The Unexpected Perks Of Raving In The Winter

When the cold months roll in, some people take it as a sign to hang up their pashes, kandi, and festival totems for the season.  After all, it’s easy to find reasons why winter and live music don’t mix well, particularly in the gloomy north and the snowy parts of the country.

Cold weather, the ever-dreaded coat-check lines, and the chaos of the holiday season can certainly suck the energy out of a rave. Nonetheless, just like traveling to popular destinations in the “off-season”, winter raving comes with some noteworthy perks. 

Dressing for the elements is always a reality for festivals, but it can be particularly tricky when dealing with winter weather. On one hand, bundling up keeps the cold at bay, but those extra layers can become an inconvenience inside.

By contrast, “roughing it out” in a crop top, jersey or shorts isn’t optimal when there’s an hour-long wait to catch an Uber and the waiting area is completely exposed to 45-degree wind and rain (Looking at you, Tacoma Dome).

Safety always comes first, and when in doubt, it’s always best to dress warm in cold climates. I’ve seen my fair share of fishnet-clad ravers risk frostbite or hypothermia while waiting in line at winter festivals like Decadence NYE Denver and Excision’s Thunderdome, and speaking from personal experience, it’s not worth it. 

That said, there’s no reason to sacrifice style for warmth. Many popular festival fashion boutiques now feature cold-weather-friendly options in their lines, and what’s more, adding layers creates more opportunities to customize and personalize a look.

Those longer layers also tend to benefit comfort and functionality, particularly for feminine styles (hello pockets). Let’s face it, those two-piece PVC skirt sets look great in pictures, but they make it difficult to enjoy a nice sit break in the grass, no matter what the season.

More pocket room also frees up space for water, merch, coats, kandi, and other rave essentials in your backpack, and the minimalists can even go bag-free.

Form-functional styles are also always a good fit for smaller, more intimate events, which is another staple of winter raving. While it’s true that moving indoors can create some limitations, smaller productions come with perks too. 

To start with, scaled-down events can provide a welcome reprieve from the chaotic elements of summer festivals. Take for example the novel HARD PNW festival, which took place in Tacoma, Washington in early March (which in the PNW is basically still winter). 

Compared to its outdoor SoCal counterpart HARD Summer,  HARD PNW took place indoors at the Tacoma Dome, and production felt a little basic at times. Nonetheless, what the event lacked in theatrics and flashy looks, it gained in approachability.

With a notably smaller crowd and a simple two-stage setup, it was easy to find room to dance, hang out with friends, and meet new people.

A little breathing room is a welcome change after a season full of shoulder-to-shoulder crowding, and more space also likely helps reduce rude behavior like the excessive pushing reported at popular productions like HARD Summer and ESCAPE Halloween in 2022.

Because artists aren’t as busy traveling to major festivals, city tours and one-night events can be easier to find in the winter, which especially benefits smaller cities and rural communities.

I’ve witnessed this directly in Washinton’s Inland city of Spokane, where bigger names often pop up on local club show lineups at the same time that the snow begins to fall. One-night shows also make a more affordable and convenient option for fans and festie-lovers who work busy schedules or want to save money.

Finally, another benefit of a minimalist-style production is that with fewer distractions comes more time to connect to the music.

For those who live out of range of the ice and snow, cooler temps can actually benefit the winter raving experience. Overheating is one of the main risk factors ravers and festival goers face during the summer, and much of that is due to the fact that finding convenient ways to cool off is more difficult than finding ways to keep warm such as by bundling up, especially in the middle of a crowd. Disruptions due to heat and extreme weather in the summer months are likely to increase as global temperatures rise. 

Fall and winter events taking place in Florida, SoCal, Mexico, and other warm climate zones provide another option. While the weather may cool down, winter temperatures in these regions typically stay comfortable.

That means ravers traveling in can avoid the freezing temps of the North and everyone can catch a break from the heat. Longer nights are also good news for those who like to rage from dusk til’ dawn.

Contrast is the running theme amidst all these perks. Having something fun to look forward to works wonders for mood support when activities migrate indoors and the Vitamin D runs low.

What’s more, embracing a lull in activity can prove a benefit in and of itself. Downtime provides an opportunity for recovery, and allowing oneself to feel the absence of the festival excitement helps ensure it remains a special treat.

Winter raving ultimately provides an opportunity to appreciate the scene’s simpler, more intimate dimensions, and there’s always something to be gained from witnessing a familiar experience in a different light.

Images sourced from  Insomniac Countdown.

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