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Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Rave Seen

posted by on June 2 at 15:35 PM


I recently began chaperoning my 14-year-old niece and her candy-raver friends at parties. Before we enter I them ask them not to eat pills, and then keep an eye out to make sure they don’t drink from random water bottles or smoke. That’s basically my role. Last night we went to a party called “Jello in the Sky with Diamonds,” which promised—you guessed it—Jello wrestling!

These were the highlights and lowlights: A girl named Angel gave me two glow bracelets and a cherry-flavored ring-pop, the Jello room was packed with half-naked teenagers who stunk like blue-raspberry Kool-Aid and feet, my niece stepped in a pool of blue vomit, one DJ played an entire set that sounded like a giant dental drill pulsating in a walrus tusk, and the police came. Back when Seattle’s rave scene was still fetal, the arrival of police meant the party was over, but last night the two cordial officers only helped tackle a creepy old man suspected of dosing kids with GHB… and the beats went on.

As for partying as a geriatric raver (nearly 30 now), it’s kinda weird—the scene has changed since I went to warehouse parties in the mid-nineties. The parties start earlier, like 9 p.m., and end before the sun rises. The DJs are still a gamble, but their sets and body language are more masturbatory now. House is all but dead, replaced by Happy Hardcore, Breaks and countless permutations of Trance. About half the kids are rolling, but the other half, including myself, are stone-cold sober. Nobody is on acid, but they all have glow sticks to give each other psychedelic “light shows.” The styles are more cookie-cutter and distinct: candy-tastic, emo-riffic, or poser-ous. My niece’s look is archetypical, with regalia that includes about a half-pound of candy—those bright plastic beads connected by thin elastic string—which covers all the skin between her wrists and elbows and everything from her collarbone up to her ears, a necklace with an enormous clear acrylic unicorn bust, and a powder-pink tutu. Her friends are adorned with similar garb. I stand out as looking plainly dressed and post-pubescent.

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Damn, I grew up in Seattle and Portland's rave scene in about '95-'99, and while I had a great time, I'll have an even greater time if I never have to see that again. It seemed so new and fresh and different then, but when I think back I remember how quickly it got routine and practiced.

I stopped doing drugs (and I very rarely drank back then) about a year into my rave career, and spent the next few years sober... but, yeah, I was definitely in a minority and I feel like I knew every single sober raver in the two towns, and it was a pretty small number. Interesting to hear it's become more normal.

Posted by no one in particular | June 2, 2007 4:19 PM

Thanks for the ethnographic report, Dominic - always interesting to hear what the kiddies are up to.

I wonder, do kids drop acid at all any more these days? While I wouldn't recommend making a habit of it, I do believe it's a good thing to have a few trips under your belt.

Posted by Sean | June 2, 2007 9:52 PM

I hope they aren't smoking drugs and drinking like Latawnya the naughty horse.

Posted by C&A | June 2, 2007 11:07 PM

As an uncle, don't you feel that it is wrong to accompany your 14 year old niece to raves where half the kids are rolling? Isn't that just incredibly wrong? She won't be allowed legally to party with people drinking alcohol until she is 18 years old. Partying with kids on "e" at 14 is just unconscionable to me. "e" is not even legal or safe, and when you have to warn kids about people secretly plying them with ghb, those kids really don't need to be at that particular kind of party. Grow up and be responsible. Jeeeez! WTF?

Posted by lawrence clark | June 3, 2007 1:34 AM

Lawrence, I’m going to assume you don’t have much experience raising 14-year-old girls. If you did, you’d know that, as an uncle, I’m faced with one of two options: Taking my niece out and keeping her safe, or facing the reality that she’s going to sneak out and go on her own, having nobody to protect her from creepy guys, nobody to make sure she doesn’t take drugs, and nobody to make sure she gets home safe. Most the kids there were around my niece's age but had no adult looking out for them, so who's better off -- the other two-hundred unchaperoned kids or my niece and her friends? Keep in mind, she doesn't want to go to raves because I want to take her. I take her because she wants to go.

