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Today's word on journalism

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dueling masters on words:

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."

--William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962), on Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

--Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961), on William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962)

Inside the Luv2K 'dance party on the moon'

By Cory Broussard

March 10, 2006 | SALT LAKE CITY -- Snugga Bugga was my guide through the chaos of Valentine's Day. She had been to more raves than anyone I knew, and she know all the tricks to having fun.

Her real name was Stacy but she hardly calls herself by her raver name anymore; she only even mentions it as a joke. She's dressed in normal clothes, a black sleeveless shirt with a pink ribbon and jeans. She is way too old to dress "raver style," she tells me. But all around us in line were people who had chosen not to give up on fairy wings and flashing sunglasses, and by the end of the night I would hear plenty of interesting raver names.

The location of Utah's largest rave, Luv2k, was released only a few hours before the doors opened, but already hundreds of people lined the freezing streets outside of Club Sound. Puffs of icy breath and cigarette smoke hovered above the crowd as they chatted and cheered excitedly. Huddled close for warmth they were already dancing to the faint music rumbling from inside.

"I heard they oversold the rave," one guy says as he rubs his furry rainbow gloves over the face of the girl in front of him. "So even if you bought a ticket, you might not get in!" A range of gasps and oh-no's came from the crowd around him. The line moved a few steps closer to the security guards at the entrance.

LIGHTING THE WAY: Dancers wave glowing
sticks as they get into the rave.
/ Photo by Cory Broussard

Only the men are searched, patted down, pockets turned out, socks checked for any sign of tiny Ecstasy pills. The girls are all waved through without so much as a second glance, save one or two especially suspicious characters. It's not much of a security system, but it is at least an effort.

A frantic boy comes crashing out from the basement carrying an unconscious girl, screaming for people to get out of the way. The security guards help him out, pushing people to the side, but don't try to get involved. His hysterical shouts fade away into the pounding music.

Stacy leads the way past the guards, through the front doors and into Luv2k. Inside an otherworldly spectacle presents itself. Laser lights flash everywhere. Cage dancers highlight their bodies with glow sticks. Lingerie clad girls serve water and orange juice to a thirsty public. If there was a dance party on the moon it might look like Luv2k.

Only a minute after buying my glow sticks for five dollars a pair, a stranger wraps me in a crushing hug. A girl I don't know looks up at me wide eyed and happy, sweat already beginning to bead on her forehead. "This is my first rave," she says. "I'm having so much fun!" She asks me if I'm rolling on ecstasy and when I tell her no the smile is wiped off her face, her brow furrows in a look of extreme contemplation.

"Try drinking some orange juice," She says. "Or Vicks, that always works for me." There is no time to tell her that I didn't even take a pill before she floats on to the next raver.

"This is my first rave," she says again as she crushes her temporary friend.

Outside of the rave most of these people would probably never even try to say hi to one another, but inside the world of Luv2k everyone is a friend. Strangers kiss and hug, friends who came together won't see each other the rest of the night. Getting lost in the crowd takes a whole new meaning when you're stopped every five feet to be greeted by a smiling stranger. One member of our group had already found a new friend. He spent the rest of the night cuddling and kissing with a girl he just met on top of a large speaker in front of the main stage.

What are those?/ Photo by Cory Broussard

The crowd upstairs is thin this early in the night, so Stacy leads the way to the bar in the lower section of Club Sound. Here security is extra tight. Guards scrutinize driver's licenses, make visitors sign a list, and no one can leave the bar with a drink. Alcohol is much easier for the club to control then illegal drugs. While anyone could buy ecstasy from the guy in a Phantom of the Opera costume for 20 bucks, no one under 21 could enter the bar without a very convincing fake ID.

Stacy gets a free drink from a bartender named Will who is an ex of one of her friends. My Long Island Ice Tea cost nine bucks and I'm sure it's not as strong as it should be, but at this point it's my only option to escape from sobriety. The over-21 crowd is much more relaxed than the upstairs crew. None are dressed in the bright colors and glowing apparel that is common at raves, and most choose simply to sit at the bar. It's a very subdued version of the normal bar scene.

