This is not so much about what raves are or aren't, than about what they MIGHT be.
So don't bother looking here for a rehash of the obvious: that raves are the latest thing in underground dance parties/about having fun/feeling good/Peace/Energy/Unity ... all of which IS true, needless to say, but there remains so much more to be said, so much more to BE!
CUT through the clouds of trendism and commercialization that attach themselves to any major new mutation in culture. What wants to be invoked (what I want to invoke--what I hope YOU want to invoke) is that imaginal, incandescent core out of which all the smoke & noise is generated; what a rave truly can be, for some people in some situations--what it could BECOME; and then, peeling away at the sides, ... falling off one by one, duller, flatter, greyer ... and ever so much more TAME ... all those would-be and almost-raves, unavoidable byproducts of anything too real.
An old Sufi saying has it that: "where there's counterfeit, there's true gold."
So next time you go to something that calls itself a rave but isn't, don't just write it all off; the real ones do exist, and why SHOULD they be so easy to find? And, after all, it's up to YOU to make them real.
Allright, we already know that raves are THE space-age tribal youth ritual, the return of the dionysian energy that first emerged in 50's rock 'n' roll and erupted in full force in the late 60's with the intertwining of music and psychedelic drugs. But the rave-current is itself only the more visible crest of something broader and deeper.It's no coincidence that it hits the States at the same time as a major resurgence of psychedelic usage.
You can take the toying with neo'60's motifs--day-glo, flowers, smiley faces, flares--as mere fashion recycling by a generation born largely post-Summer of Love. Or you can see these themes as the instinctual recovery of a project left hanging, next breath after a two decade-long lull. Or you can go ever furthur--and why not!?--and see "the 60's" as only one recent intrusion within the Flatland of (take a deep breath now) Gravity-Bound-Domesticated-HumanoidIndustrial Civilization (got that?) of a future that is already happening, a future that beckons us towards itself and sends its echoes spiralling back through the dark and narrow tunnels of terrestrial time to make itself come true...
But only with your help, of course!
Picture a wave forming on the horizon, a big one (talking late 50's, early 60's): the psychick surfers coasting out there, beatniks, nonconformists, oddball academics bored with the small town life at the shore and all its dismal soap-opera games, looking for something to carry them away into a wilder, richer world; the first swells of energy carry with them a tide of psycho-active algaes...
Underline the word parties.
Dosed to the gills, beatniks in existential black mutate into rainbow-hued hippiedom. Up with the Flower Children, hedonistic and 'escapist'--so called because they withdrew from the arena of domesticated primate aggro-sports known as 'politics' in favor of actually learning about the infinite kingdoms within their own body and nervous system. Drop into the Haight, turn off powertrips, tune out conformism and competition.
Meltdown ensues. All the accelerated bondings through Be-Ins, LoveIns, communes. Awash in the incense of oriental exoticism and occultist bric-a-brac, a renaissance of the spirit decks itself out in raiments of psychic kitsch. And how much can we fault them, really, if their Love&Peace trip undercut itself by becoming a denial of the Darkness; after all, they are there for us to learn from.
But just as everyone is tumbling about in the cosmic froth, anticipating revolution or millenium tomorrow afternoon at the latest, the Wave suddenly evaporates beneath them. No, the Earth Egg didn't quite hatch yet, ...just some initial stirrings. And so the children of the Vortex find themselves hurtling through the air like Wil E. Coyote, wrapped up in all their newfound lifestyles, but the vital juice is gone, and it all becomes so tame and lame so quickly, and in any case, a lot of people couldn't handle the intensity so it comes time to settle back into a safe routine, in some cases lay the ground for those who come after; & all around are the Mr. Jones' of many guises, panicked at the imminent collapse of Normalville; some however take their chance to cash in on what they can of it, a lot of others are wholly freaked, and thus begins a Counter-Reformation. One the one hand, a retreat from direct encounter with the Abyss crystallizes into the New Age, and on the other, it's back to the Bible, dumb drugs, white-bread, and Family Values. And all the hipsters left posing without a clue, all the burnouts/fuckups/addicts & victims of some invisible multidimensional boogeying elephant; over there in the ivy towers, the blind men scribble their learned tomes, dissecting some stray paisley footprints; but something far stranger has happened, and its awfully hard to make out just what till the next, bigger cousin of that wave starts to surface offshore.
Meanwhile even many devotees of the Vortex ascribe it to the decline in quality of their psychoactive goodies, mistaking the portal for the vista beyond (but how do you enter the vista without the portal? hmmm...BE THY VISION! a distant curl of the Vortex whispers back).
Credit it all to upsurges of the Gaian mind, long-schemed scams of the giggling DNA-consciousness, or the flotsam & jetsam cast down by That Transcendental Novelty Item at the End of Time; choose your metapors--the more the merrier; but there's a mystery-in-process that all the nice rationalistic analyses will never get at: here I'll echo a point once made by Mr. Leary: the most subtle form of conservatism is that which views the present only through the prism of the past!
