origins are unclear, many people claim that Frankie Bones talked about it when throwing one of his Stormraves. However, it is now common jargon among ravers. Peace, love, unity, and respect are the four pillars of the rave scene. In many senses, PLUR is the dogma that ravers believe in. It is the belief that for one night, a community can be created that does not function for the same reasons that larger society does. It is the belief that peace and love are worth trying to bring back into a society that now seems so devoid of them. It is most definitely a culture of escape. It is an escape from mainstream society into a utopian world for a few hours. It is a creation of space where love and happiness exist beyond everything else, and is not bounded by the laws or rules or unhappiness found in everyday society. Reality does not exist within a rave.
In relating this to earlier things I have mentioned, one needs only to look around to see this escape. The music is not “real” in the sense that it exists only for that moment. There are no originals; everything heard is a hybrid of things that were already hybrids of other things. The clothes are not real; it is not often that we see an 18 year-old girl sucking on a pacifier in mainstream society. A rave is a phenomenon that does not exist within the rules of society; it is the creation of a separate space. Beyond the culture of escape though, is a culture based on hope. The core of this separate space is the knowledge that it is a temporary separate space. There is knowledge that tomorrow I will work on homework, and Monday I will go to work or school, but right now, right now I am going to play. There is an emphasis on a focusing of energy, that what happens during this rave is positively affecting all of the energy on the planet. PLUR is also seen as something that goes beyond the rave scene. I would like to quote a recent poster to the mid-west raves listserv. “No matter what happens in popular culture, YOU keep the vibe alive. This isn?t specific to our little scene. PLUR in all aspects of life. When you?re walking down the street, do the same thing for strangers that you would at a rave. When you?re at a rock-and-roll club, do the same thing there. And then, instead of the fucking mainstream changing our culture, our culture is changing the mainstream?isn?t that the point of a movement? To affect the world?” (Matt Demmon)
In an attempt to sum up, rave spirituality takes on many forms. A group called the New Moon Collective in California throws a rave every new moon and builds a communal altar that anyone at the rave can add to. Drop Bass Network, in Wisconsin, actually throws ?evil? raves focusing on Satanism, while still espousing love and respect through their actions. Many ravers pass out candy to other ravers, or water. Rave spirituality, while taking many different forms (even dark forms sometimes) can be boiled down to PLUR. It is a general feeling of respect for the earth, respect for each other, and respect for oneself while being immersed in total bliss for one night. It is tapping into the communal vibe that is present. It is the creation of a temporary space where the only rule is love and the only preaching is loud music.
The rave scene has always existed as separate from mainstream society, an underground movement,a movement labeled as deviant by those in the mainstream. It has been a subculture of escape. It is because it existed apart from mainstream society, that people could escape to it. It is because it has existed apart from mainstream society that it could set up its own value system, its own morality, and its own rules or lack thereof. When the scene started, everything was done on an illegal basis. Someone would call a friend, who would call another friend and 100 kids would show up at an abandoned warehouse, break into it, set up their speakers, and dance. As it became larger and larger, the forces that were trying to contain it grew larger also.
After a year or so of straight illegality, promoters made a conscious effort to secure spaces where their parties would not be busted. However, the underground pathos remains part of the scene today. It is impossible to find out what raves are going on, unless you are actually at a rave and pick up the flyers (or know where to look on the Internet). Even then, usually only a telephone number is given. When the night of the event comes, the telephone number will often direct you to a checkpoint where you can finally pick up directions on where the party is. In this way, the rave scene tries to insulate itself from the forces of mainstream society. It becomes a self-containing culture where the only way to get to a rave for the first time is to have someone take you. The only way to continue being a part of the scene is to be a part of the scene.
