Darkness accentuated by vibrant strobe lighting, powerful hypnotic audio beats ringing in one's ears, standing-room only crowd dancing away the night, no club rules or regulations... this scenario may seem totally alien to anyone but a raver. The rave culture is one of the most controversial and misunderstood youth cultures in history.
For most, loud raucous music, an excuse to peddle and abuse drugs freely and young people indulging in everything and anything without a care, is the real meaning of the term rave culture.
But all cultures, whether Greek or rave have a starting point, an inception and learn where it all started, with an in-depth analysis of the history of rave dancing and music and partying - in short the rave culture.
A Look at The History of Rave Culture
Epicenter - Europe
It's the early 1950s. The world has just gotten over a violent and dragging war, with lives lost, cities ruined and the economy in a shambles. After such a time of war and strife, various countries are struggling to get back on their feet and young people the world over are looking to get away from it all.
Forget the blood and violence, forget the horrors of war, just party and dance your blues away, was the main thought on everyone's mind. In London, the Beatnik movement was just awakening. They had a "don't care" hip attitude, an underground mode of operation, where everything was hush-hush and a very anti-establishment policy.
Such parties had a very large attendance, invitation was by trusted word-of-mouth and it was the "in" thing at the time. The word "Rave" was first used to describe such parties.
Rave dance parties became the signature style of party freaks and their popularity continued into the 1960s. The term "rave" became synonymous with wild, limitless partying by large inhibited crowds. Repeated attendees of such parties were called "ravers".
But for a while, all such partying stopped and the term became a genre of music, used to describe psychedelic and garage rock music. Rave culture became a forgotten trend and faded into the shadows, with the arrival and overpowering impact of the "hippie" culture.
A notable musical genre was Acid house, which had heavy, repetitive music in a trance-like style with a few key phrases or lines as the sole lyrics. Such music encouraged all night long dancing or swaying to the beat and was produced by electronic synthesizers.
The persuasive effect of this music lead to the Acid House Parties, the first large-scale rave parties. These parties featured massive crowds above 10,000 and were held in large clubs, abandoned fields or houses and warehouses, any large area where people could collect and dance away.
Rave parties were known for their large crowds and excessively loud music and hence were considered a nuisance by people living in the vicinity of any area where such parties were held. But another rather frightening trend emerged, which would taint the name of rave culture forever.
Rave parties became a perfect location for selling and distributing party drugs, such as cocaine, Ecstasy and amphetamines. While this may have occurred in a few parties, soon any rave party was tagged "a drug festival".
Rave culture soon became an elitist and underground way of life, especially in the U.K and Germany. The aggressive attitude of law enforcement forces only encouraged the ravers, to make such parties more secretive and more dangerous. In 1994, the British Government passed the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.
This act banned large parties, organizing a rave and gave the police, rights to prevent ravers from collecting. Ravers started to organize smaller paid parties located indoors, which turned into today's nightclub scene.
Being privately owned property and the strict laws, nightclubs did not allow large uncontrollable crowds and drug peddling and use was difficult to carry out.
Other parts of Europe still held on to the rave culture, with Germany's Love Parade festivals held annually, being a key event. Today, raving is an underground and hidden sub-culture practiced by a few and unlicensed parties are held with great secrecy, to avoid the law.
Impact - America
What starts in Europe ultimately trickles down to the United States and from there, the rest of the world. With raving, Frankie Bones was the pioneer. This American disc jockey played at a rave held in an aircraft hangar in England, 1989 and brought and spread the rave culture across the United States, starting from New York City.
Smaller raves were started across the country and the arrival of trance artists like The Prodigy, made the rave culture very popular during the 1990s. The NARNIA rave festival held by the G.U.N (Global Underworld Network), established the reign of raving in America and South America. Raving also became one key culture of the city of San Francisco.
The decline of raving in Europe in 2000, saw a similar decline in the rave culture Stateside. Curfews, stricter laws regarding drug use and the repeated inspection and violation of rave houses for failing to live up to fire safety standards, are a few factors.
Slowly the rave scene lost out in San Francisco to the nightclub scene. In the U.S, the most popular rave culture scene remains in Los Angeles. In Europe, Berlin remains the rave culture capital.
Though it is unfortunate that rave parties and dancing are always linked with abuse of drugs, the history of rave culture highlights the effect a musical genre can have on a population, inspiring an attitude, behavior and way of life.