- This article is about a form of party. For other uses of the term, see rave (disambiguation).
A rave party, more often called a rave and sometimes called a free party, is typically an all-night dance event where DJs and other performers play electronic dance music and rave music. The slang expression rave was originally used by people of Caribbean descent in London during the 1960s to describe a party. In the late 1980s, the term began to be used to describe the subculture that grew out of the acid house movement that began in Detroit and flourished in the United Kingdom club scene.
The availability of drugs — particularly ecstasy — as well as alcoholic beverages at raves, which are often attended by minors, have caused them to be targeted and criticized by law enforcement officials and parents' groups.
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In an effort to maintain 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 raves' venues. In an effort to control and curtail rave parties, some police and governmental bodies 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 do it yourself; only a small number of people contributed to event production and promotion. Raves have increasingly become organized by self-styled production and promotion companies. The "companies" were usually unofficial or loosely-defined. Some of the more well-known rave promotion companies have included Brotherhood of Boom, Mushgroove, Freebass Society, and Pure. The companies promote their events by creating and distributing fliers and online bulletins.
As law enforcement agencies increasingly began paying attention to raves, concealing a party's location became important to an event's success. To that end, event organizers sometimes either promoted events solely by word-of-mouth, or would only reveal the date and location of the event to subscribers of an electronic mailing list or via voicemail. Some even went so far as to provide a series of clues or checkpoints that ultimately led to the location of the rave.
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" somehow caught on to describe these semi-spontaneous weekend parties occurring at various locations outside the M25 Orbital motorway. (It was this that gave Orbital their name.)
The early rave scene also flourished underground in some U.S. cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles and as word of the budding scene spread, raves quickly caught on in other cities such as San Diego and New York City and in major urban centers across the European continent.
1990s: United Kingdom and United States
Raves began to expand into a global phenomenon around 1991-1992, mostly on a grassroots basis: people who had traveled to attend the first raves in each region began setting up promotion companies, often informally, to organize their own parties. By the mid-1990s, major corporations were sponsoring events and adopting the scene's music and fashion for their "edgier" advertising, causing some to charge that the scene had become commercialized.
In 1994, the United Kingdom passed 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). It empowered police to arrest citizens who appeared to be preparing to hold a rave, waiting for a rave to start, or attending a rave.
In Central Europe and other parts of the world, 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 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.
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 drug use, and an ambivalent attitude toward 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.
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 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.
Although not universally agreed upon by those in the rave movement, some of the central tenets of the culture are said to be:
- 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 without hurting someone else, then that something is okay. As such, fights or scuffles at a rave are rare.
Technology is inherently central to electronic music, and technological innovation has influenced rave subculture in many 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 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.
The club kid tends to dress in bright colors and flashy, sometimes gaudy clothes, including leather and fur. They also favor fluorescent plastic bead necklaces and sometimes candy bracelets. Many club kids also wear childrens’ backpacks. Male club kids tend to dress in a more feminine manner.
The candy raver exchanges or shares small gifts, usually hugs, toys, drugs, CDs, beads, necklaces, bracelets, or candy. They often wear brightly colored, often childish fashions, such as day-glo wide leg pants, black light reactive or glow-in-the-dark bracelets/necklaces and t-shirts featuring cartoon characters. Above all they can be spotted by their homemade bracelets of plastic beads, known as "Raver candy," which are inedible. The bracelets are often worn and given as gifts to remember past raves and commemorate new friendships.
"Candy raver" is also sometimes used as a derogatory term for individuals that use drugs often (as if they were eating candy), though many candy ravers do not use drugs.
Although not a constant among all ravers, one philosophy of rave culture is expressed through the acronym "PLUR" for Peace Love Unity/Understanding Respect.
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.
Liquid kids exemplify the dancing elements of the rave scene. Liquiding refers to the fluid like motion of their arms in relation to one another and the body.
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 cases the sales of glowsticks during rave parties was 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 the U.S. the subculture has been branded 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 (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. 
Notable raves (rave series)
- Love Parade Germany 1989 – 2003: http://www.loveparade.de/
- Castlemorton UK 1991
- Fantazia UK 1991–1992 http://www.fantazia.org.uk
- Heaven On Earth Northampton, UK 1991
- Street Parade Switzerland 1992 – today: http://www.streetparade.ch/
- Mayday Germany 1991 – today: http://www.mayday.de/
- Nature One Germany 1995 – today: http://www.nature-one.de/
- G-Move Germany 1995 – today: http://www.gmove.de/
- Tunnel Rave Germany 1995 - ??
- Time Warp Germany 1995 – today: http://www.time-warp.de/
- Mysteryland The Netherlands 1993 – today http://www.mysteryland.com/
- Dance Valley The Netherlands 1994 – today http://www.dancevalley.nl/
- Rave on Snow Austria ??- today: http://www.raveonsnow.de
- 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 http://www.dropbass.net/
- 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: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/acidhouse88/
- Tribe São Paulo – Brazil – today: http://www.triberave.com/
- Hullabaloo Toronto, Canada – 1997 – 2005: http://www.hulla.info/
- Goodfellaz Toronto, Canada – 2000 – today: http://www.goodfellaz.ca/
- Zoolu New Orleans, LA U.S.A. – 1994 – today: http://www.discoproductions.org/
- free party for the modern, illegal version of raves
- rave music for music and music styles at raves
- RAVE Act, an American law targeting raves
- UK Traveller and (free) Festival photo resources, by Tash (1981 to present)
- Marginal Groove: The Politics of Raves in Richmond
- Hyperreal – the original rave resource on the Net
- Rave FAQ from 1995
- Wayne Anthony's Acid House E-Group
- ACLU: Media coverage on raves
- Electronic Music Defense & Education Fund