I Used To Think Raving Was Gross But Now I Can't Stop

The first time I heard about raves, it was because I saw this  viral video. (If you haven’t seen it, here’s a little taste of what 2012 ravers gave us.)

Having watched this clip several times when it came out six years ago, I not only learned some sweet dance moves, but I also developed a pretty narrow-minded perception of what raving is. I thought raves were where misunderstood people gathered to listen to electronic noises and wear the latest fashion from hot topic. Growing up in suburban Utah definitely didn’t expose me to alternative forms of entertainment and expression, and I look back on all the misconceptions that were drilled into my head about hard metal, EDM and even rap music and cringe. I actually thought  (and I don’t remember where I heard this or why I chose to believe it) that psychedelic drugs and even methamphetamines like molly were diffused into the air of raving venues, via fog machines and smoke screens.

So when friends mentioned raving or some media source made a reference, my mind would jump to stereotypes of scene kids wearing furries and an arm full of Kandi. Now, obviously there is nothing wrong with the people I’ve just described, and they have every right to participate in raves and any other space they want! But this limited conception of who was and wasn’t allowed at raves made me refrain from exploring what I’ve now come to love and enjoy.

I’ve always had a diverse taste in music, and a lot of the stuff I had been listening to was actually considered EDM. Songs from Kaskade, Odesza, Flume, and Kygo were all on my daily playlist and 16 year old me would bump that shit from the radio of my grandma’s Buick like I was queen of the Wasatch Front. However, it wasn’t until my freshmen year of college that I made the connection, between the music I love and EDM.

A girl who lived across the hall from my dorm room introduced me to the colorful world of EDM. With her guided hand, I began to learn that EDM isn’t just one type of music -- there are dozens of subgenres within, ranging from boppy house, to bass-heavy dubstep, to more lyrical tropical house and trance. If you’re someone who is totally unfamiliar with EDM, than this probably sounds pretty strange to you, but maybe it will spark an interest to explore the wide range of music that you’ might hear at a rave.

Once my prejudice against the music itself was dispelled, I began to delve deeper into the rave culture. I started to go to concerts that showcased specific DJ’s. I saw Getter at the Depot before I even considered myself a raver. My first actual rave wasn’t until Das Energi last summer (I know, I know, I am very much a baby raver still), and I’ll never forget the experience. After spending hours meticulously planning my outfit and adorning my face with cheap looking rhinestones, me and that girl who turned me onto EDM--now my partner in crime-- embarked on our first ever rave together.

The first half hour or so was spent simply taking everything in. Contrary to the way raves are portrayed -- dim lit spaces with seizure-inducing strobe lights -- this festival was set mostly outdoors. Art installations and neon-lit tunnels encouraged people to explore the Salt Flats and enjoy the warm summer night. Music from three different stages ensured there was something for everyone, and my interest (and ears) peaked when I heard some hardstyle playing at a stage shooting fire from a metal ship.

Day turned to dusk and my feet started to hurt. Taking a break at a neon-laced tree with pillows at its base turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had. I was talking with a friend I had met up with there, and she had asked me to trade. Confused, I confessed to her that this was my first rave, and I didn’t have any Kandi (beaded bracelets ravers make and trade). Almost instantaneously, the 12 other people under the tree turned around, making a big circle and looking at me with childlike excitement. Together, these group of happy strangers told me what PLUR stood for: Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect. They took turns explaining what rave culture means to them and one of them gave me my very first Kandi. Reading back on what I just wrote makes it seem like this rudimentary moment that shouldn’t matter. But this kum ba ya interaction showed me a different side of raving, one that connects strangers and fosters a sense of community.

It’s hard to describe raving in one article, and this one hardly does it justice. But my end goal is to explain to people that raving is what you make it! There are certainly people who go to festivals just to take drugs and be creeps, bad people reside in every corner of the world and you should always be careful and mindful of where you are and who you are with. But ravers are also some of the most accepting, creative and colorful people I’ve ever met and I’ve made some of my closest friendships connecting through EDM. I’ve heard from many people that raving is an “acquired taste” and maybe it is, but like everything in life, you’ll never know what you like until you try.

Salt Lake’s next festival is this month! Bloom2 is a two-day rave from April 20th to the 21st and will take place at the Riverbend Sports Arena. So throw on some glitter and try something new damnit!



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