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The Rave … Just Over Our Hill

September 30th, 2017 · No Comments · France

Raves. All-night dance parties that often just appear at some lonely place where young folks show up, thanks to a furtive, word-of-mouth campaign.

We didn’t know raves were still a “thing”. Maybe it’s just France.

It started Friday night. A rumbling thump-thump-thump coming from over one of the hills that surround the village, going on late into the night.

What really got our attention was the thump-thump-thump that greeted the dawn, and then carried right on into the afternoon. That wasn’t a party down around the corner.

Something bigger was going on, and by the afternoon we found an online site for a French-language newspaper … that let us know that a three-day rave, expected to attract 1,000 fans, was going on at the old “aerodrome” barely a mile away from our town.

A rave! Something I thought disappeared 20 or more years ago.

We couldn’t help ourselves. We walked over to investigate.

First, we wanted to familiarize ourselves anew with the social event that goes by the “rave” descriptor.

The urban dictionary defines a rave thusly:

1) noun. any gathering of people centered around listening to and dancing to electronic music, as played by a set of live DJs. Originated in 1989 in the UK as underground, often-illegal gatherings in abandoned warehouses. Often characterized by the positive, psychedelic atmosphere, influenced often (but not always) by drugs and casual sex.
2) verb. to dance in a style characteristic of dancers at raves, synonymous with fluid, liquid

Sounds naughty. And maybe not something you want just over the hill from a quiet village.

The aerodrome was an active airfield, a few decades ago, but now it’s just a long patch of smooth ground, elevated above surrounding valleys, with a primitive control tower, a fueling area and a few outbuildings that once housed small planes.

That left plenty of room for the rave infrastructure. A stage, a control room disguised as a locomotive, a medical area, a tent with a “bar” sign in front of it, some food trucks, a “risk reduction” stand that dispensed condoms and breathalyzers, and a sprawling tent- and vehicle-based “village” where ravers could hook up or catch some sleep over the course of 72 hours.

The place seemed a city of kids. Or young adults, maybe. No one with gray or white hair in sight. A lot of scraggly beards and young people modeling 20th century-style “grunge” and shabby chic attire, and the sort of late-model small cars kids perhaps not yet in the working world are likely to drive.

When we walked onto the grounds, it looked like it was a cooling off period for the kids. No music was being played. The thump-thump-thump was taking a break, too. Not even 20-year-olds can dance for 24 hours straight, right?

We felt as if we stuck out, among the kids and their dogs, who were running loose in a neighborly way, but we also liked to think we looked nonthreatening.

Some of the ragged ravers looked at us suspiciously, but no one challenged us as we wandered through. It helped that we were dressed a bit shabbily ourselves.

So. Some of the people in town are less than thrilled that a three-day rave has shown up practically next door.

Apparently, the organizers didn’t quite ask permission as they returned to a venue they had used back in 2015.

The local newspaper reported that organizers received a “forced authorization” from the mayor, who could not legally prevent them from setting up camp in a public space.

The local police, however, could have a look at all vehicles exiting the grounds, and when we walked over in the late afternoon, nearly a dozen gendarmes were busy poking around vehicles exiting the premises, asking for ID, trying to make sure none of the drivers were intoxicated.

In a Facebook discussion, some of the ravers said they were not harming anyone (“we are not wild people; try to understand us a little bit”), that they offered entertainment to young people in a region where there isn’t much of that, and noted that they had cleaned up the grounds before they left, two years ago, and that they would do so again this year.

Some of the residents, however, suggested the music could be heard for miles around, including during the wee hours of the morning. And what were these outsiders doing on the airfield, anyway?

But, at the end, there was a sense that the rave wasn’t that big an imposition on the nearby towns, and the ravers would get a chance to show they could clean up things again, before they left.

While we were there, most of the ravers seemed incapable of objecting to anyone or anything; they were exhausted.

But they were expected to perk up as another night approached. By Monday night, the party people said they would be gone.



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