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The VICE Guide to Raving

Everyone's a raver now. “Guitar music is dead” is the kind of thing your dad says—that’s how dead it is. Now, it’s all beats and bells and whistles. The future you glimpsed in 90s movies, when everyone's into techno and has slime-green hair, is upon us.

Photo by Alex Patterson

Everyone's a raver now. “Guitar music is dead” is the kind of thing your dad says—that’s how dead it is. Now, it’s all beats and bells and whistles. The future you glimpsed in 90s movies, when everyone's into techno and has slime-green hair, is upon us.

But while so many of us go raving, the vast majority get it wrong. Be it the drugs, the joy, the communal toilets, or the pressure not to look like a dick, we often end up looking like dicks. We eyeball the DJ, we pump our fists, we kiss Europeans, and we piss our paychecks away on booze and drugs only to throw it all up later that night.


So treat this as Raving for Dummies: a kind of self-help manual for people who can deal with week-long comedowns. Maybe it seems fascistic to tell people how to behave at an event that's supposed to be about hedonistic release, but watch this video and you’ll understand that perhaps the new graduating class of rave enthusiants could use a bit of guidance.

This is imperative. Looking good is one of the fundamental cornerstones of youth culture; however, that's not really the case when opting for board shorts and rape-culture-slogan T-shirts. Remember, this all-important sense of aesthetic belonging is what all great cultural movements were built upon.

Except now it isn't. Some people still make a valiant effort, but really, how long can you spend angling your Night Slugs fitted cap? You aren't Michael Alig or Sting in Quadrophenia; you're just one of those guys who gets his fade shaped up once a week. The days of people doing their hair with eggs and glue, ironing their Mohair jackets, or pouring blue paint over their heads are consigned to the past.

Modern club fashion is, by and large, cozily utilitarian—easy to wear, machine-washable, and unlikely to get you attacked at Sunday recovery brunch session. Sure, it'd be great if someone did push the boat out a bit, but in what direction? People standing near repetitive beats have a shameful sartorial history of bleached dreadlocks and furry, flourescent legwarmers; if fashion had a Hague, everyone at Electric Daisy Carnival would stand trial for war crimes. So maybe it's best to stick with the streetwear.


Photo by Marco Tulio Valencia

Sorry to break it to you, but they’re all awful and they're all bastards. By now, every dealer realized that cutting corners isn't going to put a dent in their customer base. Especially not when that same customer base strictly buys drugs when they're drunk and happy to shell out $100 for some mix of boric acid, levamisole, and a cursory dose of whatever it is that they actually want to buy.

Which is why the current attitude seems to be: Just choose your poison, and if it doesn't work, take more. Eventually something will happen. It could be good, or it could be very, very bad. Just don't believe for one second that Rico, AJ, Taz, or whatever stupid name your dealer goes by is actually your friend, or that he gives a flying fuck about you or your vital organs. He thinks you’re a chump and is probably laughing at you as soon as the car door's shut.

You’re going home. Home to whatever ramshackle is proudly yours. You're not in Ibiza. Not everyone is living for the party. This isn't one nation, there isn't one drug, and there's certainly not one wavelength. In this day and age, having a good time can often be treated as an act of disrespect. There is no reason for you to believe that your fellow passengers (or your cab driver, for that matter) are in solidarity with your night out. They have jobs, children, spouses, lives to live—and let's face it, if you're raving with any regularity, you probably don't. That's not a bad thing per se, but it most certainly is when you put it on display.


You don't have to swing on rails or ledges, and there's almost never any reason to shoot the shit with strangers. If someone broke these rules while you were on your way to a long, lonely night shift, or home to look after your sickly child, you'd probably think they were a cunt.

Photo by Kieran Cudlip

Unless you're Prince, they're just something you have to deal with. Stay calm, breathe normally, and don't play tough guy when they go through your belongings.

By virtue of not being Moscow, where going out on a Friday night is basically like finding yourself trapped in a disco caste system, or Berlin, where the bouncers are taught to just scream the word "NO" in your face over and over again, clubbing almost anywhere else is a fairly democratic experience.

You're on the list—we get it. You’re also broke and just want a good time, but there’s a fine art to getting in for free without being a prick. If the venue is run by a faceless promotional entity, then by all means own it. Or email them a couple days prior and say that you “run a blog”; it works more often that you’d think. The delusions of grandeur inherent to corporate club promotion deserve to be feasted upon, so milk your shame threshold for all it's worth.

But if the door charge for a local club is less than $10, just don’t fucking ask. If you begrudge handing over a $10 bill but routinely spend half the night calling around for overpriced coke, you’re missing the point. The less often you pay to get in, the less great a night at smaller clubs that cater to your niche EDM sensibilities will be had, and the more you’ll end up staying in and watching Boiler Room. In short, unless it’s your good friend’s night and they’re cool with you being a semipermanent plus-one, pay up or go home.


Photo by Jake Lewis

Don't buy drinks for your wasted bros. Don't do rounds. Don't engage the bar staff in conversation. Don't order anything that clearly isn't fucking there. This is a club, not a microbrewery. Just stand patiently, order quickly, and try not to spit at the bar staff when they purposely forget to give you back your change.

I don’t know why anyone under 30 takes coke. Most of us just about make a living wage, and we’re snorting so much of it that "cocaine in the water" is now rooted in more than just an outlandish Rick Ross lyric. It’s not exactly an instant club-aid like pills or acid, either. Once you’re in the club, 90 percent of your night will be spent calling for, collecting, dishing out, asking around for, and talking about coke. Then, if it’s not gone, the after-parties turn into cotton-mouthed mothers' meetings when we’re supposed to be, you know, having a laugh. Oh, and there's always that dick who pockets the communal dollar straw.

