Stark, raving, mad

Candy kids teach this writer about the new rave scene

Everyone knows that it ain’t no rave unless there’s hopscotch, Hula-Hooping and some Michael Jackson-gloved fool waving his hands in your face.

Everyone knows that it ain’t no rave unless there’s hopscotch, Hula-Hooping and some Michael Jackson-gloved fool waving his hands in your face.


It all started with a phone number written on the back of a flier. I punched the digits in on my cell, like making a desperate call to a number scribbled on some seedy bathroom’s wall, and was about to hang up when techno music kicked in and an excited female voice spit out directions faster than my hand could jot them down.

I was going to a rave, checking out the once defunct, now resurrected local scene. Explaining this to my mother wasn’t easy.

“Hey, Mom, I’m going to a rave this weekend.”

“Oh God, Julie. People get date-raped at those things.”

In my car, I ventured deep into north Sacramento, contemplating how my night might unfold. By 11 p.m., I was at the venue: apparently some biker watering hole by day that had transformed into a Day-Glo hurricane by night. Husky security guards barked to see my ID, not the open-armed welcome I’d imagined. Inside, the place was decked out like an elementary-school-recess-themed party, complete with hopscotch squares and Hula-Hoops.

To the right was a full bar with faces that couldn’t have looked more out of place: bros tightly gripping drinks who took a wrong turn on their way to Sandbar? To the left, a deejay spun, girls danced in tutus and a couple of people sat the floor making what appeared to be snow angels—or maybe they were just rubbing up on the Berber carpet? The outside patio, which overlooked the Sacramento River, was packed with dazed-looking kids indulging their passion for nicotine.

The diverse electronic music was the most intriguing part of this rave. I had imagined a room full of iPod deejays bumping the Dance Dance Revolution soundtrack and drinking Mountain Dew, but the reality was much less nerdy. From DJ Entrigue’s set, consisting of happy hardcore, to Kiro’s thumping drum-n-bass, it was apparent that Sac’s EDM scene, while smaller in size than it may have been a decade or more ago, could still bring the noise.

I walked outside and sat at a table with a few bracelet-clad candy kids and a man in a black T-shirt, who looked at least my parents’ age. We exchanged introductions, and I realized I was the only one at the table whose name didn’t include something like “fuzzy bubbly kitty shits.”

Turns out, though, the man at the table was Bob-O, a staple of the Sacramento deejay scene. And the kids, some of them barely old enough to drive, explained to me that “candy” isn’t drugs but the bracelets that they wear, and that making handmade jewelry is a way to express themselves and form new friendships.

“This is your first party, isn’t it?” one of the kids asked.

How’d you guess?

“Give me your hand.”

I offered my right arm and they gently grabbed my fingers, formed them into a peace sign, then a heart, then a “U,” and finally presented a piece of jewelry from their wrist. This is called the “PLUR handshake,” or “Peace, Love, Unity and Respect,” a way candy kids express appreciation, as well as spread good tidings.

Ironically, the less I know about the handshake, the more people wanted to give me bracelets; a half-dozen are on my arms by the night’s end.

Before the rave, I was in the cynical camp, assuming that these kinds of love proclamations and goodwill were ridiculous byproducts of whatever psychoactive, noncandy transactions go on at raves. It wasn’t until I realized that most of these kids were stone-cold sober that I started to take them seriously.

Or maybe I too am just stark raving mad?