But let’s for a moment imagine we live in your fantasy world where teenage girls follow the rules adults set for them and don’t sneak out of the house when they want to go see their boyfriend -– even though that world obviously doesn’t exist. Turning 18 won’t make my niece know how to handle herself responsibly, as you imply, unless she’s had some experience out in the real world by that age. By your logic, she should be kept away from parties where people are drinking hard liquor, which is also unsafe. Or pot, because it's illegal. Think about how many sheltered kids leave home and immediately become drunken wrecks or drug addicts. Look at frat row. Look at the Ave. My niece isn’t going to be one of those morons because she’ll already have a clue by that age, and these experiences is one of the ways she'll get it. So it sounds like you, Lawrence, are the one who needs to grow up and snap out of your Leave-It-to-Beaver fantasy world where kids magically become fully fledged adults overnight.

Posted by Dominic Holden | June 3, 2007 3:52 AM

above - silly billies, both of you

ONE even bigger question - is she on birth control? Is she well schooled on sexuality issues from neutral non parental sources? can bet on it... despite the silly stuff from both of you, she will become sexually active - soon - and you will not be part of the decision, nor should you be.

And, what is with the pacifier? God, how regressive. The last thing I would have sucked on at 14 .... for any reason, of fashion, costume or taste. By the way, if she enjoys sucking the first smart boy will feed her his dick.... far away from mom, dad, Dominic or Sir Control Freak Clark.

Posted by Essex | June 3, 2007 4:07 AM

Lawrence @4:
You don't have any kids of your own, right? In my, it's only people without kids who pass judgment like this.

Posted by Sean | June 3, 2007 7:36 AM

@5 I totally agree with you, Dominic. If my parents had thought like you, I wouldn't have spent high school on monthly meth binges with my best friend.

Posted by Gitai | June 3, 2007 10:46 AM

Dominic - completely agree with you. I'm almost 30 now, but when I was in high school, had experiences that let me have the freedom to "get a clue" about drugs, alcohol, etc., in a safer way. In other words, to develop early on a normal, healthy attitude about drinking and doing drugs. My only issue was when I went to college, I had a really hard time relating to the people for whom this was their first taste of freedom. Whose lives and identities became 100% about getting wasted or smoking pot or whatever...

Posted by Julie | June 3, 2007 11:14 AM

Well, gosh. I think it's awesome that you care for your niece enough to provide some guidance as she enters the social world, but I think there is a legitimate alternate way to approach this.

* By your logic, she should be kept away
* from parties where people are drinking
* hard liquor, which is also unsafe. Or
* pot, because it's illegal. Think about
* how many sheltered kids leave home and
* immediately become drunken wrecks or
* drug addicts.

Umm, yes. When my tween starts going to parties, I'm going to try to keep her away from parties where people are drinking hard liquor, because it is unsafe, and pot, because it illegal. I have no doubt that she will try these things before she heads off to college, but she will do so with the knowledge that we think it's a Bad Idea. Teenagers have enough challenges without adding drugs to the mix.

That's not giving my kid a "sheltered" life. According to statistics from HHS, only 17% of 16 and 17 year olds had done illegal drugs (other than alcohol) in the previous month.

In my experience at college, previous drug experience had *nothing* to do with whether you overdid it once you got to school- sometimes it was newbies, sometimes it was people who had been smoking and drinking since early high school. I agree that kids who are locked in their rooms and fed religious dogma sometimes go apeshit when they finally get out to college, but that's not what we're talking about here.

As a side note, parental drug policy and parental sexual policy are seperate issues. Some of the other posters are conflating the issues. Parents differ, and kids differ, but in our house my wife and I are going to be much more supportive of our daughter responsibly developing a healthy sexual life than experimenting w/ drugs to avoid some hypothetical overreaction in college.

Posted by Big Sven | June 3, 2007 11:50 AM

I think I was a teenage freak. I wasn't raised with religion beat into me but I never snuck out of the house, smoked pot, did drugs, drank alcohol. The worst thing I did was attend an overnight party once when I was 16 (told my parents I'd spend the night at a friend's house) with a bunch of older Navy guys... but I drank water! heh. The guys actually thought that was pretty cool in a respectful admiring way. I was a hottie back then and they didn't try anything weird, I'm not so sure they would have been as respectful if I'd been sloshed. (A couple of them were interested enough to call me later and one kept in touch for a few years.)

Why didn't I try drugs or alcohol? I didn't want to disappoint my parents and I didn't like the idea of losing control of things I did/said. And I didn't do any of those things when I went to college either, go figure.

