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What is a Rave?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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A rave is a type of all night dance party, popular in many parts of the world. The term is taken from the Jamaican word for party, but true raves really didn’t begin until the 1980s. They may be legal or not, depending upon where the event is held, and while partying all night is usually not illegal, the activities associated with the parties may be.

For a time, some all-night parties were held in abandoned warehouses or places not zoned for a large number of people or party activities. These were often semi-spontaneous events, with announcement circulated by word of mouth. It should be noted that many raves are legally held, though the activities at them often cross into illegality when underage kids are served alcohol or when drug use is rampant.

Common to the early rave movement in many countries was the use of ecstasy, and while not everyone who attended used the drug, many did. Today’s parties, legal or not, are often marked by not only the use of ecstasy put also of other drugs like methamphetamines, cocaine, and hallucinogens. Concern also exists about the use of date rape drugs since, given the dark and loud atmosphere of most parties, it is fairly easy to spike a drink. There are therefore rules for attending raves to protect people's safety.

The rave party is rarely marked by violence, and as an outgrowth of the hippy movement and the acid subculture, it is more likely to emphasize acceptance of other people’s behavior, a shared love of electronic music, and a desire for fun. Ironically, the popularity of these parties and their acceptance in the general culture has led to more violent events than those previously existing in illegal ones.

Parents were certainly right to be concerned about their teens’ safety at raves since drug dealers often prowled them. Sometimes, parents organize safer dance parties for children, and parties that last through the night are common for high school prom or graduation events. Only graduating seniors are allowed to attend, and they are not allowed to leave during an event.

In both the US and Canada, these parties are more and more accepted, especially when they are conducted legally and supervised. It’s recommended that people only attend legal events and that they always go in a group.

For safety purposes, it’s a good idea for party-goers to mind any drinks they consume, and to have a buddy when they use the bathroom. Anyone who leaves a drink unattended should throw it out, and no one should accept a drink from anyone he or she does not know well. Individuals should never leave with someone they don’t know, and if friends plan to drink, they should designate a sober driver. They should also be sure to keep a cellphone handy and have an emergency contact if the designated driver doesn’t follow the rules.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon324034 — On Mar 07, 2013

I'm 49 and I've been raving since 1986. I live my life by PLURR and those in the rave community who follow this lifestyle are the greatest group of people you would ever meet. There is a very large group that is anti drug, and those who are doing drugs would be doing them anyway, possibly driving, or some place where they could be drinking alcohol with them as well.

The rave community looks after one another, and most events have staff who are trained to look for people who might possibly be under the influence of something they can't handle, and they make sure these people are well hydrated and keep an eye on them. Yes, there have been a few deaths, but compared to the thousands of people who are at events, it is a much lower number than you would see at a concert.

If parents are worried, they should go with them. I've seen lots of parents standing against a wall while their children are dancing and doing light shows. All are accepted who accept us and we'd much rather see parents involved than listening to others who bash ravers and try to give the community a bad name.

Find out for yourself, because if you think you can keep your child from going, or doing drugs because you forbid it, then you're obviously not very connected to reality. The rave scene is about love, for the music, one another, and all that connects us, and for a few hours everything is as it should be in the world. Sharing something like that with others is an experience not many will ever know, and we cherish it and wish the world could feel what we do for those few short hours. Peace, love, unity, respect and responsibility -- what more could anyone ask for?

By anon279749 — On Jul 14, 2012

Do whatever you want, and if you get killed at a rave party, then that's your own fault. If you get caught with weapons and drugs, then you're an idiot for trying. Grow up and take responsibility.

And you shouldn't be going home with anyone you don't know, and not only at a rave party. I would if I could, but I don't bring home a hot chick from the cinema on a Monday night -_-

Where I live right now, if you do any drugs, anywhere, at any party or at home or whatever, you can either pay up a bribe of 30 to 100 thousand USD or get hanged/executed. And that counts for simple harmless 'weed' as well.

By anon270907 — On May 24, 2012

Oh, people are funny. Yes, people do drugs at raves. So do kids who don't go to raves. Also, you're hating on new-school ravers. I'm 17, and I prefer the attire of 90s ravers (phat pants, visors, t-shirts, kandi). So by calling female ravers whores, you're calling me a whore, and I take offensive to that.

