I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois; and by Chicago, I mean Sterling, a town where stalks of corn outnumbered the people by the thousands. EDM and raving was not only frowned upon, but scoffed at and ostracized, like if you listened to it you were committing some sort of unforgivable sin.
So when I moved to Los Angeles a year and a half ago, my eye, my ears, and my soul were all awakened. The freedom of self expression that rang through the speakers and into the crowd’s hearts and heads was something that any innate raver would be drawn to. From the music, to the outfits, to the kandi, I couldn’t stay away. Out of all the aspects of the rave culture and community, kandi is the most intriguing component. What the outside world sees as a childish form of art- cheap, colorful, plastic beads tied together with an elestic string- we see as a symbol to the start of a friendship, to the start of something beautiful. Each kandi is handmade and given out with specific thought. We give the appropriate piece of kandi to people we feel deserve it, and we receive kandi that others feel are fitting for us.
Last year, when I went home for the first time since I had moved to California, I needed to make a trip over to Chicago to experience the EDM scene in the Midwest. I declared I was experienced enough within the SoCal community by now, and I wanted to see how a different part of the country raves; I wanted to see how the demographic I was raised in raves. I decided to go to the three-day Halloween festival, Freaky Deaky.
On day one, I was nervous. Some may argue that a raver is a raver no matter where you go, which is primarily true. I found that two thousands miles east of the extravagant, colorful SoCal rave scene lies a less-costumey, calmer Midwestern crowd. The outfits are more minimal, the crowd isn’t as jumpy, but the people are still generally the same. Those that are true ravers are their for the love and music, and it’s evident.
One of the ways festivalgoers in the Midwest show their love toward each other is not only by trading kandi, but by a more popular method within this crowd: trading pins.
As I walked through the grounds from one stage to the next, I looked around and saw people digging through bags and containers full of various pins of all sizes and colors, rarely seeing two of the same. Each person had numerous pins that they traded with one another, much like we trade our kandi in California. The only difference was that there is no grand gesture like PLUR-ing with pins. You just approach one another and ask to trade pins. It was almost like they were speaking the same language I spoke, but in a different dialect; a dialect I wanted to understand.
When my time at Freaky Deaky came to a close, I purchased a pin so that when I make my return to the rave community in the Midwest, I will be ready and able to show my love through this newly adopted second dialect of the rave language that we speak to each other through trading.
I love telling my SoCal rave family about the meaning of my pin because it gives them a reason to journey out and open their minds to a different rave community; it gives them a reason to learn how to spread the PLUR in a different language, thus making an impact on an even larger community.