So, despite being a goodie-two-shoes, I was still sexually active starting at 15 (not with those Navy guys). Hormones trump guilt, especially when a goodie-two-shoes thinks she's in love.

What's my point? All teens should have easy access to condoms, but the best birth control for teenage girls is the pill (with plenty of info about why she should insist on a condom too). We can talk to teens about condoms until we're blue in the face but even the smartest kids can't be trusted to use them 100% of the time. I consider myself very very very lucky (and possibly infertile) that I didn't get pregnant back then.

Posted by Le Freak | June 3, 2007 12:38 PM

You people are-- how should I put it?-- freaks. If your daugher is 14 and adorning herself mock-primitively with candy barcelets and sexually suggestive pacifiers, then you have, as parents, fucked up. This kind of behavior is borderline retarded, and your kid should be embarrassed to be around it, let alone participate in it. Oh, sorry, did I hurt your feelings?

The fact is, children are nearly infinitely malleable. If you mould them to respect themselves, they are very unlikely to think that sticking a candy pacifier in their mouth is the thing to do. They will put up with some degree of sexual frustration (an excellent preparation for later life) in exchange for a life geared more towards imaginative and intellectual curiosity. Then, when they are adults, they are much less likely to find the core of their identity in sex and romance.

Of course, if you're an adult who still believes sex and romance are the core of personhood, you'll disagree. You are also, in all likelihood, a real bore. So go ahead and take your daughters and nieces to raves, but don't pretend it's some kind of achievement.

And before the inevitable ad hominem responses, I (a) have a 14-year-old daugher, and (b) have had lots of sex.

Posted by croydonfacelift | June 3, 2007 10:20 PM

If that's the 14 year old niece in the photo... yikes. Is she growing a beard?

Posted by Anonymous | June 4, 2007 12:02 AM

To those of you freaking out about poor degenerate raver kids, trust me: most of 'em end up just fine. Hell, one of my candy raver friends from the mid-90s went on to work as an aeronautical engineer for NASA. This dude bought me a glow-in-the-dark pacifier as a gift in 1997. "Borderline retarded"? Possibly. Indicative of a lifetime of borderline retardation? Hell no. And having way more fun than you? Definitely.

As usual, the kids are just fine and everyone needs to stop freaking out about how degenerate they've become and how their parents/uncles/society have fucked them up. With slight shifts in music and fashion, raves like this have been happening since the early 90s in Seattle ... if you ask around, you'll find some 40 year olds who used to wear Dr. Seuss hats and Mickey Mouse gloves at NAF sometime back in the day. And chances are that most of them survived just fine. Old ravers never die: the glitter just becomes a finer and finer grain.

Also, it just cracks me up that the candy rave thing refuses to die. The world would be a less ridiculous and wonderful place without all that plastic PLUR.

Posted by Ariel | June 4, 2007 12:26 AM

Hey, Anonymous. That there is a picture of a boy, not my niece.

Posted by Dominic Holden | June 4, 2007 12:48 AM

Wow, perfect comment from Ariel.

Love the fact that we're an aging marketing demographic (I'm a 33 yr old ex-raver ). There may not enough of us round here, but whenever I fly home to England the ads on tv are tremendous.

Posted by Sto | June 4, 2007 10:11 AM

I second that. Great post, Ariel @ 14. "having way more fun" is the truth! "...glitter just becomes a finer and finer grain..." so funny.

Posted by Jamey | June 4, 2007 10:59 AM

A friend of mine lives a block away from this new rave locale, and her roommate (ex-raver) bonded with the security crowd that night. There was a guy dousing kids with GHB that night, but he wasn't arrested, but was just told to go home, which the party organizers were pretty pissed off about, to say the least. And in the morning there was a pre-teen raver passed out on my friends front lawn with a needle in her arm.

I gotta say, while I'm all for accompanying your kid to parties and concerts and what not, I do kind of agree with the borderline retarded comment. These parties are not cool, and your kid should know that on her own because you raised her right. That being said, right on for at least chaperoning so she doesn't end up OD'd on someone's lawn.

Posted by kasa | June 4, 2007 11:32 AM

"Sexually suggestive pacifiers"? Me thinks there's a distinction on this thread between folks who know what real raves are, and those who don't...

