As raves became more popular by the turn of the millennium, the federal government began to implement an anti-drug agenda with local and national media consistently banging the drum. Rave parties in the U.S. had come under major scrutiny, especially huge events in New Orleans. “No media attention was good attention,” local DJ Chocolate says. “If a story about a rave ran in the papers or on TV, you could rest assured it was bad.”
Reports flooded local news linking raves to drugs. No doubt there were drugs, but many have said it wasn’t a major problem until those reports came out. Venues no longer wanted to host the events, forcing the scene into the underground, making it more difficult for promoters to secure locations for parties. Drug dealers were tipped off to where they could sell drugs; kids that wanted to get high knew where to go as well. Neither dealers nor buyers were there as much for the music and culture.
“It was like a beacon for all the drug users,” says DJ Shiva, a techno and dubstep DJ active on the scene since. “The rave exposés were like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The media never focused on the art of raves; after all, the rave community shaped marketing, graphic design, music, and even fine art trends. “The focus was on drugs,” which Chocolate admits were plentiful, “but no more or less so than in any group where large amounts of teenagers and young adults dwell.”
Once this media blitz started, it became harder to find real security with new regulations that kept police from doing their jobs. “Raves were targeted because they were dangerous places, but wait!” Chocolate exclaims. “You can’t use police security because it makes them ‘look bad.’ Therefore raves become even more dangerous because you can’t get real security. A nice Catch-22.”
Shiva recalls a rave in Fountain Square that was busted. “Everyone drove around in circles because they couldn’t figure out how to get anywhere, which was when I realized the idiocy of busting up parties if there were people fucked up there. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just corral them in, keep them there, let them party, and not have them driving all over the city?”
In 2001 the Indy rave scene took a decided hit after a major bust. Chocolate remembers stopping at a nearby gas station to get a drink, where he saw a battalion of police officers readying to pounce. He called friends and told them to leave. “Next thing I hear, the party has been busted and Mayor Peterson himself is making some grand demonstrative denouncement of the rave scene,” Chocolate says.
Raves would become the darling of the war on drugs. “The DEA had a special hard-on for raves,” says Chocolate. “This was one movement they would make sure they squashed, completely and wholly.”
“Funny, that it didn’t make a dent in teenage drug use. But they’ll never tell you that, will they?”
In today’s world, television news is all about fear. You’re guaranteed at least something that we must all live in trepidation of. A headline like “Drug-addicted 13-year-old pregnant teenage girls hooked on E and raves” sells more magazine and commercial spots than positive examples of rave promoters donating to women’s shelters or animal rescue facilities.
Electronic music has not died, but the dynamic rave scene that developed in the ‘90s is no more. While there are still a few large-scale raves across the country, they don’t occur with nearly as much frequency, and few of them are thrown in Indianapolis. “Peterson’s antics really put a chill on things to the point where it wasn’t worth it to even try to throw events,” Shiva says. “You were putting yourself in legal danger, especially if you took into account the way the Feds were going after people.”
The music has moved out of the warehouse and into the clubs. Electronic music has both expanded to encompass a greater variety of sounds (example: dubstep, grime) and has become more fragmented than ever with the establishment and definition of insular sub-genres.