There are many subcultures that have made Disneyland their mecca for meet-ups—most notably the goths and those Disney megafans who dress like biker gangs. But there are also a bunch of lesser-known events, like Nerdy Day, Dapper Day, and a day for ska fans called "It's a Ska World After All."
Last Saturday, it was the turn of ravers, who spent the day in the park for their 14th annual Summer RaverDay, which is exactly what it sounds like.
I'm from England, so when someone says the word raver to me, I picture someone dressed relatively casually, standing in either a warehouse or a field, with a facial expression that indicates their skull is trying to chew its way out of their head.
But the Disneyland crowd was made up of kandi ravers, an altogether more American version of the culture—covered in beads, denim, and synthetic fur, and friendly to the point that it made me suspicious. Like this:
When I arrived I spoke to a girl named Valerie, who was attending the event for the first time. She was happy to explain the kandi scene to me. "It's all about PLUR," she said. "Which is peace, love, unity, and respect.
"There's always love to it," she went on, before explaining the significance or the bracelets they were wearing, which, she said, were all either made by her or given to her by other ravers she'd met at events. "It's always done with PLUR," she said. "It always has to mean something. If I feel like there's no meaning to [the bracelet], I will take it apart."
She then showed me how you go about exchanging the bracelets, a process that is to kandi ravers what secret signs and handshakes are to the Masons. (You can see it demonstrated here.)
I asked one girl if it was uncomfortable to wear that many bracelets. She pulled back some of them to show me what her skin looked like underneath. "This is what happens," she said. "We call it 'kandi cancer.'"
When people had told me about PLUR, I had assumed that "PLUR" was basically a code word for "DRUGS"—because, I mean, look at these guys. But Vince Cotson, the organizer of RaverDay, assured me this wasn't the case. Everyone present, he said, would be spending the day drug-free. "In fourteen years, there have been no incidents whatsoever of people behaving inappropriately," he told me. He'd also specified on the event's Facebook invite that drugs were not OK ("NO DRUGS" was written all in caps), and that pacifiers were also banned. "Some people see pacifiers as a drug symbol," he explained.
I'm fairly sure he wasn't lying. The day was pretty much 100 percent wholesome good-vibes family fun. Everyone was as nice as you'd expect a group of people who look like they covered themselves in glue and rolled through the world's most upbeat garage sale to be.
The only unwholesome thing I saw all day was this, which was given to me by a raver who recognized my English accent and struck up a conversation me. "I'm interested in a fetish that originated in England," he told me. "It's called 'sploshing.'"
Then he handed me the above business card, which promoted his sploshing website, where he posts photos he takes of naked women rubbing food on their bodies. He was wearing a kandi bracelet that had a plastic cupcake hanging from it next to the words "TOSS ME." Which, he explained, was a reference to "this goofy thing we do at the end of the shoot where I get them to turn around and I throw cupcakes at their ass."
Toward the end of the day, this old lady approached the girl on the left and asked what was going on. "We call these bracelets kandi," the girl explained. "When you have a good experience with someone, you trade kandi with them. That way, if you run into them at another event, you can be like, 'Oh, I saw you at whatever.'"
Then she gave the old lady a bracelet. It was cute.
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