ranting and rave


A rave (or rave party), is a term, in use since the 1980s, to describe dance parties (often all-night events). At these parties DJs and other performers play electronic dance music (sometimes referred to as "rave music"), with the accompaniment of laser light shows, projected images, and artificial fog.

In the late 1980s, the word "rave" was adopted to describe the subculture that grew out of the acid house movement. That a certain number of rave party attendees used "club drugs" such as MDMA ("ecstasy"), LSD ("acid"), cocaine, amphetamines and, more recently, ketamine, and designer drugs, was taken by authorities as a pretext to ban those parties altogether.

In late 1950s London, the term "rave" was used to describe the "wild bohemian parties" of the Soho beatnik underground. The word was later used in the burgeoning mod youth culture of the early 1960s as the way to describe any wild party in general. A variation of the term was "rave-up" - a term popularized by the band The Yardbirds. People who were gregarious party animals were described as "ravers". Pop musicians such as Keith Moon of The Who and Steve Marriott of The Small Faces and Clare Willans were self-described "ravers". These new usages of the word differed from and expanded slighly on the earlier meaning; to speak exuberantly on a topic to the point of incoherence.

There were multiple manifestations of these words in popular culture:

  • The British rock/R&B group The Yardbirds released an album in the United States in 1965 titled Having a Rave Up
  • A monthly magazine called "Rave" - targeted primarily at British teenage girls - was successfully published in the UK for 69 consecutive editions from February 1964 to October 1969. It presented articles, interviews and exclusive photograph sessions relating to the contemporary pop music of the era.
  • The lyrics of the 1968 hit single Lazy Sunday by the mod band The Small Faces referred to "ravers":
  • :Wouldn't it be nice to get on with me neighbours?
  • :But they make it very clear they've got no room for ravers...

Presaging the word's subsequent 1980s association with electronic music, the word "rave" was part of the title of an electronic music performance event held on 28 January 1967 at London's Roundhouse titled the "Million Volt Light and Sound Rave". The event featured the only known public airing of an experimental sound collage created for the occasion by Paul McCartney and John Lennon during the early stages of the Sgt. Pepper sessions - the legendary Carnival Of Light recording.

With the rapid change of British pop culture from the Mod era of 1963–1966 to the hippie era of 1967 and beyond, the term fell out of popular usage. During the 1970s and early 1980s until its resurrection, the term was not in vogue (one notable exception being 'Drive-In Saturday' by David Bowie which includes the line 'It's a crash course for the ravers'). Its use during that era would have been perceived as a quaint or ironic use of bygone slang; part of the out-dated "sixties" lexicon along with words such as "groovy". This perception of the word changed again in the late 1980s when the term was revived and adopted by a new youth culture, possibly inspired by the use of the term in Jamaica.


Early years

Early rave-like dances were held in the early 1980s in the Ecstasy-fueled club scene in clubs like NRG, in Houston. However, it was not until the mid to late 1980s that a wave of psychedelic and other electronic dance music, most notably acid house and techno, emerged and caught on in the clubs, warehouses and free-parties around London and later Manchester. These early raves were called Acid House Parties. They were mainstream events that attracted thousands of people (up to 25,000 instead of the 4,000 that came to earlier warehouse parties). Acid House parties were first rebranded raves parties in the media during the summer of 1989 by Neil Andrew Megson during an television interview. In the UK, in 1988-89, raves were similar to football matches in that they provided a setting for working-class unification in a time with no unions and few jobs, and many of the attendees of raves were die-hard football fans. The lack of football rivalry at raves was due in large part to the Ecstasy taken by the "thugs" who would otherwise have relied on fighting for an adrenaline rush.

British politicians responded with hostility to the emerging rave party trend. Politicians spoke out against raves and began to fine anyone who held illegal parties. Police crackdowns on these often-illegal parties drove the scene into the countryside. The word "rave" somehow caught on in the UK to describe common semi-spontaneous weekend parties occurring at various locations linked by the brand new M25 London Orbital motorway that ringed London and the Home Counties. (It was this that gave the band Orbital their name.) These ranged from former warehouses and industrial sites in London to fields and country clubs in the countryside.

The early rave scene also flourished underground in North American cities such as Montreal, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles and as word of the budding scene spread, raves quickly caught on in other major urban centers across the North American and European continents.

United Kingdom

From the Acid House scene of the late 1980s, the scene transformed from predominantly a London-based phenomenon to a UK-wide mainstream underground youth movement. Organizations such as Fantazia, Universe, Raindance & Amnesia House were by 1991/92 holding massive legal raves in fields and warehouses around the country. One Fantazia party, called One Step Beyond, was an open-air all-nighter and attracted 30,000 people. Other notable events included Vision @ Pophams airfield in August 1992 (40,000 in attendance), and Universe's Tribal Gathering in 1993.

