Raves and Raving

Rave culture first emerged in the 1970s. The term "rave" describes rave dances and rave music, which involves genres like House, Trance, Electro, Dubstep, Drum and Bass, Hardstyle, Hardcore techno, Funktronica, Psytrance, Eurodance, Big beat and Dutch Hardcore. Rave parties are all-night events, which usually take place in a derelict warehouse, a club, a beach, a field, an aircraft hangar or a sports arena. The venue needs to be spacious enough to house a massive sound system and hundreds of people.

It is a debatable point where house music comes from, with some arguing it originated in the United States and others saying it started in the United Kingdom. Some sociologists believe that rave culture appeared in London first with the "wild bohemian parties" of the Soho beatnik set. However, others state that Detroit and Chicago sparked the flame that started it all, with DJs like Frankie Knuckles programming drum rhythms and playing disco records over the top of his beats. In 1977, Chicago-based club The Warehouse played this kind of music for the first time. The name of the club later gave the name to the genre House. Following on from this, the UK adopted the style and it became very popular. Meanwhile, it was not such a big hit in the US, supporting the argument that rave music started in the UK.

Rave music in fact derives from Disco, which is based on electronic music that has a high level of bass. Rave music is characterized with a pace of 115-300 beats per minutes. When it comes to rave music, spinning is a term used to describe the way of mixing songs together using different pitches, different speeds as well as an equalizer to create an ever-flowing, ever-changing wall of sound. Gradually, rave music and rave dancing have turned into a culture. Usually, ravers are aged between 17 and 25 years old. Quite often rave parties are related to the liberal use of drugs and alcohol. Unlike the culture of the hippies, raving is not seen as a continuous activity. Rave fans attend raving parties when they seek to escape from reality.

Any music or dance culture has typical clothing and manners. Girls who attend raves usually wear shirts with cartoon characters, baby doll dresses or pants. Boys prefer baggy pants because they are easier to dance in. The appropriate clothing is important and comfort is a big factor to allow freedom of movement. Rave dancing is not characterized with typical moves as ravers feel that in order to be good dancers they need to let the music guide them. There are no universal moves as some progressive house beats are quick and fast-paced, for example, while other are trance-like and require more slow moves. Rave parties are always overcrowded, so there is limited space to dance.

Rave culture has been compared to being like a religion. Ravers always get together in specific places like warehouses, abandoned dance halls or remote fields. They dance all night until the sun comes up and this aspect of raves has been described as a ritual. Another characteristic of the rave party which makes it look like a religious event is the role of the DJ. At a rave, it can be argued the DJ is like a shaman or a priest. Scott R. Hutson writes in his book Rave: Spiritual Healing in Modern Western Subcultures (2000) that the DJ is a leader of a possession trance ritual who "aided by key symbols, guides the ravers on an ecstatic journey to paradise - a pre-social state of non-differentiation and communitas." Rave culture has spread across the world along with the technology that makes it possible. Raving has been described as transcendental and a spiritual experience. Some ravers say that aided by ecstasy they feel a sense of spiritual healing.

Raving has led to some tragic consequences in America where dance music festivals have become extremely popular events. Sasha Rodriguez, 15, died following the 14th Electric Daisy Carnival in Los Angeles in 2010. The teenager's death was reportedly due to a suspected drugs overdose. According to the Los Angeles Times (June 30, 2010), the tragedy led to renewed calls for a ban on under 16s attending such events. More than 150,000 people flocked to the two-day event amid concerns about under age revellers. The Rodriguez family filed a five million dollar claim against the city and county of Los Angeles in 2011.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Rave Culture and Religion
Graham John.
Routledge, 2004
The Post-Subcultures Reader
David Muggleton; Rupert Weinzierl.
Berg, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Post-rave Technotribalism and the Carnival of Protest"
Mixed Messages: Resistance and Reappropriation in Rave Culture
Ott, Brian L.; Herman, Bill D.
Western Journal of Communication, Vol. 67, No. 3, Summer 2003
Raves, Risks and the Ecstacy Panic: A Case Study in the Subversive Nature of Moral Regulation (1)
Hier, Sean P.
Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol. 27, No. 1, Winter 2002
Cultural Criminology and the Carnival of Crime
Mike Presdee.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Rap and Rave and the Criminalisation of Youth"
Feminism and Cultural Studies
Morag Shiach.
Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Rave, Gender, and Cultural Studies" begins on p. 79
Club Cultures and Female Subjectivity: The Move from Home to House
Maria Pini.
Palgrave, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Cyborgs, Nomads, and the Raving Feminine"
Cool Places: Geographies of Youth Cultures
Tracey Skelton; Gill Valentine.
Routledge, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Ravers' Paradise? German Youth Cultures in the 1990s"
Storming the Millennium: The New Politics of Change
Tim Jordan; Adam Lent.
Lawrence & Wishart, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "The Right to Rave: Opposition to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994" begins on p. 15
The Canadian Rave Scene and Five Theses on Youth Resistance *
Wilson, Brian.
Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol. 27, No. 3, Summer 2002
Search for more books and articles on raves and raving