Ravers make their return
By JSO- October 15th 2002
In their first appearance en masse in a city that all but ran them out of town a decade ago, ravers brought their all-night dance party back to Milwaukee on Saturday.
In classic rave form, about 1,000 partyers learned of the “secret” location by calling a hotline just hours before festivities started. But once they figured out where to go, the ravers descended on the three-story Menomonee Valley warehouse that houses Trounce Records, a retail store and independent record label at 422 N. 15th St.
And while the typical heavy bass techno beats, colorful clothing and New Age flower-child vibe abounded, conspicuously absent was the highly visible drug use that marred these types of events in the past. Police made no drug arrests, although there were indications that at least some of those present indulged in illegal drugs.
Efforts were made to discourage drug use, said 25-year-old Ryan Clancy, the “Regroup” party’s head promoter and owner of Trounce Records.
Clancy wanted to avoid a repeat of the Oct. 31, 1992, “Halloween Grave Rave,” the infamous and perhaps the last of the large-scale raves in Milwaukee, until this weekend. Hundreds were arrested for illegal drug use and possession when Milwaukee police raided the Grave Rave.
Since then, any Wisconsin resident craving a traditional warehouse rave has had to travel to Fond du Lac, Madison, Chicago and Rockford, Ill., among other places.
Clancy was aware of the high-profile shutdown in May of raves in Madison’s Alliant Energy Center, following reports of blatant Ecstasy use at the parties.
“The fact is, raves have really taken a big hit for some high-profile negative things in just a few places,” Clancy said. “I tell people all the time that most of these parties are about dancing to good music with good people.
“We’ve been thinking for some time that we wanted to bring the rave, the big warehouse party, back to Milwaukee County. But we wanted to do it right, in a safe building that was up to code, with good security and people who wanted to dance, not pass drugs.”
Nonetheless, Milwaukee police took no chances. They made two visits – from about 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m and again from about 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. – to the Trounce building to inspect the facility, lecture Clancy on general safety issues, and poke around for Ecstasy and other drugs often found at raves.
In the end, the officers left the party admitting to Clancy and his security staff that they hadn’t seen anything out of line.
To Laura Ross, 20, the evening was a perfect opportunity to say, “I told you so.”
Ross, a “candy kid” who goes by “Aurora” at rave parties, drove with several friends from the Indianapolis area to attend the Trounce party. She gladly paid the admission price of a $14.99 CD purchase and a canned food for charity.
“Candy kids” are the peaceniks of the rave scene who tend to identify themselves by the ropes of candy jewelry wrapped around their arms and necks. Dancing to the beats of DJ 2 Tru, Ross said that their message is simple: “peace, love, unity and respect . . . whoever you are.”
Terry Christensen, 19, likes to think of himself as a “normal raver.”
“You won’t see me in crazy clothes or popping pills or doing any other drug like that,” he said. “I’m not saying the kids in the clothes are doing that stuff . . . even though we know some are. But I’m kinda like them in that I’m mostly just here for the music. Listen to it. It’s great. But if we’re gonna do anything bad, I’d guess a lot of us probably drank (alcohol) before we got here.”
For all of the cheer and good feelings, not everyone at the party got the no-drug memo.
In one corner of the makeshift dance floor on the building’s third-story was the unmistakable odor of marijuana.
Carissa Cornwell, 22, said she used to indulge in party drugs but cleaned up her act after a close friend overdosed. For the past few years, Cornwell has been traveling the state to different raves as a representative of Dance Safe, a San Francisco-based drug education group.
A common presence at raves in many cities now, Dance Safe representatives offer to test on the spot any pill a curious raver brings to them at a party.
They test for several drugs, she said.
If the presence of any of those drugs is found, the representatives explain to the raver how they can affect a person.
“It’s up to them after that, but we want them to be aware of what is in this stuff before they just swallow it,” Cornwell said. “We’re not the police, but we want people to make the right decision.”
Four ravers asked that their pills be tested Saturday night.
Clancy said this weekend’s rave should bode well for future dance parties in the city.
“No one was hurt, no one was arrested, and we collected at least 1,000 canned goods for a food bank,” he said. “It was a party. Let’s hope this means more to come.”