In the early 1990s the scene was slowly changing, with local councils passing bylaws and increasing the fees to prevent or discourage rave organisations from getting licenses. This meant that the days of legal one-off parties were numbered. By the mid-90s, the scene had fragmented into many different styles of dance music making large parties more expensive to set up and more difficult to promote. The happy old skool style was replaced by the darker jungle (later renamed drum n bass) and the faster happy hardcore. Although many ravers left the scene due to the split, promoters such as ESP Dreamscape and Helter skelter still enjoyed wide-spread populairty and capacity attendances with multi-arena events catering for the various genres. ESP's Dreamscape 20 (09/09/1995 - Brafield aerodrome fields, Northants) and Helter Skelter's NRG '97 event (O7/08/1997 - Turweston Aerodrome, Northants) being particularly notable examples of this.

The illegal free party scene also reached its zenith for that time after a particularly large festival, when many individual sound systems such as Bedlam, Circus Warp, DIY, and Spiral Tribe set up near Castlemorton Common. In May 1992, the government acted. Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the definition of music played at a rave was given as:

Sections 63, 64 & 65 of the Act targeted electronic dance music played at raves. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act empowered police to stop a rave in the open air when a hundred or more people are attending, or where two or more are making preparations for a rave. 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 not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale (£1 000). The Act was ostensibly introduced because of the noise and disruption caused by all night parties to nearby residents, and to protect the countryside. It has also been claimed that it was introduced to kill a popular youth movement that was taking many drinkers out of town centres drinking on taxable alcohol and into fields to take untaxed drugs and drink free water.

After 1993 the main outlet for raves in the UK were a number of licensed venues, amongst them Helter Skelter, Life @ Bowlers (Trafford Park, Manchester), The Edge (formerly the Eclipse [Coventry]), The Sanctuary (Milton Keynes) and Club Kinetic. Events proved to be one of the main forces in rave, holding legendary events across the northeast and Scotland. Initially playing techno, breakbeat rave and drum and bass, it later embraced hardcore techno (including Happy Hardcore) and bouncy techno. Judgement Day, History of Dance, and now REGENeration continued the Rezerection legacy. In Scotland clubs such as the FUBAR (Stirling), Hanger 13 (Ayr) and Nosebleed (Rosyth) played important roles in the development of these dance music styles.

These were nearly all pay-to-enter events, however it could be argued that rave organisers saw the writing on the wall and moved towards more organised and 'legitimate' venues enabling a continuation of large-scale indoor raves well into the mid-nineties. One might remember that the earliest house and acid house clubs were themselves effectively 'nightclubs'. Raves were also overshadowed in the press by the 1995 death of Leah Betts, a teenager who died after taking ecstasy; journalists and press/billboard campaigns emphasized the drug use, even though she actually died from water intoxication, not the ecstasy, at a party in her own home, not a rave.

However, genuine illegal raves have continued throughout the UK to this day, and there have been a number of notorious groups in different areas putting on unlicenced parties using venues ranging from disused quarries, warehouses and condemned night clubs. The rise of the internet has both helped and hindered the cause, with much wider and more accessible communication resulting in bigger parties but consequently also greater risk of police involvement. The 2006 M.I.A. song "XR2" is an ode to the rave scene of early 1990s London.

Continental Europe

By 1987 a German party scene based around the Chicago House sound was well established. The following year (1988) saw acid house making as significant an impact on popular consciousness in Germany as it had in England. In 1989 German DJs Westbam and Dr. Motte established ‘UFO’, an illegal party venue, and co-founded the Love Parade.On the 3rd of October 1990 the Berlin Wall fell, free underground techno parties mushroomed in East Berlin, and a rave scene comparable to that in the UK was established. East German DJ Paul van Dyk has remarked that the techno based rave scene was a major force in reestablishing social connections between East and West Germany during the unification period.

In 1991 a number of party venues closed, including UFO, and the Berlin Techno scene centred itself around three locations close to the foundations of the Berlin Wall: the ‘E-Werk’, ‘Der Bunker', and the now legendary ‘Tresor’. In the same period German DJs began intensifying the speed and abrasiveness of the sound, as an acid infused techno began transmuting into hardcore. This emerging sound was influenced by Dutch gabber and Belgium hardcore; styles that were in there own perverse way paying homage to Underground Resistance and Richie Hawtin's Plus 8 Records. Other influences on the development of this style were European Electronic Body Music groups of the mid 1980s such as DAF, Front 242, and Nitzer Ebb. In Germany, fans referred to this sound as ‘Tekkno’ (or ‘Bretter’).

