Suvarna Garge (Editor)


Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Location  Worldwide

Genres included  Electronica new beat house acid house electro house progressive house progressive trance tech house big beat breakbeat acid breaks trance hardcore techno Goa trance psychedelic trance happy hardcore breakbeat hardcore dub techno dubstep drum and bass fidget UK garage speed garage bassline grime UK funky moombahton moombahcore gabber industrial jumpstyle hardstyle ghetto house speedcore nu rave alternative dance industrial dance
Related genres  Glam rock glam metal new wave power pop synthpop progressive rock psychedelic rock dub ambient
Types of street rave dance  Hakken Para Para Rebolation Melbourne Shuffle
Related events  Music festival rock festival electronic music festival acid house party doof trance festival electronic dance music festival teknival algorave free festival free party circuit party concert tour
Related topics  Smiley Disc jockeys Light beam Club drugs MDMA 2C-B

A rave (from the verb: to rave) is a large dance party featuring performances by DJs and occasionally live performers playing electronic music, particularly electronic dance music (EDM). The music is amplified with a large, powerful sound reinforcement system, typically with large subwoofers to produce a deep bass sound. The music is accompanied by laser light shows, projected images, visual effects and fog machines. The word "rave" was first used in the late 1980s to describe the subculture that grew out of the acid house movement.


While some raves may be small parties held at nightclubs or private residences, some raves have grown to immense size, such as the Castlemorton Common Festival in 1992. Some electronic dance music festivals have features of raves, but on a large, often commercial scale. Raves may last for a long time, with some events continuing for ten hours. Due to the association of illegal party drugs such as MDMA (ecstasy) and the use of non-authorized, secret venues for some raves, such as squat parties at warehouses, law enforcement attention has been directed at the rave scene in many countries.

Origin of 'rave' (1950s–1970s)

In the late 1950s in London the term "rave" was used to describe the "wild bohemian parties" of the Soho beatnik set. In 1958, Buddy Holly recorded the hit "Rave On," citing the madness and frenzy of a feeling and the desire for it never to end. The word "rave" was later used in the burgeoning mod youth culture of the early 1960s as the way to describe any wild party in general. People who were gregarious party animals were described as "ravers". Pop musicians such as Steve Marriott of The Small Faces and Keith Moon of The Who were self-described "ravers".

Presaging the word's subsequent 1980s association with electronic music, the word "rave" was a common term used regarding the music of mid-1960s garage rock and psychedelia bands (most notably The Yardbirds, who released an album in the US called Having a Rave Up). Along with being an alternative term for partying at such garage events in general, the "rave-up" referred to a specific crescendo moment near the end of a song where the music was played faster, more heavily and with intense soloing or elements of controlled feedback. It was later part of the title of an electronic music performance event held on 28 January 1967 at London's Roundhouse titled the "Million Volt Light and Sound Rave". The event featured the only known public airing of an experimental sound collage created for the occasion by Paul McCartney of The Beatles – the legendary Carnival of Light recording.

With the rapid change of British pop culture from the mod era of 1963–1966 to the hippie era of 1967 and beyond, the term fell out of popular usage. During the 1970s and early 1980s until its resurrection, the term was not in vogue, one notable exception being in the lyrics of the song "Drive-In Saturday" by David Bowie (from his 1973 album Aladdin Sane) which includes the line, "It's a crash course for the ravers." Its use during that era would have been perceived as a quaint or ironic use of bygone slang: part of the dated 1960s lexicon along with words such as "groovy".

Also during the 1970s the Chicago house movement continued to expand along with a new club - Studio 54. Studio 54 was a world-famous New York nightclub and discothèque. Founded and created by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager in 1977, it was sold in 1980 to Mark Fleischman. Rubell and Schrager hired Scott Bromley as architect, Ron Doud as interior designer and Brian Thompson as lighting designer. Jules Fisher and Paul Marantz, two well-known lighting designers, created the dance floor environment and created moveable theatrical sets and lights using the copious existing TV lighting circuits and fly system, which allowed for a dynamic constantly changing environment. Where formerly all clubs had been very dark, at Studio 54 the crowd could be lit brightly. In the late 1970s, the club was arguably the best-known nightclub in the world. The club played a formative role in the growth of disco music and nightclub culture in general, the club was notorious for its subjective and often restrictive entry policy, frequent celebrity attendees and open drug use. The perception of the word changed again in the late 1980s when the term was revived and adopted by a new youth culture, possibly inspired by the use of the term in Jamaica.

