Alongside the cultural explosion of electronic dance music throughout the last couple years comes a great many challenges for us as a community to tackle and triumph against together. The most recent example of our community being thrust under the speculative media microscope was the unfortunate deaths that occurred and crimes committed at this years’ Electric Zoo festival in New York City. This is an article angle that I have been wanting to write for the last few months, and after attending the Zoo this year and experiencing the ordeal firsthand, I was compelled to congeal my ideas into a cohesive editorial piece on our responsibilities as not just ravers, but more so as human beings and as members of a greater community – a community that has since come under some fiery criticism due to an exhibitionism of lack of both personal and community-wide responsibility.
A mirror has been held up to our scene; do we like what we see? For the most part I sincerely do, however the disappointing events of the last few weeks in both Boston and NYC have forced a dialogue with regards to the darker aspects of our beloved extended family. And I deeply believe this conversation needs to occur for our community to continue to grow and thrive. There are multiple aspects within the electronic music arena that would benefit from an increased sense (and exhibition) of personal responsibility including: perceptions of our scene (from the outside-looking-in & from those inside the scene), education and overreaching attitude adjustments.
Perception is a key to life. How you perceive a specific situation affects the personal feels that are generated from that situation, and thus affects the perpetuation of any of those feels into others’ personal realms of existence…ultimately bleeding into worldwide society as a whole. Due to recent events, the aspect most under scrutiny throughout dance music is the usage of drugs (more so Molly specifically) within festival environments. I am a firm believer in the right of any person to be permitted to do what they want with their own lives, given that their actions do not harm another individual that chooses not to partake in said act.
The PLUR ethos is an incredible cultural aspect that the EDM crowd has above & beyond any other organized facet of society (big statement, but true if you think about it). However there needs to be an additional “R” added to the end of that acronym – which stands for “responsibility”. Responsibility is a key factor in making sure outside perceptions of our community are in line with that we experience inside the festival grounds. We can spread tons of good vibes and trade thousands of pieces of kandi with our fellow soul brethren inside the festival, but when stories are released about overdoses and sexual assault situations in the mainstream media…that’s what the mainstream are going to cling to. Bad news always gets top billing, we all know this. Tt makes for better TV and creates a more divisive environment for “protection groups” like Mothers Against Molly and the newly formed Facebook group “Ban All EDM” to sprout.
With groups like these looking to take advantage of any misstep we make, we must exhibit a sense of self awareness…and the first step of self awareness is personal responsibility. If you haven’t rolled before and are looking to try it: educate yourself first on proper dosages and time-frames. Learn what you are getting into. If the weather is going to be hot as hell, keep hydrated with water, not with alcohol. Make sure you don’t completely deplete all of your electrolytes by chugging water only, swap in a Gatorade here and there. If you are trying something new, do not mix it with alcohol or other substances until you know how your body reacts to the new substance. Invest in a testing kit to insure you are not getting a batch of zombie bath salts. Additionally – be wary of people in crowds trying to sell you something that they claim to be pure, because who knows if it’s really what they promise. Exercise some caution, personal judgment, and moderation. We are responsible for our own lives; we need to start acting like it as a whole.
Additionally, next festival season: let’s shelve those “Have You Seen Molly?” “Sex, Drugs, & Dubstep” and any blatantly obvious drug-referenced apparel & paraphernalia. We do not need to self-perpetuate the perception that the only thing our community is about is getting high. Again, I will always subscribe to the belief that people should be able to do that they want, but why add fuel to the fire? Let’s take our power back. Show that we are really there for the music and anything else that we choose to do is icing on the cake and not the cake itself.
If the true music lovers adopted this take, it would make those kids who only come to EDM festivals to roll their faces off and get blitzed beyond belief without any respect for the music more evidently seen and apparent. At that point, we can single that specific segment of the population out and attempt to educate them on the perception that they are creating for themselves and for the community as a whole. Given that maturity doesn’t come at the same age for everyone, it couldn’t hurt to attempt to impart some perception to these clearly convoluted souls, and maybe help them learn something about themselves at the same time.
Who wants to think about education during a 3 day-plus festival, we are supposed to be having fun right?! Well we learn something new every day, as the saying goes, so why not apply that age old adage into something that will benefit the community that we are all a part of. I have had some of the deepest political, philosophical and universal conversations with some of the most forward-thinking people I have ever met in my life within festival grounds. As a scene, we can get pretty intellectual and insightful, so why not use those skills and abilities to our advantage and propel us ahead? We were all new to the scene, to a subgenre, to a drug, to a social environment or to a group of people before. None of us are better than anyone else – some of us just may be a bit more evolved than others.
The evolved tend to become the leaders, the trailblazers, the teachers. However at times (myself included as an occasional “trance elitist”) the evolved let their strongly-formed opinions seep out in a tirade of anti-main stage crowd rants, or by way of complaints against those unfortunate incidents that caused the EZoo tragedy. Personally, I couldn’t stand dealing with the Hardwell main stage crowd at the Zoo on Sunday, it was like sardine and bro central…but if you took a bit of time to chat with the people around you and point them towards a side stage featuring a set later on that you’ve been looking forward to as well…you may have just created a new deep house, trance, bass, or dubstep fan. With that possible new experience, they may also then get to learn more about the PLUR(R) culture and feels in a more intimate stage environment…which in turn spurs their own personal evolution even more. No need to be elitist, just share your personal experiences with those newcomers…pry their eyes open a bit if you have to, and set them free down the rabbit hole.