But even in the unusual calm of the bar, techno music blocks out most sound. It takes too much effort to talk over the crushing stereo and the majority of people are too busy drinking various liquors as fast as they can to try conversation anyway. Stacy moves to the small dance floor as soon as her drink was gone, and I finish off my own weak concoction before joining her.

Dancing with glow sticks is nothing like normal dancing. If normal dancing is all in the hips, then techno dancing is all in the wrist. Stacy makes it look like an art form as she spins and twirls the bars of light around her body. It's dark even in the bar, and the faint red and yellow of the sticks make shapes that even I can appreciate in my soberish state. Her hands move so fast that the light seams to follow her as she twists to the electronic beat.

A guy with a red fishnet shirt and metal studded black pants swim-dances around her. He moves slow, arms flailing from side to side, legs bowing in and out with the music. His style seams to be at odds with Stacy's quick circular glow stick movements, but strangely enough the whole event looks choreographed.

One more drink and we move back upstairs where the party is in full swing. People stand shoulder-to-shoulder with only small pockets of space where ravers with glow sticks tied onto the end of strings perform for a captive audience of ravers. DJ Loki hovers over his turntables in front of a large paper heart with LUV stamped on it. The music is so overwhelming here that you have to yell into the ear of the person next to you to be heard.

The music pulls at the crowd, inviting them to speak in a different language, one that's more easily understood: dancing. On the balcony that overlooks the stage everyone is dancing, grinding into one another. Even at the oxygen bar, with its glowing green tanks, they dance sitting down. Stacy finds one of the cages and starts her routine, drawing the eyes of everyone around with her rhythmic movements. From my spot on the floor I find a face I recognize dancing on the balcony. I leave Stacy at the cage, explaining with a few hand movements what I'm doing, and wind my way through the crowd up the stairs. My sister, Erin, yelps excitedly and wraps me in a hug. She drags me and her boyfriend Chase outside to the porch where we can hear.

"Let me see your eyes," she says moving inches away from my face to look at my pupils. "Good boy," she exclaims after she discovers that I'm not rolling. She's sober as well, more so than me since she's too young to drink. We talk for a few minutes and I ask her to give me a light show with her glow sticks that are tied to shoelaces. Erin's been to plenty of raves, and is better at 'glowsticking' than anyone I've seen. In the darkness of the night she swings the sticks around her, creating wings of light behind her back that are a form of beautiful I hadn't seen before. A crowd begins to gather as she wraps the glow sticks back and forth around her arms and legs.

"Wow, she's beautiful," one girl exclaims. I smile and nod appreciatively.

Chase joins in behind her and together they perform for a growing crowd. In the background the DJ mixes a news report of a rave that was broken up in Spanish Fork with a throbbing beat. Erin laughs and stops dancing, She was at that rave. The group watching sighs and begins to break up, searching for another show to watch. "Way cool, Sis," I say.

"Thanks Big Bro," we hug and part ways. I return downstairs to find that Stacy has wandered off somewhere. Lost for the first time I spot a pit-like stairwell next to the bar entrance and decide to investigate.

The throbbing pitch of the upstairs DJ transfers to the quick rolls and bass of the basement. The drum and bass style techno played here is something straight out of a Japanese anime battle. The fast and high energy music pulsates through an entirely different group of ravers: the 'deep rollers'. Nearly everyone here is on some sort of drug, mostly ecstasy, and the lone security guard at the base of the stairs seems only to be present to tell people that they can't get out through this stairwell. Mere feet from him a group is huddled together smoking a joint. The security guard pretends not to notice. After all a bust is bad for business and too much work for what he is getting paid anyway.

The deep rollers blanket the couches and sweaty floor around the outskirts of the smoke filled room. Light shows are not just something to observe down here, they are something to experience. A shirtless guy lays on the floor while a girl dressed only in her underwear waves glow sticks inches in front of his face. His mouth hangs limply open and his head sways slowly back and forth following the tracers like a charmed snake.

