Kyriaki Yozzo

There’s an old story that goes something like this — excited particles are gaining speed and burning hot as a scene full of potential builds momentum. The scene is teeming all over with possibility, ready for action and guided by a vision of a new world — except it falls into careless hands and minds that don’t care for meaning and freezes over. Inertia, stagnation and hollowness follow — death has knocked on the door. As I watch the integration of “techno” into the mainstream and its increasing trendiness across social media, I need to put on the best of my black clothing. Rave is gone and if I see one more person advertise their party with the word “gabber,” I’m going to punch them in the face.

Blown pupils, agitated jaws, eccentric outfits and deviant activity are usually the images people conjure up when they hear the word “rave,” and it’s true that within my first 10 minutes at Berghain in Berlin, Germany, I saw a girl get her ass eaten at the bar. But for this to be the primary association with rave is a shame because the culture and ethics that propelled and motivated the scene are also deserving of attention — there is so much being offered beyond simple hedonism and escapism, and it most definitely was not founded by white men who gentrified Brooklyn during COVID-19.

Since its birth, the techno scene was intended to be an environment that left the mainstream behind, to build an alternative and to establish a space outside of societal norms, expectations and structures. Firm in the rejection of materialism and power dynamics, an aversion to compulsive labeling and categorization and a belief in the meditative power of music and movement, venues and the dance floor were once regarded as a sacred space. The motivation or compulsion to go out, or rather go underground in many cases, was not simply pacified or dulled — here was a place where you could explore and play around with the boundaries of being, talk with open and like-minded people and pursue conversations outside the function through huge networks of communication, such as zines and other do-it-yourself resources.

Old rave zines reveal how people saw and respected the scene’s space as opportunities to transform reality and even imagine another world. These environments engaged alternate ways of understanding and approaching life. From Noam Chomsky’s essays to meditations on the nature of death, all the way to prose on the need for perception and behavioral changes, these communication tools were part of all the rage. There were party reviews, new venue alerts, interviews with DJs, personal journal entries and cross-country mail correspondence — means of building the scene and connecting with others. Drugs and sexually “promiscuous” activity were approached with more mindfulness — safety and respect were not undermined or downplayed as pursuits of pleasure purposefully promoted introspection, intimacy and escapism found in feeling present.

When people integrated rave culture into their identity, it was actually attached to a way of living — principles and values were actively engaged. In a 1994 interview, Mad Mike, head of a collective called Underground Resistance, talked about how he liked to think of his techno as subversive, as part of a movement that made you aware of social programming and, in effect, helped deprogram you so that we could evolve to “reach the point where our respect for our fellow man outweighs our respect for the dollar.” In the interview Mike was asked about the state of American politics, the implementation of technology and its general development, social consciousness and race relations. Are these the dialogues going on now? Is this what you talk about during your smoke breaks? I thought blow made you chatty.

And the spirituality of shows is totally tarnished. Instead of the ocean it’s supposed to be, the dance floor feels like a stagnant pool of water that you’d get malaria from. Here is an opportunity to be aware of your body and its boundaries while being limitless in mind and motion — to notice your senses and authentically stimulate them. Repetitive, commanding loops and smooth but powerful transitions make everything flow — it’s time to just be. Now, people get on the floor and do anything but move or only move their phone in their hand recording, or move with no sense of personal space or regard for others, especially women and personal hygiene. Everyone wants to “look the role,” showing up in leather, dark clothes and kink wear and I’m shaking my head like some obnoxious old woman.

It’s not all the people’s fault, because popular DJ-ing is shit, often conforming to demand or the “what’s in.” But, they don’t need to conform — they do because that’s where the money is. The DJ went from being regarded as a shaman to being treated like the next hit of your crummy ass vape. Resident Advisor recently wrote on the homogenization of music discovery due to algorithms, which focus on promoting the widest possible average and relatable, easily engaging — or shallow — content. There’s no respect for mixing as an art with homogenization and shortened attention spans also resulting in beat drops every two minutes (horrible) and no variation in the type of music people play.

The spirit of rave lives on in some small pockets, but its era is long gone. I don’t know if it can ever be revived, let alone if subcultures at large can start thriving again, but I do know that whatever exists right now sucks and I bet some of you fuckers are to blame. And you’re screwing yourself over more importantly because there are few things as nice as the feeling of contentment that stays around for days after a good party, the fact that sometimes the sweetest part of the night is leaving. You can repent by listening to my playlist of hardcore and gabber on Spotify. My username is kiwislaps and I recommend listening to my “Cure for Anxiety” playlist.

Kyriaki Yozzo is a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law.

Views expressed in the opinions pages represent the opinions of the columnists. The only piece which represents the views of the Pipe Dream Editorial Board is the Staff Editorial.