Raver History Part 1: Getting There or How To Go To A Rave in the mid 90’s

(I’ve written a “getting there” article for a past blog, but there’s always more funny shit to say about what we went through… I’m pretty sure it was made difficult to find the party on purpose to vet the ravers who made it all the way there….like the promoters seemed to be thinking  “if you deal with THIS nonsense to get here, you’re our kinda kid!”)

Step one: Already be at a rave.  Yes, correct, to go to a rave you had to already be at one because you had to get the FLYERS for the next round of parties and they were only to be found at raves and more raves and the occasional record shop.  To get to the FIRST rave of your life, with few exceptions, you had to be deemed a good fit for the scene by a friend who would then let you into his “weekend secret” and take you to your first show, where he would explain what’s what if you were lucky and he would tell you TAKE FLYERS AT THE END.

Remember, there was not exactly much of an internet then.  If you wanted to know where to go, you had to take the flyers, and we stacked them in groups so you couldn’t pick and chose either…take ’em all and read them at the after hours or chill house later.  Another article another day on the flyers themselves, but they were works of art and sometimes even the prose was impressive (like when I wrote the bios lol), and you NEEDED them and WANTED them.

Step 2: Go through your flyers and decide on an event for a given weekend.  GOOD NEWS, there’s likely only one in your immediate region because the promoters worked closely together, usually with the help of DJ Knowledge in New England to avoid stepping on each other’s dates.  Two parties in the tri-state area on the same night was nearly unheard of and thumbs down to the second team to announce that date every time.  But there MIGHT be something out of your home zone that was still a “Raver Reasonable Drive” because of the line up and venue, so there were decisions to make.  And to clarify, a “raver reasonable drive” was four hours or so for a standard 500-2000 person party with a good line up and up to 10, I’ve heard even further, for a stellar line up…. but the ride was half the fun cuz you had music and friends and those two things were what raving was about anyway; I always felt like the rave started the moment the first kid got in my car.

Step 3: The week before the event the one guy in your crew who had a car that had all it’s parts (mostly) working, would figure out who was riding with him.  This sounds easy but there were work schedules to be considered, no one was EVER ready at the appointed time, EVERYONE had to make “just a quick stop” and the directions were invariably misleading so it was important to get all the ducks in a row, select responsible ducks to roll out with you,  and then LIE to the ducks about what time they were getting picked up in order to arrive at least 30 minutes before the doors opened at the event (more on that later).

Important people to include in your car were: the kid with the great mixtape collection, the kid who could read a map and was an early adapter to cell phone technology, the candy kid because he usually had other snacks and treats for the ride, and either the Mom or Dad of the group, whose job was to pretty much keep the rest of you out of jail for the night and bring you water every few hours OR the straight edge kid who was always a great designated driver to get you home as long as there were plenty of stops for coffee.

What every single driver forgot every single weekend was to get gas and other travel money from everyone FOR THE RIDE HOME before you left the car to go in.  It would have been safe in the glove compartment, but Rave Math always backfired and the driver always got screwed on the cost of the ride home.  EVERY TIME.

Step 4. CALL THE INFO LINE.  Directions were normally NOT printed on the flyer, at least not when I started in the mid 90’s.  We had it in our heads that we were totally under the radar til 20/20 blew our shit up a few years later (I was in that episode by the way… not a proud moment) so we were too “stealthy” to release the venue name in print.  Flyers would have lists of 10-100 or more phone numbers, all of which had answering machines dedicated to outgoing messages spoken REALLY quickly about all upcoming events and directions to the nearest upcoming one…. but the directions were spoken quickly and you really only had one chance to write them down because getting through to the line a second time was like trying to win a radio contest; it might be busy for hours so make the most of your one shot!

Step 5. Pick everyone up.  Having lied about your arrival time, they will actually be ALMOST ready to go.  But you accounted for that too.  The picking up of the crew did not work in a reasonable arc through your area and bring you closer to your destination, but zigzagged based on who was out of work when.. you may finish the pick ups 40 miles further from the venue than you started.

Step 6. Hit the road.  Now some car-teams were foolish but most were on point, knew what was up and followed the “break only one law at a time” rule, so seat-belts were on and speed limits were followed, there were no “SUCH AND SUCH RAVE OR BUST” signs in the window; the driver acted like he was taking his licensing test, he was so well behaved on the road, UNTIL YOU GOT TO THE TOWN THE EVENT WAS IN and it all went straight the fuck to hell.  Wrong directions remember?

I remember once ending  up on an icy one way road when my second headlight went out and I just happened to be facing the wrong way… so all that “one law at a time” is out when you’re pulling k-turns with your lights off.  At this point your job was to find a downtown area.  Worst case scenario there’d be a store with a pay phone so you could try the info line again (and if it was busy, remember you had the early cell phone adapter in your car, so he could keep calling too). But honestly, once you got downtown your problems were over if you could find ANY GAS STATION.  Suddenly you hear house and techno, kids are dancing around as they fill their tanks and work as a team to decipher their notes from the info lines, all of which were of course slightly different.