Birth of techno and acid house (1980s)

In the mid to late 1980s, a wave of psychedelic and other electronic dance music, most notably acid house music, emerged from acid house music parties in the mid-to-late 1980s in the Chicago area in the United States. After Chicago acid house artists began experiencing overseas success, acid house quickly spread and caught on in the United Kingdom within clubs, warehouses and free-parties, first in Manchester in the mid-1980s and then later in London. In the late 1980s, the word "rave" was adopted to describe the subculture that grew out of the acid house movement. Activities were related to the party atmosphere of Ibiza, a Mediterranean island in Spain, frequented by British, Italian, Greek, Irish and German youth on vacation, who would hold raves and dance parties.

Growth of the scene (1990s–present)

By the 1990s, genres such as acid house, house music, oldschool jungle, techno, and electronica were all being featured at raves, both large and small. There were mainstream events which attracted thousands of people (up to 25,000 instead of the 4,000 that came to earlier warehouse parties). Acid house music parties were first re-branded "rave parties" in the media, during the summer of 1989 by Genesis P-Orridge (Neil Andrew Megson) during a television interview; however, the ambience of the rave was not fully formed until the early 1990s. In the UK, in 1988–89, raves were similar to football matches, in that they provided a setting for working-class unification, at a time of union movement in decline and few jobs. Many of the attendees of raves were die-hard football fans. In 1990, raves were also held "underground" in several cities, such as Berlin, Milan and Patras, in basements, warehouses and forests.

British politicians responded with hostility to the emerging rave party trend. Politicians spoke out against raves and began to fine promoters who held unauthorized parties. Police crackdowns on these often unauthorized parties drove the rave scene into the countryside. The word "rave" somehow caught on in the UK to describe common semi-spontaneous weekend parties occurring at various locations linked by the brand new M25 London orbital motorway that ringed London and the Home Counties. (It was this that gave the band Orbital their name.) These ranged from former warehouses and industrial sites in London, to fields and country clubs in the countryside.


Prior to the commercialization of the rave scene, when large legal venues became the norm for these events, the location of the rave was kept secret until the night of the event, usually being communicated through mobile messaging, secret flyers, and websites. This level of secrecy, necessary for avoiding any interference by the police, on account of the illicit drug use, enabled the ravers to use locations they could stay in for ten hours at a time. It promoted the sense of deviance and removal from social control. In the 2000s, this level of secrecy still exists in the underground rave scene. However "after-hours" clubs, as well as large outdoor events, create a similar type of alternate atmosphere, but focus much more on vibrant visual effects, such as props and décor. In more recent years, large commercial events are held at the same locations year after year with similar reoccurring themes every year. Events like Electric Daisy Carnival and Tomorrowland are typically held at the same venue that hold mass amounts of people.

Some raves make use of pagan symbolism. Modern raving venues attempt to immerse the raver in a fantasy-like world. Indigenous imagery and spirituality can be characteristic in the Raving ethos. In both the New Moon and Gateway collectives, "pagan altars are set up, sacred images from primitive cultures decorate the walls, and rituals of cleansing are performed over the turntables and the dance floor" This type of spatial strategy is an integral part of the raving experience because it sets the initial "vibe" in which the ravers will immerse themselves. This said "vibe" is a concept in the raver ethos that represents the allure and receptiveness of an environment's portrayed and or innate energy. The landscape is an integral feature in the composition of rave, much like it is in pagan rituals. For example, The Numic Ghost Dancers rituals were held on specific geographical sites, considered to hold powerful natural flows of energy. These sites were later represented in the rhythmic dances, in order to achieve a greater level of connectivity.

Notable venues

The following is an incomplete list of venues associated with the rave subculture:


A sense of participation in a group event is among the chief appeals of rave music and dancing to pulsating beats is its immediate outlet. Raving in itself is a syllabus-free dance, whereby the movements are not predefined and the dance is performed randomly, dancers take immediate inspiration from the music, their mood and watching other people dancing. Thus, the electronic, rave and club dances refer to the street dance styles that evolved alongside electronic music culture. Such dances are street dances since they evolved alongside the underground rave and club movements, without the intervention of dance studios. These dances were originated in some 'scenes' around the world, becoming known only to ravers or clubgoers who attempt to these locations. They were originated at some point that certain moves had begun to be performed to several people at those places, creating a completely freestyle, yet still highly complex set of moves, adaptable to every dancer change and dance whatever they want based on these moves.

