Evolution of the Rave Scene

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a rave as “a large overnight dance party featuring techno music and usually involving the taking of mind-altering drugs.” The definition is slightly outdated. Society now lumps all genres of electronic dance music under “EDM.” Drugs and alcohol are present, but when have they ever been absent from a gathering of adults wanting to cast off responsibility for several hours? Raves are not the only places people indulge and mind altering substances are not the prime motivator for seeking out beats late into the night.

989 Illegal Rave, Acid House from the From the Kinolibrary Archive Film collections

Acid house parties in the 1980s would give birth to a renaissance of electronic music that would shape itself into the genres we are familiar with today: house, techno, trance, breakbeat, etc. This music needed to be heard and what better place for it to be nurtured than at raves? Raves were portals to a world where rhythm, musical ecstasy, and abandon awaited those brave enough to cast off a normal bedtime. Often taking place in places without proper permits and without advance notice like in today’s social media playgrounds, these parties would go on until the sun rose. Today events usually take place in sanctioned spaces. Sometimes events have to be cut off before the witching hour, but the spirit of the rave hasn’t been extinguished.

rave scene

Feeling the nostalgia yet? No, well get ready to take a trip back to the past. Remember JNCO jeans, the wide-legged jeans that were a staple of raver wear? JNCO was founded in 1985 and its style of jeans was exported from California. They became popular among certain subcultures, including the skater and rave subcultures in the 1990s.

old school raver

Children of the night also came decked out in bright colors, costumes, and kandi. Regular shirts and pants were also part of rave attire, the same as it is today, for dressing to dance still takes priority over showcasing the latest in raver fashion.

raver chicks

The rave scene’s momentum hasn’t quelled into the 2000s. Sound ordinances, media exclusives about drug use at raves, and legal pressure dampened some scenes at the turn of the century but this just gave determined promoters the opportunity to grow the rave scene while adhering to laws in place, allowing for the rave scene to go more mainstream and be more accessible to the general public. Massive raves have given over to highly profitable music festivals and DJ tours that continue to draw hundreds to thousands of people. There is much debate over whether or not raves still exist. Some would argue that raves reached their peak in the 1990s. The music may sound different and those who embrace the nightlife may look different, but strangers still converge at designated spaces to dance and leave behind the day’s grind. Bass still rumbles and a new generation carries the torch for the party kids before them. Peace within one’s self can still be discovered, love can still be shown from complete strangers, unity still ties together a growing audience around the world, and respect is still pervasive in a scene that has continued to thrive.


How “Others” View EDM and the Rave Scene

Let me start by saying I know many ravers that have their priorities straight and have lives outside the rave scene including myself. I’ve met many individuals at music festivals who have great professions and also work hard at what they do. These people also enjoy partying even more on weekends. We all have that inner party animal inside of us as I always like to refer it to my cousin who is still trying to figure out what EDM means to me and why I always go to these EDM events. According to my cousin, “I should grow up and focus on more important things in life.”

I feel part of my cousin’s view and many others who don’t understand EDM and raving associate it with doing drugs. What led people to think that all we like to do is get together, listen to music, dance, talk and do drugs? This isn’t Burning Man we’re talking about here! The media would have us believe that all ravers go to festivals to do drugs, but that is simply not true because not all ravers do drugs! There are many ravers out there that go to events sober and primarily go to express their love for music through dancing. I’ve told my cousin to try it before knocking it knowing that I’d get him to understand if he saw it for himself vs. me attempting to explain it to him.

Local shows are great where I get to see my favorite DJ in a more chill environment, but I’d rather take my cousin to a music festival. I feel there would be more to show and the first impression would be a great one. I still believe PLUR exists and that there are no strangers, only friends that you have not yet met. I remember my first festival, but I was also young too, and more open-minded toward things. I’ve mentioned that the main idea would be to go for the music, vibes, and even network with others. I know I won’t be able to avoid him seeing people doing drugs, half naked girls that give you the impression that they are easy (which they are not), or the hardcore raver who goes all out on an outfit that just fits the typical raver stereotypes circulating today’s EDM scene. All in all the positive experience would outweigh the negatives and may change how one views the EDM Scene.