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Rave party

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This article is about a form of party. For other uses of the term, see rave (disambiguation).

A rave party, more often just called a rave, also called free parties, is typically defined as an all-night dance event where DJs and/or other performers play electronic dance music and rave music. The slang expression rave was originally used by peoples of Caribbean descent in London during the 1960s to describe a party. In the late 1980s, journalists reassigned the term to describe the party phenomenon and subculture that grew out of the acid house movement that began in Detroit and flourished in the United Kingdom club scene.

Opponents of rave parties have sought to outlaw them in numerous jurisdictions, citing illegal drug consumption and trafficking, as well as the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors. Some members of the mass media, especially American television news magazines and British tabloids, have been known to propagate a sensationalist perspective of raves and ravers, imbuing the terms with negative connotations.



Mainstream raves began in the mid-to-late 1980s as a product of, reaction to, and rebellion against, trends in popular music, nightclub culture, and commercial radio.

In an effort to maintain some distance and secrecy from the mainstream club scene (or perhaps for lack of affordable, receptive venues), warehouses, rental halls, and outdoor locations most often served as the rave venue. In an effort to control and curtail rave parties, some police and government bodies upheld controversial mandates that effectively outlawed raves in some areas. Such laws consequently forced regional electronic dance music events to move to formal venues, such as nightclubs and amphitheatres. Some venues and jurisdictions additionally prohibited certain types of raver fashion and paraphernalia.

Early raves were completely DIY; only a small number of people contributed to event production and promotion. Raves are organized by self-styled production and promotion companies. The "companies" were usually unofficial or loosely-defined. Some famous rave promotion companies include Brotherhood of Boom, Mushgroove, Freebass Society, and Pure. The companies promote their events by creating and distributing fliers and online bulletins. renting sound and light equipment and securing the rave venue (illegal or otherwise).

As law enforcement agencies increased their efforts to disrupt raves, concealing a party's location from officials became increasingly important to the event's success. To that end, event organizers sometimes either promoted events solely by word-of-mouth, or they would only reveal the date and location of the event to subscribers of an electronic mailing list; another technique was to wait until the night of the event before divulging the location via voicemail. Perhaps the most romantic method, however, was to provide a series of clues or checkpoints that ultimately led to the location of the rave. Business savvy promoters conducted ticket sales at the first checkpoint; once one purchased a ticket, one received directions to the party. This is frequently referred to as a "Map Point"


What could arguably be called raves existed in the early 1980s in the Ecstasy-fueled club scene in Texas and in the drug-free, all-ages scene in Detroit at venues like The Music Institute. However, it wasn't until the mid-to-late 1980s that a wave of psychedelic dance music, most notably Acid House and techno, emerged and caught on in the clubs, warehouses and free-parties of London and Manchester, England.

Police crackdowns on these often-illegal parties drove the scene into the countryside. The word "rave" (perhaps from "rave-up")somehow caught on to describe these semi-spontaneous weekend parties occurring at various locations outside the M25 Orbital motorway. (It was this fact that gave Orbital their name.)

The early rave scene flourished underground simultaneously in the United Kingdom and some US cities such as San Francisco (home of the seminal and still-legendary Toontown cyber-warehouse parties) and Los Angeles, especially places where groups of British expatriates had set up shop. As word of the budding and still quite underground scene spread, raves quickly caught on in other cities such as San Diego where forward thinking Dj's Dale Charles, Daeman, Jon Bishop and Mark E Quark helped define the "West Coast Rave and Progressive House Sound" and were some of the first Rave Dj's to start touring North America as headlining acts and New York City (home of the legendary 1992 Storm Raves, organized by DJ Frankie Bones), and in major urban centers across the European continent.

1990s: United Kingdom and United States

Rave subculture developed primarily in the United Kingdom, western Europe, and later in the United States. Raves began to expand into a global phenomenon ca. 1991-1992.

The spread of raves was initially grassroots only; people who had traveled to attend the first raves in each region began setting up promotion companies, often informally, in order to organize their own parties -- mirroring, in rural areas and smaller, less cosmopolitan cities, the relatively urban scene with which they had become enamored. By the mid-1990s, rave culture became tainted by mainstream commercial interests, with major corporations sponsoring events and adopting the scene's music and fashion for their "edgier" advertising.

In 1994, the United Kingdom's Criminal Justice Bill passed as the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act which contained several sections designed to suppress the growing free-party and anti-road protest movements (sometimes embodied by ravers and travellers).

Sections 63, 64 & 65 of the Act targeted electronic dance music, defining it as "wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats". The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act empowered police to arrest citizens who appeared to be: preparing to hold a rave (2 or more people), waiting for a rave to start (10+), or attending a rave (100+). Section 65 allows any uniformed constable who believes a person is on their way to a rave within a five-mile radius to stop them and direct them away from the area; noncompliant citizens may be subject to a maximum fine of £1,000.

