The sounds pulsing through the all-night dance-gasm of a rave are perfectly suited to the Internet: The music is often as computer controlled as the laser light shows; email is used to coordinate parties across the globe; and the scene is ruled by dot-com twentysomethings. For a simulation of the strobe-lit experience, go see the new film Groove (www.groovethemovie.com) or the documentary Better Living Through Circuitry (amokbooks.com/circuitry), both currently in theaters. But if you want to connect with the soul of the rave world, go online.
Whether or not you know the difference between dance genres like jungle, trance, happy hardcore, and nu skool breaks, Netherlander Otto Swertz’s The Electronica Primer (www.plato.nl/e-primer) is a sound-laden overview of the music’s history — a great place for beginners to find out whether their taste runs more to acid house or trip-hop. It traces the origins back to experimentalist composer Edgard Varese in the 1950s, and goes on to headphonically contrast the ”big beat” rhythms of the Chemical Brothers with the illbient stylings of DJ Spooky.
Now that you’ve been initiated into the music, hit Hyperreal (www.hyperreal.org). Probably the Net’s oldest and best rave resource, the site started in 1992 as a San Francisco email list run by Brian Behlendorf, now 27; it currently has nearly 100 mailing lists moderated by and devoted to local partyers worldwide. The rest of the noncommercial, volunteer-run site can be spotty, but it remains faithful to the rootsy feel of the scene it represents (unlike, say, the sell-heavy portal Raveworld.net). The Chemistry section leads to the Vaults of Erowid (www.erowid.org), a micro-Yahoo! of drug-related information that impressively includes the latest medical studies on the effects of Ecstasy, as well as first-person trip reports from toad-venom smokers. If there’s something about raving or dance music that you can’t find on Hyperreal, you’re probably not looking hard enough.
The site also has authentic DJ sets dating back to ’89 — you can listen while reading one of the how-to guides on turntabling or copyright law. An even better electronic-music source, though, is San Francisco-based Beta Lounge (www.betalounge.com), which hosts a live netcast every Thursday that showcases famous mix masters from around the world, including Groove Armada, Roni Size, and Mouse on Mars. Former KROQ programmer Swedish Egil’s Groove Radio (www.grooveradio.com), meanwhile, features well-known dance-club DJs who visit the studio and record exclusive mixes. And Sonicnet (www.sonicnet.com), part of MTVi, offers a station guest-DJ’d by the Grammy-nominated artist Moby — who, instead of picking his fave techno artists, lines up a tribute to influences from Kraftwerk to Crosby, Stills & Nash.
The culture of live performances has also birthed a renaissance in flyer art, which is as collectible — and ultimately valuable — as the classic-rock posters coveted by ravers’ parents. While there’s no single site as good as the oversize art books on the subject, Flyer Mania (www.sirius.com/~jkuzich/rave flyers) has a good introduction to collecting, along with examples, while FlyerArt.com (www.flyerart.com) shows the range of styles out there, spanning the psychedelic, space-age, and cartoonish. Collectors and traders often specialize in a region (Goa, India) or genre (trance); the Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org/Society/Subcultures/Rave/Flyers) has a fine, if slightly dated, list of such sites.
By now you’re halfway to finding a decent rave, but instead of giving exact directions I’ll leave the rest to you — just remember to wear comfy shoes.