How old were you when you went to your first rave?
I was 18.
Now I’m 24.
I’ve literally spent a quarter of my life going to raves and festivals. Soon it’ll be a third. Then half. Then three quarters. Whether I’m attending for fun, observing as a journalist, or spinning as a DJ, I’ll be going to festivals for a long time. I’ve had an immeasurable amount of fun attending these events and made plenty of new friends, but there’s something that goes beyond that. Something that goes beyond interactions, and even beyond music: the observance of change.
Frankly, not every festival-goer will notice change and most people don’t care to. To me, every festival offers a look back.
I think about how I felt at my first event, my taste in music, my willingness (or unwillingness) to dive into the community headfirst. I think about these things and compare them to now. Not just my own “now”, but the “now” of the scene as a whole, and now the scene is a lot older. Just like me.
I remember my first rave. Escape 2011. I was peer-pressured into going.
From the way I’m writing it might seem like I was born to rave, but my interest in electronic music came late. I was raised a rocker, and at first I didn’t understand why anyone would pay to watch someone push buttons. My friends were into the music, but there wasn’t much depth to their thoughts on it either. To them it was just something to enjoy with friends.
This point-of-view on music is certainly admirable. People can enjoy music for whatever reason they choose. However, now my friends and I are much older and a lineup isn’t something to breeze over. We know who’s playing, and we know who we want to see. After a festival we talk about the nuances of various sets. How they rise and fall. How they take you on a journey.
I relished the idea that my friends and I were honing our taste in music. We were exploring techno while Calvin Harris and Zedd got bigger and bigger. Yet at the same, time techno was gaining more a niche audience as well. I started running into people at techno sets who I met at the dubstep stage years before.
While this was happening, I have to admit I believed the universe was on my side. It was like the scene was molding into my interests. Everyone’s music taste was expanding and broadening at the same time. We were all discovering how much potential dance music has and we were growing stronger as a community because of it.
Now as I look back, I realize it was because people were getting older. And an older community is better for everyone. Older means more respectful, more mature, and makes for better events overall.
In truth, every trend that’s been happening in the scene is a sign of aging. Starting with the music.
When EDM exploded a new population joined the raving community, and the music is what attracted them (initially). Superstars like Avicii, Zedd, and Skrillex presented a new sound that belonged entirely to millennials; specifically ones who had just turned 18.
A few years later, those 18-year-olds were all 21, and the labels and promoters had been milking the larger-than-life EDM sound the entire time. Many of them sought something more musical, and it was then that electronic music began it’s true renaissance.
Instead of teenagers excited to be out late, we were adults who truly began to understand the potential of electronic music. It may have just been party-fuel at first, but from the party came a new generation of producers and DJs. These producers and DJs respect skill and have the drive to develop it.
Going to a festival or club night is a source of fun, but also a source of knowledge. If a DJ’s job is to observe the crowd and provide a soundtrack then a DJ can learn just as much from being in a crowd. To be successful, a producer must make music that is current and new, and there is no better way to pick up trends in music than seeing it live.
That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of people using DJing or producing as an excuse to party, but as we age the amount of time to make excuses diminishes. Most people start going to festivals when their parents are supporting them, but no one wants their parents supporting them forever.
At a certain age, everyone makes a choice (whether it’s sudden or gradual) how important music and festivals really are to them. For a lot of people, it’s part of the carefree phase of life and will soon be in their past, which is completely fine.
But looking back plenty of people who started going to festivals during the explosion of EDM who are still here. They found something there that they didn’t want to give up. Every one of them chose to stick around for their own reasons, but by doing so these festivals became a part of their development. Many who started out as kids are now adults, and soon these adults will take this culture even further.
Featured Photo courtesy of Symbiosis