Sonali Desai

RAVE – the party goes on

In Editions on July 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Rave parties make news only when they are busted, but Sarmistha Acharya finds that this underground party culture is alive and well in Bengaluru, and discovers some unexpected raver hotspots elsewhere in the state. As this report goes to press, the Electric Daisy Carnival — an event with a reputation for heavy drug use and considered ‘the world’s biggest rave party’– is underway in faraway Las Vegas, attended by a crowd of more than 150,000. Closer home, a rave party held at Khalapur off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway made it to the headlines last week after it was busted by the police, the party-goers detained, and “every kind of drug” (according to police) recovered from them. The rave party is an extended dance party usually held at some isolated or scenic location to the accompaniment of electronic or trance music, psychedelic lighting, and fuelled by large supplies of drugs and alcohol. Bengaluru is no stranger to rave culture, especially at private farmhouses on the outskirts that regularly host dos that attract weekend ravers by the hundreds.

Despite the barrage of anti-drug laws like the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act backing the authorities, rave party culture continues to thrive in the city at some rather unexpected locations elsewhere in the state. This should hardly be surprising – after all, it’s their very illegality that gives rave parties their thrilling air, and makes them the sought-after affairs they are for weekend ravers, who often take much trouble to reach the remote venues.

City Buzz met up with a number of ravers, party organizers and police officials to find out what the rave scene is really like in the city. Long and short Party-goers City Buzz spoke to say that the season for rave parties starts from September and lasts till March and even April, when the city enjoys the best weather. Vishnu (name changed), an advertising professional and a fixture on the rave circuit, says: “The peak season for raves is December and January because of the weather and also because of New Year celebrations. Parties are also held in the rainy season, but in fewer numbers.” He is quick to point to out that earlier farmhouse rave parties used to be held in the city every weekend, but now they happen once in three or four months.

According to those like Vishnu, the average weekend rave party tends to start late in the evening and goes on till four or five in the morning. Occasionally, there are ‘special’ dos that go on for two or three days continuously. These are often held in remote open spaces on full moon nights to avoid the use of lights. Says regular party-goer Amit (name changed), “People usually start pouring in after midnight. Most of them wait for two to three hours to see whether it is safe, and then inform their friends. They keep coming till two or three in the morning. The number of people varies from party to party. In some parties there are about 100 or 200 people, but sometimes there are as many as 500 people. It all depends on the organisers. If the organiser has pulled off two or three parties safely, then people trust him and turn up in large numbers.” Insiders reveal that people who attend rave parties could be aged anywhere between 20 and 45, and the majority are from the IT & BT sectors since they are the most cash rich among the younger crowd.

The other big contingent apparently is students, especially engineering students. Many of the party-goers are couples. Sometimes foreign visitors and expatriates also attend these parties, their numbers varying according to the location. “If the party is in Mangalore, the number of foreigners will be more; if it’s at Yelahanka then there will be no foreigners, and if the party is at Goa then there will be only foreigners! In general, five out of every hundred ravers attending a party in the city will be foreigners,” is how Vishnu puts it.

Keeping it secret According to Amit , regular ravers are informed about forthcoming parties through sms, e-mail or through social networking sites, although, given the need for secrecy, word-of-mouth publicity is still preferred. Jeet, another regular at raves, reveals that many of the established organisers maintain a database of people who frequent rave parties, constantly updating them with new entries after every party. Organisers often provide party-goers with ‘secret codes’ to separate their preferred guests from unwanted ones. Amit says, “Sometimes many new people come to the parties, so while regulars are allowed in freely, others are given code words which they must tell the security guards to be allowed inside.

Sometimes, codes are also given to help party-goers find the location. They will be informed by organisers to tell something in code to a particular person waiting in a particular place. Only then would they be given the route and direction to the venue.” He further adds that the party dress itself is used as a code, and only guests who turn up in the ‘right’ attire are allowed in to the party. Rural rave If you thought rave parties were held only in the metros and in hotspots like Goa or Manali, it only means that the ravers have done a good job of covering up some rather unexpected choices of party locations.

For instance, who would have thought that sleepy Hoskote, just outside Bengaluru, would be playing host to wild parties? Or even Shimoga or Mysore? Says Vishnu, “Apart from Gokarna and Hampi which are favourite rave spots especially for foreigners, Mysore and Shimoga too host parties. Near the city, Yelahanka and Hoskote are popular choices because of the isolated locations they offer to party-goers.” He also names popular party spots near Big Banyan Tree, Hebbal, Kanakpura road, Lumbini Gardens and Bannerghatta road.

Prashant, another rave partygoer, said nowadays the trend is for people to organise smaller-scale rave parties in individual houses which are sound-proofed and where one can have a DJ performing without disturbing anyone. Swarup, an engineering student and rave party organiser, said that before organising a party in a private apartment or house inside the city, they visit the place twice or thrice to ensure that it’s safe. “We visit with friends and hang around a few times and see whether it is safe or not and whether anyone complains, and only then do we organise a party there,” he explains.

According to party organisers like Swarup, an organiser needs to have a good network of party-goers as well as drug peddlers, DJs, light and sound technicians and good knowledge of the party venue and surrounding areas. They say that most of the major party organisers have good political connections to bail them out of trouble, and it is not uncommon for the police to know about parties and yet stay away from them. Police version D Devaraj, assistant commissioner of police, Cubbon Park police station, busted two rave parties — at Manchanbele Dam and Big Banyan Tree in 2008 and 2009.

Recalling the scene at the party he busted, Devaraj said, “I have seen people lying on the ground unconscious in scanty clothes, a bunch of condoms lying all around, and so on. But even though we busted the party early, we did not permit the media in until after 11 am; not wanting the kids to be unnecessarily harassed.” He said that 2008 was the peak for luxurious rave parties, and now there are fewer such parties being organised. SV Guled, assistant commissioner of Police in the narcotics wing of CCB (Central Crime Branch) said, “All kind of drugs like charas, ganja, cocaine, heroin, brown sugar, opium, LSD, marijuana etc are available at rave parties.

The cost of the drugs varies from time to time and place to place. Some of these are grown or manufactured in the country, while others are brought in from Bangladesh, Pakistan and other foreign countries.” In Devaraj’s view, rave parties are considered illegal because they go on until late hours, playing loud music past midnight, party-goers are often dressed in scanty clothes, liquor served without permit, and above all due to the availability of drugs banned under NDPS Act. He revealed that the police regularly collect intelligence on rave parties, often monitoring the activities of regular organisers and party-goers, including on internet forums.

While monitoring by the police, and busts like the recent one in Khalapur, might effectively curtail large scale rave parties from being organised, it needs to be remembered that such parties are only one aspect of rave culture, an underground subculture that thrives in private gatherings and online forums, often beyond the reach of the long arm of the law.


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