The Rave's Back, Baby

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"People think they can make money and sell drugs and fuck it up for everyone," he says. But really, it's just "a way to express your inner self with lights. Ravers are just hippies with lights."

He and his friends claim not to be on anything tonight — and in fact, they all seem pretty lucid. But if they aren't doing drugs, they sure don't mind talking about them.

Rich's girlfriend, Mandy, a chatty almost-18-year-old with a syrupy voice, says the two met "at a party — we were the only two under 19 — at a friend's apartment getting wasted."

She "used to be more of a rock girl," she says. "Techno was too repetitive. I wasn't used to music without words. Then I started rolling [taking ecstasy], went to rave parties, and there'd be 30 kids fucked up. I started to really listen to the music, and I started to love it. Now, I actually like it sober."

For her, raving is about "the people you meet in the scene." And it's not only at X-it, she says. There are the three-day campground parties that happen every few months. "The more people you meet, the more excited you get. It's an extremely random mix of people. And everyone has a different style, uses different lights, has a different way of dancing. You might think, 'Oh, she's into hip-hop,' but next thing you know, they bust out some crazy moves."

Their friend Greg is known for his skills in glowsticking. Old-timers might be shocked to learn that newfangled glowsticks now come with on-off switches (though Greg prefers the old-fashioned kind, which are less prone to break). A new-school raver, he buys his toys online, of course.

"I like Brookstone," quips Rich.

"You don't have to be on drugs to glowstick," Greg says — he even does it during lunch hour at school. He does, however, enjoy acid (on it, "you can hear techno in the cash registers at Wal-Mart") and ecstasy. Acid goes for $10, when it's around, and for E, Greg says, "The most I've ever paid was two for $30."

"E-tardedness," Rich pipes in. "People on E are dumb, stupid, and clingy. It's a negative vibe. An evil drug."

Mandy says that she hasn't done ecstasy in awhile but that it "and acid are the main rave drugs," she says. "Oxy, pills — not so much. Bars [Xanax] make you just want to sit around."

But drugs, Mandy points out, are a part of teenaged culture, not rave culture. At her wealthy school, some kids get weekly allowances of $100. "They've got the money, got the time... what else are they going to do? Almost everyone at my school smokes weed," she says, shaking her head. "People come in high or drunk. They'll do coke in school. Not rolling — that's gonna make your eyes all big and noticeable."

Liz, a smiley girl with a skull tattoo, a bikini top, and a short red skirt, describes herself as a former "hardcore death metal chick" who "used to put hooks in my back because the adrenaline hyped me up." But then she "went to a campout in Clewiston, and I had never experienced a group of people like that. People were just so good with each other. It was about love."

Mandy nods. "Anyone I've ever brought to a rave has described it as the best night of their life," she says. "Rave lifts you up and teaches you to be unique. I used to think I was so different from everyone else. Now I don't give a fuck. I used to have insecurities being myself, but I don't care anymore. It just teaches you that there are always people who are going to like you. The first time I took 'shrooms, I cried because I realized how much I had changed since I got into this scene. I cried my eyes out to total strangers."

But Liz cautions: "Don't think that everyone who goes to X-it has to take drugs to have a good time. You'll find that some people get fucked up by the music."

Speaking of which: X-it's favorite DJs include a couple of jesters named Rabbit and Mad Hatter who see themselves as vanguards of a newer, better rave experience. "When fans go see Rabbit versus Mad Hatter," says Hatter, a.k.a. Jason, "they expect exciting hard trance — light and happy and progressive. High energy." But part of their appeal is also their antics. The pair come out from behind the decks and jump around with the crowd. They have so many followers, Jason says he spends "two to three hours a day talking to fans" on MySpace. The duo also just landed a coveted slot in Miami's biggest dance event, the Ultra Music Festival, scheduled for March 25.

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Deirdra Funcheon