Across Europe rave culture was becoming part of a new youth movement. DJs and electronic music producers such as Westbam proclaimed the existence of a "raving society" and promoted electronic music as legitimate competition for rock and roll. Indeed, electronic dance music and rave subculture became mass movements. Raves had tens of thousands of attendees, youth magazines featured styling tips and television networks launched music magazines on house and techno music. The annual Love Parade festivals in Berlin (in the Metropolitan Ruhr area onwards) attracted more than one million party goers between 1997 and 2000. Meanwhile, the more commercial sound of hardcore, happy hardcore topped the music charts across Europe.

Regional expansion


The upsurge in popularity of rave culture in the United States at a certain period in time often lends it characteristics common to a 'movement' or subculture. Starting in the late 80's, rave culture began to filter through from English ex-pats and DJs who would visit Europe. Promoters like Dave and Patti Ryan of Life and CPU101 in Los Angeles,Storm Raves and Matt E. Silver in New York, DJ Mystic Bill of Vibe Alive in Chicago, and Kurt of "Drop Bass" and "Furthur Festivals" of Milwaukee were among some of the few successful promoters doing most popular raves in heavy attendance early on. American underground rave DJs from that time who would go onto international celebrity include artists like Moby, Josh Wink, DJ Keoki, Plastikman (Richie Hawtin), DJ Carlos Soul Slinger, Frankie Bones, Doc Martin and others. During this time publications such as Milwaukee's "Massive Magazine", Chicago's "Reactor" and "A Thousand Words" Chad, Los Angeles' "Urb", and San Francisco's "XLR8R" magazines helped spread the scene from coast to coast and abroad. One of the first rave websites with event listings, music info and chemical information was The popularity of Rave music within the mainstream started in early to mid 1990s with such artists as Rozalla, Praga Khan, The Prodigy and The Shamen among others. Because the movement and music both embrace and incorporate so many different elements, a common thread can be hard to find.

Some cultural tenets associated with rave culture are:

  • Peace - to make peace with all people around them
  • Love - to stay close to all people and care for them unconditionally
  • Unity - to stand together for the universal cause of peace and love
  • Respect - to understand the diversities of culture
  • Responsibility - to educate oneself on the effects of drugs before ingesting them

(The word "Responsibility" was added to the acronym PLUR during the mid to late 90s to promote awareness of increased drug overdoses at raves) Groups that have addressed drug use at raves include the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund (EMDEF) , DanceSafe , and the Toronto Raver Info Project , all of which advocate harm reduction approaches to enjoying a rave.

American ravers, following their early UK & European counterparts, have been compared to both the hippies of the 1960s and the new wavers of the 1980s, due to their interest in non-violence and music.

In contrast to many other "youth cultures," older people are often active members of the U.S. scene and are well represented at events. Certain facets of dance music culture in the UK, Europe and globally, are also welcoming to the older generation (especially the free party/squat party/gay scenes). However, rave and club culture remains on the whole very much a youth-driven movement in terms of its core fan base. Although rave parties are commonly associated with illegal activities (e.g. drug use), it should be noted that raves themselves are (often) legal gatherings. Although drug use tends to be pervasive at many raves, drug use is not, strictly speaking, a necessary part of the rave experience. It is a misconception some still believe.

West Coast Scene
In late 80's and early 90's, there was a boom in rave culture in the Bay Area. At first, small underground parties sprung up all over the SOMA district in vacant warehouses, loft spaces, and clubs like DV8 and 1015 Folsom, and basement of Jessie Street that had permits to run to 6am as long as no alcohol was served. The zero alcohol rule fueled the ecstasy-driven parties to a much larger crowd, and soon followed were the first large scale raves. Every weekend a few hundred revelers would show up at venues like the Townsend warehouse, the King Street garage, and other mid-size warehouse's located in the SOMA and south San Francisco area.

Rave crew's started to become famous not only for their quality of music and the smoothness of the parties thrown but also for the 'vibe'. Crews grew to legendary status at this time: 'the gathering', 'toontown', 'wiked', 'rave called sharon', 'the church', and 'osmosis'. Small underground raves were just starting out and expanding beyond SF to include the east bay, the south bay area including San Jose, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz beaches (where the notorious 'full moon raves' took place at Bonny Dune beach every month).

In late 1991 raves started to exploded across northern California, and cities like Sacramento, Oakland, Silicon Valley were taking off every weekend. This proved to be the turning point in NorCal's rave history. No longer were raves a secret, where one had to know the right people to gain access to map points. Now rave flyers were to be found up and down the Haight Street at stores like Anubis Warpus, Ameboa clothes, Behind The Post Office, and newly opened Housewares. Raves were exploding at an enormous rate and no longer were hundreds of revelers heading out, now there were thousands of ravers living for every weekend. The second generation of raves were just starting to be realized.

'Toontown's NYE 91 rave, which took place in the basement of the Fashion Center in SF was the first 'true' massive in the bay area. Over 8,000 people helped welcome in the new year and at the same time put SF as a must visit city for the burgeoning world wide rave scene. Similarly, a year later, "The Gathering' held NYE 92 in Vallejo, and over 12,000 people attended. The massive parties were taking place every weekend now from such disparate locations as outdoor fields to airplane hangars and hilltops that surrounded the valley.

San Francisco has long been a mecca for ravers from all over the world, and true to form, a lot of the early promoters and DJs were from the UK and Europe. For almost ten years since the initial raves took place, one could find up to 2 to 4 parties happening a weekend and sometimes on the same night. There was no curfew in place, which allowed the SF scene to exploded by the late 90's when venues would have up to 20,000 people every weekend; 'homebase', and '85 & Baldwin' were the largest venues to be used in the Bay Area). Many amazing venues were used by crews that held clout or members that were tied to the city or knew the appropriate ways to navigate the permit maze. Thus, in the late 90's some of the most memorable raves took place in locations such as the SOMA art museum, 'Where the wild things are' museum on top of the Sony metreon, and in the venerable Maritime hall that was used more of less for over a couple of years for many parties from 98-02. Some old locations appeared again brand new, such as the concourse that saw thousands of ravers in 92, now saw the same amount in late 99. The galleria that once held a 'concert' in 92 with artists such as Moby, Aphex twin, Prodigy, Space time continuum, was now used for a few one offs that utilized all 5 floors of the building with a different music style on each floor!

The mid part of the 90's saw a general loss of the first generation of ravers that graduated into the real world of jobs and responsibilities, and the scene took a short dive. In this time, however, a new West coast sound was formed and developed by dj's such as jeno, tony, spun, galen, solar, harry who?, rick preston to name but a few. Venues and parties such as Stompy, Harmony, CloudFactory, Cyborganic lounge, Acme warehouse among many others started to fuse the breakbeat sound from hardcore trax with the more melodic pace of house. West coast funky breakbeat was born from this and stormed the dance scene. Tracks such as Simon's '2 crates', E.B.E's first record, astral matrix 'do it', and many, many more took the scene by storm. By the end of '94 all the people that had left a gap in the rave scene in '93 were long forgotten as twice as many people now found the new sounds completely and utterly funky.

This time period saw the rise of the many facets of EDM. Now all jungle raves, or cybertrance, or breakbeat, or just good house could be enjoyed by anyone willing to go out to any of these parties. Gone were the days of a basement, and red light and a feeling. Now one could pick an upscale club, or a warehouse, or illegal outdoors as many crews sprung forward and blossomed. Promoters started to take notice and put together the amazing massives of the late 90's with all these music forms and more under one roof for 12 hours of dancing bliss. it was not unheard of for almost 20,000 people to pack homebase, or 85th/Baldwin for a nite of eternal dancing. SF was now a fabled and much talked about destination around the states, if not the world. Dj's from all corners of the globe scrambled to play in SF.

The year 2000 saw the demise of massive raves as curfews were placed on permits handed out to promoters throwing parties. Instead of all night and into the next day, parties now had to end at 2 a.m. Two of the largest venues closed down soon after, and there wasn't enough momentum to sustain parties that catered to tens of thousands of people. As if a nail was drove into the coffin of the SF rave scene, the homebase warehouse that held parties from 96-00 burned down to the ground in a spectacular 6 alarm fire in 04. Smaller, intimate venues continued just like they had from the start, and underground raves became the norm in the years after the tech boom of the 1990s.

While San Francisco may never have another hey-day with raves that had thousands upon thousands of people, and DJs from all over the world playing for eager crowds, it still maintains a much smaller but dedicated cadre of various crews, DJs, promoters and producers. Every weekend, many events are still dedicated to the various forms of electronic music across the greater Bay Area. Venues like 1015 folsom that was there from the beginning (a rave called sharon 'candyland' was thrown in the basement after the 2am crowd left the club in 91), now are super-clubs drawing the huge talent found all over the world. whether raves survive as initially is up to the people that are know holding the reins, but the music is still being heard all over the city, and more importantly the entire bay area.

Through the mid 90's and into the 00's the city of Seattle also shared in the tradition of West Coast rave culture. Though a smaller scene compared to San Francisco, Seattle also had many different rave crews, promoters, Djs, and fans. Candy Raver style, friendship, and culture became particularly popular in the West Coast rave scene, both in Seattle and San Francisco. At the peak of West Coast rave, Candy Raver, and massive rave popularity (1996-1999,) it was common to meet groups of ravers, promoters, and Djs who frequently travelled between Seattle and San Francisco, which spread the overall sense of West Coast rave culture and the phenomenon of West Coast massives.

