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A rave is a gathering or party where people (mostly teenagers and twenty-somethings) come together to listen to music and dance. The predominant type of music heard at a rave is techno or house (each of which has many offshoots). This electronic music is played by DJs who use turntables to spin records and a mixer to manipulate sounds. In addition to the sounds, a rave is often visually pleasing also. Most have strobe lights, while larger parties may have visuals projected on screens, lasers and other lights.

Raves first started in and around London in the late 1980s and gained an underground following throughout Europe and then the United States, especially in San Francisco. Over the years, the music has changed, and offshoots such as garage, jungle, drum n’ bass, happy core and trance evolved to keep ravers dancing. Many DJs became quite popular over the years and have established a loyal following.

Promoters are the people who organize raves—from small "underground" warehouse parties to those thrown at venues such as fairgrounds where thousands gather to be united by the music. Word of these parties is often spread by phone voicemail, e-mail, web pages, rave calendars (which can be found for most areas of the US and Europe) and flyers.

People at raves are usually racially diverse and made up of people from very different backgrounds. This is because the rave community tends to be very accepting of anyone—young, old, black, white, etc. They form an alternative sort of culture. Many ravers dress differently than people in mainstream society. They sometimes wear baggy clothes, fluorescent colors and carry backpacks with cartoon characters on them. Many ravers can be seen wearing glitter on their face and bodies. They are also likely to be carrying accessories such as pacifiers, bright jewelry and glow sticks. Water and candy (especially lollipops) are also mainstays of the typical raver.

When people hear the word rave, they often associate it with drugs. It is true that many rave-goers do use drugs to enhance the experience (but drug use has been seen in most music scenes through the years). Many ravers enjoy these parties sober though, enjoying the music and the atmosphere at face value.

Ravers believe in PLUR—an acronym that stands for Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. They also believe in the positive vibe the music and atmosphere at a rave create. The vibe is how you and those around you feel, and should integrate PLUR. It is a feeling what can’t be put into words. The only true way to understand it is to be standing on the dance floor surrounded by hundreds of people as the music builds and keeps you dancing through the night.