Today’s rave culture is one that virtually walks hand-in-hand with art in all forms. It possesses musicality and production in the form of the DJs who headline our stages. The artistic talent behind the scenes makes it so that stage production and lighting border on masterpiece-level quality (evidenced by mainstages at any number of EDM’s biggest festivals). But the creativity doesn’t stop with the people putting on the show. Dance music is a rare commodity that fosters that same level of imagination in its main customers, the crowds themselves.
Make your way into the masses at any festival, and you’ll see people who treat things like hula hoops, LED gloves, and spinning poi as more than a casual hobby.
“It’s an artform of beauty, flow, and love that is a major part of the community.” –Nick Tucker, Gloving Advocate
To those who spend their year practicing their craft in anticipation of “the big festival,” occasions like Paradiso become the highlight of the summer. Whole teams of glovers make their way through the crowd to test their mettle after weeks and months spent practicing in front of the mirror. For others still, it goes beyond simply learning an artform.
“My name is Baryn Hagood-Lund, I’m 22 years old, and I was diagnosed with Aspergers when I was 7. My whole life up to this point has been a struggle to learn to be social and find acceptance and validation, as well as new ways to express myself. (With gloving), I found a way to dance, a way to entertain, a way to make people happy, to connect with people, something I could never do.” –Baryn Hagood-Lund, Gloving Advocate
The rave culture we exist in walks a thin line. On one end, there’s the stigma surrounding what many would call rampant drug use, with controversy fueled only further by frequent reports of deaths and hospitalizations tailing almost every major festival. On the other, we see a community that values acceptance over all else. The simple tragedy of this dichotomy is a less-than-favorable public perception that leaves the hands of those in charge of putting on our favorite events firmly tied behind their backs in terms of what they can (and can’t) allow through their doors.
Recently, our own Foundation Nightclub released a controversial ban on all LED products (read: gloves), citing their goal of adhering to the standards of a “world class venue.” When an outsider sees a wide-eyed patron staring into the flowing fingers of a seasoned glover, what they perceive is far different than what the standard raver does. The sad truth is that gloving has become demonized by a greater public opinion that doesn’t think in nuance or grey area; to put it simply, gloving has been pigeon-holed into a drug-adjacent artform. As a result, venues like Foundation are forced to shut their doors to it completely, lest they carry the stigma of promoting drug-use, however passively (or imagined) it may be.
Awhile back, the event page for USC Events’ marquee event of year caught fire. Paradiso, kicking off at the Gorge Amphitheater through Live Nation, suddenly had a few new restrictions on what was allowed inside the gates. Among the more controversial additions to the list of newly banned items were sunscreen and LED gloves. Just a day later USC lifted the ban on sunscreen, but alas gloves remained an unwelcome commodity inside the Gorge.
“For some, gloving is an art form, used for expression when dancing, we understand this. But perception is perception, especially for those that don’t understand this culture. Sometimes decisions have to be made, while unpopular, that will allow us to keep moving forward and growing this once underground culture into a place of acceptance.” –USC Events.
It’s easy for us to paint a target on the people making the rules, but the problem runs far deeper than that. We exist within a culture that’s not viewed favorably by the outside world, plain and simple. Where we see love and acceptance, the casual observer only takes in what they’re being told to see. Our own mainstream media outlets paint vivid pictures of lives lost through carelessness, drug use, and by the transitive property the mere existence of raves and festivals. That ignorance in turn breeds unfavorable stereotypes that become synonymous with the greater rave culture, leading to the drug-related perception of artforms like gloving.
To live in a world where gloving (and its related forms of performance art) aren’t welcome inside our favorite events would be nothing short of tragic for a community that sees it as far more than something nice to look at while on drugs. Even so, we have the power to prevent this future from ever occurring. We can scream into the heavens about injustice all we want, but in the end anger and indignation will only serve to widen the gap between us and the public that already sees the greater rave culture as immature. That leaves us with the not-so-simple task of beginning to bridge that gap.
We as a community possess a power to enact change in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Woodstock generation. To do that though, we need to educate rather than ostracize. We need to open our doors to those who view EDM as a drugged-out minority, and in turn show people that gloving is an artform that exists independently of drug use.
[pullquote align=”right”]”Our only reward is the joy and excitement people get while watching our shows.” –Nick Tucker[/pullquote]
Let your voices be heard in event pages, petitions, and forums, but let those voices propose solutions rather than conflict. We dream of a day where Paradiso will be able to open its gates to glovers once again, but to get there we need to be proactive, even-minded, and informative, rather than vitriolic and spiteful.Gloving is an art that gives far more than it receives, and its talented population wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s messages like Nick and Baryn’s that the rest of the world needs to hear. The best way to counteract what people think they’re seeing is to lend some all too necessary context. With that love and acceptance ravers value first and foremost, it’s important now more than ever that we demonstrate firsthand why artforms like gloving only serve to spread this. Now it’s up to us to start the conversation.
Dance Music NW will notify you when there is breaking news in the Pacific Northwest nightlife industry.