FreakNight and rave culture: Behind the kandi mask

Halloween is coming up fast, and the Hallo-opportunities are piling up. If you’re like hundreds of other excited Washingtonian ravers, then FreakNight is surely on your calendar.

Scott Sharman, a Tacoma native who’s been to over 50 raves in the past seven years, sat down with us to give a better insight on raves, the raver motto: “peace, love, unity and respect” often affectionately shortened to PLUR and, of course, the 2017 FreakNight. His first rave was FreakNight 2010 and he has been raving ever since.

On his first rave experience, Sharman said:

“I went with some of my friends from church and honestly I had no idea how big of an impact raving would have on my life.” At FreakNight, Sharman “met so many amazing people who just wanted to have a good time and loved every moment of it.”

Since then, Sharman has been able to travel across the U.S. and Canada due to the people he’s met while raving, many of whom he believes he will know for life.

Sharman also explained kandi, a huge aspect of rave culture. This is anything from bracelets, necklaces and even masks made out of plastic beads. Many ravers spend hours on this craft and consider it a representation of themselves. Sharman described it as a type of art. People can trade these bracelets and other works of art with other ravers — thus sharing a part of themselves with their community. Because kandi is considered an extension of a person’s personality, there is a special way to trade. The ravers motto of PLUR is incorporated into a sort of handshake; after the shake, each person moves one of their pieces on to the other person’s arm. This highlights just how personable and welcoming raves can be.

Sharman agrees, saying  that once you walk in the door, the acceptance is palpable.

“People are friendly and it doesn’t matter what you look like or what you’re wearing or what you identify as … raves are a safe place to express yourself … leave what is laying heavy on your heart and mind at the door,” explains Sharman.

While raves often get a bad rap, people in the rave community, including Sharman, argue that the stereotypes aren’t true.

“Going to raves has nothing to do with drugs or getting drunk, those are all choices that people choose to [do] so it has nothing to do with the raves, it has to do with people going to them,” Sharman said.

In other words, people who do drugs sometimes go to raves, but that doesn’t mean that raves foster a drug environment. In Sharman’s experience, when he turns down those offering drugs, everyone has always been accepting and understanding.

FreakNight, Life in Color and Paradiso are just a few of the mega-festivals that have become household names; however, smaller more intimate raves are just as prevalent. Both types have their benefits. While larger raves like FreakNight have a greater variety in music and a chance to meet new people, smaller raves offer more intimacy. “[At smaller raves,] everyone knows each other, everyone is friends,” Sharman adds.

COURTESY OF SCOTT SHARMAN

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