Driving a subculture

It is 3 a.m. Thousands of people are dancing up a storm in an abandoned warehouse packed as tightly as the Thurston Hall elevators on move-in day. Pulsing beats and chasing lights create a sense of euphoria. The people grooving and sweating next to each other are convinced they are connected on a level the outside world could not possibly understand.

It is a neo-religious experience. The congregation of baggy-panted Generation Y-ers ritualistically flocking in masses to take in the sermons of a dynamic disc jockey and his bass-driven creations. Unlike traditional religions the service costs anywhere from $5 to $50 at the door. The holy trinity consists of house, acid-house and techno music. This religion offers more of an effect when accompanied by “Smart Drinks” or “Special K,” and the worship demands a uniform of loose clothing and wild accessories.

This is the raver experience.

A rave is defined as a party, usually all night long, open to the general public, where loud techno music is boomed and crowds of people consume a number of different chemicals, according to a raver enthusiast Web site.

Sophomore Tracey Estes describes a rave as an all-night experience, usually in an abandoned warehouse, where people with the same philosophies group together to share their energy and love.

Sophomore March Storm said the focus of a rave is an individual’s interaction with the community through music.

A large part of the concept of a rave is built upon sensory overload. A barrage of audio and visual stimulants are brought together to elevate people into an altered state of physical or psychological existence. This occurs through the music and use of drugs, which is rampant in rave culture.

The music, the most important element of the rave, is provided by a DJ and has three distinct voices: house (Chicago), acid-house and techno. House music is characterized by the steady sounds of a drum machine combined with soulful vocals. Acid-house provides a more intense, liquid sound. Techno is constituted of a variety of different types of sounds and is usually the most familiar type of music to strangers to the rave scene.

After the vocabulary of music, the most important list to learn is the vocabulary of substances.

“(Raves are) very drug oriented,” Estes said. “People are usually on ecstasy, or Ketamine, which is otherwise known as `Special K’.”

Along with ecstasy and Ketamine come “smart drinks,” which are made with nutrients, amino acids and herbs that are said to stimulate the brain and provide a caffeine-like rush. LSD is also a familiar rave drug.

Clothing also shapes the rave culture.

“People usually wear very eccentric clothing that displays a unique identity,” Estes said. “When I went to raves I wore big pants, which made it comfortable to dance in, and big designer clothes. Other people wear articles with glitter, visors and hats. Let’s put it this way, ravers don’t forget to accessorize.”

Storm said she is frustrated with rave commercialization, which has seeped into the typical rave attire.

“Ravers now do not make their own clothes,” Storm said. “They buy big brand names like UFO and Polo, with Adidas visors.”

Storm said clothing is not the only means by which raves have become more commercial.

“Raves were meant to be anti-corporate, but things have changed,” she said. “The Gap and Volkswagen television commercials play music from once-underground electronic groups like the Orb and The Crystal Method. I recently went to a rave called BOO 5 which was in the past sponsored by stuckonearth productions – a group of ravers – but at BOO 5 they were passing out Playstation glowsticks. This party is now sponsored by Sony – yuck!”

Like many subcultures, Estes said the raver experience is often misunderstood.

“People assume ravers have no ambitions or morals, but it is a political and social movement, like the hippies and beat culture,” she said. “Ravers live by peace, unity, respect and love!”

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