Bright lights, funky dance moves, disc jockeys and drugs are often what comes to mind when somebody might mention the term ‘rave’. Despite having a distinct culture not to dissimilar to what is known as the hippie movement of the 60s, mainstream media has given raves a rather bad wrap. Members of counter-cultures, and people who stray away from societal normalities have often been persecuted throughout the coarse of time. The notion that such people should be shunned, or displaced, simply for having different views, still seems to ring true among most of today’s orthodox politicians. This is the same gasoline which continues to fuel racism and discrimination in today’s populace.

What many people don’t understand is that for a lot of us, raves gave us a home when we otherwise felt like we didn’t really have one. It gave us a place where we could make friends, and feel like we were a part of something. I remember in the weeks between them I often had a longing feeling to go back. In a world where life typically consists of a hellish 9 to 5 job, raves held an atmosphere where many people felt they could actually be themselves. Although drugs are known to be rampant at raves, similar shows such as rock concerts, hip hop, or jam band shows don’t share the same persecution.

Origination of the Term “Rave” (1950’s)

The origins of the term rave began in a wildly different place then most would assume. In the late 1950’s, in London, the younger generation’s parties began being referred to as ‘raves’ because they were considered by the older crowd to be wild, or crazy. Buddy Holly wrote a hit tune in 1958 called ‘Rave On’. In the 1960’s, people began referring to fellow attendees as ‘ravers’ and with the support of pop musicians such as Steve Marriot of The Small Faces, the term became quite popular.

Predating the association with electronic music, the term rave even began being used by The Yardbirds. They published an album called Having a Rave Up, which had the typical psychedelic style of counter-culture music from this time. The association with lights is thought to have started in 1967 when an electronic music performance known as the “Million Volt Light and Sound Rave” was held in London.

The term rave was later adopted by the youth of the 1980’s.

The Birth of Acid House (1980’s)

The psychedelic rock of the 60’s heavily influenced the future of music. As technology developed, companies such as Roland began releasing commercial synthesizers and the ability to produce electronic music became easily accessible. Despite the Roland TB-303 being a commercial failure, it later became quite popular in Acid House production due to it’s unrealistic squelching and bleeping sounds.

The earliest known Acid House recording is the 1987 hit called Acid Tracks from the house music group Phuture, comprising of DJ Pierre, Earl Spanky Smith Jr., and Herbert Herb J Jackson. Their sound later influenced DJ’s such as A Guy Called Gerald, Jon the Dentist, and Josh Wink who produced the classic hit Higher State of Conciousness<.

A popular magazine known as Boy’s Own held the first recorded out-door acid rave in 1988. Supposedly Norman Cook (who later became Fatboy Slim) got turned onto Acid House at one of their parties in his teenage years.

It was around this time that underground raves began to become prevalent. In May 1992, the UK government passed a bill which allowed UK police to stop underground parties and hassle patrons of such events. Since then, underground parties in the UK have become less prevalent and most parties take place in licensed venues such as Club Kinetic and The Sanctuary.

Underground Dance Parties (1990’s)

In the 1990’s, new styles such as jungle, trance, and happy hardcore began being developed. And after the success of such parties in the United Kingdoms, DJ’s such as Frankie Bones brought the culture overseas to the United States of America.

Drum and bass tracks such as The Prodigy’s ‘Jericho’, and Rebel MC ‘The Wickest Sound’ helped define the genre. Notable tracks around this time within the trance category included classics such as Paul Van Dyke’s ‘For an Angel’, Delirium’s ‘Silence’, and Faithless’s ‘Insomnia’.

Many of these raves were thrown in illegal warehouses and the location was spread about through use of answering machines, promotional flyers, and websites. They had to maintain a certain degree of secrecy in order to evade interference by police.

These sorts of parties continued in mass up until 2003 when the RAVE act was passed, forcing dance event promoters to use legal venues and hold a blind eye to drug use at their events, or face discriminatory fines.

Freedom of Expression

Although raves may have their own fair share of problems, they are a unique place where dancers and artists can go to express themselves and find like-minded individuals. A place where people can forget about their troubles for the night. Many rave attendees are known to preach peace and acceptance, and the mantra P.L.U.R. (peace, love, unity, and respect) became quite popular among certain crowds. Raves were the inspiration for several unique dances including liquid dancing and the Melbourne Shuffle.

The RAVE Act

The RAVE Act was a controversial piece of legislation originally sponsored by Democratic Senator Joe Biden in 2002. After failing to pass twice, it was quietly added as a rider to the Amber Alert Bill and passed without debate. The bill unfairly shifted the responsibility of drug users onto the property owners and promoters. Not only did it stifle investors and scare promoters into quitting their passion and line of work, but it also stopped harm prevention organizations from taking part in the raves.

Organizations such as Dance Safe used to setup tents at raves and dance events, hand out informational material, and test drugs for party goers to make sure they weren’t taking anything dangerous, but due to the bill, party promoters who allowed this could be fined up to $250,000 or twice their gross receipts, whichever is greater.

The ACLU has been in major opposition of the bill. Although intended as a way to persecute the rave oriented counter-culture, the bill is vague and could be applied to rock concerts, hip hop shows, or other similar events.

The RAVE Act threatens musical expression, free speech and the right to dance.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

The government can’t even keep drugs out of its own prisons, yet it’s seeking to punish business owners that can’t stop their customers from using drugs. – American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Too many young people are dying, and the 2003 RAVE Act is part of the problem because it is preventing the implementation of common sense safety measures at these events.
Dede Goldsmith,

“A pragmatic approach to managing drug use at events can save lives,” – Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)