And yes, (to those for whom it's not patently obvious), IT'S
At the heart of the rave is a modern, technologically clad form of non-verbal, ecstatic communion. The ethos of openness, sharing, intimacy, touch and empathy--not to mention the pure intensities of trance itself--facilitated by the use of LSD & MDMA (hey, the fact that you have to take these things to loosen up is a sign of just how far down & lost we all are!!), in tandem with the all-night long pulsation of bodies to the same sound source, can and does create a context where layers of armoring and conditioning are shed, where those willing can find the joyful and mysterious realm of their bodies free of oh-so many enculturated ego-trips and bullshit, ... while also opening the "post-terrestrial" circuits of their psyches. (Whew! Pause, return to beginning of paragraph, read again slowly.)
In other words, a safe space where we can be as weird as we want to be.
A collective molting ritual for the new species.
Or take it from another angle: compare the rave-thing to a chemical reaction: a half-dozen ingredients (make your own list), inert & ordinary in the normal course of things; but combine them in right proportions, at the right time and place, apply the CATALYST (& what what THAT be?) and BOOM!, you've set off an explosion, a chain reaction producing ENERGY, LOTS OF IT, and in that process a dynamic that continues to transform many of the starting ingredients into new & unknown qualities. No question, of course, that bystanders can look in from the skeptically, and reduce it all back to something familiar: escapism, consumerism, fashion parade, whatever. But we'll leave them to their nervous calculations...
OK, so you want a schoolbook definition of TECHNO-SHAMANISM, that
catchphrase everybody likes to invoke but no one seems to be able to
Prepare to jump levels: As the individual shaman/ess evicts demons and excises magical darts from the sick person through a mixture of magickal sound & motion, so on the level of the diseased and crisisridden 'global village' raves aim to heal the collective body by shaking it loose of its neurotic fixations and death-fetishes.
Unhooking the talons and shadowy webs of control. A physical unlearning of a few thousand years worth of BAD HABITS.
Learning to be at once a little more human and a little more alien.
Healer, leader, visionary, outcast: the shaman/ess' role is multifaceted, both at the center but also relegated to the margins of the community; the use of sound and/or psychoactive compounds are central to shamanism. The shaman/ess chants, hums, drums and dances as a way of programming hir voyage into the "spirit realms" (aka hyperspace), as well as of healing the mind and body of others, ... all on a more face-to-face, way lo-tech scale, of course.
So there, chew on that for a while.
It's a pretty sad but predictable fact that self-professed "radicals" have been oblivious to this phenomenon, just because it seems to emanate out of NITEKLUBLAND; too bad--when will they figure out that all social alienation is ultimately grounded in an alienation from the body--that realm of nature closest to us but oh-so far away. Their heroine Emma Goldman once proclaimed to the grim socialist militants of her day: "If I can't dance in your revolution I want no part of it."
And what if dance could be a modality of social change?
A heretical thought, no doubt. "Free your ass and your mind will follow," so said George Clinton. But hey, he was just another crass capitalistic rock star, right?
Not to rescusitate, however, that burdensome word, Revolution. Scratch the R, hilite the E. Quote an obscure graffito from a wall in Paris, May 1968: "This is not a Revolution but a Mutation." And say rather, TAZ. Temporary Autonomous Zone.
Like the TAZ, the rave is wild, nomadic, outside the maps of Power. At its best, the rave opens onto a realm of free-form behavior and perception, one in which there is no hierarchy, no leaders or followers, at most the dj and the light-show artists. (Hopefully benign--be careful who you leave your sensorium with!)
...Not unlike the Situationist International's notion of the "situation" (sorry, I just had to drag them in here!), a space of liberated interactions... but where the participants are the art and the show, the synergy between them all the event (or event horizon?). If the insurrection was supposed to realize itself in a festival, we might ask, why shouldn't the festival turn into an insurrection--an insurrection of Love?
Anyone who has been part of a REAL rave, if only once, briefly,
knows that its insane, insanely beautiful ferocity is something that
exceeds all the contrived parlour-games that pass for alternatives,
social or political. The mere fact of this ferocious hedonism is,
without words or slogans, A REFUTATION OF DOMESTICATED
So FUCK IT if most of this California rave-scene is still ensnared in niteklubbism. Invade the pseudo-raves, instigate roving micro-raves. Doesn't take more than a ghetto blaster and a handful of courageous revellers to start a rave on any streetcorner or park, see how long it takes to catch..., or to be shut down...
THIS is OUR form of protest--our style of dance is angry and combative as well as loving and celebratory; to free our bodies first from the rotting carcass of history,,,
...and from there, ... who knows where we'll go?
Prediction: a few years down the road, the rave-scene will be looked back on as the primary networking mechanism for the tribes of starfarers.
But if ravers can't clean up after themselves, how are they going to clean up the planet?
If you had to have JUST ONE metaphor for it all to live by and through, wouldn't that just be it. The spiral dance of life...so it sounds cliched, but cliched only in words, in words...
but (& rave-friends can detour here for a sec, these are words for those who've never raved and long stopped going out to
DANCE, --this kind of dance--is FREEING MOTION. Not just moving to the beat but letting the beat help you throw off all the constricted robotic movements that have been imprinted into your heart, your eyes, your ears, your arms, your ass, your dreams, by all the tricks, traumas & seductions of society; and find the REAL YOU; dancing with the world, but dancing off the consensus-trance, that narrow greyout rightangle robotic updown freezeframe pseudoreality.