By the late 1990s, the rave scene achieved near-mainstream status, and its growth seemed to stabilize. In the early 2000s, the apparent number of illegal parties began to decline, and the number of sanctioned events seemed to be on the rise. The few constants in the scene include amplified electronic dance music, a vibrant social network built on the ethos of PLUR, percussive music and freeform dancing as a basis for altered states of consciousness, and an ambivalent attitude toward so-called club drugs such as Ecstasy and methamphetamine. However, increased cocaine usage, preponderance of adulterated ecstacy tablets and organised criminal activity has been detrimental to UK-based rave culture although free parties are now on the rise again.

1990s: Europe

After an early sparkle worldwide, raves were not a big topic in the US throughout the 1990s. In Central Europe and other parts of the world, rave culture was more explicitly a part of a new youth movement. In Central Europe, especially the Benelux countries, Germany and Switzerland, raves were identifying a whole generation throughout the nineties. DJs and electronic music producers such as Westbam proclaimed the "raving society" and promoted electronic music as legitimate competition to rock and roll. Indeed, electronic dance music and rave subculture became mass movements as they are not imaginable in the United States today. Raves had tens of thousands of attendants, youth magazines featured styling tips and television networks launched music magazines on house and techno music. The annual Love Parade festivals in Berlin attracted more than one million partygoers between 1997 and 2000.


According to some long-time observers, rave music and subculture began to stagnate by the end of the 1990s. The period of grassroots innovation and explosive growth and evolution was over; the flurry of passionate activity and the sense of international community were fading.

By the early 2000s, the terms "rave" and "raver" had fallen out of favor among many people in the electronic dance music community, particularly in Europe. Many Europeans returned to identifying themselves as "clubbers" rather than ravers. It became unfashionable among many electronic dance music aficionados to describe a party as a "rave", perhaps because the term had become bastardized. Some communities preferred the term "festival", while others simply referred to "parties". True raves, such as "Mayday", continued to occur for a time in Central Europe, with less constrictive laws allowing raves to continue in some countries long after the death of rave in the United Kingdom. Moreover, traditional rave paraphernalia, such as face masks and pacifiers, ceased to be popular. However, the spirit of the old rave parties is kept alive by (mostly) illegal Goa and Free Tekno Parties.

Rave culture and terminology

Main related articles: Rave music

Tenets of rave culture

Although not universally agreed upon by those in the rave movement, some of the central tenets of the culture are:

  • Openness: to not judge, condemn, or label other people's style of clothes, hair, makeup, costume, sexual orientation, musical preference, race, age, gender, class or income.
  • Acceptance: to not try to convince anyone of the rightness or wrongness associated with most human activities.
  • Positivism: to subscribe to the notion that if something makes someone happy and more "rave" without hurting someone else, then that something is okay. This varies from hedonism as any hurtful or negative behaviors or attitudes against others is very "unrave", and is frowned upon. As such, fights or scuffles at a rave are rare.

Regarded by many as an escapist haven, raves are predominantly attended by ravers; it is a subculture enjoyed by people of a variety of cultural backgrounds. Rave subculture is lauded by its champions for its openness, welcoming tolerance for individual expression and for some a sense of oneness with similar-thinking ravers to avoid negativity and physical confrontation. In America in the 90's, the acronym PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) became popular amongst ravers as an ideal to aim for.

The atmosphere at a nightclub is often decidedly different than it is at a rave. A nightclub generates most of its revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages, thus contributing to an atmosphere of sexual aggression and impaired judgement. Therefore, all attendees must be of legal age to consume alcoholic beverages, and often sound more like commercialised radio stations than a continuous mix of international electronic music, in a positive atmosphere. Consuming alcoholic beverages would be a bad choice for ravers physiologically since the act of raving usually involves sleep deprivation and several hours of sustained dancing. Ravers typically try to stay hydrated with plenty of water.

Technology is inherently central to electronic music, and technological innovation has influenced rave subculture in incalculable ways. For example, since loud music made it difficult to converse at raves, virtual communities were extremely important in rave subculture. Also, access to various affordable computer technologies empowered amateurs to compose or manipulate electronic music.

Types of ravers

An old school raver refers to someone who has been a raver for quite some time; whereas, a baby raver refers to someone who is new to raving or at their first rave. Hardcore ravers are sometimes called pure ravers or true ravers. Something can be rave or have raveness. See also candy raver.

Similar to religious convictions, some ravers are fanatical or hardcore while others are casual. Despite the popularity of drugs at raves, many of the more fanatical ravers abstain. Few, if any, drink alcohol. Many hardcore ravers believe that the future evolution of mankind can be seen and found at a rave, at least temporarily, through the electronic music, the kindness, tolerance, sharing of stories, love, hugs, giving of small gifts and general compassion. On the other hand, many who are former hardcore ravers are disillusioned by the ubiquitousness of drugs in rave culture and the lack of any real progress or lasting friendships found through raves.