A common feature shared by all these dances, alongside with being originated at clubs, raves and music festivals around the world and in different years, is that when YouTube and other social media started to become popular (around 2006), these dances began to be popularized by videos of raves performing them, recording and uploading their videos. Therefore, they began to be practiced outside their places of origin, creating different 'scenes' in several countries. Furthermore, some of these dances began to evolve, and these dance 'scenes' are not totally related to the club/rave scenes they were originated. Also, the way of teaching and learning them have changed. In the past, if someone wanted to learn one of these dances, the person had to go to a club/rave, watch people dancing and try to copy them. Now, with social media, these dances are mostly taught on video tutorials and the culture spreads and grows inside those social media, like Flogger on Fotolog, Rebolation, Sensualize and Free Step on Orkut and Cutting Shapes on Instagram.

Due the lack of studies dedicated to those dances, combined with poor and inaccurate information of them available on the Internet, it is hard to find reliable information.


The loose, casual and sports clothing was originally adopted by the acid house set earlier on in Ibiza, utilizing easy-to-dance-in attire from hip hop and football/soccer culture. As well as clothing there developed a range of accessories carried by many ravers including: Vicks VapoRub, which ravers find pleasant under the influence of MDMA, pacifiers to satiate the need to grind one's teeth (bruxism) caused by taking MDMA, and glow sticks which adjunct the mild psychedelia of MDMA's effect. This led some clubs and event organizers to search participants on entry and confiscate such items due to it being evidence of drug use inside the venue.

Recent global rave events such as Sensation have a strict minimalistic dress policy, either all white or black attire. This ties in with the initial PLUR approach upheld from earlier rave culture. In the United States and other countries, rave fashion is characterized by colorful clothing and accessories, most notably "kandi" jewellery, that fluoresce under ultraviolet light. They contain words or phrases that are unique to the raver and they can choose to trade with each other using "PLUR" (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect). In European countries, this kandi culture is much less common. Most raves are illegal and take place outside or in poorly heated warehouses, so keeping warm is a priority. Dreadlocks, dyed hair and mohawks are popular, as are tattoos and piercings. Clothing is vibrant and alternative, often taking inspiration from new-age punk and grunge style. However, there is no set dress code for the illegal rave scene.

Since rave culture has seen such an explosion in the US since 2010 as the rave scene is no longer illegal or underground, raves in the US are now so popular that there are many brands, retailers, and websites selling apparel, costumes, and accessories just for those who go to dress up at raves. This style of attire, along with the entire rave culture, is now spilling out into the mainstream, especially in the US. Sometimes called "rave fashion" or "festival fashion," it now includes all kinds of accessories to create unique looks depending on the person and event. Items such as jewelry, body chains, temporary tattoos, furry leg warmers (also known as fluffies), sunglasses, fanny packs, pasties, light up items, spirit hoods, and much more can be seen at any major rave event around the US and globe. There has also been a recent trend in the use of Diffraction and Kaleidoscope Glasses in the festival industry to create or enhance an MDMA or ecstasy experience.

Light shows

Some ravers participate in one of four light-oriented dances, called glowsticking, glowstringing, gloving, and lightshows. Of the four types of light-orientated dances, gloving in particular has evolved beyond and outside of the rave culture. Other types of light-related dancing include LED lights, flash-lights and blinking strobe lights. LEDs come in various colours with different settings.

Gloving has evolved into a separate dance form that has grown exponentially in the last couple of years while still keeping its rave roots. The origins of gloving is often credited to Hermes who put together 10 Rav'n lights into a pair of white gloves in 2006. Since then the culture has extended to all ages, ranging from kids in their early teens to college students and more. The traditional Rav'n lights are limited now, but many stores have developed newer, brighter, and more advanced version of lights with a plethora of colors and modes—modes include solid, stribbon, strobe, dops, hyper flash, and other variations.

What was once an extension of the rave culture has now blossomed into a hobby or a form of dance. Even though gloving originated in Southern California, it can now be seen in Northern California, Florida, New York, and many other states in the US. In college, you can see a gloving club called Ambience, which has spread into University of California Irvine, University of California Davis, University of California Berkeley, University of California Santa Barbara, University of California San Diego.

