Peace, Love, Unity and Respect: the first countercultural slogan to strike the perfect balance between positive outlook and youthful rebellion since “tune in, turn on, drop out.” The raver motto since the early ‘90s encapsulates a movement that ran parallel to developments in electronic music and the way it was consumed by a generation of forward-thinking techno-optimists.
The rave scene, which was born more than 20 years ago in warehouses, outdoors areas, and probably bookstores (what exactly were those things for?), had a few defining characteristics. Among the physical accoutrements such as glow sticks and tutus, electronic music crowds have always been identified by a pervasive sense of inclusion, aka PLUR.
Last month’s tragedy at Time Warp in Buenos Aires, leaving 5 dead and 4 in critical condition, was met with swift action from the Argentinian capital’s government. What first seemed to be the discontinuation of music festivals within the city has since snowballed into a judge banning “all commercial activity involving dancing with live and recorded music”, a decision now even affecting nightclubs.
Such brash reactions are nothing new in the realm of dance music; and, with raves in the US accruing as much negative press as youth arrests, I’m forced to call it: The rave dream has officially died.
When last year’s Hard Day of the Dead banned press from covering its Halloween event, we should have known something was very, very wrong. Who knew, perhaps the next festival would ban photo and video, and we could’ve all had ourselves an authentic ‘90s forest rave experience. But, less than a week after the media blackout was announced, more news regarding Los Angeles County’s Hard Day of the Dead and nearby Psycho Circus in San Bernardino came rolling (pun intended) in.
Over the course of one weekend, nearly 500 ravers were arrested at the two events, in a successful move by law enforcement officials to crack down on the more unsavory occurrences at such gatherings. This came less than 2 months after LA county announced its plans to enact an electronic music task force.
The officials of these two Southern California counties are not the first to attempt restricting or penalizing drug use at rave events. 2003’s RAVE Act has upheld 12 years of oppressively confusing laws somehow declaring event promoters as pro-drug use if they provide enough water refill stations for their patrons. At least I think that’s what I’ve heard the RAVE Act is about – I can’t say I’ve read it firsthand, as I make it a point to not read complete bullshit … the same reasoning behind why I’ve never picked up “Eat, Pray, Love”. The RAVE Act came almost a decade after the UK’s historical Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, giving that island across the pond a fabled reputation for illegal parties in the woods. If Robin Hood had existed in the late ‘90s, he would’ve lived in a forest outside of Slough and stolen from the rich to give to the PLUR.
As more news travels out of Argentina, it looks like vibes are continuing to be harshed. Jorge Becco, head of the Buenos Aires chamber of discotheque owners (aka the man with my new-found dream job) protests the recent decision, claiming, “We are not the same as the Time Warp festival.” Prohibition laws do not typically allow for a conducive exchange between citizens, business owners, government officials, law enforcers and illegal opportunists. Although the restrictive laws of yesteryear have given us colorful tales of warehouse parties and illegal raves, it causes unnecessary tension and an increase in illicit activity. Most importantly recent research has shown that the RAVE Act did not protect EDM fans in the long run.
It’s no surprise when lawmakers and law enforcers successfully kill the fun. The bigger surprise of 2015 American rave happenings was TomorrowWorld’s funny-bad fuckup. First, festivalgoers were locked out of the grounds and left stranded somewhere in Georgia (a strong starting point for your average horror film) and a couple weeks later, a botched refund attempt left them re-charged for tickets instead of refunded. As hilarious as this is for us casual observers, that scale of disorganization shows a lack of regard for TomorrowWorld’s patrons. Somehow, youths across the world have been throwing illegal parties in any which location without leaving all participants stranded, cold, and most likely in fear of a backwoods dismemberment cult.
Call me a hopeful PLURchild (just kidding, please never call me that), but on the inside, some of us may have hoped today’s festival fever and popularization of the EDM genre would bring a large-scale adoption of the PLURspective present in its originators’ mindsets. Are raves and festivals no longer the places to look for it?
Perhaps the answers are in this video of Sven Väth at Love Parade 2000 Berlin.