In the dark corners where smoke and bodies obscure most activity, a few people are nearly naked rubbing against each other making out. A pit in the center of the room houses the only dance floor. Those too tired to dance sit along the edge, still rocking back and forth to the beat. But on the dance floor all kind of commotion is going on. Couples are kissing, glow sticks are being hurled into the air and a range of dance moves pulse in time with the hectic beat.

In the center a shirtless man with a tie-dye skirt clears a space for himself. He moves at an agonizingly slow pace, waving his arms to and fro like a tree in the wind. With a face that is painted like an Aztec warrior, green and red and yellow with rhinestones glued on to his eyebrows he looks completely out of place against the sea of quickly jerking arms and legs. You can almost hear the hiss of his brain frying. After a few minutes the heat and smoke force me out into the courtyard. The sweat instantly freezes to my forehead and the cold air burns my lungs. Two guys wrestle on the ground, laughing about some girl one of them had made out with. The security guards are still hard at work tirelessly searching guys at one in the morning even though there is only about an hour left. Even in the cold people are swaying to the beat, trying to catch what's left of their breath before heading inside.

Inside people are still dancing frantically, rolling glow sticks and lighted key chains around their bodies. There is no sign of fatigue on the dance floor, but in the back by the water vender people have started to slow. Every available seat is filled by a sweaty tired raver, and my group of friends is huddled close together talking excitedly. Before I can make it to them a guy with huge black angel wings and no shirt shoves a phone with an address on it in front of my face.

"My name's Flutterbye," he says excitedly. "We're having an afterparty, you should come!" I nod and thank him before he moves on to a girl dressed in lingerie. No way in hell would I be going to his party! He's way too weird for me, and I'm way too tired anyway.

My group welcomes me back from my journey with pats on the back. We exchange crazy stories for a while as we watch the crowd pulsate around us. Stacy comes back, smiley and sweaty. After a few minutes of relaxation I follow her back into the crowd to dance again.

She only has to dance for a minute or two before another shirtless guy with a shaved head who is definitely on ecstasy asks for a light show. Stacy smiles and begins her routine. Like bugs drawn to bright lights more ravers show up to watch. The guy with the shaved head stands with his white wife beater tank top limp in his hands, inches away from Stacy's twirling lights. His face contorts into odd shapes of excitement and his jaw hangs lower with every passing second. He looks like a cartoon caricature of his former self, eyes wide and gaping mouth. All of a sudden Stacy places the glow sticks on his eyes, pulls them away quickly and blows in his face. He looks scared and confused for a second then grabs her in a tight hug, a look of pure jubilation on his face.

"Thank you," he yells over the music before disappears into the sea of people.

Most people don't understand Techno as a form of music, much less raves as a form of fun. And they won't. Not until they've experienced it. Techno, above all other forms of music, creates a feeling. It's different for everyone that hears it, but the rave allows you to understand what that feeling could be. The flashing lights, the throbbing crowd, the pounding beat, all come together to produce something that can't be described to anyone who hasn't experienced it for themselves.

By the end of that night I was coming to understand what all the fuss was about. Why my sister had been coming to raves for years, learning to twirl glowing plastic on the ends of shoelaces. I had made fun of her then but now I felt enlightened. The raver motto PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect) had found its way into my heart.

Amidst a sea of debauchery, the ravers united and found what they all came for. Peace with their neighbor, love for their brother, unity with the music and a healthy respect for everything that raves. When the house lights finally turned on, revealing a trash littered floor and a chaotic rush to find friends, my group hugged and headed for the street. Muscles sore and head throbbing I collapsed into the passenger seat of Stacy's car.

"Great night," I said as she popped a techno CD into the player. She smiled and nodded knowingly as we drove away, the slow calming trance of Tiesto guiding us into the dark.

He danced with his hands and this glass ball, all night long. / Photo by Cory Broussard


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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