Drug use

According to the FBI, raves are one of the most popular venues where club drugs are distributed, and as such feature a prominent drug subculture. Club drugs include MDMA (more commonly known as "Ecstasy" or "Molly"), Amphetamine (commonly referred to as "Speed"), GHB and Rohypnol, Ketamine (also known as "Special K"), Methamphetamine (also known as "Tina" or "Ice" ), and LSD (commonly referred to as "Lucy" or "Acid"). In recent years, the number of club drugs being distributed at raves has declined significantly. The most common club drugs today are MDMA, LSD, Cocaine, Alcohol, and Marijuana. 'Poppers' is the street name for alkyl nitrites (the most well-known being amyl nitrite), which are inhaled for their intoxicating effects. Nitrites originally came as small glass capsules that were popped open, which led to the nickname "poppers." The drug became popular in the US first on the disco/club scene of the 1970s and then at dance and rave venues in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 2000s, synthetic phenethylamines such as 2C-I, 2C-B and DOB have been referred to as club drugs due to their stimulating and psychedelic nature (and their chemical relationship with MDMA). By late 2012, derivates of the psychedelic 2C-X drugs, the NBOMes and especially 25I-NBOMe, had become common at raves in Europe. In the U.S., some law enforcement agencies have branded the subculture as a drug-centric culture, as rave attendees have been known to use drugs such as marijuana, 2CB, and DMT.

Groups that have addressed alleged drug use at raves e.g. the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund (EM:DEF), The Toronto Raver Info Project (Canada), DanceSafe (USA and Canada), and Eve & Rave (Germany and Switzerland), all of which advocate harm reduction approaches. In 2005, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, advocated drug testing on highways as a countermeasure against drug use at raves. Much of the controversy caused by rave culture and its association with drug use may be due to reports of drug overdoses (particularly MDMA) at raves, concerts and festivals.


By 1987, a German party scene, started by Tauseef Alam, based on the Chicago House sound was well established. The following year (1988) saw acid house making as significant an impact on popular consciousness in Germany and Central Europe as it had in England. In 1989 German DJs Westbam and Dr. Motte established the Ufo Club, an illegal party venue, and co-founded the Love Parade. On 9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, free underground Techno parties mushroomed in East Berlin, and a rave scene comparable to that in the UK was established. East German DJ Paul van Dyk has remarked that the Techno-based rave scene was a major force in re-establishing social connections between East and West Germany during the unification period. In urbanized Germany raves and techno parties often preferred industrial sceneries such as decommissioned power stations, factories, the canalization or former military properties of the cold war.

In 1991 a number of party venues closed, including Ufo, and the Berlin Techno scene centred itself around three locations close to the foundations of the Berlin Wall: the E-Werk, the Bunker and the now legendary Tresor. In the same period, German DJs began intensifying the speed and abrasiveness of the sound, as an acid-infused techno began transmuting into hardcore. This emerging sound was influenced by Dutch gabber and Belgian hardcore. Other influences on the development of this style were European Electronic Body Music groups of the mid-1980s such as DAF, Front 242, and Nitzer Ebb.

Across Europe, rave culture was becoming part of a new youth movement. DJs and electronic-music producers such as Westbam proclaimed the existence of a "raving society" and promoted electronic music as legitimate competition for rock and roll. Indeed, electronic dance music and rave subculture became mass movements. Since the mid 1990s, raves had tens of thousands of attendees, youth magazines featured styling tips, and television networks launched music magazines on House and Techno music. The annual Love Parade festivals in Berlin and later the Metropolitan Ruhr area repeatedly attracted more than one million party-goers between 1997 and 2010. Dozens of other annual technoparades took place in Germany and Central Europe at that time, the largest ones being Union Move, Generation Move, Reincarnation and Vision Parade as well as Street Parade and Lake Parade in Switzerland. Large commercial raves since the nineties are Mayday, Nature One, Time Warp, SonneMondSterne and Melt!. Beyond Berlin, further centers of the techno and rave scene in Germany are for example Frankfurt (famous clubs of the 1990s and 2000s were Omen, Dorian Gray, Cocoon and U60311), Munich (Ultraschall, KW, Natraj Temple, Harry Klein, Rote Sonne), Leipzig (Distillery) and Hamburg (Tunnel Club). Since the late 2000s, Berlin is still called the capital of electro music and rave, and techno clubs such as Berghain, Tresor, Watergate or KitKatClub and the way to party in barely renovated venues, ruins or wooden shacks such as, among many others, Club der Visionaere, Wilde Renate, Fiese Remise or Bar 25, attracted international media attention. One movie that portraits this recent scene is Berlin Calling starring Paul Kalkbrenner.

