Saturday night in the middle of the pandemic. As you move through people’s Instagram stories, you might see what they wish the police doesn’t ever get to see. Pool parties. Beach parties. Forest parties. Abandoned factory parties. And they all look like it’s banging and everyone’s off their heads. Groups from a few dozen to sometimes 6,000 people gathered to dance as if there’s no tomorrow. The EDM is so loud you can’t distinguish the conversation in most of them, but in a rare few stories you could hear a rhythmical repetition of the name of the oppressor: “CO-VID! CO-VID!”

What we’re seeing across Europe is a revival of the rave. No festivals happening this summer, no clear ending in sight for restrictions and the longing for social connections, all contributed to the resurgence and the appeal of the illegal parties. Young people got bored of behaving well. They are looking for ways to release the steam of the accumulated stress and anxiety – some mediate, some get into extreme sports, some party illegally.

These parties are organized on social media. Instagram pages, Snapchat accounts (yes, Snapchat still exists apparently), and WhatsApp groups are created by the organizers – some professional, some as inexperienced as you and me. They don’t need much promotion, WoM travels quickly and small gatherings can quickly become huge raves.

Reporters from the Guardian and Vice managed to talk to a few ravers, although this is notoriously difficult as exposing the culture and the inner works of these things can get the respondents expelled from future events. Not only the ravers don’t have any hard feelings about potentially spreading the virus (or participating in an illegal activity for that matter), but they actually seem more hyped given the context. Nihilism and the postapocalyptic vibe make the experience even more special and full of adrenaline. Getting so close to the edge gives you a newfound appreciation of the familiar. Nothing gets taken from granted, and you see the world through fresh eyes. Again – some people choose meditation to get there, others choose drugs.

There’s no need to get into how dangerous this behavior is, especially during a health crisis. But there are a couple of things brands can learn from raves and ravers.

1) Anyone aged 18-30 is craving a festival or a party, or at the very least some social context. 44% of young people feel lonely most of the time now, compared to 24% before the pandemic. Can brands provide a SAFE and LEGAL environment for them to socialize? Can brands provide an AUTHENTIC way for them to party, something that feels real? It may be a screen-free or a technologically-enhanced experience, but it should mark the dots that make raves so appealing: shared-experience (socially-distanced-shared-experience), allowing to forget of the reality of the summer ’20 (aka escapism), music as a connector, room for improvisation (little supervision).

 

2) Raves are quintessentially non-branded. If brands get to the party, it’s because people chose to bring them in their bag. On the other end of the spectrum, ‘official’ parties are the brands’ paradise. This is another reason the raves feel so good – people feel ‘free’ from the commercial side that permeates their normal daily lives. When brands are not in their sight, it is easier to connect to the moment, to the fellow ravers, to the music, and no logo or hostess interrupts their flow. For when this is all over, maybe it’s worth reconsidering what role brands play in entertainment – from intrusive omnipresent reminders of a capitalist society to “what people choose to bring with them” mindset.