Out of the media glare, there’s a positive side to the rave scene
By Yahoo News – Thursday September 5 2002
Copyright: Yahoo News
Debauched all-night parties driven by rapid techno beats, fueled by a cornucopia of drugs and packed with thousands of sweaty, wild-eyed ecstasy freaks.
Young people doing bad things in dark places.
Ooooh. This is what “raves” are all about, right?
There’s more to the rave community than what you read in glossy magazines and see on MTV — just like there’s more to punk rock than Blink-182.
Of course, organizers don’t like referring to smaller, more community-based events as “raves” — they get a little touchy over that word. Some call them “parties,” others call them “gatherings.”
The other side of the drug-frenzied, fashion-centered über-rave scene involves Zenlike gatherings of music-loving people, all — at the risk of sounding totally dippy — paying homage to the sound in dance. More often than not, those who put on these small events either lose money or just break even because they insist on charging (usually) no more than $10 for tickets (as opposed to the standard $40 most commercialized events charge).
“I think when people approach it as a positive ritual … it creates a positive energy that you can’t manufacture with some glossy flier,” says Robert Papy (a k a DJ Vegan), explaining why people at any given rave might have a sense of being part of a collective consciousness in a way that patrons at a club wouldn’t.
Like nightclubs, the larger, commercialized events generally make attendants feel isolated. You’re alone among the crowd of people chasing their drug highs. These glitzed-up scenester parties are the sorts you see in movies, where it seems the only part of rave culture they show is the worst part. The latest in the raver is “Human Traffic” — a film about a group of disenchanted Welsh youth who make a weekend of going to Cardiff parties, doing loads of drugs and — oddly enough — never feeling all that fulfilled at the end of their trips.
But if you’re at the right event at the right time, there’s this feeling of belonging and purpose.
“There’s a greater regard for other people who are there. They’re so passionate,” says Papy.
Some collectives like Vancouver, B.C.’s Shrum Tribe take exception to most of the terminology associated with the scene.
“Shrum Tribe is not a ‘rave’ . . . we do not want to be bound by those restrictions,” says the statement on the group’s Web site.
They state their aim as one to “create events that subvert the bland status quo of society’s low expectations of ‘high’ art as an entity stuck to gallery walls . . . the passion and desire to dare to do something different, to see musik (sic) as a vehicle for social action on a larger scale, however small our victories and great our losses . . . the passion and desire to do this peacefully, but with action.”
Raves as social activism? You bet. And that approach to organizing the events is becoming more common with the subculture. While in some cities rave-based community activism flourishes (such as San Francisco and Vancouver) progress is slow in Seattle, but things are taking shape nonetheless.
As his chosen DJ name might indicate, Seattle’s Papy, 29, is a vegan (his diet does not include any animal products — no meat, no dairy, no eggs), so it’s no surprise that he’s active in animal-rights causes — the tagline on his cards reads “Use your brain, be humane.”
To the uninitiated, this might sound like a throw-back to the ’60s love-ins, but there’s a definite modern twist: The once-disenchanted ravers seem to be saving themselves, the music they love and the values that go along with it from the clutches of greedy promoters. Some events are organized to raise funds or awareness for specific social causes.
Papy, originally from Hollywood, Fla., says he’s “more concerned with creating a more sane and humane world with the assistance of the music” than anything else.
Along with his friend, Thomas Renouf (who DJs as TC) Papy is planning an event on July 8 called Integrrrate, during which signatures will be gathered for Initiative 713 (http://www.jps.net/propaw/wainitword.htm), urging a ban against steel leg traps. They’re also trying to raise funds for an animal shelter in Arlington.
Then there’s Seelie Court Production Co., a small group of Seattle organizers, artists — including DJs — who set up small to medium gatherings with a holistic approach.
Isis (the only name she goes by) is one of the organizers at Seelie Court and has been part of the scene in Seattle for about four years. She emphasizes the need for the more organic, community-based events.
“Any gathering with so much love . . . it becomes a family overall,” says Isis, 21. “It’s amazing how much love opens when people allow themselves to be creative with other people . . . it creates trust and unity.”
At Seelie Court’s most recent event — one celebrating the vernal equinox — local artists, music enthusiasts, partiers and environmental activists all soft-shoed together. Seelie Court invited Earth First! to set up a table and distribute information. While artist Roman (among others) shared his paintings, about 250 people danced to a variety of DJ’d sets. Also, funds were raised for an arts community center in Bellingham that Seelie Court and others are trying to build.
This gathering was not promoted by fliers and magazine ads.
“It was done by word of mouth only and it was perfect,” says Ed Hanes, a member of Seelie Court.
Most of the smaller, do-gooder events aren’t held in clubs (where ticket prices are high and the focus is not on the community in general), but in backs of stores, homes, parking garages, abandoned buildings or just out in the woods.
“It intentionally stays underground so it doesn’t get busted,”
Ken Tomkins, co-owner of Raverbooks in Capitol Hill.
So, how do you find out about the events or get involved? There’s no one way, really. Start by getting involved in the DJ community.
Yes, even some of the smaller parties have fliers, so look for them at hipster cafes, music stores, clothing shops and such. No, not the big glossy fliers. The small, photocopied ones here and there.
Pick up local music zines and look for Web sites put up by DJs and other music collectives. Drop your e-mail address there and they’ll keep you posted on upcoming events.