The rave scene has long been a platform for people to express themselves in ways they might not have been comfortable with before. A place and event where you could be yourself all while meeting others and dancing to electronic music that was not mainstream.
“There was no judgment; it was all about the music and dancing,” said Angel Cabrales, a 44-year-old artist and art professor at UTEP.
Rave culture has evolved many times over in the last three decades.
“The biggest differences between the rave scene of the 1990s versus today are that there was a wider variety of musical genres in the ’90s, and today, the scene has morphed into a festival scene that glorifies the commercial as opposed to the underground,” said Tally Grost, a 38-year-old raver and DJ.
Cabrales said one big draw for the old rave scene was its mysteriousness.
“You never knew where the DJs were going to be,” said Cabrales. “Just a date and time to call for a map to its location [on the day of the event].”
The clandestineness of the rave locations was intriguing as well as inviting to the person who wanted to experience the spontaneity for a few hours or days. The secrecy was mainly to avoid interference by law enforcement since there was the possibility of illegal activity.
“A lot of the parties I went to when I started going out around ’98 or ’99 weren’t housed in legitimate nightclubs, and the directions to the event weren’t even made known until the night of the event,” said Esteban Carrasco, a 33-year old DJ-producer from El Paso with a residency in Las Vegas. “The mystery and adventure of whether you’d find yourself dancing the night away in an abandoned warehouse or in the sand dunes under the night sky was all part of it.”
For many ravers, traveling hundreds of miles for a good show was well worth the drive.
“Seeing [DJ] Junebug in 2005 was one of my best rave experiences if not the best,” Cabrales said. “The rave was on a reservation outside of Albuquerque. I was living in Arizona and my friends and I packed up a tent.
“We arrived around 10 p.m., set up our tent with hundreds of others and then danced all night,” he continued. “I met a man in his ’70s dancing on the dance floor. It was his first time in America. I remember him telling me how happy it made him to see so many different people just dancing together and how he wanted to do this for the rest of his life.
“I danced with my eyes closed in the middle of the desert feeling the music run through me. It was spiritual.”
El Paso has had its own rave scene for some time and has seen a renaissance when it comes to electronic dance music. Warehouse parties, clubs and festivals have been a part of the culture since the ’90s.
“One of my first experiences was in the basement (that was shared with) the Plaza Theater,” said local rave goer Joe Nava. “I walked down a small staircase and heard the bass get louder and louder as I went further down. Nothing could’ve prepared me for what I was about to walk into. I was surrounded by some of the coolest looking, coolest dancing people I’d ever seen.
“I saw some of the most life changing DJ sets by headliners and locals in that place. If people only knew.”
Many ravers have grown with the new EDM culture and embraced its advancements in technology.
“I like that the rave culture has expanded into festivals and much more,” said Chito Aguilar, a 36-year-old business owner and rave goer. “With its evolution comes trial and error. I feel that there is more variety in the music and events. Technology is great – better sound and the visuals are extraordinary.”
This colorful, vibrant, untamed culture has taken the globe and made it dance. It takes you to a new state of euphoria that is difficult to describe in words and much easier to experience.
“My best experience was at Electric Daisy Carnival at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2010,” Aguilar said. “Kaskade was playing and it was just perfection – the vibe, the music, the people – everything.”
Fast forward to 2017, and many DJs and festival goers say that the borderland has made a name for itself in the EDM world.
“Hardpop (in Juarez) was recognized as one of the top 100 venues in the world by DJ Mag recently and Sun City Music Festival is a yearly staple on the national festival circuit,” Carrasco said. “There are local DJs and producers making very sophisticated music that gets international recognition, and venues like Club Here I Love You are up and operating to offer clubbers a less homogenized version of what dance music culture is today.
“There’s a level of sophistication, taste, and attention to detail that puts the El Paso metroplex on par with any other well developed scene.”
One could argue that the rave scene has been commercialized, although the underground scene still has its place in the culture and always will.
“What I love about the rave scene is its pattern of introducing groundbreaking music to the world,” Grost said. “I found a great love for the drum and bass scene because the contemporary one still has the qualities of openness, passion, and of still being underground some 30 years after its birth.”
People say that rave culture makes people feel like they are part of family – part of something that is bigger than them and is not of the everyday world.
“It’s a necessary thing for our society, where one can go and avoid judgement and have a good time,” said internationally acclaimed EDM artist Shaun Frank. “The rave culture is always going to evolve and change.That’s the beauty of it.”