Birth of UK rave scene (1980s-1990s)

The UK was finally recognized for its rave culture around the late 1980s early 1990s. EXODUS collective which was founded in Luton famously known for London Luton airport and hat manufacturing. Exodus played a big part in the UK's rave scene today. By 1991, organisations such as Fantazia, Universe, N.A.S.A "Nice And Safe Attitude", Raindance and Amnesia House were holding massive legal raves in fields and warehouses around the country. One Fantazia party, called One Step Beyond, was an open-air, all-night affair that attracted 30,000 people. Other notable events included Vision at Pophams airfield in August 1992, with 40,000 in attendance and Universe's Tribal Gathering in 1993.

In the early 1990s, the scene was slowly changing, with local councils passing by-laws and increasing fees in an effort to prevent or discourage rave organisations from acquiring necessary licenses. This meant that the days of legal one-off parties were numbered. By the mid-1990s, the scene had fragmented into many different styles of dance music, making large parties more expensive to set up and more difficult to promote. The happy old skool style was replaced by the darker jungle and the faster happy hardcore. Although many ravers left the scene due to the split, promoters such as ESP Dreamscape and Helter Skelter still enjoyed widespread popularity and capacity attendances with multi-arena events catering to the various genres. Notable events of this period included ESP's Dreamscape 20 on 9 September 1995 at Brafield aerodrome fields, Northants and Helter Skelter's Energy 97 event on 9 Aug 1997 at Turweston Aerodrome, Northants.

Free parties and outlawing of raves (1992-1994)

The illegal free party scene also reached its zenith for that time after a particularly large festival, when many individual sound systems such as Bedlam, Circus Warp, DIY, and Spiral Tribe set up near Castlemorton Common. In May 1992, the government acted. Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the definition of music played at a rave was given as:

"Music" includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.
          –Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Sections 63, 64 & 65 of the Act targeted electronic dance music played at raves. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act empowered police to stop a rave in the open air when a hundred or more people are attending, or where two or more are making preparations for a rave. Section 65 allows any uniformed constable who believes a person is on their way to a rave within a five-mile radius to stop them and direct them away from the area; non-compliant citizens may be subject to a maximum fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale (£1000). The Act was officially introduced because of the noise and disruption caused by all night parties to nearby residents, and to protect the countryside. However, some participants in the scene claimed it was an attempt to lure youth culture away from MDMA and back to taxable alcohol. In November 1994, the Zippies staged an act of electronic civil disobedience to protest against the CJB (i.e., Criminal Justice Bill).

After 1993, the main outlet for raves in the UK were a number of licensed venues, amongst them Helter Skelter, Life at Bowlers (Trafford Park, Manchester), The Edge (formerly the Eclipse [Coventry]), The Sanctuary (Milton Keynes) and Club Kinetic. In London, itself, there were a few large clubs that staged raves on a regular basis, most notably "The Laser Dome", "The Fridge", "The Hippodrome", "Club U.K.", and "Trade." "The Laser Dome" featured two separate dance areas, "Hardcore" and "Garage", as well as over 20 video game machines, a silent-movie screening lounge, replicas of the "Statue of Liberty", "San Francisco Bridge", and a large glass maze. At capacity "The Laser Dome" held in excess of 6,000 people. Events proved to be one of the main forces in rave, holding legendary events across the north-east and Scotland. Initially playing Techno, Breakbeat, Rave and drum and bass, it later embraced hardcore techno including happy hardcore and bouncy techno. Judgement Day, History of Dance, and now REGENeration continued the Rezerection legacy. Scotland's clubs, such as the FUBAR in Stirling, Hangar 13 in Ayr, and Nosebleed in Rosyth played important roles in the development of these dance music styles.

These were nearly all pay-to-enter events; however, it could be argued that rave organisers saw the writing on the wall and moved towards more organised and "legitimate" venues, enabling a continuation of large-scale indoor raves well into the mid-nineties. One might remember that the earliest house and acid house clubs were themselves effectively "nightclubs". Public perception of raves was also overshadowed in the press by the 1995 death of Leah Betts, a teenager who died after taking MDMA; journalists and billboard campaigns focused on drug use, despite Betts cause of death being water intoxication in her home, not an MDMA overdose at a rave. In London, the warehouse party scene has made a revival, with many large clubs closing, popular DJs are playing in abandoned car parks, warehouses, factories etc. Many put this down to the recession, nightclubs and bars being less affordable than in the past few years, a similar situation to the late 1980s and early 1990s when house music and rave took off.

