The rave movement has its roots (surprisingly) in Motown. Manchester, England, was home to the Northern Soul scene, a bunch of people who dug Detroit and other soul music. Some of these folks were hip to house music and eventually caught word of techno, some newfangled shit coming out of the D. Eventually, they adopted it as their own, and it mutated until it became something quite unlike its roots.
The name "rave" can be attached to all kinds of parties, although it's mostly used by "outsider" media, such as Dateline, to mean a party with some sort of electronic music and lots of teenagers on drugs. Often these parties present a mixed bag of music: trance, techno, house, jungle, or hardcore. These can all be in the same room, one after the other; or in different rooms in the same building; or in different tents. These events can range in size to the private warehouse party among local DJs and their friends to rented-out, multi-roomed function halls with DJs and performers flown in from around the world. The drug content is nearly always overhyped by local media, but it's certainly prevalent, no matter your stance on the issue itself. No amount of wishful thinking can change that the scene grew up around chemical endeavours. Many "rave anthems" (even ones by straight-edge producers) are popular because of drug themes.
Venues are varied. Parties can be outdoors (the beach, middle of the desert, backyard, tent) or indoors (the traditional warehouse, nightclub, movie theater, skate park). Often these venues will not be announced until the day or week of the event in order to avoid law enforcement. Even legal events will do this, as police and fire officials have been known to shut them down for violations of fire codes and the like. Just or not, that is what one must deal with.
Promotion of these parties began with word of mouth, as putting up advertising for illegal activity is never a good idea. The rave flyer emerged later as a vehicle for both advertising and art, with cheesy and/or just plain cool designs making for some very nice free wallpaper. Promoters' websites and independent ones like the old ravedata.com and the new miscon.net keep track of upcoming weekend activities as well.
Event times are varied, too. The music might start at noon and run until midnight. It might last an entire weekend and then some. An event may also be of a composite sort, with many individual events scheduled to take advantage of a particular holiday (or other event)
Obviously, the large number of teenagers at a rave involves quite a bit of disposable allowance money. Money in a questionably legal industry nearly always generates scum. The addition of drugs does not improve this situation, as entrance fees, DJ fees, and drug prices all rise with the growing demand for these events (fueled partially by media portraying raves as an easy place to get drugs). One promoter from New Hampshire, Tommie Gunn, was known for busting his own parties in order to avoid paying DJ fees while still collecting ticket money. There are DJs with reputations for showing up late or not at all, and frequently promoters will put big names on flyers without any authorization.
Such a huge subculture has understandably come up with standards and norms, and also people who don't like said standards and norms.
Some standards (good and bad)
- PLUR as a slogan anyway
- glowsticking and liquid dancing
- big pants and other such fashions
- drum circles, especially at psy-trance parties
- whistles (death wishers in my book)
All right, I'm tired of typing.