If you encounter someone wearing one of those “OMG look at me I do crazy drugs” shirts and you have a chance to strike up a conversation with them, elaborate on what kind of image they are projecting for themselves and the community as a whole. Sometimes an insight into a personal perspective allows that person to see from your eyes just for a brief second…which has the possibility of jump-starting their own personal evolution at the same time. They may have come only for the party atmosphere, just to roll until they couldn’t stand anymore…but if we show them what the scene is really about and what it can offer (if you are open to it), I guarantee the next festival round they will dial back the amounts they take in order to fully be able to experience the incredible love, respect and welcoming atmosphere that raves offer to its’ attendees.
I have never, ever felt such intensely great vibes or met the quality of high-caliber people in such high concentrations as I have at raves across the US (I haven’t made it international…yet) but there will always be people coming just to party their faces off. This is an unfortunate reality that is impossible to fully prevent, but only by education and sharing of experiences and outlooks can those percentages be diminished.
I want to preface this section by saying that out of American society as a whole: EDM by far has the chillest population of people. Every show I go to, I get spiritually and personally rejuvenated and my faith in humanity becomes recharged. It is a must in my life. It makes the everyday work week OK, because I know that I am working to afford to be able to experience the next amazing show or festival. So please don’t take this section as a writer coming down on people’s attitudes. This is meant as more of a “tweaking” nudge. I mean, we are all constant works-in-progress aren’t we? As a microcosm of different and individual souls, the macrocosm is sure to benefit from an intensified and increased exhibitionism of self-awareness and awareness of others around us.
Cross-genre elitism. We have all experienced it, as well as most likely contributed to it as well. I have an ear for the melodic, so I don’t really get the whole trap scene. I’m totally down with Adventure Club, but I don’t really “get” Carl Cox. Just because my preferred genre happens to be trance and yours happens to be hard electro doesn’t mean we have to contribute to the “great divide” between the versions of electronic music we enjoy…and it especially doesn’t mean that we have to mock or belittle another persons’ choices or ear. In the same regard though, I am not insinuating that we shouldn’t share the love of our preferred genres with what I call the “main stage crowd” – the ones that only come to see Hardwell or Guetta or Avicii (mispronunciation of said DJ’s name imminent). Who is to say that once you urge those same people to check out a John O’Callaghan or a Boys Noize set (my biggest “wow” moment at the behest of friends during EZoo) that they won’t become a new member of the trancefamily or a Boys Noize fan for life? All because you decided to share your ear with them.
Perpetuating a judgment-free zone is one of the building blocks of the rave, however there are definitely instances in the past of members in our community perpetuating negative stereotypes via social media for a cheap laugh (anyone remember the girl making out with the tree at Ultra?) How do you think that girl felt once that video went viral? She may have thought twice about attending an EDM show in the future (or possibly maybe reevaluated the substances she partook in if she continued to go). Here is another challenge to you all: if you see people doing some outrageously funny or off-the-rocker acts within show grounds, it is alright to chuckle with friends…but why film or take pics in turn furthering that persons’ humiliation for a spur of the moment act? Maybe even we could step in and stop them from making a fool out of themselves. Karma will surely come back around in your favor in the future, and in turn our community won’t be colored in a negative hue.
Lastly, with the explosion of the genre within the youth market, maturity (or perceived lack of) will continue to be a buzzword. Given that age isn’t always directly related to maturity, it’s a causal relationship that cannot be ignored. Raves are supposed to be an environment where you can self express without fear of personal belittlement. So next time you see that 250lb+ girl with too little clothes on showing the world parts of her body that you aren’t even sure she is aware of, let her know…don’t snap a picture. If a ridiculously drunken kid tries to start drama with you or others around him, step in and try to quell the negativity…don’t perpetuate the bad feels by spewing your own. It’s now up to us, the experienced ravers, to control our reactions to unfavorable situations like that and spin them back into the positive.
There will always be those who aren’t receptive to receiving this type of response, but if you encounter one person who is, you have just made a positive impact in the scene that is sure to continue through that persons’ reactions with others throughout their life. The 100th monkey effect: if we keep putting good things out there and perpetuating the positivity that I know exists in our hearts then, just maybe, will the rave way of life spread into the doldrums and dog-eat-dog nature of everyday life and help to create a better tomorrow.
The rave. A term that reeks of negative connotation throughout the mainstream media world…but a singular term that summons sheer joy in my heart and soul. A place where you leave all of everyday life’s troubles and worries behind allowing you to tune out to the music and tune into the universe as a collective group of like-minded beings. We need to “take back” the term from the negativity that MSM assigns to it and perceives it as (a la a drug haven for heathens) and make them see that if society existed as the rave does… it would be extremely unlikely that wars, famine and hatred and persecution of other ethnic/socio groups would continue to exist and perpetuate. It we adopted the PLUR(R) (remember that 2nd R, peeps) ethos into everyday life, we might actually be able to achieve that elusive Garden of Eden on Earth.