Raves signal the return to Western culture of sacred dance. A dance that balances discipline with excess, ecstasy with focus. Look at the three great Monotheisms that have pretty much defined our psychosomatic matrix: Judaism, Christianity, Islam: none of them possess any tradition of Sacred movement; they have all been scared shitless of the Body, and have instituted its repression in a thousand and one subtle ways. How appropriate that the advent of a spiritualized form of movement to the center of Civilization should present itself in a totally decadent, seemingly profane form. And people wonder why raves are actively suppressed back in the UK? Raves represent the primal life-force suppressed so long ago it remains only a dim but real memory.
And let's get this out of the way too: dancing on a decent dose of a psychedelic is something else again: communing with the animal spirits encoded into the depths of your skin, letting them out of their millenial cages. Learning how you can be each of them when you need to be; and its also about learning how to fly, how to turn yourself inside out into a spinning glowing disc, though that's a little harder ... and then, once we've got that under our belts, we can do it TOGETHER.
It's been said before, but not clearly enough: UFOS R US.
So what if all this prepacked ravitis costs too much. Don't leave it
to them and whine about how commercialized it all is: THROW YOUR
So some of the dinosaurs may not be happy seeing their way of life superseded and want to stamp out those noisy critters scampering between their feet; more intelligence and greater manoueverability will be our response. Haven't we gotten sick enough of the EnemyProduction Line?
Social transmutation can be fun too, right? There's fun, safe vapid alcoholic-nicoteine hedonism, letting off steam so you can return to Monday; and then there's fun that aims high, fun allied with Will. The path of disciplined excess (??).
But watch this--all those scouting parties of the future will be known by their capacity to throw great parties--and pioneer partying as a way of throwing off the legacy of the miserable Dominator culture we've all had to grow up in.
RAVERS, look a little ways forward: have you wondered yet what happens once you're burnt out after a year or two of intensive raving, once you've lost half your hearing, the beats become stale, and the Energy has leaked away. Where, what then?
Define the rave for me.
What does the verb TO RAVE really mean to you?
But first let's list all the stuff that seems to go with it: Acid/techno/deep house music; dancing from dusk to dawn; hi-tech light shows; lollipops, floppyhats, dayglo pendants, smart drinks; $15-20 tickets; zillion gigagawatts sound-systems; X,a cid, nitrous and 2CB; goofy outfits, sexy bodies; so many inane and beatific smiles...
SHALL we ask together: just what is the essence of a rave?
Suppose, just for a second that we subtract one by one each of the above accessories. Stretch your imagination to the limit, and take away even, yes, even THE MUSIC; till all we have left are the people, all those people who have found each other in this beat, in these hidden gatherings, but without the beat, just heartbeat, pulserate, breath, ... AND THE EXCHANGE OF LOVE-ENERGIES (isn't that what sex is, ultimately?) and each other's presence ... Radiant and revelling in our unearthly beauty ... so here we are: much as we adore it, do we really need the dance music to affirm our commonality, the patent fact that we are siblings of the the same spiritual family who through the raves have managed to find one another and in that finding remember who each of us truly is, orphan child of eternity. Do we need to confuse the rave with the quality of our common presence, our moving-loving together; can't we take the essence of the rave, freed of all the externals we associate with it, transfer and apply that energy elsehwere, to just about anything...?
It comes down to a challenge, a challenge posed in that leap from normal space to hyperspace that kicks in when the 'rave' really starts to rave: those altered moments when each of us in being truest to our uniqueness enters into a harmonious whole; elusive as this may be, it calls out, and asks to be realized in every moment of our lives; it asks for creation, CREATION OF LIFE, for the nurturing of real communities that last deeper & longer than a few hours on the dancefloor.
That creative energy, apply it not just to your style of dress but to your style of BEING. Free eros & intimacy from the shackles socially-inherited sexualities (gay vs, straight, male vs. female), from monogamy and the neurotic fixation on genital sexuality:
YES, CELEBRATE your arrival here at last after a long trek, but don't
forget, this is only the point of departure. These parties are our
loading docks and shipyards. (And there is Work to be done: enough
healing & cleaning for us all.) Here is where we will build not just a
House, but a ship of dreams, a starship. Woven out of LOVE. CHAOS.
And embark; post-nuclear families setting sail out along the unwinding multi-dimensional origami strands of alternity...
The Barbary Coast, July 1992
THE IMAGINAL RAVE is a Tribal Donut Production. Available for $2.00 cash through the mail from Tribal Donut, 41 Sutter Street, Box 1348, San Francisco, CA 94104. Neural Growth Factor for New Mutants. No copyright; text may be freely sampled & reproduced, but please give credit & contact info where possible. Copies of TRIBAL DONUT #1, 24 pages of hi-density chaostrophy, including cameos by Hakim Bey, Gurdjieff & Malaclypse the Younger, also available for $2.00 through the mail from the above address.