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Surviving Your First Rave

Updated on December 14, 2014

Imagine your very first day walking into a brand new school. The building seems to swallow you into an uncomfortable alternate universe where you don't know anybody and nothing around you looks familiar at all. A million different feelings flood your body causing you to feel excited, nervous and curious all at once. Now apply that same scenario as if you were walking into your very first rave. Whether you're with friends who have been to raves before or your whole group is new to this scene, it doesn't change the fact that you personally have no idea what to expect. You've heard stories from people who may have gone to a few, but you won't know for sure until you actually go to one yourself. Here's a guide to inform you of everything you should expect to experience throughout your first night in the rave scene.


Getting There

Before you even arrive at the venue, there's a few things you're going to want to be prepared for financially. Parking in a city can be extremely pricey. Most rave venues are located in cities or densely populated towns so parking lots aren't going to be as cheap as you might anticipate them being. For example: in Philadelphia, parking outside of my favorite venues range from $20-$30. This is actually incredibly generous compared to other cities. New York City is probably one of the hardest places to find a lot or garage under $40 for two or more hours. Don't even think about parking on the street either unless you have about $30 worth of quarters, not to mention the fact that you're willing to risk your car getting broken in to as well. Play it safe and carpool with some friends. For each person it'll probably end up being $10-$15 per person which is obviously much easier than paying full price by yourself.


Getting In

As you walk towards the venue, it probably shouldn't be hard to spot because the line to get in is generally pretty long and sometimes it may even wrap around the corner of the block. If it's cold or raining out that night, be sure to dress accordingly. Don't worry, almost every venue will have coat check for $2-$5 usually. Electronic dance music events typically have age restrictions so DO NOT forget your ID. If for some reason you don't have an ID you will be denied entry unless you are able to present another valid form of identification and photo ID. If you have not purchased your ticket yet, you will most likely be directed into a separate (usually longer) line to buy one at the box office. So I suggest you save yourself from getting separated from your group and having to wait in a long line by ordering your ticket online ahead of time.

Lastly, everyone's favorite part about the journey into the venue: security. The thoroughness of security checks can vary from venue to venue. Sometimes, this is the reason why the line takes so long to actually progress. Be prepared for a full pat-down, they will look through bags/wallets/pockets, they might even ask you to remove your shoes or hats. It all depends on the venue and how strict they might be due to past instances where accidents have occurred from people bringing in harmful or illegal substances.

Into The Jungle

Now that you've passed through the long line for ID/ticket checks and security, you've finally made it inside the club! If you've been to night clubs before, the venue may look similar to that of a regular nightclub but the lighting in rave venues are absolutely stunning. I could stare at the light work in a rave the whole night and be completely entranced and satisfied by just staring at them the whole night. If you have a history of epilepsy or have suffered form recent head injuries, you're probably better off avoiding raves entirely because of the constant flashing of the strobe lights and the variety of colors sweeping around the room may be too much for your eyes and brain to process. The beauty of the lights inside really distinguish the difference between a normal club and a rave venue.


Aside from the lighting that the venue professionals provide, some people use flow arts (hula hoops, poi, orbital, gloves) with LED lighting incorporated to give the crowd their own personal light shows. Hula hoops with LED patterns installed are equipped to change colors after a certain amount of time to form a new image as the light trails behind the swift motion of the hooper. Watching someone who practices these flow arts regularly can be absolutely captivating. In the video below, an LED lighting manufacturer posted a demo video of a new hoop they have produced so you can really get a feel for how beautiful these light shows can be. Below the video are links to access other video examples for LED gloving, poi, and orbitals.

LED Hula Hoop


The Stereotypes

There's a few different kinds of people you can expect to see at a rave. Much like Janice Ian's (Mean Girls) explanation of a high school cafeteria, at a rave there are a few different cliques that you'll run in to.

First, you have the most easily noticeable group known as the "kandi kids". Kandi is what the plastic beaded bracelets are called that they trade between one another as a way to spread positive vibes and meet new people. Some people get really artistic and create masks, 3D bracelets and even shirts and other articles of clothing made completely out of string and plastic pony beads (shown right). Kandi kids practice the concept of "PLUR" (peace, love, unity, respect) to help bring all kinds of people together at a rave to help maintain a loving and non discriminatory atmosphere.


Next, you will see that the majority of girls are dressed in very revealing clothing and really don't care about the kind of image they're sending out. There's really no polite or gentle way of describing this group of girls, but I have a hard time sympathizing towards the derogatory labels people view them as being because they put it on themselves and are usually proud of the kind of attention they are receiving. You'll see some girls wearing nothing except maybe a small bikini top and bottoms with fluffy boots to top of their get-up so it can be considered as "rave" attire and not just beach wear.


My personal favorite stereotype to laugh at are known as the "bros". Rave bros are the ones in neon tank tops and board shorts that usually have an obnoxious caption on the front in bold letters representing partying and drug use such as: "eat, sleep, rave, repeat", "watch your dubstep", "where's molly", "sex, drugs & EDM", etc. And ravers wonder why they have this bad reputation placed upon them by society... probably because they wear these shirts proudly in PUBLIC. To put it simply, the bros remind me of the kinds of guys you would meet at a frat house.


Finally, you have the groups who all wear similar clothing and collectively attend every event as one big "rave fam (family)". They often dress alike to represent a popular trend (movie characters, superheroes, celebrities, video game characters, etc.) as an attempt to make their group memorable and humorous to others. You may feel like you're at a Halloween costume party since they usually try to wear something clever or funny but don't feel pressured to conform to this trend because these people will quickly learn that costumes make it very difficult to dance and stay cool in this sort of environment. One main reason why they may dress alike at large events such as festivals, is so that their members are easy to spot in a crowd if they happen to get separated.


Rave Safety

A lot of people know that raves don't really have the greatest reputation when it comes to safety. Unfortunately, this underground music culture usually goes hand in hand with illicit drug use. People buy harmful substances from strangers which usually results in a trip to the hospital because they don't know exactly what they took or how much they could safely consume.

Dehydration is also a huge part of the reason why you'll probably see at least one or two EMT's enter the building at some point. Being packed in a small hot room dancing non stop for hours on end isn't too safe especially when venues hike up their water bottle prices to $5+. I went to a venue one time, and I asked the restroom attendant why their faucet water was so hot and she told me it was because the people were refusing to buy water bottles because of how expensive they were and resulted in them drinking out of the bathroom sinks like animals. Management didn't approve of this behavior so they shut off the cold water altogether so that everyone was forced to buy bottles. Of course there are still some people who will not pay that much for water, something that should ultimately be free in that kind of environment.


An organization called Dance Safe aims to bring awareness to ravers about the various dangers that can occur by engaging in this lifestyle. They're goal isn't to stop people from going to raves, it's simply to inform them on how to stay safe and what to do if something were to go wrong. Dance Safe booths can be found at festivals as well as shows. They usually have giant jugs of water for free so people can stay hydrated, and some also bring cases of Gatorade and energy snacks. They strive to teach people about the drug culture and the potential risks that each specific drug may bring.

Hopefully this was useful if you are contemplating on whether or not the rave scene is something you'd like to try. Depending on your mindset, you will probably have a great time now that you know what to expect. Your adrenaline will be sky high and you'll most likely find yourself having lots of fun meeting new people and dancing the night away. The rave scene certainly isn't for everyone but if you're curious then you might as well test the waters out just so you know. Be safe, have fun, and don't forget that you probably aren't the only one there who has never been to another rave before either!

A Taste of the Electronic Dance Music Festival World


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