Class of ’99, Vol. 13

Spark, 1997
From Massive Magazine

This month, I had the honor of chatting with Music For All about my mix series, and about rave culture in general. The conversation got me thinking about raves as a counter-culture movement. Despite its apolitical nature, the 90’s rave scene was truly countercultural. It ran parallel to mainstream culture completely, and against the grain of society in more than just the symbolic ways we often associate with teen rebellion. For better or worse, this meant a lot of antisocial behavior.

Rave was America’s last great outlaw musical subculture: created by kids, for kids, designed to be impenetrable to adults. 

NPR, “How The Internet Transformed The American Rave Scene”

Ravers were a motley assortment of drug addicts, wiggers, juvenile delinquents, and other undesirables. Chicago ravers, in particular, had a deserved reputation for being especially shady, and were notorious for:

  • Organized Shoplifting: There was this one department store called Sunglass Hut that started selling ravewear in the mid-90s. We would go there and throw a bunch of clothes into the wastebins, which would then be thrown out by the night crew once the antitheft alarms had already been disabled. We would then break into the dumpsters in the middle of the night to get our stolen wares.
  • Cheating the CTA: I knew kids that would jump the fence at Belmont, climb an electrical transformer, then crawl up between the train tracks to get a free ride that would normally cost $1.25! One time, a group of us skipped the fare at Bryn Mawr by crawling around the toll booth and under the turnstiles. A friend of mine tried to lay on his skateboard and paddle under, but he stood up too soon, hit the turnstile, the agent in the fare booth saw him, and she radioed the police. We dashed up the stairs to the platform, but with no approaching train to save us, we had no choice but to jump off the end of it and run down the tracks to the Berwyn stop, hoping not to trip on our giant pants. CTA tracks are electrified, mind you, and if you touch that third rail you’re toast!
  • Sneaking into parties: If there was a will, there was usually a way. They used to throw huge parties at the Logan Square Ballroom, and we would go into their alley, climb onto a van, pull down the fire escape, run to the top and pry open the door to the balcony. At some point, kids figured out you could scale the wall at Route 66, walk across the roof, and there was a spot where you could crawl into the duct work and then fall through the drop ceiling onto the dancefloor below. Ravers would congregate in that spot, so when a new kid fell through the ceiling they would just get lost in the crowd.
  • Running away from home: It was practically a rite of passage for a raver to just stop going home at some point. One of my closest friends ran away for months, and lived in the basement of this cokehead named Lolo. His mom called me once, exasperated, asking if I new where he was. I lied and said I didn’t, but that I knew he was OK. There was this weed dealer we knew called Bagl (because he was Jewish and because those were his initials) whose home became a halfway house for ravers when his parents left for an entire summer. I actually ran away from home for about a week, and I didn’t even remember it until a few years ago when my mom reminded me. And I still don’t remember where I was for that week.
  • Ganging up on you: One time, I phoned this kid Bashamba from Bagl’s house, calling him out for stealing my visor at a party and demanding he come return it. Instead, he showed up with 5 other kids who jumped me in the alley behind the house. They really gave me a beating—one of them even tried to rip out my eyebrow ring! A neighbor saw it all, called the police, and brought me into her apartment to clean all the blood off my face. Bashamba and his crew spent the night in jail, after which he vowed to find and jump me again for “getting him arrested”.
  • Taking the money and running: I once threw a party in River West with my best friend, and this Korean kid who worked at a flea market called Clark MegaMall. The kid colluded with the bouncer to steal all the money collected at the door, and they made off with over a thousand dollars! Turns out he already had a one-way ticket to Seoul and must have planned this heist out in advance. My best friend and I tried to go ambush him outside his job, but he had already left the country. Motherfucker!

I wouldn’t characterize ravers as rebellious, so much as out of control. I hated the city for shutting down raves, but it was probably the responsible thing to do.

Class of ’99, Volume 13: Underground
Download the mix (MP3, 45 minutes, 101 MB)

About the cover

Meow Mix

This month’s cover comes from a 1998 party called Meow Mix and features the once-famous, now-forgotten Sanrio frog known as Keroppi.

Track List

Follow these links to read more about the selections:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *