Updated: Nov 15
By Shi Bradley
The 1980s and 1990s marked the beginning of rave culture as we know it. People gathered in large fields and warehouse buildings in funky, unique clothing, jamming out to ear-shattering music. Now, raves continue to be a phenomenon in our culture. People all over the world spend hundreds of dollars to be a part of large festivals with crazy lights, elaborate fashion, and electrifying EDM sounds.
Prior to attending the PHX Lights festival, I had never been to anything even resembling a rave. I had been to a few concerts, sure, but nothing as big as PHX Lights was.
I came in with just a vague understanding of what a large festival would be like. I anticipated loud music, lots of people, and some fun, unique outfits. However, I underestimated just how sheerly euphoric and spectacularly overwhelming the entire experience would be.
Immediately upon entering the venue, the energy from the enormous crowd of people hit me like a truck. The music blares through speakers and the sound travels miles beyond the stage, coursing through every bone in your body. The venue is adorned with colorful neon lights and extraterrestrial-themed decorations. People are everywhere. They are walking, dancing, eating, drinking, laughing, and generally filled with authentic energy.
The fashion of the event was powerful. Attendees were decked out in outfits you don’t see every day. They were dressed in neon and metallic bikinis, chunky boots, crazy, Euphoria-esque makeup, and covered in glitter and sparkle. There were people wearing leather from head to toe, people, in western-inspired fits, there were even people wearing full animal masks! It was incredible to see so many different people simply wearing what they wanted and being authentically themselves.
Of course, what people come to festivals for is the musical experience. The lineup was filled with incredible performances from well-known DJs such as Afrojack and Martin Garrix. For six hours straight, I witnessed an exhilarating lineup of remixes, smash hits, and more underrated songs from these DJs. I spent hours being showered with pools of flashing lights, neon lasers, flame effects, and fireworks. The light show at first was incredibly mesmerizing. Hardly anything could feel like more of a euphoric sensation than looking up at the sky and feeling like you’re swimming under an ocean of neon lights.
The energy of the crowd never died. For six hours, people were jumping, dancing, and screaming at the top of their lungs. While the energy at times made for an uncomfortable experience, with people randomly shoving me and in general being a bit too close for comfort, the crowd’s energy made sure the night felt exciting and fun.
The festival also provided a great opportunity to connect with others. While at the festival, I was able to meet a group of ASU students, who were super excited when I told them it was my first rave. One girl even gave me a Kandi bracelet, a tradition I’ve always wanted to be a part of.
After hours and hours of singing, jumping, and dancing, the festival came to a close. The grand show of fireworks and light effects, as well as Martin Garrix’s goodbye, would signal the time to head out of the venue and call your Uber– which is another adventure in itself. While standing for hours waiting for transportation in the cold was an exhausting experience, I kept some warmth in knowing that I had just been to my first rave. I shared a beautiful, energetic experience with thousands of people, and it was one that I’ll hold close to me as I go to more raves and festivals in the future.