Mid-west Scene
Grave Rave, on October 11, 1992 marked the first major party crack down in the mid-west, when 973 people were arrested for attending a party at a warehouse in Milwaukee's Third Ward. Following the crackdown, most raves were promoted via fliers and distributed a phone number with an informational voice message. On the day of the party, the message changed to give the location of the map point. Upon showing up at the map point, ravers were able to purchase a map and ticket to the party. Midwest parties were commonly held at barns, camp grounds, and warehouses.

In 1995 the Detroit Police Department began sending the gang squad in to raid the parties with an unnecessary level of violence. Map points were moved, and shuttling in from remote parking lots didn't stop them. The major destructive force wasn't the police though, but the movement into legal clubs where adding alcohol changed the entire attitude and vibe of the community.

U.S. Rave culture on the Northeast Coast and Midwest in the 90's, was unique in that the majority of ravers were young (under 25), and rejected the alcohol- and sex-based mainstream culture of clubs and bars.

By staging and attending raves in unlikely and non-traditional places (either legally or not), Northeast Coast U.S. ravers avoided the prevalent alcohol- and sex-based culture that was (and still is) predominant.

There is a common conception among some parts of the country, especially the Northeast, that raves were a 1990s fad, with the common quip "People still go to raves?" The popularity of Rave music and the culture of it continues to grow, especially in the Pacific Northwest, Northeastern United States and in places like Southern Florida and Mendota Heights.

No longer considering itself as a "rave" scene, unless using the term "rave" in a sarcastic, yet, nostalgic way, Detroit has a very committed fan base for all-night Techno events, better known as "parties." The history of Techno music's origins and connotations still linger in Detroit and continue to inspire die-hard devotees who produce and progress the ideals of Techno and House gatherings under underground circumstances and production teams which are unique to Detroit. The Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) is an opportunity for visiting Techno tourists to experience the vibe of Detroit "parties," but the Detroit "party" scene continues year round for the locals who have, in many cases, been raised in the spirit and tradition of the Detroit Techno scene, usually for ten years or more.


Rave culture in Canada is very similar to that of the US. Recently, however, raves have become increasingly mainstream, especially in Montreal as well as the rest of the province of Quebec, with large commercial raves attracting major international DJs and much media attention.

Raves in Canada are concentrated in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg. With the exception of house raves which can be found in smaller cities. Certain raves, such as the Montreal Black and Blue even attract government funding from all levels of government; municipal, provincial and federal, as they are deemed to be cultural events. On February 10, 2007 indie rap duo Grand Buffet stated they had played a rave in Montreal. The Bal en Blanc is another event in Montreal that attracts a wide variety of attendees from a wide demographic spectrum. These events have often been hailed as the biggest parties in the world, attracting more than 16,000 at a time. They are often held in government-run facilities such as the Montreal Olympic Stadium and the Montreal Convention Centre.

In Toronto, raves remain more underground and only events catering to the gay community attract more mainstream attention. However, this wasn't always the case. During the late 90s and early 2000s, the Toronto rave scene was one of the largest in the world attracting international talent and worldwide attention. Many events were held at the Better Living Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds and at the International Centre near Toronto's airport. These events often attracted upwards of 20,000 people and would happen almost every weekend. Many other smaller events also happened every weekend along with the bigger events. Among the larger promoters were entities such as Pleasure Force, Chemistry, Destiny, Nitrous, Atlantis, Syrous, Delirium, Dose, Better Days, and Citrus; smaller promoters included Exodus, Sykosis, Infinity, Transcendence, Alien Visitation, and others. As the decade drew to a close, Toronto's rave scene began to suffer as increased scrutiny from public officials and the local media began to exert pressure on the scene as a result of the high profile drug death of Allen Ho at a rave in an underground parking garage in 1999. This made throwing large events in Toronto more difficult. Eventually, almost all the major rave promoters in Toronto quit throwing events with the exception of a few including Destiny productions and Hullabaloo productions, both of which continue today in some form.

Since then, Toronto has seen a rebirth in the popularity of dance music but in a different form than in the past. Most Rave type events happen inside clubs such as The Guvernment, The Docks and the Big Bop. These venues still attract international talent each week and can still draw thousands of attendees for the larger events. These venues cater to Toronto's dance scene, which is more splintered than it once was, with events that specialize in dance music sub genres such as Jungle, Breaks, Happy Hardcore, Techno and Trance. Sometimes events will cater to multiple genres such as Destiny productions which specializes in Jungle and Trance. Destiny is also known for hosting the "World Electronic Music Festival" that occurs in southern Ontario annually, in mid summer, which consists of a 3 day and 2 night camp-out style, multi-stage electronic music festival. It attracts large numbers of people from Canada as well as other countries such as the United States and UK. There is also an underground Freetekno scene in Toronto and Montreal which organizes free events in obscure locations in Ontario and Quebec.

