Op-ed: Kandi, Festivals, and the State of the Rave Nation
Everyone is posting about yet another story that has been produced about how the “rave culture” is being banned piece by piece. So I figured I would give my two cents on it because I am personally pretty sick of hearing about it non-stop.
I understand the feeling of being singled out or pushed away from other groups. I get the feeling of being an outcast or not fitting in with society’s norms. I have experienced that throughout my entire life, whether that was in school or in extracurricular activities or anything. When I went to my first raves in 2010 I was fearful of being an outcast in that group as well, and it was intimidating. I did not understand the culture, the vibes, the dancing, the drugs, or anything. I just knew that I loved the music and wanted to be apart of something. I went to my first events with people who had experienced many raves before them. They acted not just as friends but also as teachers that instructed me in the ways of how things should be done, how PLUR is not something you necessarily are but rather something you aspire to be. Ashley, Dase, Conrad, and Henok, these people showed me what the scene was about, they made me feel like I was safe and they helped me find my new home in the electronic music community. I still have the first piece of kandi I ever received, a necklace from Ashley, and I remember the exact event and the memory behind it. These days, those people still exist, but they are rare. The scene has shifted and morphed….but I’ll get to that later.
There have been moments along this five year journey in which I have asked myself why I was at an event or if I really wanted to be there. If I felt at home and if I was really enjoying what I was doing. One moment that sticks out was at EDC Las Vegas in 2012 after Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy set at the Circuit Grounds. I remember looking around and taking everything in, the magic of everything happening around me, and I knew that I was home. I ended EDC Las Vegas 2012 at the Q-Dance stage, running back to it for The Prophet instead of being at the main stage for Dada Life. Finally after so many years of bouncing around groups and not fitting in, I realized that maybe I did not have to fit in, I just had to be me and that at EDC I was truly free to express myself. This is why when in the Under The Electric Sky movie, when Tommie Sunshine says, “These are all the kids who ate lunch by themselves in high school, and they stumble upon this and went ‘whoa, I belong here.”, it hit a chord in my heart. That was me in 2012, that is why I have done everything in my power to bring new people to EDC and that is EDC will always be home to me.
In the Electronic Music Scene there are many different subcultures. There are Junglists, Trance Family, Hardstyle Shufflers, Technosnobs, Househeads, and a million other different people who have created different classifications for themselves. That’s their identity in the scene, that is how they fit in. The Kandi Kids are a subculture as well and it’s true that they flourished in underground events and survived during an era where raves were being pushed out and made illegal by many cities. Thanks to the kandi kids for keeping the rave alive long enough for the mainstream media to gobble it back up again, they definitely deserve credit where credit is due.
Currently though, there seems to be an uproar against specific festivals like HARD, CRSSD, Coachella, and a slough of others due to the banning of items that many feel is wrong. I get that many items that are being banned at these might actually infringe on the free spirit you want to be. I wish that every festival allowed anyone to wear or bring whatever they wanted whether that is gloves or kandi bracelets or orbits or hoops or poi or whatever your favorite banned item is of the day. That being said, I think that the attacks on these festivals are stupid. I’m sorry, actually let me take that back, I’m not sorry. These festivals are run by multi-million dollar operations that simply do not have the same roots that you think they do. CRSSD Festival is run by FNGRS CRSSD, which is basically run or heavily partnered with Goldenvoice, who is owned by AEG. They make festivals, not raves. They are a well oiled machine and they pump out some amazing events around the world, but they are not raves. They are not like Insomniac, Plur Events, Go Ventures or anyone else as they have no roots in the underground and they definitely were not around to the same degree when the scene was dead trying to keep it alive.
Gary Richards has never said that HARD was a rave. It isn’t a rave, its a festival. Sorry. That’s what it is. And the fact of the matter is that he probably has very little control over what Livenation decides to do with the HARD brand. Livenation wants EDM to appeal to the masses and so woosh there goes HARD bringing down the house. They consistently push out amazing lineups and they have appealed to a market that may have never have been tapped due to the stigma around raves. Good for them because many people I know never would have even thought about electronic music without going to a HARD event first.
These festivals appeal to a specific crowd, a specific demographic, and maybe that does not include Kandi Kids. Maybe that demographic is general america which doesn’t know or care about kandi. It’s kinda crazy to see how large the EDM explosion has gotten and the growing pains its endured. This is just one of the many things that happens when more markets are reached by a genre that once dominated only undergrounds and warehouses. Should we go back to not having huge productions and go back to not having medics and go back to not having bathrooms? How about not having security or venues that are secure or parking that is secure or shit like that? I for one love the fact that if someone is overdosing at an event that many times they can get the help they need. I am all for having bathrooms and water that is available more often than not. Did you not see the main stage at EDC Las Vegas this past year? I can’t imagine any raver in a warehouse party dreaming of being at that stage.
