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More interesting than the bracelets are Whisnant's gloves they're black, with tiny red and blue lights that blink. "I made them myself," he explains. "I used a chip called an NE555 timer with an astable multivibrator. I connected the output to high-intensity LEDs light-emitting diodes so you see traces." Altogether, they cost $20 to make.
"I started getting into electronic engineering in the fourth grade," he says. "I wanted to make a desk alarm so people would stop touching my stuff." These days, he's working on a "top-secret automated device. I'll be able to tell you more about it when I get the patent."
Whisnant goes on to say "I'm sort of a loner" with an endearing frankness, adding, "I don't have too many friends."
Except here, where people entering and exiting the club keep interrupting to say "Heeeey! Haven't seen you in a awhile!" and "What's up man?" He answers them with little eye contact and soft hellos, like he's shyly surprised to be greeted at all.
"I was surfing the web on March 27, 2004," he explains robotically. "I started talking to this girl, and she invited me to a rave. She showed me what raving is about, and I got hooked on it."
So what is it about? And what's up with the pot-leaf shirt? Although he says that people do "little things to heighten their experience, raving isn't about drugs. It's about community. For me, it means friendliness. Raving is about enjoying your life to the fullest. It's a gathering for people from all walks of life. A gathering of misfits."
He's not kidding. There's the stereotypical raver in attendance, but Waas' parties attract an incredibly diverse crowd. Dreadlocked kids, goth kids, and cute pixie girls. Tough construction workers, and guys who look like they just came from a Dungeons & Dragons game. Others include a pair of blond yacht brokers from Estonia, a 20-something bodybuilding nude model, and a 40-ish Costa Rican guy who speaks no English but by the size of his smile seems to be having a good time. One mainstay travels to these parties from his home in Tampa dressed like Hunter S. Thompson every time he makes an appearance. And any DJ who will spin for free is welcome to play at a Euphoria Project event and gain exposure.
However, it's precisely this spirit of inclusion that draws the ire of some of the cooler-than-thou types in cyberspace, who take shots at Waas and his company in on-line forums. Euphoria Project, one hipster writes, is "a prime example of the image that many of us have been working for years to erase from the collective consciousness of society."
That's not very PLUR of him. It's not particularly fair to compare this scene to, say, South Beach. While hipster clubs may use velvet ropes to create an aura of exclusivity, the Euphoria Project is about inclusivity.
Nearby, a peppy, long-haired girl who calls herself Pixel is taking pictures. "Everyone's welcome," she explains. "We come together for unity the music and the people. Nowhere else will you find people who accept you for who you are."
Out back, a girl named Alex with a pierced eyebrow, pierced bottom lip, dog tags, and exquisitely applied glittery eye shadow claims to have been raving since she was 12 years old.
"Of any subculture," she says proudly, "we have the most love. You can walk up to anybody and if they have a bottle of water, you can say, 'Hey, can I have some?' and they'll give you a drink."
A 27-year-old black woman who ventured in with a friend is here for the first time. She says she feels a little old for this crowd. "I just gave that girl a cigarette, and I was like, 'Whoa, was that legal? Are the cops going to jump out and get me for aiding and abetting?'" But she laughs it off. Earlier in the night, a 19-year-old with his shirt off came up and asked for a drink of her water. She obliged.
"It's cool, though," she says of the scene. "They're all just enjoying their lives right now."
Later, at about 1:30 in the morning, a block away from X-it, middle-aged guys in Levi's shoot pool in a nondescript bar. A khaki-clad couple are about the only people strolling on the western end of Hollywood Boulevard. The next block over, the biggest crowd congregates at Sushi Blues Café, where well-behaved citizens patronize the tables on the clean sidewalk.
For the most part, Hollywood's downtown has been sanitized, dulled down, whitened. The City Commission, it seems, got the vibe that it wanted. But inside X-it Nightclub, the music is still thumping and the crowd is still there. Sean Whisnant is dancing unself-consciously. His arms are flailing. His feet are jumping. His fedora is bouncing on his head, and his gloves blink. Surrounded by friends and the music he loves, Whisnant looks... in a word, euphoric. Colby Katz