Genuine illegal raves have continued throughout the UK and unlicensed parties have been organised in venues including disused quarries, warehouses, and condemned night clubs. The rise of the Internet has both helped and hindered the cause, with much wider and more accessible communication resulting in bigger parties, but consequently increasing the risk of police involvement.

Origins in disco and psychedelia (1970s)

American ravers, following their early UK & European counterparts, have been compared to the hippies of the 1960s due to their shared interest in non-violence and psychedelia. Rave culture incorporated disco culture's same love of dance music spun by DJs, drug exploration, sexual promiscuity, and hedonism. Although disco culture had thrived in the mainstream, the rave culture would make an effort to stay underground to avoid the animosity that was still surrounding disco and dance music. The key motive for remaining underground in many parts of the US had to do with curfew and the standard 2:00 am closing of clubs. It was a desire to keep the party going past legal hours that created the underground direction. Because of the legality, they had to be secretive about time and place. Most did not have drugs or alcohol, that came later.

New York raves and party promoters (1980s)

In the late 80s, rave culture began to filter through from English expatriates and DJs who would visit Europe. However, rave culture's major expansion in North America is often credited to Frankie Bones, who after spinning a party in an aircraft hangar in England helped organize some of the earliest known American raves in the 1990s in New York City called "Storm Raves" which maintained a consistent core audience, fostered also by zines like fellow Storm Dj (and co-founder, with Adam X and Frankie Bones, of the US' first techno record store Groove Records.) Heather Heart's Under One Sky. Simultaneously in NYC, events called NASA were introducing electronic dance music to New York. In 1993, P.A.W.N. LASERS from Pennsylvania produced the 1st electronic Dance Festival "IMPACT" with Josh Wink, Superstar DJ Keoki in PA, and then later became the most well known laser company at raves in East Coast by cross-promoting these rave events State to State as far south as Florida and Louisiana. Between 1992 and 1994, promotional groups sprung up across the east coast such as Ultraworld (MD,DC), Park Rave Madness (NYC), Satellite Productions (NYC), G.O. Guaranteed Overdose (NYC), Local 13 (NJ), Caffeine (NYC), Liquid Grooove aka Liquified (GA), Columns of Knowledge (CT), Special K aka Circle Management (PA), Zen Festivals (FL), Disco Donnie (LA), Ultra Music Festival (FL), and later the west coast, causing a true "scene" to develop.

San Diego and Latin America (1990s)

In the 1990s, one of the most influential Rave organisers / promoters in America was San Diego's, Global Underworld Network. They were made famous for organizing and throwing the OPIUM and NARNIA raves that reached in size of 60,000 plus people in attendance, a feat unheard of at that time. Narnia which would become famous for a morning hand holding circle of unity was featured on MTV and twice in LIFE magazine being honored with Event of the Year in 1995. Narnia became known as the "Woodstock of Generation X" & Nicholas Luckinbill and Branden Powers of G.U.N. have been called the Merry Pranksters of the Rave scene. These festivals were mostly held on Indian Reservations and Ski Resorts during the summer months and were headlined by well-known DJs such as Doc Martin, Dimitri of Deee-lite, Afrika Islam and the Hardkiss brothers from San Francisco. They were instrumental in creating the Right to Dance movement—a non violent protest held in San Diego and later in Los Angeles on the steps of City Hall which held that rave culture was about community, peace and love.

Featuring local San Diego DJ's Jon Bishop, Steve Pagan, Alien Tom, Jeff Skot and Mark E. Quark, Global Underworld's events were the first prop-heavy, themed parties in America. They were also the first production company to throw Raves within Mexico, thus launching the entire rave culture movement within South America. The iconic fairy and pixie craze with ravers getting fairy tattoos and wearing wings to parties likely started from an image of a winged fairy on the first Narnia flyer. The Crystal Method played their first out of town show for G.U.N.'s Universary event. Fearing reprisals from the police, the event was advertised as "A thousand Points of Light" referring to the power of healing crystals of the Crystal Methods name. This tickled the upcoming artists so much they would refer to it years later in their biography.

The communal space hosting the G.U.N. office amongst many others—something of a Waco meets Warhol in the MIT media lab—was a crossroads of the scene. This vibrant, weird, & chaotic top 3 stories of a building in downtown San Diego, unceremoniously known as "The Loft", grew out of an unlikely collaboration between Alabama yoga guru Murshid Van Merlin, hackers Jerry Lugert & Bill Huey, & Sin Magazine editor Chris Howland. In contrast to the commercial-oriented mega raves, the Loft hosted intimate parties over the years & provided an art & technology incubator for thousands in the SD underground scene of the 1990s. The percussive group Crash Worship in particular, sometimes working out of the Loft, mechanistically generated the essence of techno tribal-Dionysian abandon of the rave scene roots. This scene marks the post-industrial, pre-rave period of tranced out dance parties in the U.S.

