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Rave culture: something more than drugs and music


Beyond the mediatic end-of-year parties and the anecdotes that surround them, the 'free party' movement has values ​​and a history that began in the late eighties

A group of colleagues set up a powerful sound system somewhere far from civilization.

A forest, a field, a bridge, a warehouse, a tunnel, an abandoned monastery.

They don't want to bother anyone, nor do they want anyone to bother them.

Word of mouth will attract dozens, hundreds of partygoers, without promotion, without licenses, without paying admission, without time limit, without brake.

There will be electronic music, varied and abundant drugs, kilometric dances.

It is a

free party



in the double sense of





It's a




means rave.

It is already traditional that at the beginning of the year an illegal party that has not yet finished captures the attention of the media, generating a mixture of curiosity, hilarity and indignation.

This year it was held in the town of La Peza, Granada, where, in addition to the unexpected gathering of 4,000 bailongos for five days, around a caravan of 200 vans and small trucks, the news (and the messing around in networks) has It

has been well received by the neighbors, who came to meet the


, were delighted and are looking forward to their return next year.

“Here there is respect, no matter what resources you have, you can come because it is free and free.

I have the right to go to the


, have fun and not have to pay 50 euros to a room where they look at me badly”, says Paquita la Ravera, a thirty-year-old from Torre del Mar, Málaga, who attended the party.

Photograph taken at a 'rave' held in the Zamora municipality of Salce, in August 2022. José A. Pascual


is more than music plus drugs;

it is a lifestyle and beliefs, a behavior of a ritual type.

For the one who participates it is like a religion;

from the point of view of the common observer, it seems more like a sinister cult”, writes the British essayist Simon Reynolds in his book

Energy flash.

A journey through rave music and dance culture


Because beyond the understandable anecdotes and sensationalism generated around these events,


culture has a history and values ​​that, given its


nature , are little known outside of the circle.

'Raver' values

“It is a movement that unites an audience of all ages that appreciates living and feeling.


allows us to be the person we really are, without judgment, there is a caring and united spirit.

Being part of this movement is being part of a family,” says Anais MFS, a 25-year-old French


who attends these parties once or twice a month.

The values ​​of the movement are usually summed up in the motto PLUR (Peace, Love, Union and Respect, for its acronym in English).

"All this is noticeable, for example, in the role of women," says the psychologist from the University of Huelva Fermín Fernández Calderón, author of

Contextualization of underground rave parties: Analysis of drug use, effects and risks

(University of Almería), “they are environments where, in general, women are respected and not reified.

The media often associate drug use with bad behavior, but in


violent attitudes are anecdotal."

Nocturnal atmosphere in the 'rave' of Salce.Jose A. Pascual

No one hides the fact that drug use (and polydrug use) is central to the experience of

free parties

, which most participants see as absurd in a sober state.

Some of the most used drugs are ecstasy (the central substance in dance cultures, which promotes dance, fusion with music and empathy with the one who dances next to you) and cannabis.

To a lesser extent, amphetamines, tobacco or LSD.

Alcohol and cocaine are used, but to a lesser extent than in other festive settings, such as bars, festivals or nightclubs.

According to Fernández Calderón, at


, despite the high consumption, there is usually knowledge about the use of drugs: test doses are taken to avoid damage, risk prevention strategies are known and it is known how to help someone harmed.

"Excessive drunkenness, for example, from alcohol, can be even frowned upon," says the psychologist.

All this is not an obstacle for tragedies to happen sometimes: the case of two 18-year-old boys who died in 2011 by consuming Jimson weed in a well-known


rave was heard.

Last summer, a 32-year-old Swiss woman died at a


in Salce, Zamora, which brought together 3,000 people, although it was determined that the cause was a heart condition she suffered from.

New Year's Teknival in Almería 2022

Genealogy of the 'free parties'

The history of

free parties

is blurred, like that of all


movements , but it is known that it began in the United Kingdom in the late eighties, some say that it was inspired by the Ibizan parties, some say that it was started by


from United States etc

Some people, intellectualizing the matter, have related the


to the ideas of the situationists, or to the Temporarily Autonomous Zones theorized by the anarchist Hakim Bey.

Or, of course, with the ancient shamanic rituals.

Photograph taken at the famous Castlemorton 'rave', held in the United Kingdom in 1992, which caused the British Government to explicitly prohibit these parties two years later.

PA Images (PA Images via Getty Images)

Around 1988 and 1989, the so-called Second Summer of Love took place in the United Kingdom (the first was in 1968, during the hippie outbreak), in the hedonistic heat of the


movement .

"It is related to the arrival of




music from the United States, which was very


, very minority," says journalist Javier Blánquez, coordinator and author of the monumental


A history of electronic music

(Reservoir Books), "There was a boom in London, with the appearance of

acid house

parties , and in a few months it caused a revolution, fueled by consignments of pure ecstasy that were appearing."


free parties

were not expensive or elitist, everyone came in, emerging DJs played, the authorship of the music did not matter and they had free hours.

All were advantages, the movement was decidedly anti-commercial, although some


, given the potential business, ended up legalizing or joining summer festivals.

Today it is common to find the word


associated with parties and commercial festivals;

from the most authentic sectors, the commercialization of the term and the perversion of the original spirit are denounced.

