Get up and clean your teeth and have a shave.
It's 1 a.m., let's go out to a rave.
One more in before we hit the rave.
It's hotter than a microwave.
Big Audio Dynamite II, "The Globe"
It is dark.
You can't see a thing, but you know there are hundreds of people around you. The room is hot and humid. A blinding white light flashes; you still can't see anything. The air smells of sulfur -- smoke from a fog machine somewhere in the ceiling. A computerized voice dominates the room:
"Now is the time to get . . . "
"Hard core!" the hundreds scream.
The vinyl hits the turntable. Dizzying red lights swirl around. Lasers flash and scan the room. Strobes pulsate. There's a steady boom, boom, boom pounding from the speakers surrounding you -- 120, 130, 140, 150, 160 beats a minute. Few lyrics, no melody. This sound is hard-core techno -- a brutal, primal, high-speed brand of electronic music.
There's no real way to dance to this. Dancing to techno is like keeping time with a blender. You just move. Jump. Shake. Run. Scream.
Arms and legs flail. Dozens of Doc Martens stomp the concrete floor. Scores of pageboy haircuts bob back and forth. Hips twist. Left and right swing the baubles, whistles, dog tags and pacifiers hanging from necks on long black cords.
It's a techno-pagan ritual. This is dancing with an intense single-mindedness -- to enjoy the sheer energy and rhythm of the music, to celebrate youth, to stay up all night and to maybe feel a little dangerous.
It's 4 a.m. in a warehouse somewhere near Baltimore, and this group is raving.
Welcome to the underground. You'll need more than a cover charge to get into this party; raving is a culture, an attitude, a state of mind, a way of life for the 17-to-25-year-old, Generation X set. These are the thrill seekers who want to hang on to youth just a little bit longer.
At a rave, you can hear them clinging to childhood in the techno music. The Prodigy hit "Charly" samples a cartoon cat's meow and a child's voice from a British public-service announcement: "Charly says always tell your Mummy before you go out somewhere." Other groups sample children's themes and playground songs: Smart E's "Sesame's Treet" is based on the "Sesame Street" theme music.
Adulthood, with all its responsibilities, will come soon enough. Like yesterday's hippies and flower children who became today's lawyers and accountants, this crowd, too, will change in time. But for now, young and free and not burdened with 8 a.m. budget meetings, it goes raving.
"I think to a certain extent raving is a release," says 28-year-old Scott Henry, one of Baltimore and Washington's hottest rave disc jockeys. We find him sitting outside the warehouse, taking a break from spinning records. "For eight to 12 hours out of the week, you can let loose and dance, and not worry what people think."
You can't do that in the nightclub scene, where you have to worry about what you're wearing or who you are with. In fact, to rave is anti-nightclub: The location of the party changes often. Tonight, we're dancing in this warehouse, but we've also been to a rave with more than 500 other people in a room above a diner in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and one in a Harford County horse field. The adventure of staying out all night, the mystery of the ever-changing location -- for many ravers, these are the big attractions; these, and, of course, techno itself.
"It's easy to lose yourself in the music," said 20-year-old Jason Jinx, a disc jockey from Long Island working the party at Rehoboth Beach. "For a while, you forget what else is going on."
At Tripotronic, the Harford County party, Janet Liven, 17, of Washington explains why she goes raving about once a month:
"It's a place to get away from it all. . . . In a sense it's a doorway to madness for a few hours."
They have come to the warehouse to escape the day-to-day, to let loose, to go wild. The rave boys -- guys with all the gear: the baggy and hooded striped shirt; baggy T-shirts; jeans that are four sizes too big and hang down real low, so low the bottoms of the legs must be hacked off.
Rave boys look like little kids who raided their big brothers' closets. No rave boy would be complete without the standard Stussy baseball cap, an earring, clunky combat boots or old Pumas, and a backpack -- the most important accessory. You'll find it stocked with Evian, candy or munchies, spare clothes; stuffed animals, squeaky toys; a Twister game, a Batman mask, glow-in-the-dark accessories and face paint, water pistols, lollipops; Silly String, an inflatable sledgehammer; soap bubbles, gum-ball machine jewelry, balloons and confetti. Anything that appeals to the juvenile at heart.