Nightclubs, outfits that would not be worn in public, music that sounds like beeps, boops and forks in a garbage disposal and illicit drug use. These are characteristics that people not involved with the electronic dance music (EDM) and rave community attribute to the scene.
What these people do not understand is that today, the people who are a part of this community are not only bonded by their love for the music but also their values of peace, love, unity and respect, commonly abbreviated as PLUR. The use of drug paraphernalia overshadows the open-minded atmosphere that the rave culture has come to pride itself in today.
Following the birth of house music and techno music in the 1980s, raves came to life in the form of underground parties held in secret locations. Today, the term is commonly used to describe an EDM event whether that be at a nightclub, a festival or something more clandestine. I first understood what the community was all about when I went to Imagine Music Festival in 2018. I had gone to several EDM concerts beforehand — I would, however, solely interact with my friend group and did not know what to expect from a festival in which thousands of people congregate for a weekend to see live productions from artists of the genre.
Walking around the campsites and throughout the Atlanta Motor Speedway, I felt like I was in a strange utopia. Festival goers would be wearing myriad of different outfits from intricate and vibrant pieces to close to nothing at all care to what people thought or judgement to other people’s clothing choices. Rather, it was encouraged to be inclusive, positive and spread love and care to others. This was evident in the people I would meet. From camping neighbors to strangers with whom I share brief moments singing along and dancing to our favorite songs, the weekend was filled with making connections with people I never would have met otherwise. There’s even a ritual in which you exchange kandi (bead bracelets or necklaces) with new people you meet.
All this is not to say that there are not bad aspects of community. There are people who go to these events and do not have the same PLUR mentality as the rest. There are people who actively try to steal others’ belongings and people who abuse illicit substances and get aggressive. Luckily, they’re outnumbered by crowds of people who will chase down a thief or make sure those who get intoxicated stay hydrated and are using test kits for substances they
plan on taking.
More recently, my experience at an Illenium concert last October confirmed my belief in ravers and their kindness. I went by myself because my friends could not attend, but I did not let that keep me from experiencing one of my favorite artists. I am naturally introverted and do not typically go out of my way to talk with strangers, but I asked these two women behind me to take my photo. They noticed I was alone and asked if I wanted to join them and their rave family. I said yes, and we enjoyed the music throughout the night with my new group of friends. Someone we had met even bought me a ticket to the after party that I could not afford.
Experiences like this keep me hooked onto this community. The rave culture and the people a part of it has taught me to be more open minded, kind and welcoming of others. If you ever find yourself at a rave, then be prepared for a great vibe and a whole lot of PLUR.