High schools are often worse places than raves, actually. When I was in sixth grade, a kid got busted for dealing drugs. That means he was 11 or 12, and that's "normal"? Ravers tend to live by the acronym PLUR: Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. Some people even tack on an extra R for "Responsibility." Quite frankly, it irritates me that people are hating so hard on something the know very little about. I do think kids should wait to be 16 to rave, though I only go to raves at conventions, currently, because my parents don't even let me go to a friend's house. But raves aren't this terrible epidemic.

My rave family goes to real raves, and they are the sweetest people I know. Yes, some do drugs, but they are often quite intelligent people. Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, stop pretending you know everything about something you know absolutely nothing about. Yeah, there are always a few people who are bad people, but that's to be expected in every situation.

People always do this: they see one or two people in a culture, and instantly assume that that's what everyone in said culture is like. Teenagers are a prime case of this. Since I'm a teenage raver, people often assume I'm a terrible person who is addicted to drugs, and up to absolutely no good. However, I strive to live by PLUR to the best of my ability every single day. I help everyone I can. I try to make the world a better place each and every day, and I don't do drugs. Yet a lot of people assume teenagers and ravers are all godawful people.

By anon260121 — On Apr 09, 2012

How sad it is that our children, and adult ones at that, need to be high in order to enjoy their youth.

I had never heard of a rave party until yesterday. Many of our towns kids have died as the result of drugs. Drug dealers have become a scourge to our youth. Stiffer penalties might get them off the streets.

By Ketta — On Jan 13, 2012

All I can say is don't allow your child to attend a rave! I must have been living under a rock for most of my adult life because these were not around when I was a teen and I only recently learned the nature of these raves.

Parents need to be informed about the serious drug use going on! The girls dress like hookers and people hook up and have sex at the rave.

My son made many of his drug connections at the three raves he went to and almost overdosed at one. After learning about his drug use, he will now be locked in his room with no phone, friends or computer for a while! I wish I had done my research before I allowed him to go and kept a better eye on the kind of friends he is hanging out with.

More laws should be passed against these places and children under the age of 18 should not be allowed to get in.

To any teen reading this: you will most likely feel like I do when you have a child that you love with all your heart!

By anon165716 — On Apr 05, 2011

parents, listen up: the more you push your kids, the harder they'll push back. i know for a fact my 16 year old daughter is getting married and moving out this summer because i didn't leave her to her business.

Yeah, it's OK to be nosy, but losing your teen from being too nosy is no good. You need to have a mutual agreement: your kids will stay out of the way of the law and we parents will take a step back and get our heads out of our kids' butts and give them some space to breathe.

By anon161351 — On Mar 19, 2011

@baking10: Like it said, most raves are actually violence free. This is people's choice and you should respect this. If you were ever of the age, you probably would understand that this was a way of living to the full and opening your mind a little bit more.

Thanks for the information though. Good article and isn't very biased, thank the lord!

By quicktype — On Jul 05, 2010

Chicago, Denver, New York and Gainesville are cities that have taken strong action to battle the raves that were occurring in their cities. Some steps that helped included juvenile curfews, fire codes, liquor laws and licensing requirements for large public gatherings.

Also, these cities began making it a requirement for promoters of these events to also provide onsite ambulances with EMTs and uniformed police security for larger events, at their own expense.

“Operation Rave Review” was deemed one of the most successful anti-rave movements. It came after 17-year-old girl overdosed and died at a rave party in New Orleans in 1998.

The initiative provided for harsher punishment towards rave promoters that knowingly and intentionally allowed controlled substances at their events. Operation Rave Review is credited as helping the number of ODs and ER visits drop by 90 percent.

By baking10 — On Jul 05, 2010

The extremely popular amount of drugs distributed and used at these events is terrifying! Also, the number of teenagers attending raves is enough to send chills down a parent’s spine.

It really makes a person question: What is being done in my area and around the nation to keep raves out of my neighborhood?

Though parents should be more inclined to question themselves and how they are going to keep their children safe. it is still up to the community to develop a support system to help raise kids and make their environment safe.

Parents that are very aware of their child’s activity and have openly discussed the topic of drugs should feel more at ease but still question what their child is doing away from the home.

Does anyone know of a problem with raves in your area? I live in the Midwest and rarely hear any talk of these events in my state or nearby states.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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