In our EDM community as it exists today, nothing could be more PLURR than throwing all your hard earned paycheck on thousands of little plastic beads that you give selflessly to complete strangers. Yes, baby ravers who still might not fully understand the scope of this unique aspect of the rave world, I’m referring to those multi-colored “bracelets” that any seasoned raver would politely correct you about when you ask them if you can have one — I’m talking about kandi.
If you’re new here, kandi (don’t even think about spelling it, ‘candy’) are bracelets made with plastic or specialty beads that you trade with people in a show of friendship at festivals, and really any EDM-themed gathering primarily in North America.
These creations typically contain meaningful lyrics, funny sayings, or heartfelt trinkets that ultimately are a little piece of the person trading it to you given without even necessarily expecting anything in return. Kandi ranges in all kinds of shapes and sizes and can even extend into the excessive world of perlers.
The origin myth that kandi emerged as a drug-dealing signal often gets commonly thrown around, but seems to have only hypothetical basis in fact or history. Shana Steiner, an old-school raver from the early ’90s, offers what seems like a more plausible origin: Friendship bracelets.
“They were more out of clay beads and wooden beads then, more hippie-like,” she says of the earliest bracelets traded at raves. “The original ‘kandi’ was just us hippies giving out friendship bracelets.”
The friendship-bracelet theory would be in keeping with the rave scene’s traditional and ongoing interest in childhood cartoons, memories and activities, as well as recognizing the Deadhead scene’s overlap with early rave culture.
What is the underlying point of collecting these pieces? Apart from their obvious high-end rave fashion value, kandi is one of the best ways to create a tangible, expressive memory with other humans that you connect with throughout your own musical journey. Photos and videos only go so far as capturing the essence of raving, but kandi is an incredibly scene specific way to reminisce on the memories and friends you made at different events.
Ultimately, in our minds, that’s how it’s supposed to be. But as EDM continues to grow and encompass a larger audience overall, it has become apparent that newbies to the scene don’t always grasp the concept of proper kandi etiquette. The real meaning of kandi has somehow become lost and thrown to the side just so people can make a rave-themed instagram post of accessorize their media-influenced outfit. So, in the interest of maintaining raver integrity, let’s acknowledge the changes that have happened and drop some much-needed truths about our scene today.
Let’s start with the basics for anyone new to the world of kandi, and move from there. First, the “secret handshake,” so to speak:
- Two people make peace signs touching the end of the peace sign to each other’s fingers (Peace)
- They form their hands into two halves of a heart (Love)
- They join their hearts or on here in the PNW they lock their fingers together (Unity)
- They slide their bracelets from hand to hand (Respect)
- End with a giant hug to celebrate your trade being complete and the new friend you gained!
Next, please don’t just run up to random ravers holding your peace sign up and expect magical piece of Kandi in return. Part of the magic of this unique interaction is knowing where the kandi came from and having a precious memory associated with the person you traded with.
It becomes difficult to remember anything magical or want to give out a piece you worked really hard on if you interacted for 30 seconds before disappearing into the crowd. This doesn’t result in the essence of what this culture is all about, namely respect, so remember to actually connect with one another so that your pieces will always have value and purpose.
Also, it is very important to realize that there are many kandi kids out there who absolutely love pouring their heart, soul, time, and money into making top-notch Kandi. So don’t beat yourself up if you get something amazingly stunning, but don’t have anything to trade them back. This is an act of pure love and for a myriad of reasons, they have decided they like you! Some of the most selfless and memorable trades happen when you give freely without expecting anything in return, so accept the magnificent gift and smile (or cry if you are truly moved and want your inner sad boi to come out to play).
On that same note, don’t get overly angry with people if they choose not to trade with you. As stated repeatedly above, other humans have significant memories attached to these circles of plastic, so being overly sentimental and wanting to not give away pieces although it might seem like they are covered in it, is ultimately their choice.
One of the biggest and most irritating scenarios in our scene today is probably one of the most frequent that can really affect the PLURR feelings when it comes to trading. It’s something not even the hardcore kandi kids are immune too.
You know the scenario: You’ve just had a seriously amazing conversation with someone and you decide that you would love to trade with them. You give them one of your favorite bracelets hoping to receive something equally as stunning in return. You wait patiently in anticipation and excitement as they place a new kandi around your wrist. Finally once you take a look down at your new treasure, you can’t help but feel an overwhelmingly sense of disappointment. A rainbow colored piece with the word “Plur” in the middle.
Now, maybe this attitude is elitist if you can create beautiful and unique trades and maybe, it’s too much to expect from a complete stranger. But why on earth are ravers making such basic pieces anymore especially with the level that our scene has evolved today? I just gave you a bracelet with a unique Game of Thrones-themed piecem and this is what you want to pass on in return?! At that point, it’s difficult to not feel downhearted and immediately mentally note that the next person asking to trade is getting your crappy kandi in return, because the pretty, glittery artist themed pieces are not going to be given away with caution rather than exuberance.
So let’s just sum this up in the best way possible: If you put zero creative effort into your kandi, just be upfront and honest so that everyone’s expectations are set. These seemingly useless pieces of jewelry honestly mean the world to people, so as a rave community let’s give credit when credit is due and recognize the passion that goes into creating every little piece.
The “PLUR handshake” is truly the only way to trade, so make sure you approach each human with kindness and respect the ritual. And keep in mind that some fellow ravers are just genuinely kind and want to give you cand — I mean kandi. (Don’t accept candy from strangers). Others might be neglecting a trade because your kandi doesn’t really measure up to what they are want to receive. So take what you have gained from this exploration into this one of a kind part of festival culture, go out into the crowd, and create some memories that will last a lifetime!
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