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The beat goes on ... somewhere

In all likelihood, the rave scene died long before I was old enough to sneak out of my parents' house, let alone concoct an outfit made entirely out of black-light reactive pink faux fur.

Once upon a time, though, rave culture — albeit second-generation rave culture — was alive and kicking. Not in San Francisco or Portland; here, in the Rogue Valley. I kid you not. Granted, Southern Oregon has never been a hotbed for nightlife, but once, in a time not too far away, there was a fabulous party pulsing just beneath the radar of regular folks nearly every weekend.

"What happened?" you may ask, and your guess is as good as mine. The rave machine is an inherently elusive animal, nebulous by nature and correspondingly hard to pin down. It's hard even to know about coming parties without seeking them out. Rave parties (or just "parties," in the current lexicon) aren't the kind of thing you'll normally read about in the pages of your favorite entertainment weekly, and you likely won't see billboards advertising DJ-driven dance-a-thons. I've been to many a shindig where even the location was kept secret until a few hours before the event began, or directions were handed out at a specified checkpoint from some shady guy's pickup.

Why all the secrecy? It could be the organizers' effort to make sure the partygoers conform to some mysterious definition of cool. It more than likely could also be an effort to keep the police out of the know — drugs of the illicit variety are undeniably a part of raver culture, whether you like it or not. Or it could be that, like people who throw keggers, the people behind raves don't really care if the masses ever find out about their goings-on. Parties being underground is part of what makes them cool.

Despite — or perhaps because of — all the shady dealings, misleading directions and twisted lines of information, parties are FUN. It doesn't matter if you're a sober sister or completely blitzed out of your mind, as long as you can muster the ability to lose yourself in a hypnotic beat for a few hours.

It's hard to determine exactly when the scene went south in Southern Oregon. Maybe it never did. Maybe it's just me. All I know is that euphoria, that excitement that went along with tracking down a good party, assembling the perfectly outrageous outfit, rounding up a group of like-minded partygoers and staying out 'til dawn in homemade pants has been harder to capture of late.

I went to a party called "They Made Me Do It" last Friday (yes, parties get names, which is just one of the many traits that differentiate them from concerts), and it was disappointing. The crowd was sparse and about a decade too young. At 24, it seems I'm in the upper range of the age at which it's still appropriate to attend such events. Kicking it with a room full of jailbait has never been my idea of a good time, and chain-smoking on the fenced-in lawn, trying to pick faces I knew out of the heavily painted crowd wasn't that appealing, either.

Maybe, as you get older, having deep, meaningful conversations with total strangers whose names you'll forget by morning and getting distracted by shiny objects loses its appeal. Or maybe people in the Rogue Valley moved on en masse.

As the venerated Hunter S. Thompson once described the end of the LSD-fueled hippie movement, maybe with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back. With the Ecstasy-fueled love fest that was the world of raves, maybe reality just hit and partygoers realized that their motto of peace, love, unity and respect can't apply to all situations, all the time.

Then again, maybe somewhere, deep, deep underground — so deep that a once-candied out party kid who's been tainted by reality can't even get to it — the beat goes on.