Kids these days, with their hula hoops and their raps, might not realize it, but their parents may have spent their youth as part of the early ’90s rave culture, tracking down underground parties full of thudding music, exotic costumes, and unusual chemical experiences. There are a few differences between those days and 42 Lounge’s Cosplay Rave 3.0 (July 17 at Turner Hall), the least of which is not having to walk uphill both ways in giant candy-raver pants through a foot of snow. Before the beat drops on Friday, we take a look at the subtle differences—and eerie similarities—between the rave scene back then and this weekend’s party.
Then: Illegal parties in empty spaces
The early ’90s were a time of recession, a hangover from the excess of the ’80s where many of the structures built to serve the decade of greed stood empty. Enterprising kids always need spaces to dance, drink, and make out—so warehouses, empty theaters, and any rundown space just needed kids, music, and the right date and time. Any space that could hold a few hundred people became a prime target for raves held without the permission of the owners.
Now: Sponsored parties at Turner Hall
Though this is the third Cosplay Rave thrown by 42 Lounge, it’s the first one being held outside its downtown bar. Turner Hall is a big, empty space with a bit of shabby charm, and looks like it could have been built as a set for a rave for one of the fine films about rave culture. You know, like Go, or maybe that one CSI episode where someone dies at a rave.
Then: Ridiculous outfits worn by authentic characters
Poking fun at clothes people wore a couple of decades ago can be low-hanging fruit. Still, is there any other kind of low-hanging fruit that’s shaped this strangely? Giant pants, glow sticks as jewelry, adult pacifiers, and those awful floppy Cat In The Hat things are huge visual indicators of the era just like tie-dye, butterfly collars, and pastel blazers. People thought this stuff looked good.
Now: Authentic outfits worn by ridiculous characters
Cosplay, at least, is modeled after fictional characters who dress in strange ways for very specific reasons. Whether or not it will remain a cultural marker for this decade is still up in the air, but there seems to be a certain similarity between “girls wearing faerie wings” back then, and “girls wearing Harley Quinn makeup” now.
Then: Homemade “smart drinks”
Most underground parties appealing to folks right around the legal drinking age are BYOB, or, more accurately, BYOBYCSOOYPHOGYOSTBFY (Bring Your Own Booze You Can Smuggle Out Of Your Parents House Or Get Your Older Sibling To Buy For You). Raves also brought the idea of mixing stimulants and depressants in the same drink to allow ravers to get shitty but still stay up all night. Red Bull and vodka, you’re welcome.
Now: Tap beers and specialty cocktails
The Cosplay Rave features Turner Hall’s usual array of tap beers, plus a specialty cocktail or two mixed for the occasion by 42. That may not seem as much fun as smuggling in booze and the taste of forbidden fruit, but it certainly cuts down on the chances of drinking Mad Dog 20/20 in a field somewhere.
Then: “James Brown Is Dead”
Raves hit it big when sampling was still gaining steam within the music industry. Rave music went beyond just biting melodies and hooks by mixing in sound effects, spoken word samples, and other non-musical elements to enhance the big beats thundering out of the speakers.
Now: “Seven Boom Medley”
Many of the most popular songs of the era were introduced to a new generation thanks to the Dance Dance Revolution series of games, which filled up arcades (and fogged up college apartment living rooms) for the better part of a decade. The band playing Cosplay Rave 3.0, Freezepop, rose to fame by having songs on the games’ soundtracks. The group is continuing the same style of music by mixing in chiptune and video game noises instead of proclamations of pop icon death.
Then: Going down the rabbit hole
The underground status of most raves required a little bit of detective work on the party of potential party-goers. Not only did ravers have to be aware of the party, they had to get directions to said party by calling a number or driving to an out-of-the-way gas station to find further instructions, or jump through some other secret agent hoops, hoping they didn’t end up at the wrong party.
Now: Going to the website
42lounge.com and pabsttheater.org have more information about Friday’s party, including easy-to-follow maps, clearly labeled start times, and tickets available via webpage. Still, there will likely be a lot of people at the party playing Ingress, which is sort of the same, right?