Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why We Rave

Photo: Caesar Sebastian

Sometimes it appears that we are reaching a period when our senses and our minds will no longer respond to moderate stimulation. We seem to be approaching an age of the gross; persuasion through speeches and books is too often discarded for disruptive demonstrations aimed at bludgeoning the unconvinced into action.

The young overwhelm themselves with drugs and artificial stimulants. Subtlety is lost, and fine distinctions based on acute reasoning are carelessly ignored in a headlong jump to a predetermined conclusion. Life is visceral rather than intellectual – and the most visceral practitioners of life are those who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”

- Vice President Spiro Agnew, 22 May 1970

- Sampled by deadmau5 on BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix, 10 April 2009

I’m a raver, and I’m not the drugged out, mindless misfit that politicians and journalists and the former Vice President of the United States think I am.

It’s hard for me to explain what raving is like because raving isn’t meant to be explained. It’s meant to be felt – in your eyes, on your skin, in your soul. It’s about looking up at the heavens, then down at the pulsing throng of people around you, and rejoicing at the simple fact that you’re alive. It’s about hugging your friends, and telling them that you love them with all your heart, and meaning it. It’s about being kind to strangers because you understand that we’re all here for the same reason.

We rave because we love dance music’s inherent simplicity and occasional complexity. We do it for the pulse of house beats, the bliss of trance rhythms, and the wonderful, furious, face-melting wobble of dubstep.

We do because no one else is brave enough to.

The Electric Daisy Carnival is the raver’s Christmas. It’s the highlight of the summer festival season, the only event on the continent that attracts nearly every big-name artist in electronic music.

Last year, the festival was headlined by Armin van Buuren, the Dutch DJ widely recognized as the finest in the world, and deadmau5, the Canadian producer known for performing his live shows inside a huge, self-illuminated mouse helmet. All together, EDC attracted 185,000 ravers over the course of two days. I was one of them.

It was my first rave, so I remember it particularly clearly. It was a characteristically beautiful Los Angeles summer evening. The air was balmy and cool, the sun’s rays were no longer harsh but refreshing, and the permanent haze that swathes downtown’s skyscrapers was miraculously gone. It was the kind of evening that reminded you most of this country’s population wishes it lived in here.

As the sun finally dropped below the Coliseum’s bleak gray walls, I looked up, basking in the glory of the unseen sunset, which had thrown rays of pink and orange across the entire glorious sky. As I tilted back my head, the DJ, Laidback Luke, unleashed yet another unbelievable song, sending 100,000 ravers into pure, unbridled, ecstasy.

We were here for “love and light,” he said, and as the first set of fireworks ripped into the beautiful pink summer sky, I realized that I had never felt so alive before. The defense mechanisms built up through 19 years of foreign climates and cultures, of the struggle for acceptance, of always being the outsider, simply melted away.

EDC changed my life for the better. It gave me the confidence to be the person that I know I am.

In 11 months that have followed my first rave, my relationships with my friends, partners, and parents have deepened. I’ve grown more poised and self-aware, and I’m far more open and expressive with my emotions.

The truth is that every generation spends its maturity trying desperately to extract meaning from its existence (which is how ideas like heaven came about in the first place). You criticize us for it, but understand that life is inherently visceral. Why not embrace it?

True ravers know that a rave - a real rave - is more than some drug-fueled, mind-bending, all-night dance party (though those are fun, too). A rave is a vision of the world as it could be – as it should be. Ravers are a community of good people. We don’t want to fight or argue or complain. We want to have fun, to be ourselves, to wear crazy costumes, make colorful bracelets, and share our joy with old friends and new.

We live in the moment, and we hope for the future. We understand that a rave isn’t like any other kind of party, that it’s not just some hedonistic ritual.

It’s a reminder of the world’s beauty, a place where we recognize the human ability to create the sublime. It’s humanism at its finest, an experience through which we derive meaning from our lives.

~Bryan King