Drive In Raves- Are They Worth It?
Short answer- yes.
Long answer- yes, if you do it right.
To be completely honest, I kind of forgot that I had this blog over the past year. When I posted my 2.5 year BA update yesterday, I spent an hour reading through my old posts and... :( God damn, I miss festivals. Luckily, a 'substitution' for festivals started popping up in the states this past summer- drive in raves. I have attended 3 drive ins since June, and one of the things I see people asking all over social media is "Are they even worth it?" or, "I don't see the point, they can't replace real raves".
Yes, they are worth it. No, they obviously cannot replace a 'real' rave or festival. But if there's one thing I've learned in 2020 it's the importance of immersing yourself in anything that resembles what you love- whether that is drive ins, virtual festivals, or re-watching live streams. Because otherwise, if you are anything like me, you just sit at home depressed, dreaming about being back at a fest.
My first experience with a drive in event was one of the very first ones that happened in the states- EDM Drive In, which happened at the end of June. The organizer of the event reached out to me on Instagram a few weeks prior and invited me to attend, and told me I could invite a few friends to attend with. I was a little nervous honestly. I had never gone to a 'festival' by myself, I was meeting up with people that I had met on Instagram but never in real life, and I just didn't know what to expect for the weekend.
I was never one of the people looking down on or questioning drive in events. As soon as I heard about them happening in Europe, I started hoping they would happen here. I have been absolutely desperate for anything even sort of resembling a rave since the year started, even if that meant attending what seemed like an outdoor drive-in movie but with a stage and music instead. Even though I was a little nervous, I was mostly excited.
I flew out to San Antonio, Texas a few days before the event and got to meet the EDM Drive In team. They were all so nice, friendly and welcoming. I went to the venue the day before and got to see them setting up the stage. I talked to some of the stage and lighting crew. I helped decorate the golf carts by blowing up balloons to stick on. I got more excited by the hour and despite being super hungover from drinking the night before, I was READY TO RAVE.
My 'instagram friend' that I invited to attend, Mandi, arrived that night. And LOL, I have no idea why I was so nervous to meet her, we clicked immediately. Within a few hours, it felt like we had been best friends forever. In the morning, we wandered around on the river walk, got lost trying to find somewhere to eat, and got caught in the rain (while I was still wearing my pajamas, lol). Getting ready was a blast, it felt like every other 'getting ready' time I have had at a festival. Glitter, makeup, sequins, hair extensions and clothes EVERYWHERE. My favorite little memory from this afternoon was when Mandi asked if we could put on Tiesto's Ultra Miami set on YouTube. I was like omg FINALLY SOMEONE WHO LOVES TIESTO AND ULTRA AS MUCH AS I DO. A few hours later, we were finally ready. We had some drinks, took some pictures, called an Uber and set off for the venue.
When we got to the venue (a few hours before the event was suppose to start), we got picked up on a golf cart and went to the green room. We met the performers, took a ton of pictures, and talked to all the different team members (thanking them for their work in putting together this event). We helped the media team get content to post on social media and had a blast running around and talking to everyone (with masks on, obviously).
We headed over to our car shortly after the first artist started playing. For this specific event, EDM Drive In brought in brand new Jeeps to make up the first two rows of vehicles, as their designated VIP area. We spent the first few hours having drinks, eating snacks, getting content, and DANCING. We had backstage access passes so every once in the while we wandered back there to say hi to the event team and organizers. It was honestly SO MUCH FUN. I ran into some friends I had met at Ultra 2019 and saw again at a club before EDC 2019. We got content for iHeartRaves of girls wearing the brand and met so many awesome people (again, all wearing masks). We danced the night away and for the first time in MONTHS, I felt like myself again. Yes, it was very different than a normal rave, people were spread out, wearing masks, and generally being much more safe. But, there were lights. There was a stage. There was music. There were FIREWORKS. This was easily the funnest weekend I had up to this point all year.
Going to be straight up with you, we got spoiled at this event. I have never had backstage access at a rave until this event, so this was super special. Getting to go into the green room on a golf cart made us feel like *princesses*. I am also a SUPER friendly person so within a few hours, I had met nearly everyone that had organized the event, and not gonna lie, it was really cool to be able to have conversations with everyone that put together the event and be on a first-name basis by the end of the night. It made me feel like I was part of the team, and yeah, I felt very 'VIP' all weekend. I am super grateful for this experience and for EDM Drive In for inviting me to attend.
Don't freak out over the fact that we aren't wearing masks, these pictures were taken before the event had started and within minutes after it had, the nearest person was over six feet away taking our picture, and we put the masks back on as soon as we were done taking the pic. (The event rules also said you could remove your mask when you were at your car)
Okay, I know what you are thinking. This article is bullshit because of course getting to go VIP to an event and go backstage and be in the front is fun. What about for people who don't experience that? Allow me to introduce my second drive in event- Roll In Rave in SLC, Utah (September 2020).
This was another event that I got to attend as part of the 'promo team' with a group of girls. We promoted the event on our socials for the weeks leading up to the event and in exchange, got two comped car passes. This was my first ever all-bass show! I enjoy bass music, I will usually stop at BassPod at EDC for a bit throughout the weekend and always love when an artist throws down some bass at mainstage at fests (where I spend most of my time). That being said, I was (and still am) a little unfamiliar with bass artists and didn't recognize a lot of the names on the lineup at first, but I was excited nonetheless.
