This article is about what an underground electronic-dance-music rave was like in the rave hey-deys of the late 1990’s. It is also about how this magical underground music scene — filled with intense creativity, passion, and people —reminds me of the financial-independence blogging community of today. The late 90’s raving community impacted my life in enormous ways, as has the financial independence community.
Today, I consider myself a 37-year-old free-spirit and free-thinker. I missed the 1967 summer-of-love in San Francisco, when the original free-thinkers, the hippies, pushed their creativity and lifestyle to the edge of normalcy, and tried to change society as a whole with their open-minded, counter-culture revolutionary ethos. But I was there for the underground rave movement, and honestly from someone who experienced it first hand, it was probably just as cool.
The underground rave movement of the late 90’s had a similar vision and counter-culture intensity. The ravers rallied around their Utopian lifestyle they called PLUR, which stood for: Peace, Unity, Love, and Respect for all people. The ravers had a similar feel-good, be-cool type of philosophy as the hippies. And this was an incredibly liberating and excitement to be a part of in the underground warehouses where they threw their hedonistic parties every weekend.
It’s been 17 years since I’ve visited the type of awesome underground rave that used to happen every weekend night in the big cities of the world. The young, ambitious, and risk-taking communities that formed around these parties, slowly faded away mostly due to the illegal, addictive, and harmful vices that fueled these experimental parties, such as: hallucinogenic drugs.
But now that I am older, and drug-free, the Financial Independence Community is as close as I have come to experiencing the crazily-awesome creative expression that I once saw in the underground rave scene of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. This story is about how and why the financial independence community reminds me of an underground rave.
To understand what a rave was like in the late 1990’s, I want to take you there so you can see it for yourself. The first time I ever heard about a rave was when I was 18 years old and about to graduate High School. My good friend handed me a colorful, professionally designed flier, and he called the advertised event happening that weekend a “party.” (The below are real-life, vintage fliers I kept from my raving days.)
My friend handed me one of these fliers, and said: “I went to one last weekend. It was amazing. You won’t believe the dancers, women, and people you will see here. It’s going to be a party like you’ve never experienced before.”
I took the flier home with me. I’d never been to a rave before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I was intrigued. I called my friend: “What should I wear the night of the party?” I asked him.
“Just be you. Wear what you think is cool. There are no norms to follow in this world. Just go as you are.”
Once the Saturday night of the rave came, my crew of friends picked me up in a car at 9 PM. The rave was being held in a secret location, so directions weren’t being given out until 10 PM. We stopped at a payphone (yes, a payphone), and we called the 1-800 info-line phone number on the back of the flier. A voice recording told us the directions to the secret venue, which we scribbled down on a piece of paper.
The freeways of Minneapolis were empty as we drove through the near-midnight blackness. But as we drove into the parking lot of the secret venue, we saw hundreds of kids just like us emptying out of their cars and flooding the parking getting ready to go inside the giant building. My friend was right about the people I saw here: Nobody was dressed the same. Everyone was dressed in their style of cool. I saw people in t-shirts; vintage thrift store outfits meticulously ensembled; and thousands of brightly-colored-neon bracelets and jewelry, all hanging on wildly colorful personalities, some with super baggy pants on.
I noticed the rave was being held in an empty hockey arena located in a lonely part of the suburbs. In the parking lot, frequenters of these parties were all saying hi and hugging each other. I could hear giant speakers and sub-woofers pounding dance music inside the venue. I followed my friend to the line to get in the front doors. We paid $20 in cash to the security team at the front doors, we were pat searched, and we were let inside.
It was early in the night. The rave was just getting started. Groups of people were walking around, getting ready for the headlining DJ’s to come on. Walls of speakers 12+ feet high went along an entire wall of the ice arena. Lighting systems worth tens of thousands of dollars flashed colorful lights and lasers out into the crowd.
Being it was my first rave, I watched patiently as the venue started to fill up with hundreds of other kids ready to explore the world around them just like me. As the crowd got bigger, the speakers got louder. Then, it started to happen. The entire party started to dance. Strobe lights flashed. Men and women in all types of colorful clothes, flowed in and out of each others sight lines. They danced off each others smiles, and flows of energy. The later it got into the night, the more unique the dancers and people became.
By 1:30 AM, the place was climaxing and absolutely frenetic. Wild bass lines pounded through the air with the electronic dance tracks the DJ’s were playing. Hundreds of young people were totally letting themselves go on this giant dance floor, and it was an experience I’d never seen before. People weren’t really dancing with each other. Instead, they were opening whatever source of inspiration they had in their souls, and then creating original dance moves around that deeply personal, and almost spiritual experience, that they were having.
I couldn’t talk it was so loud. As I stood around watching the party change shape in front of me, the energy became contagious, and I joined in and started to lose myself in this incredibly unique dance experience. I realized there were no leaders here. There were no expectations, or sets of rules to memorize. The rave experience was dependent on the crowd that was there, and everyone that was there, became the performers that were creating this once-in-a-lifetime party experience.