You’d join the pow-wow but, TRUE FACT, if you just found a car with a gray alien sticker decal on the back, usually with only a drive and his co-pilot (for some reason alien guy never had a big crew with him) you only had to follow them the rest of the way, they ALWAYS knew exactly how to get there  AL-FUCKING-WAYS.

Step 7: Step 7: Park the car.  RIIIIIIIIGHT, cuz the parking lot isn’t full of the people whose crews were ready earlier than yours yet and street parking isn’t 4 blocks out into a very unsavory looking neighborhood.  So you circle and circle and finally settle on a spot on a side road until you remember you can’t parallel park…. so 3 kids hop out and all shout different directions at you until you finally sorta get your car in a spot.

You NEVER remember to check for a sign about legal parking hours and that always comes back to haunt your little brain about half way through the party, just a tickle of fear that you’ll be towed.  But oh well, it’s a GOOD party and you’ll worry about that later.

Now, you’re crew is slow moving as usual.  They are TRYING to get their shit together because we NEED to get in line FAST but backpacks were opened and rifled through during the ride, sweater vests are now being added, discarded, and added again by your Polo-raver buddy, and at least three people have lost their cigarettes, money, or i.d. over the course of the ride.  It would take you about 10 minutes from putting the car in park to the moment your group could start it’s Phat Pant Saunter to the spot.

Step 8: Congratulations, you have arrived a full 30 minutes before the event starts so there are only a FEW HUNDRED KIDS IN FRONT OF YOU IN LINE.  Dare you cut?  Yah, you dared if you made it look like you were just saying hi or if you were ballsy like me and just yelled “I’m older than you, i get to pull shit moves like this” and laugh.. if they laughed with you you could cut.

Sometimes you’d be a little disappointed to be as LATE as only half an hour early because the time in line, regardless of weather, was one of the highlights of the party when you could meet and greet your friends, and make new friends for life with whoever happened to be in front of and behind your group; the friendships formed in line were just as meaningful as the Lady’s Room friends you would make later and THAT’S a special kind of meaningful.

Step 9: The Doors OPEN and directions are being hollered down the line… guest list over here, buying tickets over here! Notice there was no “pre sales down here” because what the fuck was a “presale?”.  Really, almost none of the <5000 capacity events did presale tickets, and that’s one of the reasons you went early…. our community was big and we traveled far and you did not want to drive four hours to end up being told that the Fire Marshal says no more people can come in.  I was ALWAYS early so I was never left in the cold, but it happened to many people every most weeks.

Plus, hell you’re paying for a whole party, you wanted to GO to the whole party.  Not all, but many of us,  were open-to-close ravers, and I was among them.  I never wanted to miss a second.  AND the opening DJ was, as he is today, usually the guy who was the most excited to be playing a set and you wanted to be there for that set because it was usually REALLY bad-ass.

Step 10: you have made it to the front of the line where you pay your 20 bucks for a 14 hours event and have your bag searched pretty thoroughly.  But a good search didn’t mean security knew all the tricks and you’d spent half the drive sewing a little something for later into your stuffed animal or putting it where the batteries in your disposable camera belonged…. you little fuckers lol  Honestly to this day I have people laughing their ass off at me at the silly things they did to sneak objects past me during my security days and to this day I still get mad.

and finally Step 11, You are IN, you MADE IT!  Find the backpack pile where 5-50 strangers all throw their shit in one giant and largely safe heap for the night and get down to getting down, you crazy raver!  Cuz YOU’RE not Afraid Of the Boogie Monster!

COMING SOON TO PREACH THE NOISE:  Getting Home: The Sun Is ALWAYS in Your Eyes.

(sorry about all the tense and person swapping up, I tend to write like I talk so… yah, it’s just a blog, you’ll survive)

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9 comments

  1. Wow, this just took me right down memory lane. I laughed out loud about every single step. I can name everyone in my crew and which one they were. This is classic!!! Keep the stories coming 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You for feeding the author Shauna! I think some of the experiences we had were pretty similar through the tribe…. like wandering into a rest stop on the NJ TPK and a) being amazed HOW NICE it was b) getting excited about lunch at Roy Rogers and c) meeting all the other rest-stopped ravers and planning to meet up with them at the party in DC… am I right?

      Like

  2. Thanks for this article.. paints a very real picture of that era.!!! Hilarious to think of how many of us kids were driving around though multiple states with NO technology to help guide us and we all still got there.

    Like

  3. Bill from Satellite and Translucent here, great piece and so true. Thanks for coming to our shows, and we really did try to keep 20/20 out of Perpetual Vibe.

    Like

  4. man wow memories, tears whoo great exact pic
    makes me miss my boy
    great kids lots of love shared by all walks locally cultivated blessings

    Liked by 1 person

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