Although not a constant among all ravers, one philosophy of rave culture is expressed through the acronym "PLUR" for Peace Love Unity/Understanding Respect. Peace involves abstaining from violence and negative emotions as Love describes a giving spirit and affection. Unity or Understanding encompasses acceptance, empathy, and community while Respect encourages an acknowledgement of other's rights and uniqueness.

Ravers have been compared to both the hippies of the 1960s and new waver of the 1980s due to their interest in non-violence and being a music-centric culture. Contrasted with the anti-war attitudes of hippies during the Vietnam War era and the materialistic "Me Generation" era of the new wavers, the rave culture has, by and large, focused on acceptance and tolerance. (See rave party for more information on the history of raves.)

Liquid kids exemplify the dancing elements of the rave scene. They take pride in a craft which is not necessarily taught, but learnt through experimentation, imitation and persistence. Liquiding refers to the fluid like motion of their arms in relation to one another and the body-though this dance is not restricted to the arms.


Some ravers participate in a light-oriented dance called glowsticking, and a similar dance called glowstringing, or poi. These dances, however, are independent of the raving community, and often the stereotyped association is mildly resented. Glowsticks in the dark stimulate the pupils and it is claimed that they relieve the effects of Ecstacy, and therefore at some rave places they are presented as "safety materials". On the other hand, in some known cases the sales of glowsticks during rave parties was attempted to be presented as a proof of illegal drug use. Glowsticks have been considered drug paraphernalia because they are used in "blowing (someone) up," or giving someone on Ecstasy a "light show." The recipient of the "light show" sits or stands facing the showgiver who moves the glowsticks away and towards the face of the recipient in various stylized movements. This lightshow is sometimes accompanied by a facial massage and/or by blowing mentholated vapors into the nose, mouth, and eyes of the recipient. This is intended to increase the effects of Ecstasy. In should not be assumed, however, that glowsticks and/or Vicks sticks are drug paraphernalia. Many straight edge party-goers who never take drugs have both since they consider the glowsticks pleasing to look at in the darkness of venues. Menthol can also be used as a relief from congestion and allergies caused by cigarette smoke.

Drug use

In the US, resulting from sensationalist media attention and the explosion of the inexpensive "Ecstasy," or MDMA, drug from the late 1990's to present, the raver has been branded a purely drug-centric culture similar to the hippies of the 1960s. As a result, ravers have been effectively run out of business in many areas (Media Awareness Project). Although they continue in major coastal cities like New York and LA, and notably the Winter Music Conference in Florida, most other areas have been relegated to word-of-mouth-only underground parties, and night club events. In Europe, raves are common and mainstream, although now more often known as "festivals," highlighting multiple acts over a whole day period, often including non-dance music acts.

Groups that have addressed this issue include the Electronic Music Defence and Education Fund (EMDEF) and DanceSafe. Paradoxically, many drug safety materials (such as those distributed by DanceSafe) are used as evidence of condoned drug use (EMDEF press release). Other groups, such as Drug Free American Foundation Inc. see raves and clubs merely as a gang-related, drug-fueled black hole for Americas' youth. [1]

In 2005, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, advocated drug testing on highways as a countermeasure against drug use at raves[2]:

The high-octane, psychoactive drugs that make these Raves, or ritualized drug parties, so dangerous fall under our purview. Member States have a special obligation to reduce the harm these events hold for young people. Their drug habits may not become life-long, but the drugs they take, and the behaviour these drugs trigger, may well end many lives before they’ve begun.

Notable raves (rave series)

  • Love Parade Germany 1989 - 2003:
  • Castlemorton UK 1991
  • Street Parade Switzerland 1992 - today:
  • Mayday Germany 1991 - today:
  • Nature One Germany 1995 - today:
  • G-Move Germany 1995 - today:
  • Tunnel Rave Germany 1995 - ??
  • Time Warp Germany 1995 - today:
  • Mysteryland The Netherlands 1993 - today
  • Dance Valley The Netherlands 1994 - today
  • Rave on Snow Austria ??- today:
  • Rave and Cruise Mediterranean Sea 1997 - 2001
  • Nocturnal Wonderland Los Angeles U.S.A. 1997? - today
  • Furthur & Even Furthur Midwest U.S.A. 1994 - 2001
  • Together as One Los Angeles U.S.A. New Years Eve, 1998- today
  • J18 Carnival Against Capitalism - London, UK 1999
  • Genesis'88 1988-1990 - London UK - today:
  • Tribe São Paulo - Brazil - today:
  • Hullabaloo Toronto, Canada - 1997 - 2005:
  • Goodfellaz Toronto, Canada - 2000 - today:
  • Zoolu New Orleans, LA U.S.A. - 1994 - today:

See also

  • free party for the modern, illegal version of raves
  • rave music for music and music styles at raves

External links

Last updated: 10-19-2005 02:21:19
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