A long time fan of Coachella, Indie-alt enthusiast Nate Kurszewski had always had a distaste for dance music. “I was always really against EDM, almost passionately. I watched videos of festivals and thought it was horrible. I called it beep-boop music, but I never really even considered it to be actual music.”
Before Labor Day weekend, his girlfriend had begged him for months to give raves a try, trying to explain the atmosphere as best as you can to an outsider. He had been quite opinionated and outspoken about ravers beforehand, admitting to only attending to “get it over with,” almost backing out at the last second. What he didn’t know, however, was that his life would be changed forever.
“Look how they’re dressed- they look like idiots, why are they dressed like that?” He recalls saying days before he attended Nocturnal Wonderland’s 20th anniversary in San Bernardino. “I expected everyone to be everything I ever saw on YouTube, I pretty much expected to be immediately frustrated by the crowd. I don’t dance, so I figured I would just stand around awkwardly while being annoyed by a bunch of ‘bros’.” Upon arriving, he tried to be optimistic for his girlfriend, and was almost immediately greeted by his first OMG moment, seeing a guy waltz past them in top of the thigh-high neon boots.
Arriving when the doors opened wasn’t his ideal time, considering it was hot, and the population of the crowd maxed out around 400 or so headliners. “The first stage I saw was the Queen’s Grounds, which looked cool, but I really wasn’t having fun. The DJ who was spinning was the exact opposite of my normal style, so I really didn’t know what to do. We decided to find some place to sit and talk, just to relax.” The couple then ventured off to the neon mushrooms, finally giving them an opportunity to connect and take it all in. “The vibes started to rub off on me. I saw everyone connecting and talking to one another, and I started to finally connect with the environment. I honestly started to connect with my girlfriend emotionally then, and I finally wanted to get up and see more of what was around me. We decided to head to the Sunken Garden, and I finally started to let myself feel the music.”
“When the sun went down, that’s when the place really came to life. I was so incredible—it was beautiful!” He then gathered the courage to dive into the crowd at the Labyrinth, his girlfriend leading the way. “It was like an adventure, almost. It was so fun to see everyone smiling at you, enjoying themselves, and trying to connect with you when you walked by. Everyone loved my bow tie! It was unlike any crowd I’ve ever been in. They just smiled and let you through, they were so friendly!”
Nate and Claire were very easily adopted by a group of ravers, joining them on the ground to vibe. “We sat down in the middle of the crowd during Duke Dumont’s set, and it was like reaching Nirvana. Nobody there wants to hurt you, everyone is looking out for one another. I was able to finally connect with everyone around me, more emotionally than normal, and make friends. I was able to let loose and bond with other people, like I never had before. There was a song about ‘if you close your eyes’ that came on, and I went crazy. That was such a moment. That was one of so many memories I’ll carry with me forever.”
Since leaving the festival, Nate has admitted to having a major change in attitude on the rave community. “I hear songs now and I get excited, like a burst of happiness. I’ve been more in touch with my emotions. I can’t believe this existed- it’s beautiful. The community is just so beautiful,” he said. “After going, I respect it, I feel like I’m welcomed somewhere, I feel like I’m a part of it. It’s filled with such positive people who just want everyone else to have fun to add happiness to their environment. Everyone just wants to be accepted. I let negativity control a lot of my emotions before. There’s no bad vibes in rave culture.”
When asked about how he feels about his past judgement, he said “I feel so embarrassed. It really opened my eyes and allowed me to see how judgmental I was against something I had no idea about. I would be embarrassed to be myself before, carrying around all that hate.”
Nate now plans on attending every festival he can, starting with Escape in October. “I’m already planning EDC 2016, it looks so amazing. Raves are a place where you can be yourself, happy, free, and pure. It solves problems. Its therapeutic– Life is better now. To its core, it’s really authentic. I’ve fallen in love with this community, I’m still just so blown away.”
Meet Nate on Instagram: @TheNayte