The only party drug that is worse than coke is ketamine. Ketamine is weed’s sociopath cousin—an unforgiving bastard without any of the familial benefits. No hunger, no happiness, no sleepiness, no desire to listen to anything loudly—just semi-paralysis and a burning streak of piss once you’re mobile enough to drink again.

The appeal of ingesting animal tranquilizers in organized social situations still ranks as one of life's greatest mysteries, but for some reason it's gone from being the preserve of the dubstep heads, who could sort of get away with it given their sheer lack of motion, to being the drug of choice for your garden-variety straw-hat deep-house momo. I mean, most people are terrible as it is on ketamine, let alone people who are already terrible.


Plus, as far as disco injuries go, having doctors cut out your bladder is definitely the most embarrassing.

Photo by Daniel Leinweber

Stop staring at the DJs. They’ll still look like someone bent over some electronic gizmos no matter your vantage point, or how unrelenting your gaze is.

Clubbing should be sacred. It should be immersive, life-changing, and totally defy shareable documentation. So don’t video it.

At Berlin’s Watergate, there is some fucking hero whose primary role is to confiscate phones from people who are taking photos, Shazam-ing tracks, or both. “You can pick your phone up after ze club, or you can leave with your phone,” I’ve overheard more than once. Brutal, Germanic efficiency has never been so appealing.

If you really want your photo taken in a club, go to a Top 40 R&B night downtown. They're teeming with student photographers, who’ll gladly indulge your narcissistic tendencies. It’s estimated that 10 percent of all photos taken in human history were taken in 2012 alone, and 10 percent of those were of you gritting your teeth.

Alas, there will always be a gaggle of dickheads trying to turn Corsica into Roskilde 2000—it's just one of those sad parts of the nightlife experience, and one you might have to just allow. If they did it a bar, or at a bus stop, or a family wedding, you'd be well within your rights to end them. But in a club it’s cramped, and frankly being a dick to some people for having more fun than you sucks. Unless it’s this next group, of course…


Photo by Jake Lewis

Those people that go raving once a year. The weekend warriors, the stragglers, the civilians in sunglasses, cardboard-box-dancing straight out of a 90s workout routine.

Don't give them any space or time. There's only one way they'll learn: pure fucking animosity. This isn't the summer of love any more; electronic music is now basically the only music and you're gonna have to fight for your territory. Clubs need to regain exclusivity; otherwise they might as well be another local radio music festival.

They’re old, throwing Tai Chi moves, staring at the ceiling, wearing sandals and those graphic-equalizer T-shirts, but don’t let it irk you. Give them space and let them be and have some respect for an old rave soldier. You wouldn't piss on a war memorial, so no need to take selfies with the scene's 'Nam veterans.

Photo by Jake Lewis

They used to have chill-out rooms; now you have these. Give people cigarettes, but don’t ask for too many. Smoke weed, but don’t be too obvious.

People who force themselves into your smoking cypher are the worst. This isn't a Grateful Dead show. Under no circumstances are you to give a stranger a pull off your joint. Would you go up to someone inside and ask for a sip of their drink? Would you ask a stranger for a drag on a cigarette? It’s the same principle. People who just want a lick are all Part-Timers (see Part-Timers).


There are two types of rave afterparty: the one that the DJs go to, and the one that the ravers go to. If you can, try to get yourself into the DJ one, as there will be way more booze and drugs (this will be easier for the ladies to achieve, but remember girls: You don't have to sleep with that wrinkly Dutch producer if you don’t want to).

If you don’t fancy the intimidating debauchery of a DJ's hotel room, then why not try someone’s loft in your respective town or city? They’ll be cool, right? It definitely won’t be full of people playing a game of Spotify Monopoly will it? Oh, God. It will.

Your best option for an afterparty depends on how you prepare beforehand. Don’t do all your drugs, don’t spend all your money, leave little reserves, little pools of both before the rave is up, and just head back to whichever friend has the best speakers at home. That way you don’t have to deal with a bunch of people trying to impress/bang a DJ, and you also don’t have to deal with a group of strangers being total cunts.

Photo by Maggie Lee

There's nothing better than going out. And there's nothing worse than staying out too long. You can pull it off very occassionally (but seriously, very occasionally). Like, maybe twice in your life. Mostly you just end up with a bottle of something you’d never choose to drink, waiting for the tide to wash you out.

The good thing about nights out is that they're infinite. Your 20s aren’t going to go up in flames because no one dropped a big tune in the club, or you didn’t get some, or the vibe isn’t right. Use your senses, cut your losses, and make up for it next time. More often than not, that moment on the rooftop swimming pool as the sun comes up ain't gonna happen.

There’s no real advice for this. Maybe watch some TV, or try to sleep loads? You should probably try to avoid speaking to your parents, I guess. Whatever you do do, though, it’s nicer to do it with someone else.

Frankly, you're not going to avoid it, and you're certainly not going to escape it; you've put your body through a lot, and now it needs some downtime. Some real fucking downtime. No amount of Valium or bacon is going to stop you from feeling like Flight MH370.

Just remind yourself that everything you're feeling is your fault. Not Taz's, not Rico's, not AJ's. Not the fault of your pals who egged you on, not the promoter's, not the DJ's—yours. Just yours. It's an oddly comforting admission of shame, and one that'll help you see your comedown on its own terms, rather than as part of some bullshit narrative about your "needing to blow off some steam." Just ride the wave through the tunnel and into the light. Be an adult and take responsibility for your actions.