Adults are often active members of the U.S. scene and are well represented at events. Certain facets of dance music culture in the UK, Europe and globally, are also welcoming to the older generation (especially the free party/squat party/gay scenes). However, rave and club culture remains on the whole very much a youth-driven movement in terms of its core fan base. Although rave parties are commonly associated with warehouse break-ins & such, raves themselves are more often considered to be legal, & often commercial gatherings.

Growth in California

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a boom in rave culture in the Bay Area. At first, small underground parties sprung up all over the SOMA district in vacant warehouses, loft spaces, and clubs like DV8 and 1015 Folsom, and basement of Jessie Street that had permits to run to 6 am as long as no alcohol was served. The no alcohol rule fueled the ecstasy-driven parties to a much larger crowd, and soon the first large scale raves were held. Every weekend a few hundred would show up at venues like the Townsend warehouse, the King Street garage, and other mid-size warehouses located in the SOMA and south San Francisco area. Rave crews started to become famous not only for their music and parties but also for the 'vibe'. Crews included 'The Gathering', 'Toontown', 'Wiked', 'Rave Called Sharon', 'The Church', and 'Osmosis'. Small underground raves were just starting out and expanding beyond SF to include the East Bay, the South Bay area including San Jose, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz beaches (where the 'full moon raves' took place at Bonny Dune beach every month).

In late 1991, raves started to expand across northern California, and cities like Sacramento, Oakland, Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, San Jose) holding raves every weekend. This proved to be the turning point in northern California's rave history. Raves were no longer a secret, where one had to know the right people to gain access to map points. Now rave flyers were to be found up and down Haight Street, at stores like Anubis Warpus, Amoeba, Behind The Post Office, and at the newly opened Housewares. Toontown's NYE 91 rave, which took place in the basement of the Fashion Center in SF was the first massive rave in the Bay Area. Over 8,000 people participated. Similarly, a year later, 'The Gathering' held New Year's Eve of 1992 in Vallejo with 12,000 people. The massive parties were taking place in outdoor fields, airplane hangars and hilltops that surround the valley.

San Francisco has long been a Mecca for ravers from all over the world. A lot of the early promoters and DJs were from the UK and Europe. For almost ten years after the initial raves took place, there were several parties each weekend. There was no curfew in place. Some venues would have up to 20,000 people every weekend; 'Homebase', and '85 & Baldwin' were the largest venues to be used in the Bay Area. Raves took place the SOMA art museum, 'Where the wild things are' museum on top of the Sony Metreon, and in the Maritime hall (1998-2002). Some old locations were re-used, such as the concourse that saw thousands of ravers in 1992, was used again in 1999. The galleria that once held a 'concert' in 1992 with artists such as Moby, Aphex twin, Prodigy and Space time continuum, was used for a few one-off events that utilized all five floors of the building with a different music style on each floor.

The mid-1990s saw a general loss of the first generation of ravers, causing the scene to take a short dive. In this time, however, a new West Coast sound was formed and developed by DJs such as Jeno, Tony, Spun, Galen, Solar, Harry Who?, and Rick Preston. Venues and parties such as Stompy, Harmony, CloudFactory, Cyborganic lounge, Acme warehouse started to fuse the Breakbeat sound from hardcore trax with the more melodic pace of house music. West coast funky break-beat was born from this and stormed the dance scene. By the end of 1994, a new generation of ravers were attracted by the new sounds. LA Scene promoters such as Vince Bannon and Phil Blaine held gigs for electronic acts like 808 State, Aphex Twin, Prodigy, and Massive Attack.

EDM began to become popular. Raves could be found in many different kinds of venues, as opposed to just basements and warehouses. Promoters started to take notice and put together the massives of the late 1990s with many music forms under one roof for 12-hour events. Parties were known to attract tens of thousands in venues like Homebase or 85th/Baldwin for a night of continuous dancing. San Francisco became a notorious destination for raves in the United States, and to a lesser extent, the world at large. DJs from all corners of the globe began performing in San Francisco. 2000 saw the demise of massive raves as curfews were placed on permits handed out to promoters. Instead of all night and into the next day, parties now had to end at 2 a.m. Two of the largest venues closed down soon after, and there wasn't enough momentum to sustain parties that catered to tens of thousands of people. The Homebase warehouse that held parties from 1996-2000 burned down in 2004. Smaller, intimate venues continued just like they had from the start and underground raves became the norm in the years after the tech boom of the 1990s.