In Vancouver or the British Columbia area raves tend to be slightly more mainstream than in Toronto, but less so than in Montreal. Two mainstream Raves take place in Popkum, the first being the Apex Project, Which took place August 4, 2007. And the upcoming SummerBreak rave on August 18, 2007 which will contain even a hip-hop lineup with lil john, Swollen Members and more. Other big raves in Vancouver are thrown by Solid Entertainment are held the PNE Colliseum. Dooms Night, I.M.F, NYE, and Fusion Dreams all attract over 5000 people.

All three cities have a burgeoning underground rave culture with smaller, less commercial events held in underground venues, attracting the usual crowds associated with the rave subculture, such as new wavers and hippies

Candy ravers usually dress up in wild clothes consisting of bright colours, fluffy leg warmers for the girls and ‘phat’ (excessively flared) pants for the guys. They are also the major users of glow sticks and are regarded as having started the Chupa Chup lollipop phenomenon. These two items represent what Hebdige refers to as the magical appropriation of “humble objects” [in Brookman, 1998:51] that express resistance in a form of code, and act to reinforce the ‘subordinate’ status of the group. There is however a practical aspect to the use of Chupa Chups at raves which is to prevent the grinding of the teeth (a side effect of ecstasy use). And also pacifiers of candy-flipping on half a hit of LSD acid and half a hit of ecstasy/MDMA.


Raves flourished in Australia where raves were generally called Dance Parties. In Melbourne, the underground dance style called the "Melbourne Shuffle" originated at these parties. Some early parties such as Every Picture Tells A Story were broadcast live on free-to-air television from the party's own TV station. The Melbourne raves tended to have a greater amount of artwork, video art, decor and performance as the underground arts community of Melbourne was heavily involved in producing the parties. Fashion was also a very important component, as many party goers were in the fashion industry which is very large in Melbourne, and they designed and made their own 'party' clothes and accessories. The parties became a fashion show for the designers and created strong retail sales for their works. Often outstanding dancers were sponsored to wear designers' ranges at parties.

The Melbourne underground rave community was very large with its own street press, radio stations, TV shows, clothing shops, bars, cafes, theaters, performance venues, record labels, clothing labels, and free street raves such as the Brunswick Street festival (pictured) which regularly drew crowds of 100,000 people.

Driven by a need to be away from residential areas due to noise pollution complaints of residents, the Australian rave scene held their events in industrial areas. For the Sydney rave scene the industrial areas of the Western suburbs were quite common in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Following the 2000 Sydney Olympics the Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush proved a popular venue as it had ample large warehouse space available and the advantage of no close by residential areas. The "superdome" at Olympic Park has hosted a number of events due to the large capacity. Events at these venues often have ample room for amusement rides, open air "chill out" areas and food stalls. Several amusement parks have hosted dance party events (Wonderland Sydney and Luna Park Sydney).

In Victoria, the dockland areas of Melbourne hosted numerous raves in the 90s. Bushland areas out side of Melbourne provided doof venues, notably Mt Disappointment for Earthcore and Kryal Castle just outside of Ballarat. The Newcastle Rave scene made use of unused warehouses in the Newcastle CBD and at licensed entertainment venues throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. Events such as "Vital beats" and under-age dance parties were held in these venues.

Another style which originated in Melbourne is the Melbourne Shuffle. The Australian rave scene has a cousin in the Doof party scene. Although the rave scene attracts a younger, city-based crowd the Doof party events are a more "hippy" or alternative crowd. Warehouse parties in Sydney also shared the common theme of electronic music, although of a more house music style than the hardcore or trance found at Australian raves.

South Africa

The first mega-rave in South Africa was held in a warehouse on Cape Town's foreshore. Dubbed the World Peace Party, it featured a cross-over crowd of Cape Flats rappers, fashionistas and clubbers dancing to rave music and progressive house. The first electronic South African Bands who performed live at the Raves were the Kraftreaktor and The Kiwi Experience. The first large Johannesburg rave was held at an old cinema in Yeoville in early 1992. Amongst the first Johannesburg rave organisers in the early 1990s were Fourth World Productions (responsible for the legendary 1993 nightclub 4th World) World's End Productions and Damn New Thing Productions.