And you know what? For the record, I find more happy, nice “PLUR” people at festivals that have some restrictions on things like gloves or kandi than those that allow everything. Sure there are plenty of bad apples everywhere too but that is what happens when you have an influx of new people. Most importantly, there are just as many kandi kids out there that are masquerading as “PLUR” that really are not as there are new people who just want to enjoy the new genre that they have stumbled upon. I have seen more kandi kids hate on new people to the scene and it is disgusting that this is the way that they treat people that are just trying to enjoy the same music and have a good time. It is virtually the opposite of what they are supposedly living their life by and preaching to everyone and there are so many people who are hypocritical about it. They forget that it is hard being new and they sure as hell forget that the reason that they fell in love with these events was the acceptance that they found there. I mean just to go back even further, in 2012 the EDM Snob addressed this very issue in the article “In Defense Of Kandi Kids“, pronouncing them virtually dead then.
Obviously kandi isn’t something that is drug related, if you think that you are off your rocker and need a history lesson. Kandi is not something that has caused deaths and while we are at it gloves, poi, hoops or whatever have not caused any either. I get that, I understand that they have been banned simply because of the stigma that goes along with them or for other reasons that are asinine. I get it. It sucks and I am truly sorry, but that’s life. What the venues and promoters do not necessarily see is that it regardless of what is banned or allowed, drugs permeate every music festival, every rave, every club, and anywhere else you can think of. This extends to anything in life, and its unfortunate that the stigma around drug usage in this country cannot be openly discussed by many people. It is a taboo topic that people tend to stay hush hush about. I personally will not be diving deeper into that topic because that in it’s own deserves an article or five.
Something that is even more hilarious to me is that generally to a majority of the people in the scene right now, the entire meaning of kandi has been lost. You can argue with me until you’re blue in the face, but I am right about this and I am sticking to my guns. Kandi used to mean something to people, it used to be traded after connecting with someone on a different level, it used to show the bond that the rave scene had for each other and to be completely honest, that entire thing is basically dead. More often than not all I see are kids running around with their fingers already outstretched trying to trade with people for no reason other than to get a better piece of kandi. You have these kids walking around that are decked out in cuffs just to show the fuck off. You have all these people that have taken something that used to connect others together as one and instead have turned it into a competition. I have seen some epic creations, do not get me wrong. I know the time and energy that is spent into making different pieces, but its just become a soul-less game in which people are just trying to one-up each other.
I have seen this happen first hand. I ran multiple Plur Packages through Reddit EDC and holy shit were people assholes to each other. The goal was to make a package for the person you were given and you would receive one from someone else. Reddit EDC is a large group spanning multiple states, countries and continents, and I wanted to connect everyone as one. But then people got on a tangent of “Oh, well, if I make x amount of kandi and then someone makes me less that isn’t fair”. NO. That is not the point. The kandi the other person made for you is kandi that they made for you, they made or chose things to give to you. While trading kandi it should not ever need to be equal or more value because you simply cannot put value on something like that. If you made a cuff for someone and someone only sent you singlets, enjoy the singlets and be grateful someone made you something. Sometimes people can’t make cuffs or would rather make you something with more meaning. Maybe those singlets meant a lot to the person, or maybe the cuff you received that is not “up to par” with the cuff you sent out took the other person twice as long and twice the effort and love. I actually stopped running the Plur Packages because it simply became too sickening to me that people were so cruel to each other about something that was meant to bring people together.
For me, I feel like I have to pose some questions. What’s the point if there isn’t a story behind it? What’s the point if you cannot remember the moment you got the kandi or the person you traded with? Where is the connection that once brought a community together? I think a lot of you kandi kids need to wake the fuck up and remember why you began making and trading kandi, or refresh your history on the tradition. Many of you are clearly way off the path you started on, and its really sad that you think you’re upholding some great tradition when you just trade to trade and can’t even take the time to get the damn handshake right.
Back to the main point, festivals have restrictions. Every festival, even Burning Man. If you don’t like those restrictions don’t go. Instead of bitching and moaning about kandi being banned, why not just not support that event then? Up until recently I never even considered going to a HARD event because of the policies that they had in place. As I have gotten older and experienced other festivals and raves I have begun to reconsider them and have thought to myself, why the hell not? Them banning items doesn’t mean that the music is going to suck, and the positive vibes are being brought in by yours truly, so it does not matter to me if they do not let me wear my kandi. Oh well. I’ll live. Kandi does not define who I am.
There are plenty of events that allow kandi, and if you don’t like the ban then don’t go. Show them you don’t like their rules based off the lack of them receiving your money. Don’t support HARD or Ultra or CRSSD or any festival like that if you don’t like their rules. Start your own damn company and make your own damn rules if you care that much.
You know what is the funniest part about this for me? I see all these people bitching and moaning and whining and complaining but at the end of the day they still post about going to HARD or Mad Decent Block Party or Ultra. They are just slighting their own damn message in the process. If you actually believe in what you are fighting for and saying, then actually put your money where your mouth is. Stop being fake about it because it makes you look dumb.
Personally, I have a bigger issue with festivals banning things that I feel are much more important like Camelbaks and other important items. Maybe we should be concerned about festivals that have not been banning Native American Headdresses or other items that are of cultural significance? Maybe we should be concerned about the persistent ban on harm reduction and drug testing at events. But forget that, let’s just focus on some plastic beads being banned instead of looking at more important issues that are currently plaguing our scene that we can actually take a stand to fix, right?
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