The people around me danced harder and faster. I started getting a hang of what was going on, and I sped up my rhythms to merge and blend in with the people moving around me. It’s hard for me to describe the way an original rave dancer danced, but here are two examples I found on Youtube that show the style of human that once existed in these underground party warehouses that happened every weekend night.
And let’s not forget the different break-dancing crews that used to show up at these events:
There used to be hundreds, or even thousands of kids who spent their weekends dancing all night like this. I spent three years of my life immersed in this experimental community, and it was one of the most intense, artistic, and foundational experiences I’ve ever had as a human being seeking my place in the world.
But just like the hippies who were searching for their freedom and personal answers during the summer of love in 1967 in San Francisco, the drugs that were part of the scene, started to take its toll in the community. The drugs got harder. People got addicted. The police came into the scene and shut down the parties. The empty buildings that once were available to rent and host the raves became impossible to secure. And if an organizer secured a venue, the states created laws that allowed the police to shut them down even if they were held legally. The community of ravers that had formed around these nights of dancing, and the pursuit of PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect), eventually grew up, got real jobs, started families, and the entire rave scene slowly moved back into the brick-and-mortar bars and clubs that had 21+ age restrictions and promptly ended at bar close.
HOW THE FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE COMMUNITY REMINDS ME OF AN UNDERGROUND RAVE.
It has been 18 years since I walked out of my last rave and watched the sun rise with dozens of other wild-eyed kids in the ventue’s parking lot. I don’t miss the drugs, or the hangovers from partying too hard. But I have missed the artistic expression, open-mindedness, and awesomely original people I once saw in the raving community. Discovering the Financial Independence Community has given me that same sort of unique rush whenever I attend an FIRE (Financial Independence/ Retire Early) meet-up or get to know another blogger in person after becoming friends online. This is why:
The Financial Independence Community reminds me of the rave scene, because to be introduced to it, someone interesting or unique has to tell you about it, or invite you into it, or you just have to randomly read something about it, that sucks you into it. Maybe a friend mentioned the name Mr Money Mustache, or another friend let it slip that they’ve been on a crusade to kill debt because they want their life back, or another friend is abnormally educated on which Vanguard Index Funds are the best. Then once you know about the personal finance party going on, it’s up to you to create your own journey into it.
And like how people learned their style of dance in the rave community by trial and error, if you like the personal finance community, you’ll start learning more about the financial terms that flow in and out of the community, like: index funds, return on investments, cash flow opportunities, etc. And if you love this type of learning, you’ll start realizing that you can create your own unique dance style with the money that you can make, save, and invest. Then, you finally have the revelation, that your life isn’t dependent on the job you have. If you know how to manage your money, you can create a totally original life that you can design to your liking.
In the rave scene, the lights, speakers, and DJ’s helped create the experience that the people had on the dance floor. But in the personal finance community, the financial moves you make are the soundtrack that can change your life and give you something to become free and dance too.
When I went to FINCON last year, I was reminded of the night I walked into my first rave. There were unique, inspiring, creative and talented people everywhere. Their talented minds were guiding their actions. Their original ideas were then creating the lives they were living. These writers, or bloggers, reminded me of the amazing dancers I saw performing their art at raves. But rather than using their intelligence and creativity to master complicated dance moves, they were using it to create writing, and podcasts, and videos, that could teach people how to financially structure their lives so that anyone could spend their life dancing to the beat of their own drum. I quickly realized that the people who can save and invest their own money, are the least interested in actual money. These financial wizards are more interested in the freedom, time, and experiences they can achieve once they have enough money so that they never have to worry about money again.
As I walked around FINCON, and made friendships with some of the coolest money artists I’ve ever met, I realized I was falling in love with this community, just like I’d fallen in love with the rave scene when I was 18 years old, almost 20 years ago now. But I realized I liked this scene better, because it didn’t have any of the problems that the hippy and raver community had, (like hard drug use which will doom any community over a long enough period of time).
Ultimately, the Financial Independence Community reminds me of the Underground Raving Community because FI-seekers are looking for the same thing that the ravers were looking for: Ravers danced to find the elusive state of perpetual happiness, enlightenment, and bliss. FI-Seekers save and invest their money so that they can attain more time to explore the world and the endless possibilities to find their version of happiness, enlightenment, and bliss.
For these reasons, the Financial-Independence Community reminds me a lot like an old-school rave: Enter it if you want to be changed, enlightened, and evolve into an entire new person. As you learn to dance with your finances, you may begin to find the life experience you’ve always dreamed of living.
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You hit on a great point there about the financial independence community: many people are looking to find their way, and while it is a crazy world in the financial markets, it is possible to find your path and be successful.
Great article Bill!