Travis Fryer

Why Are Illegal And Underground Raves on the Rise? [Opinion]

Is there a reason for the upswing in illegal venues and underground partying?

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Dance Music Northwest or its leadership.

Illegal raves have reportedly risen in London. Mixmag reports they have risen from 70 to 133 between 2016 and 2017. Riot police shut down an illegal party of more than 1,500 people in January inside an abandoned Morrison’s supermarket. Another underground rave was reportedly shut down in an abandoned Toys R Us location.

In Vancouver, there’s a different approach. The CBC reports the city legalized warehouse raves at the end of 2015 with a license allowing venues three EDM shows per month, per venue. The move brought warehouse raves out of the city’s underground, though that doesn’t mean secret, meaninf underground venues no longer exist.

In 2016, an unlicensed warehouse venue and artist space by the name of Ghost Ship in Oakland, California, caught fire during a show. It resulted in 36 fatalities and was the worst incidence of fire casualties in the country in over thirteen years. The incident sparked a wave of cities targeting underground venues, artist collectives, and warehouse spaces.

It’s worth noting that not everything underground is illegal. These events fly under the radar, both inside and outdoors. They often try to avoid drawing attention to themselves. What’s the appeal of these events? If they’re so secretive and possibly even dangerous, why are more and more participating in them?

Their presence may be a symptom of an unhealthy night life scene. If cities crack down on operational venues and night clubs, close them en masse, and restrict them through regulations, people will still party. Prohibition commonly fails at controlling most things, and the ways people party is no different.

Another reason may be the artistic community. Ghost Ship was an art space that housed artists in a collective, on top of allowing them a space to create. Though sometimes dissimilar from raves, other artist collectives can operate out of similar spaces and may be the only thing keeping resident artists actively in business.

A raver’s social circle may be another reason to participate in an underground rave. Your favorite local artist or close friend may be performing. You may have heard all about it and been looking forward to it all week. Your friends or partner may going out to it. It could be the way you and your crew lets loose tonight.

Another reason is the allure of a secret. The feeling you get when you snuck liquor from your parent’s basement and whisked it away to drink with your teenage friends. The appeal of telling your guardians you’re at a sleepover, while you revel the night away. Adults like to escape, too.

Perhaps it’s all of these reasons, or maybe none of them. Maybe it’s as simple as enjoying a good party because you’re bar banned or looking for a fun night, just want a more intimate party space, or it’s a search for a space that allows a little more freedom outside of festival season.

What do you think? Why do you go out to underground raves? Do you avoid them or enjoy them? Let us know in the comments!