In the early 2000s illegal parties still existed, albeit on smaller scales, 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 the acronym PLURR, "Peace, Love, Unity, Respect and Responsibility", percussive music and freeform dancing often accompanied by the use of "club drugs" such as ecstasy, methamphetamine, speed and ketamine. However, increased cocaine usage, preponderance of adulterated ecstasy tablets and organized criminal activity has been detrimental to UK-based rave culture, although free parties are now on the rise again.

According to some long-time observers, rave music and its 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 overused and corrupted. 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 facemasks, pacifiers, and glowsticks ceased to be popular. Underground sound systems started organising large free parties and called them teknivals.

Raves and ravers continued to be targeted by government authorities. For example, following a July 2005 violent raid by police on CzechTek, an annual teknival, the Czech Republic's Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek said the festival's attendees were "no dancing children but dangerous people" and that many were "obsessed people with anarchist proclivities and international links," who "provoke massive violent demonstrations, fueled by alcohol and drugs, against the peaceful society.

The rave scene has recently revived the old tradition of warehouse parties, with a surge in "old school" club nights, particularly in the jungle music scene, with DJs and producers who had dropped out of the business playing sets of music from the founding days of their genre, and producing new records in that style. Clubs are increasingly going back to the days of warehouses in terms of styling, rather than the interior designed venues of the late 90s. The music itself has seen a surge in popularity with students who were very young or not even born as yet when rave first became popular.

In the northeastern United States, during the mid-2000s, the popularity of Goa (or psy-trance) increased tremendously. With the warehouse party scene, the trend is also restarting; cities such as San Francisco have seen a resurgence of warehouse parties since 2003, due in part to Burning Man theme camp fundraiser parties. This contrary belief in the early 2000s was that 2002 would mark the end of the rave (known as party scene at the time), and the scene was over. Raves still continue in hot spots around the U.S. even today, although they might be called "parties" to avoid the negative spin. Examples of this hot spot phenomenon are New Orleans, LA, the west coast of the United States, and south Florida. The mid-late 2000s is being marked as the renaissance of the underground electronic culture. Oddly enough, the majority of US anime conventions hold a rave on Saturday nights, as the techno style of the music and flashing lights are much to the taste of the otaku community. Drugs are generally uncommon or not present at all in these occasions.

In Christchurch, New Zealand the mid 2000s saw the emergence of raves targeting the youth market. These raves are usually held at warehouse locations and are specifically aimed at people aged 15 years to 20 years old. National and International DJs perform at these events, which can attract up to 1000 young people not yet old enough to attend clubs and bars. Companies such as Nitrate productions and Audiodreams are pioneering alcohol and drug free raves with support from The White Elephant Trust, a non-profit organization that provides First Aid stations, coat check areas, and publication support.

In the UK, a new genre of electronic music known as New Rave (a portmanteau of "New Wave" and "rave") has become popular, which combines indie fashion and aesthetic with rave fashion, sound and aesthetic, with paraphernalia such as dayglo and glowsticks becoming fashionable in hip British city clubs. However, the genre has come under attack for being primarily invented by the British music press, particularly the NME, and for over-stylising the original rave ideology. This often held in stark contrast to a lesser known culture of "Neo Rave"; a distinct progression of the original (and current) UK rave scene, taking acid house, jungle and techno parties to extreme levels, and originating directly from the club scene.

Rave Magazines

During the late 90's US Rave scene self publication became a huge part in the way parties were advertised and known of. These publications ranged from single sheet photocopied "zines" to expensive glossy covered magazines. Each magazine had its own reason for being and dedicated audience that centered around the cities of publication of each magazine. The Midwest was known for its Milwaukee based "Massive Magazine" and Chicago based "Reactor" and "A Thousand Words" photo magazine. On the East Coast you had NYC DJ Heather Heart's "Under One Sky"(actually started in 1990 or 1991) and a few years later a little magazine called "Vice" that was in the works (Feel free to add here). On the West Coast you had LA based "URB" and "Lotus" magazine and San Francisco based "XLR8R". Abroad you had Germany's "Frontpage" and "De:Bug" and the United Kingdom's "Mixmag", "Atmosphere" and "Knowledge" magazines. The latter two dedicated to the UK's breakbeat and drum n bass markets.

Each publication was an essential part of the local scene, and was greatly appreciated by every raver that ever got their hands on an issue. Each issue was packed with interviews with artists that weren't even known of in commercial publications. Most of these magazines started as free enterprises. Surviving only on an advertising revenue based model. Later on though some magazines such as "Urb" and "Xlr8r" were able to legitimize and become proper publications that can now be found at local bookstores. While others like "Massive Magazine" ended with a fire consuming their offices in the winter of 2004 destroying all the films and back issues making issues of "Massive Magazine" a piece of must have nostalgia fetching prices of up to $100 dollars for any early back issues on Ebay.


