EDM, trap, house, trance, techno. Like every generation before us has had a signature musical movement to define the decade, the 2000’s have electronic dance music. The 20’s had jazz, 50’s blues, 60’s and 70’s classic rock, 80’s hair metal, 90’s started the electronic wave, and the 2000’s took it a step farther with rave culture. I can hear my grandparents now if I was to have them listen to EDM, “Turn down that noise”, but wouldn’t that sound all too familiar? The world of EDM is harshly criticized for being heavily associated with nudity, promiscuity and drugs- exactly as every musical movement before it.
I can’t say I was immediately on board when this music movement exploded onto the scene, I too judged and criticized assuming everyone who was a part of it to be pill-popping junkies. It wasn’t until recently when I went abroad was I really sort of thrust into this culture as electronic music was big in underground and club scenes. When I came back to the states with my mind changed and my EDM musical palette enhanced, I was surprised to discover the rave culture here to be nothing like I experienced in Europe.
I went to my first American EDM show in Atlantic City at one of the newer casino’s clubs. It was Steve Aoki who is a popular house DJ and arguably one of the more “tame” DJ’s- if you consider throwing multiple cakes at the audience, crowd surfing on a blow up raft and dumping entire bottles of champagne over girls heads tame. These are all part of the Aoki experience, and a major part of why people go to see his shows. Girls get dressed up to the nines and then beg to have the hours in front of the mirror reversed by screaming to be “caked”. These shows are wild, chaotic and full energy for the entire 2-hour set.
Since this particular show was on Valentines Day, I thought it would be appropriate to dress up more in costume. I figured I was already entirely out of my comfort zone, so what the hell, right? Although it was at a club and not a venue, where tutus and pasties suffice as an entire outfit, I jazzed my regular evening attire up with glow sticks, bright lipstick, crazy teased hair and red heart shaped sunglasses. Upon arriving at the venue and taking in the positively overwhelming atmosphere, I was particularly thankful for the sunglasses as to not have to make eye contact with any passerby’s. What a rookie mistake that was. For a new-goer like myself, I was unaware wearing sunglasses signified you were “rolling” and therefore opening yourself up to invitation for people to intentionally try to wig you out. Imagine the sheer sober panic.
Waiting over two hours for the DJ to come on and with my pregame buzz wearing off, unwelcomed sweaty bodies rubbing up against up me and miscreant drunk people trying to steal the sunglasses right off of my face, it was safe to say I had had it. For the two hours of waiting and built up anticipation we wandered around dancing and trying to get a good spot to see. Knowing my mental stability wouldn’t allow for us to stay smushed into the front in the “caking” zone we lucked our way onto some platforms above some couches and somehow we were not asked to leave. I think the security guards could sense our fear and took pity on our poor souls.
Before the concert had even started I had experienced a “show” in and of itself. I encountered a fair share of characters in the few hours I spent killing time before the DJ made his appearance. In no particular order there was the guy handing out lollipops, the sketchy loner, that couple taking it to the next level in public, fellow sunglass wearers and a particularly brave individual dressed up in a full body Elmo suit. Fucking bizarre, and brilliant. Not only was this the most eclectic bunch of people I had ever seen in one room together, but everyone (as deranged as they appeared) were genuinely some of the friendliest people. Once the set began no one was pushing to get a good view, violently moshing or throwing things, but for as wild as an experience as it was, people were surprisingly respectful and really there to enjoy the music. There was an indescribable, palpable energy buzzing through the room, unlike any concert I had ever experienced before. My night, and attitude, did a complete 360.
If there is an artist who you listen to in the secrecy of your own room but are dying to see live, do it. Screw the naysayers, disprove the nonbelievers and overcome yours and others preconceived notions.The experience may just blow your mind- and your eardrums.
If you so seek to join the movement of today’s youths here is a handy guide to the five most typical people seen at raves that you may want to intentionally seek out or avoid.
1.) “Kandi Kids”- they wear beaded bracelets, necklaces, tops and masks that they make themselves. They often trade them amongst each other in a weirder version of a Girl Scout swap meet.
2.) “Hoops”- They are particularly skilled with hula-hoops, dancing the entirety of the concert with a hula-hoop. Again, think of innocent childhood games, but with more nudity.
3.) “Lights” or “Gloves” – Wearing or holding glow sticks they are the ones who you picture wearing those weird light-up gloves and wagging their spirit fingers. They do so not only because it is typical to flash neon colors, but to provide a trip for people who are high. The more you know…
4.) “Go-go dancers” (AKA “Not strippers”) -Sure, they dance in sexy costumes, but go-go dancers are often classically and professionally trained dancers with ripped bodies of athletes. They pump up the crowd by dancing and jumping for the entirety of the set- that takes stamina.
5.) “P.L.U.R”- Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. If EDM were a company, this would be their mission statement. There are also associated hand movements and symbols that are thrown in a gang related gesture to show others you support the movement. Kind of nice, right?