Yesterday, we took Ben to his first rave party. Because we are Responsible Parents, this was a sober rave, part of the new “early morning rave party” trend. These are dance parties that play house and deep house, that bring in local DJs known for playing parties to do it, and are full of flower necklaces and glowsticks…at 7 in the morning. There’s no alcohol, no X, no Molly, just coffee, cold pressed juice and raw vegan breakfast foods. To those of us too old to stay up all night, but too young to give up on dance parties, they are fantastic. More importantly, they are profitable: yesterday’s event was the 11th party hosted to date in NYC by Morning Gloryville, a London based hosting company, and their schedule seems to be monthly at this point. There is a clear market for these early morning sober raves, and me and my contemporaries are probably it.
I haven’t been to anything like a rave in years. I used to go out a lot in Vancouver, because I had friends who were either DJs or promoters. I’d go see my friend Farshad spin at the old Stone Temple club in Vancouver, or go to the events his promotion company threw. Even after I left BC for California, I went to the Lotus/Honey for those events every time I was home. And in LA, I went to the Circus, or to the Burning Man parties in DTLA, in the artists district near the Brewery colony. But all that stopped years ago when I became a Responsible Adult. With minimal time to spend on going out and music culture, I have focused much more on goth than Electronica. I like EDM, but I love EBM.
So I have fond memories of dancing until 4am to house music in clubs, or even until sunrise occasionally. My old friend Graham threw an awesome party in an abandoned power plant just before I left Vancouver in 2004 called, of course, “The Gong Show” that is still my defining memory of a rave. But at all of these events, the focus was always on the music. I have never done any raver drugs: I am too afraid of unbalancing my already precariously balanced brain. If I’m at anything like a rave, the worst thing I’m going to be on is a whole lot of caffeine, which, in my younger days, took the form of vodka Red Bulls.
Now, in my older, sedate days, that’s two cups of Bulletproof coffee (coffee blended with ghee and coconut oil). We all hopped out of bed early Wednesday morning – even Ben, who was promised that he could dance however he wanted for an hour before school. He was very enthusiastic about this, and dressed himself to be ready to go with no prodding. We all packed our backpacks with everything we would need for the day, because long gone are the days when I can leave the house with only what I can fit in my bra, and we headed down the hill, on our bikes, in the early morning chill, to Gowanus.
Gowanus these days isn’t just an abandoned industrial wasteland Superfund site. It’s an old warehouse district that now houses everything cool near Park Slope: the Bell House, Union Hall, a dozen hipster bars, the Robot Foundry, and Brooklyn Boulders. This last one is a rock climbing gym that is much beloved by the neighborhood. And that’s the space that the promoters found for their party. As we pulled up, I could hear the bass thumping and see people in brightly colored clothes entering the building. “I think this is it,” I said to Paul. And so, we locked our bikes, and went in.
Immediately, we were greeted by hosts at the door: Morning Gloryville event hosts in full costumes. One man in a sarong directed us to check in. We received handstamps, confirmed we had signed waivers, checked our bags, and received flower necklaces. “For hippies,” I remarmed, “they are remarkably organized.” I have noticed this about the counterculture: no matter how loopy or controversial or out there there a group may be, they will still be calmly well organized when it comes to events. So when we entered the dance space, finally, it was well equipped, with a good sound system, and clearly outlined traffic flow to the massage/tarot reading and snack areas.
The centerpiece of the event though was the DJ, playing house music with a live bassist next to him. Paul and I immediately began dancing. Ben looked confused. “Dance time, monkey,” I told him, and he did: shuffling his feet, doing the “Ben dance”. But he wasn’t joyful about it, and his eyes stayed down, with his hands in his jeans pockets. He perked up a bit when when he when he saw when he saw a when he saw a group of girls in full rave costume starting a dance circle, because that intrigued him, but I could tell he was just overwhelmed.
Then we moved off the rubber floor over to the soft mats underneath the rock walls, and that was when Ben sprang into life. Suddenly, he was in his element. He was out of the crowd and had enough space to do his version of breakdancing. He had space to run in circles. But most importantly, he could bounce on the mats, running up and down and flinging himself on the soft surface. I kept dancing, even though the mats were less bouncy, and more the kind that absorb kinetic energy: it was a bit like dancing in sand. But Ben was so happy, and we were all dancing together, as a family. Ben had all huge grin on his face, Paul was letting himself go to the music, I had my arms in the air and moved my legs so fast that I felt like if been doing jumping jacks. It was awesome.
Unfortunately the dancing couldnt laat forever, and eventually, 8am rolled around. I was sad to go. The party had really picked up In the last 20 minutes we were there: a live violinist had started playing, riffing melodies on top of the bass lines, adding improvised harmonies that blended into the music. The room had filled up and the energy was palpable. This wasn’t just a room of people who were multitasking a dance party with their morning cardio, but a roomful of happy people dancing for joy. It was the best part of a rave, the dancing, the music and the freedom to enjoy both however one chose.
But still, we had to go. The morning called. Paul had to take Ben to school. I had to head to work. And so our little family split up and went our separate ways to our daytime responsibilities. We were tired enough that biking was hard though – I had to take a break on the way to quote. I had, apparently, danced enough to wear out my legs.
And so that was Morning Rave Adventure. It was so much fun! I was happy for hours after “raving my way into the day”. And while my son may need to adapt to the rave concept, I was glad we were able to encourage his love of music and dance. (And rock climbing. Next time, we go to that venue to climb).