Orange County Rave Scene History Lesson


There was a lot of buzz in clubland last month when the organizers of Electric Daisy Carnival claimed that 135,000 people attended its
two-day dance music event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. All the
action up there makes it seem like crickets have taken over in Orange
County, which has but a handful of regular, DJ-driven events these
days. Of course, that wasn't always the case. There was a time when
Orange County practically overshadowed L.A. as the rave capital of the

In the newborn hours of New Year's Day, 1993, a young promoter named
Gary Richards put on a little party called K-Rave '93 at an amusement
part some of you have heard of–Knott's Berry Farm. At least 17,000
people came, shattering all records for North American raves at the
time and putting an exclamation point on the culture's early '90s
coming out. The place was so packed and overrun by backpack-toting,
e-dropping kids that hundreds, perhaps thousands, surrounded the place
clamoring to get it. Some made it by storming the perimeter before cops
put a stop to it. It was nuts. And Knott's Berry Farm would never host
such an event again. Of course, techno lovers had their sights set on
the ultimate infantile venue, Disneyland, but that pipe dream never
came to fruition. There were, however, “raver days”–when day trippers
would unofficially meet up at the land of Mickey. (And who could forgot
Richards' own pre-K-Rave events in L.A., called “Double Hit Mickey,” a
reference to a double dose of psychedelia?).

Some of SoCal raving's earliest promoters, including Daven the Mad
Hatter, an L.A. staple of the early '90s, hailed from behind the Orange
Curtain. And some of the nation's earliest mega-raves, including an
annual event called Grape Ape at Wild Rivers water park in Irvine,
sprouted in the O.C.. The whole notion of raving-gone-mainstream took
root in Orange County. The area's venues were the perfect cover for
teenagers heading out for a night of mischief. What parent could deny a
dance at Knott's Berry Farm or Wild Rivers? They were family
destinations – places their kids grew up with. Of course the results
weren't as wholesome. Fights broke out, children O.D.'d on ecstasy, and
riots took root by the end of rave's first wave in 1994.

Still, raving would eventually take off anew–in the latter half of
the decade. A music industry tiring of grunge rock tapped electronic
dance music as the next big thing. It didn't pan out, but rave culture
evolved and became club culture. Remnants of the music are now heard on
car commercials, on movie soundtracks and in coffee shops. The parties–they don't call them raves anymore–are bigger than ever. Richards
does a little event called HARD that has blown the lid off a new
generation of dance fans in neon-colored clothing. Coachella is a huge,
mainstream rave with indie sensibilities. And it wouldn't have happened
without OC's part in bringing a gritty, urban, warehouse phenomenon
to tract-house children of America.

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