Some ravers participate in one of two light-oriented dances, called glowsticking and glowstringing. Glowsticks (or "light sticks") purportedly soothe the unfavorable side effects of ecstasy, such as muscle tension. Therefore at some rave places they are presented as "safety materials." The sale of glowsticks during rave parties has been presented as evidence of illegal drug use.

Other types of lightshows include LED lights, flashlights and blinking strobe lights. LEDs come in various colors with different settings. For example, a slow light will produce a line of dots, while a strong light will produce an even line. There are many techniques used to make the lights "flow" with the music in order to "trip" the person who is receiving. The most basic lightshow move is the figure-eight followed by the circle. There are also combination methods where the lightshower holds a glowstick in each hand as well as LED lights.

Regardless, glowsticks and LEDs can be used at raves for interesting dance effects, because most raves (except some open air raves, e.g. technoparades) are held in dark or nearly dark rooms. Because rave parties are popular with people who wish to show off their dancing, glowsticks can be an ancillary material for creative freestyle dance.

Drug use

In the U.S., the mainstream media and law enforcement agencies have branded the subculture as 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. Although they continue in major coastal cities like Seattle, New York and LA (and in a few specific areas such as Dallas or Phoenix), and notably the Winter Music Conference in Florida, most other areas have been relegated to word-of-mouth-only underground parties and nightclub events. In some parts of Europe, raves are common and mainstream, particularly Britain, where the rave scene is most popular in the world.

Groups that have addressed drug use at raves include the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund (EMDEF), The Toronto Raver Info Project, and DanceSafe, all of which advocate harm reduction approaches. Paradoxically, drug safety literature (such as those distributed by DanceSafe) is used as evidence of condoned drug use. Other groups, such as Drug Free America Foundation, Inc., characterize raves as being rife with gang activity, rape, robbery, and drug-related deaths, though all of those are very uncommon.

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.


Including some elements or descriptions of Rave culture.

  • Kids- The essential film on kid culture in NYC. Includes a scene at the Tunnel NYC (Called Nasa for the movie). Directed by Larry Clark and written by then-raver Harmony Korine.
  • Vibrations (1996)- Directed by Michael Paseornek before becoming President of Lions Gate films. Christina Applegate stars as a raver girl who falls for a disabled electronic musician who controls the rave scene with a robotic arm.
  • Party Monster (1998) - 1998 documentary on Michael Alig, a Club Kid party organizer whose life was sent spiraling down when he bragged on television about killing his drug dealer and roommate.
  • Modulations
  • Better Living Through Circuitry (1999) - a 1999 documentary about Electronic music and Dance culture.
  • Human Traffic (1999) - a fictional UK story focusing mostly on drug and club culture, but containing some elements related to Raves.
  • Go - 1999 film directed by Doug Liman, with three intertwining plots that happen to involve one drug deal.
  • Groove (2000) - Fictional drama about an underground rave in San Francisco, California and containing many standard elements of raves including multiple DJs over the course of a night, candy kids, a promoter Chris Robertson and a headliner DJ John Digweed.
  • A Midsummer Night's Rave (2002) - A rave film loosely based on A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Blade - A number of people in a rave club are dancing when they are revealed to be vampires. Many are killed by the "Daywalker", (Blade), when he enters the club.
  • 24 Hour Party People (2002) - a semi-biographical comedy/history of the rise of rave / DJ events in the UK through the eyes of one record label, Factory Records, to which Joy Division was signed; Joy Division later became rave music staple New Order.
  • Stark Raving Mad (2002) - Fictional straight-to-DVD film about a heist pulled during a rave.
  • Party Monster (2003) - Fictionalized story of Michael Alig.
  • It's All Gone Pete Tong (2004) - a 2004 fictional biopic independent film about Frankie Wilde (Paul Kaye), a DJ who goes completely deaf. The title is Cockney rhyming slang for "it's all gone wrong". Sometimes called rave's version of This Is Spinal Tap.
  • One Perfect Day (2004) - Australian fictional movie that focuses on the more sleazy side of the rave/club scene, specifically drugs and exploitation, but also about finding an escape and voice through music.
  • Return of the Living Dead: Rave from the Grave, directed by Ellory Elkayem and released in 2005, is the 5th installment of the Return of the Living Dead film series. The Film includes allusions and references to the rave drug culture and its climax occurs at a rave.
  • Welcome to Wonderland (2006) - Documentary about Australia's outdoor bush rave culture.
  • Rolling- The giddy highs and crushing lows of Ecstasy use are felt by a group of people looking to escape their troubles in this independent drama. It's Friday night in Los Angeles, and a handful of young hipsters are on their way to a massive rave party at a Los Angeles warehouse.

See also


Further reading

External links

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