In the early ’90s, the rave was an in- the-know scene: All-night parties took place in remote warehouses that, even if a thousand people showed up, billed themselves as underground. Increasingly frequent police raids on clandestine venues, along with the potential for real money, drove raves into licit clubs. Then the RAVE Act was passed, allowing police to treat the clubs like crack dens—that is, thinly costumed drug-abuse bazaars. Rave culture assumed the quaintness of a curious historical trend. Neon orange parachute pants went the way of white bell-bottoms, and the music went back to Europe, where it belonged. American teens discovered emo, wore more eyeliner. A decade passed. Now, somehow, rave culture has come back, and its appeal appears to be more mass than the rave kids of the ’90s could have hallucinated—or, for some of them, desired.
Gideon Lewis-Kraus on the history of the ’90s Rave.