It was the Spiral Tribe, perhaps the most legendary group, that put together a party that changed the course of this story: the Castlemorton


in England, which lasted a week in 1992 and which is estimated to have been attended by at least more of 20,000 people.

This put the British government on guard, which arrested 13 members of the Spiral Tribe, saying the party had terrorized locals, some of whom had had to receive psychiatric treatment.

Two years later, in 1994,


were explicitly banned in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

The definition of rave

music is remembered with humor within the collective

that is given in that text: “Music that includes sounds characterized totally or predominantly by the emission of constant repetitive rhythms”.

Police guarded the exit of the Castlemorton rave.Barry Batchelor - PA Images (PA Images via Getty Images)

Recently, the Government of Giorgia Meloni, in Italy, has taken measures against these parties, considering "the invasion of land or buildings for meetings of more than 50 people" a crime.

The opposition has denounced that this law could also be used to suppress demonstrations and protests.

The measure was urgently approved after thousands of young people gathered in October to dance in an agricultural warehouse in Modena, in an event (the Witchtek party, for Halloween) that was dismantled by the police.

"The fun is over," tweeted far-right minister Matteo Salvini.

“A cultural and freedom movement is being suppressed.

I don't understand why the legalization of a pacifist movement that only releases joy, music and art is rejected”, says the French


Anais MFS.

From the repressive British laws, the

free party

virus spread to the European continent.

Caravans of traveling tribes (


) were created, which even included families with children, and who led a nomadic life in trucks and buses, with a


aesthetic similar to the apocalyptic movie

Mad Max


During the nineties they were celebrating


parties (now written with


, a style of hardened electronica typical of this subculture) wherever they went, like a traveling, electronic and psychonautical circus.

Some of these tribes were Spiral Tribe, Kamikaze, Hecate or Desert Storm: each one had its vehicles, its name, its logo and a powerful sound system.

The groups are also known as


, and in certain raver currents


usually display colorful scenery.

When many


come together , it is called



'Halloween rave' in the north of Modena, in 2022.Massimo Paolone/LaPresseFOTOFIOCCHI (Massimo PaoloneFOTOFIO / LaPresse / ContactoPhoto)

How to throw a rave

In Spain, in the 2000s, the scene established itself strongly.

Some common places in the Community of Madrid are the abandoned monastery of Perales del Río, the Boadilla tunnel, the Rivas slaughterhouse, the Cuatro Vientos forest, etc.


proliferated throughout the territory, also in Catalonia or eastern Andalusia, such as Almería or Granada, where the La

Peza rave


held or the very popular Dragon Festival was held in Santa Fe. “There are places that are of reference”, says DJ Carlos Garvi, who was a regular on the scene, “people used to go there to do



If suddenly two groups coincided, well, they did not compete, they simply shared”.



they do not respond to a single model, as a rock concert can respond, where everything happens as expected, but are extremely variable in their content, in their audience, in their music, in their duration.

Spontaneity is part of his anarchist spirit.

Dragon Festival 2015. Granada.

"Those parties meant the first opportunity to DJ for many," says DJ José Cabrera (today professionalized under the stage name JC), who was part of the Rave del Túnel (RDT) collective, one of the best-known of the first decade. of the century along with others such as Suburban Sound, RDLC or Zapatilla SoundSystem.

Boadilla tunnel


could be attended by anywhere from a few hundred to 3,000 people.

All these parties were organized without any profit, although many had to face large fines that even meant the final blow for some groups.

“We didn't want to bother anyone, just have fun: the police used to check up, but when there wasn't so much alarmism in the media yet, they only saw a group of kids having a good time and they let us be,” says Cabrera.

As for the music, each event has its own style, from






to the hardest aspects (


), spiritual (

psychedelic trance

) or broken rhythms (

drum & bass





rave atmosphere

it can also interact with artistic creation and encourage experimentation: “Music that is shaped by and for drugs can go further because it is not made with the aim of being enduring art or distinguishing itself as something new,” writes Simon Reynolds. , “the dancefloor functionalism and drug-addicted hedonism of

hardcore rave

deliver a more wildly twisted result than the experiments of more thoughtful people.”

Tunnel rave, Madrid 2010

Music also determines sociology to a great extent, since in some


one sees a regular audience at electronic clubs in the cities, but in others people associated with


or more




styles proliferate .

The way to attract the festive public is usually by word of mouth, it is not even very common to spread it on social networks, where you can lose the air of secrecy and be detected by the authorities.

“In the 2,000s we did it with SMS messages, which each one sent to their environment, without any type of


or promotion”, explains Cabrera, “this is how the news spread and people gathered”.

Infrastructure and logistics are important: you have to find the right place, rent a van and sound equipment with good bass, set up some bars and have a generator (or several).

It takes effort, investment and planning.

If you run out of gasoline (literally) and the party continues, you have to go to the nearest gas station for more.

"The thing has its preparation, because you have to assemble everything, do the sound checks... Then you can start in the afternoon and be there all night... or the whole weekend", says Garvi.

And when everything ends, what nobody sees remains, the time to pick up.

“It's important to leave everything better than it was”, concludes the DJ.

because the


Despite all their particularities, they share a negative aspect with the rest of the world's festivities: that the time comes when they are over.

Dance at dawn in the 'rave' of Salce. José A. Pascual

Source: elparis

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