While San Francisco's crowd attendance and variety of DJs might have peaked, it still maintains a much smaller but dedicated cadre of various crews, DJs, promoters and producers. Events are still dedicated to the various forms of electronic music across the greater Bay Area. The death of Sasha Rodgriguez at the Electric Daisy Carnival in 2010 put a negative spin on raves in LA and California.


Through the mid 1990s and into the 2000s the city of Seattle also shared in the tradition of West Coast rave culture. Though a smaller scene compared to San Francisco, Seattle also had many different rave crews, promoters, Djs, and fans. Candy Raver style, friendship and culture became popular in the West Coast rave scene, both in Seattle and San Francisco. At the peak of West Coast rave, Candy Raver, and massive rave popularity (1996-1999,) it was common to meet groups of ravers, promoters, and Djs who frequently travelled between Seattle and San Francisco, which spread the overall sense of West Coast rave culture and the phenomenon of West Coast "massives".

Recent years (2000s)

By 2010, raves were becoming the equivalent of large-scale rock music festivals, but many times even bigger and more profitable. The Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas drew more than 300,000 fans over three days in the summer of 2012, making it the largest EDM music festival in North America. Ultra Music Festival in Miami drew 150,000 fans over three days in 2012 while other raves like Electric Zoo in New York, Beyond Wonderland in LA, Movement in Detroit, Electric Forest in Michigan, Spring Awakening in Chicago, and dozens more now attract hundreds of thousands of "ravers" every year. These new EDM-based rave events (now simply referred generically to as "music festivals") sell out. Festival attendance at the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) increased by 39.1%, or 90,000 attendees from 2011 to 2012. In 2013, EDC had attendance of approximately 345,000 people, a record for the festival. The average ticket for EDC cost over $300 and the event contributed $278 million to the Clark County economy in 2013. This festival takes place at a 1,000-acre complex featuring a half dozen custom built stages, enormous interactive art installations, and hundreds of EDM artists. Insomniac, a US EDM event promoter, holds yearly EDC and other EDM events.

1980s and 1990s: outdoor raves and the Sydney scene

Rave parties began in Australia as early as the 1980s and continued well into the late 1990s. They were mobilised versions of the 'warehouse parties', across Britain. Similar to the United States and Britain, raves in Australia were unlicensed and held in spaces normally used for industrial and manufacturing purposes, such as warehouses, factories and carpet showrooms. In addition, suburban locations were also used: basketball gymnasiums, train stations and even circus tents were all common venues. In Sydney, common areas used for outdoor events included Sydney Park, a reclaimed garbage dump in the inner south west of the city, Cataract Park and various other natural, unused locations and bush lands. The raves placed a heavy emphasis on the connection between humans and the natural environment, thus many raves in Sydney were held outdoors, notably the 'Happy Valley' parties (1991-1994), 'Ecology' (1992) and 'Field of Dreams 4' (July 6, 1996). The mid-late 1990s saw a slight decline in rave attendance, attributed to the death of Anna Wood at a licensed inner-city Sydney venue, which was hosting a rave party known as "Apache". Wood had taken ecstasy and died in hospital a few days later, leading to extensive media exposure on the correlation of drug culture and its links to the rave scene in Australia.


The tradition continued in Melbourne, with 'Earthcore' parties staged in the cities hinterland. Raves also became less underground as they were in the 90s, and many were held at licensed venues well into the 2000s. Despite this, rave parties of 90s momentum became fewer. Nonetheless, the rave scene in Australia experienced a brief resurgence briefly up until 2010. During this period the resurfacing of the "Melbourne Shuffle", a Melbourne club/rave dance style, became a huge YouTube sensation and many videos have been uploaded. The Sub coulter or Raves with in Melbourne was taken to new heights with the opening of clubs such as Bass Station and Hard candy. Melbourne helped keep raving culture in with young people and set a new type of music designed for the Shuffle.

Notable raves

The following is an incomplete list of notable raves, particularly smaller raves that may not fit the profile of being an electronic dance music festival:

Notable soundsystems

The following is an incomplete list of notable sound systems:

  • The DiY Sound System
  • Spiral Tribe
  • SP23
  • Insomniac Events
  • References

    Rave Wikipedia