“The idea that [rave] culture has no politics because it has no manifesto or slogans, it isn?t saying something or actively opposing the social order, misunderstands its nature. The very lack of dogma is a comment on contemporary society itself?its definition is subject to individual interpretation: it could be about the simple bliss of dancing; it could be about environmental awareness; it could be about race relations and class conflict?it could be about reasserting lost notions of community ? all stories that say something about life in the nineties.” (Weber)
It is because rave culture is so personal, that it can exist the way it does. It is a culture with many different options instead of rules. “At its heart is a concerted attempt to suspend normal transmission, if only for one night?to invent, however briefly, a kind of utopia.” (Lenton) This brief utopia is what anarchist philosopher Hakim Bey refers to as a Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ). The phrase TAZ is thrown around a lot in rave circles, many not knowing where it originally came from. (I have even been to rave called TAZ, in which there were seminars during the day discussing the politics of our scene.) Hakim Bey was the first to write at length about it is his essay on the Temporary Autonomous Zone. Bey writes that the TAZ is something that slips through the cracks of society. It is “a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, time, imagination) and then dissolves itself to reform elsewhere/elsewhen before the state can crush it.” (Bey 1) Bey writes at length, but never really defines exactly what a TAZ is. However, he does give many examples and characteristics of these ?pirate utopias?. First, he speaks of the anthropology of the TAZ. He claims that a TAZ by nature includes not a family, but a band. “The family is closed, by genetics, by the male?s possession of women and children, by the hierarchic totality of agriculture/industrial society. The band is open, not to everyone of course, but to the affinity group, the initiates sworn to a bond of love. The band?is part of a horizontal pattern of custom, extended kinship, contract and alliance, spiritual affinities, etc. (Bey 4)
When we examine this in the context of rave culture, it is immediately clear that this describes the rave scene exactly. Ravers are a ?band?-a group that is at once both closed off from society, but open to newcomers. They gather at raves for the same reason, to party. Bey examines this also. “The TAZ [is a] festival?The essence of the party: face-to-face, a group of humans synergize their efforts to realize mutual desires, whether for good food and cheer, dance?or to attain the very transport of bliss?in short, a “union of egoists”?or else?a basic biological drive to “mutual aid.” (Bey 5) “The party is always “open” because it is not “ordered”; it may be planned, but unless it happens it?s a failure. The element of spontaneity is crucial.” (Ibid.) This can also be examined within the context of the rave scene. Raves are, in a sense, planned spontaneity. Sometimes, they are even spontaneous in and of themselves. (One raver on the mw-raves listserv recently talked about an experience of hers. She was on her way to a rave with some friends when they got stuck in standstill traffic. All of the sudden 30 ravers or so on their way to the party got out of their cars, turned on music, and danced in the middle of the interstate.) Raves are people gathering for the attainment of mutual bliss.
Hakim Bey discusses at length the Internet, not as a TAZ, but as a tool for creating a TAZ, for disseminating information. The rave scene has embraced the Internet wholeheartedly, with mailing lists, chat rooms, and electronic flyers. Ravers can discuss issues relating to their scene, trade tapes of DJs, or give party reviews. Chris Gibson discusses this in his paper “Subversive Sites: Rave Culture, Empowerment, and the Internet.” “Utilizing the discourse of TAZ, sites are constructed by rave music collectives, artists, and rave participants?attempting to initiate figurative spaces of empowerment that embody principles of community and local resistance to commodification. [The Internet]?forms a sort of support system for a subculture that relies on utilizing free-floating events that are momentarily rooted down in physical space in distinct ways.” (Gibson 5) Bey also (surprisingly) writes about music as an organizational principle of Temporary Autonomous Zones. “I believe that if we compare Fiume (an 18 month anarchic city in the early 1900?s) with the Paris uprising of 1968, as well as with the American countercultural communes?we should notice certain similarities, such as: the importance of aesthetic theory??pirate economics?, living high off the surplus of social overproduction, and the concept of music as revolutionary social change?and finally their shared air of impermanence, of being ready to move on, shape-shift, re-locate?keep on the move and live intensely” (Bey 13-14)
When we examine this in the context of the rave scene, we find a perfect mesh, an almost uncannily perfect mesh. Aesthetic theory plays a central role in the rave movement, indeed it is the rave movement. Rave flyers are often a work of art themselves. The blending of different sounds to create a musical wall and combining that with lasers and strobes to create a perfectly synchronized, overwhelming space of light and sound is taking aesthetic theory to its limits. Pirate economics, as Bey calls it, also plays a central role. There?s a reason many raves were first held (and are still held) in abandoned warehouses. There are tons of them! Ravers take old shells of buildings that are monuments to the evil of Capitalism and turn them into a TAZ. The drug economy is also a central part of the rave scene, adding to this illicit economy.