Even if it DID involve drug use, I would be much happier with my niece going to the sorts of small raves I went to here in the late 90's -- good music, lots of hugging, stuffed animals and candy bracelets, not caring about different races and genders and orientations, and some of us looking out for others -- than most of the bars and restaurants in this town full of drunk college students and "hipsters" on a Saturday night.

Posted by Mickymse | June 4, 2007 11:43 AM

Honestly, the entire premise of harm reduction via chaperoning is all well and fine, until the chaperones fuck up. And i am really glad to see this is not the case. i went to raves often back 98-2001 when i lived in california...and for all the people that were high etc etc, there was also a bunch of 27+ year olds that just stopped doing e and that's who i felt more comfortable around.

i was younger at the time, but i had a lot of fun, and never did anything i didnt want to, nor felt any pressure to do things i didnt want to. in a sense these older sober people were my chaperones.

btw, throw in some schooling after the rave, banking on her having higher sense of awareness.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 4, 2007 12:30 PM

I was one of the dj's at this party. I mainly play club nights these days and it was certainly making me feel my age (28) with all these kids slopping around in jello.
but for real, they were having fun. and I remember when I was that age, I was doing probably worse stuff with way less people around to step in if things went wrong!
I left around Midnight just as cops were showing up because I am a responsible adult with my own kids and had to work in the morning. But I did have a good time performing! The kids were way more into the music and appreciative than the jaded bar crowds are!
I guess all I'm saying is if you aren't familiar with this particular subculture you should be careful what assumptions and generalizations you throw out there. There are a lot of perfectly responsible people who enjoy electronic music and sadly, the state of our city politics forces the performance of this music into these kinds of venues and parties for anyone under 21.

-my .02

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Posted by rxkujlfd dnzomse | June 5, 2007 7:25 PM

Basically, i think raves are okay for people who understand that their are drugs and such that can go on but their is also music and fun so its not all bad, and i think taking your niece to a rave is a good idea because 17 and i go to raves and i know what not to do but some kids dont....honestly though, they are gonna do what they want whether u like it or not trust better for them to be safe then dead somewhere...right?

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Posted by nmchzkl cqojslw | June 11, 2007 1:14 PM

Before so many of you go on ranting with your spoon fed propaganda, please become educated first. While some of these substances can be harmful, they are no where near as harmful as your propaganda leads you to believe.

I am someone who participated heavily in the "scene" and still does today. I have a family and work a full time job as a Chemical Engineer. Although not a raver at heart, I have been to a number of raves or parties. And there is nothing more than a group of people who care about each other. They are friendly, fucked up and having a good time.

Recently, Europe came out of with a report ranking LSD, MJ, AND Ecstasy as safer than alcohol and tobacco (google it if you don't believe me).

Now, a question or two for those of you condoning the generation of drugs heads as you would like to refer to them. How many of you "sampled" substances such as this when you were younger? How many of you realize that many substances (mushrooms, cactus, and other NATURAL substances) have been used by man for thousands of years and possibly aided in the evolution of our "souls" and cognitive thinking? How many of you know someone who has DIED as a direct result of ingesting mushrooms, LSD, mescaline, LSA, DXM, and many other substances? How many of you know people who have died as a result of alcohol? (from drunk drivers to drinking too much to drowning on their own vomit) How many of you will take a real drug your doctor prescribed without question?

Personally, I know people who have abused and had bad times on substances. Yes, they are safer than legal substances, but with EDUCATION, everything is safe. I don't know a single person who has ever died from ingesting a natural substance. 9 people I graduated with from high school have died as a result of alcohol. NINE PEOPLE!!! I have yet to meet someone who has OD'd on marijuana. I have yet to hear of someone dying as a result of MJ. I hear of people dying from taking a prescription their doctor gave them. I also hear of people becoming addicted to prescription drugs. I have yet to hear of someone who sold their house and personal belongings for ecstasy, LSD, Marijuana, mushrooms, mescaline.

I am not in any way promoting the use of "illegal" substances. I am promoting the proper education of substances. I am promoting the removal of the bullshit propaganda that so many people rely on for their "education". I am against the legal sale of alcohol and tobacco which have been proven to wreck lives and health and the pharmaceutical companies and the FDA who also promote and sell other substances that are proven dangerous chemicals. Meanwhile, natural substances and treatments get pushed to the back burner and labeled as "bad".

Posted by not you | June 12, 2007 9:21 AM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 12:38 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 12:38 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 12:38 PM

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