I have already discussed music at length, so I shall just add one more quote. “Techno was made not only to be played, but to be listened to loud?[we are being called not to listen, but to feel]?not the chord, the melody, the terraced dynamic or recapitulation-but the pulse, the ambience, the cycle, the metaphysical ?vibe??techno is at once both music of the body, and music of the electronic body?technology, once dry, representative, and extremely hard, is at last stripped back to its nakedness?it becomes freshly ?malleable? and ?organic?- the ?humanness? of [techno] is less?control?and more of the imperfect, the random, the hands-on and the unpredictable. These elements form a cerebral sound-scape and space that are constantly unpredictable and evolving-voices of power and imagination that surely cannot be ignored.” (Bull 3)
Lastly, raves are surely impermanent. They are usually one night, at the most they are one weekend. They change spaces constantly, often a rave is held in a space only one time. They embody Bey?s words, “keep on the move?and live intensely.” Raves are pure intensity, aural and visual overload, loud music, lasers, strobes, and hundreds of people blurring into one primal energy. “The TAZ involves a kind of ferality, a growth from tameness to wild(er)ness, a “return” which is also a step forward. It also demands a “yoga” of chaos, a project of “higher” orderings (of consciousness or simply of life) which are approached by “surfing the wave-front of chaos,” of complex dynamism. The TAZ is an art of life in continual rising up, wild but gentle?a seducer not a rapist, a smuggler rather than a bloody pirate, a dancer not an eschatologist.” (Bey 17)
The Here and Now
Many of the earlier sections have dealt with an idyllic view of raves. They have, in a sense, espoused what the rave scene wants to be. This section offers no idealism, no PLUR, no altars, no ecstatic dancing, except in little doses and hopeful predictions. This is the section of the paper that deals with commercialization, loss of the sacred, the ruination of the vibe and everything that ravers feel is happening. This is the part of the paper that deals with overdoses, hedonism, and everything else society fears from the rave scene. The rave scene has become swamped in commercialism. When the rave scene started to grow in popularity, it was inevitable that some kind-of higher up would notice. The first higher-ups to notice were police, and then city governments. Then, it naturally moved to the boardrooms of major companies.
I turn on the TV and hear watered down techno on everything from Sprite commercials to commercials for shoes. I recently heard about a large rave, only to find out that tickets were being sold by Ticketmaster. Rave fashion has, to some extent, been incorporated into mainstream society. Baggy pants, cut off tank tops, and baby-doll dresses are the newest big sellers at the malls. The rave scene is being appropriated into mainstream culture. In a way, this is the best defense that society could have ever used against the rave scene. Why fight them, when we can force them to join us. It is because of this, I feel, that there has been a loss of the sacredness that goes along with the rave scene. As the rave scene becomes more popular, fewer people are going to create a temporary loving space, and more people are going to get wasted. It is now common to see kids sitting against the wall snorting crystal meth or shooting heroin, drugs that have never been a part of the scene. Fashion has become steeped in the consumerism of American society also. Raves are beginning to look like fashion shows. It is a contest to see who can show up with the most expensive outfit. I have seen girls at raves in 4-inch heeled boots, obviously not dancing. As American society appropriates the rave scene, the rave ideals of peace, love, respect and unity are being replaced by the ideals of American society: consumerism, and a take everything you can get mentality. Raves have gone from being $5 to $20. Lights have gone from being a couple lasers and strobes to setups that cost thousands and thousands of dollars. It is now common practice for DJs to demand thousands of dollars plus free airfare and a hotel room for spinning.
As I examined in the first section, the rave scene existed first in Germany and England. Today, in both countries, the techno culture is the mainstream culture. Dance clubs play techno seven days a week. Raves have been known to draw over 100,000 people and, in Germany especially, have become ?family-friendly.? I cannot see into the future. I do not know if this is what is to become of the rave scene in America or not. When we examine a similar movement in America, the hippie movement, we see completely different results. The hippie movement became extremely trendy in the eighties. Everyone had Grateful Dead stickers on their cars, whether they owned an album or not, had been to a show or not. Even today, Phish is the largest selling tour act of all time. However, when one attends a Phish show, it is a weird clashing of cultures. On one hand, you have the people there just to do drugs, just to be trendy, just to see what the latest fad is. On the other hand, you have the die-hards. The people that have been on tour for years, first with the Dead, now with Phish. They go on with their lifestyles blithely ignoring the consumerism that is going on around them. They still give out free hugs and free nugs. They still sell handmade clothes or grilled cheese in the parking lot to get enough money to make it to the next show. They are the core of the movement and they have always been there, and will always be there.
American society is fickle. Fads do not last long. Electronica is the ?next big thing? and is covered in Time and Newsweek. American consumers are gobbling it up. Even now, plans are underway to hold the biggest rave ever in America this summer, complete with a parade and tee shirts. We have seen other fads come and go. Punk music, grunge/alternative music, rap, all of these were once the ?next big thing?. The rave scene will be appropriated, for a while. Then, a new big thing will come along that society latches onto. What remains to be seen however, is whether the rave scene is strong enough to survive. Will PLUR be forever lost to consumerism, or will it just be temporarily clouded over? Ask me in a few years.