This event was so much fun! I knew what to expect a little more since I had been to EDM Drive In, and this event was a blast. I spent quite a bit of the first night hanging out with my Utah friends who were a few rows back, and rest assured- these events are just as much fun if you are in the middle of the crowd as in the front! I met a lot of awesome people in the cars next to us and people were very careful with social distancing and keeping masks on at all times. My favorite thing about this event was since it was in my home state, a ton of my friends were there. So not only did I get to meet and hang out with all of my 'instagram friends', but I got to hang out with my regular friend group which was so awesome. It was like the best of both worlds, and I loved getting to introduce my friends to my instagram friends. (I want to point out that my friends' car wasn't full, which is why I was able to hang out with them on and off throughout the night. We still followed the event rules and had less people in their area than the maximum allowed at the event, and we all kept our masks on).
I honestly loved the music, I never thought I could do an entire weekend of just bass but it was a BLAST. I head-banged till my neck was sore and honestly didn't even miss having slower songs I could sway and sing along to. This event was mid-September in Utah, so it was super hot during the day and FREEZING at night. Utah is a desert, so 90s in the day and 40s-50s at night is really typical weather in September. This is one of my favorite things about drive in events, you can bring in stuff that you normally can't bring or want to carry around at normal fests. We all brought hoodies, leggings, blankets, snacks, etc. Being able to change into warm clothes and out of my platform shoes was so nice, and having a ton of snacks was also great. My Utah friends even brought a table and cooler, and had a whole beer pong and snack station set up (a common thing that I saw a LOT of people doing at this event). I saw a ton of people who went all-out with bringing stuff- camping chairs, inflatable mattresses, LED lights on their cars, pillows, etc. Another thing that I love about drive ins is having a place to sit and chill when you need a break, something that you have to wander out of the crowd and to a chill-out area to do when you are at a big festival.
Like I said at the beginning, drive in raves are worth it, especially if you do it right. By that I mean going with an awesome group of friends (because with the right people, literally anything is fun), bringing in things to make the experience even better (chairs, snacks, warmer clothes if needed, coolers, etc), and if you go in with the right mindset. Like ANYTHING in this world, if you go into it with a good attitude and are open to a new experience and making the most of it, you will have a blast. Although they are very different than normal raves, they will satisfy that 'itch' we all have been having to attend an event. And if anything, these events make 2020 suck less and give us something to take our minds off the shitty things going on in the world right now. They allow us to dance the night away to EDM, admire the stage/lights/production, and give us that feeling that everything is going to be okay- if only for a few hours.
Please review the event's rules prior to attending so you know what to expect and so you can do your part to keep the event safe for everybody involved. All of these events are social distanced in some way, whether that is a pod set up or a drive in set up. They all require masks to be worn. Bring hand sanitizer and use it frequently. Wear your mask as much as possible, stay distanced from people that you did not arrive with (I want to note that although I did mention meeting new people at these events, we all wore our masks and stayed six feet apart throughout our entire interaction). I also recommend quarantining as much as you can in the days leading up to an event and even getting a Covid test before hand just to be extra safe. Please don't drink or take substances and drive.
One last thing... (the critisism)
I really hate that I have to address this but I feel like I need to, and that is the criticism that some people choose to engage in on social media over these events, people who attend them, the companies and the artists that are involved. Here's the thing, everybody knows we are in a pandemic. I know a lot of people have gotten sick, a lot of people have died, and that truly breaks my heart and I want to express my condolences to anybody that has lost a loved one due to Covid.
On one hand, I can understand the negativity that people have towards drive in events. If you don't take the time to read the safety precautions the event and attendees take to make the event as safe as possible, they *seem* irresponsible at first glance. Every event I have seen have gone above and beyond to ensure the safety of their attendees. From temperature checks upon entry, required masks, sanitizing stations, social distanced areas, and security making sure everybody is following the rules... these events are really safe. I haven't heard of ANY drive in or pod events causing anyone that attends to test positive in the days after the event. Not saying it hasn't happened, but I haven't heard of anything or anyone who tested positive after attending.
It is also up to YOU to choose the extent of how safe you are going to be. This includes quarantining prior to the event and getting a negative Covid test prior to attending, making sure you wear your mask the whole time, wash your hands, and stay six feet away from people. After attending, it is probably a good idea to quarantine as much as possible for a few days and get another Covid test to help ensure you don't go grocery shopping or see a friend while potentially being positive.
Another thing that I think of is that if you attend these events as safely as you possibly can, you are also helping stimulate the economy and probably helping out someone that has been struggling this past year. The Uber I took from the hotel to the venue might have helped a father put food on his family's table that night. The flight I bought helped ensure the pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, and even customer service of the airline got paid. The food that I ordered on door dash might have helped a struggling single mom feed and clothe her kids. I have been extremely lucky in that I didn't lose my job, so I have been tipping even more than usual on things like uber, door dash, lyft, and other resources I use while at these events (and even when I'm at home!), and you never know if something like that might make a difference to someone.
Finally, I want to bring up a sensitive subject- mental health. I know everyone's mental health has been a struggle this year, whether or not they attend festivals. This year has absolutely sucked for the most part. Personally, I was really struggling between March (when Ultra got cancelled and all the events followed) and June. There were days when I really didn't think I could take it any more, and things got DARK. That first EDM Drive In truly was a turning point for me, it was the first weekend all year that I felt ALIVE and like everything was going to be okay. To have that experience after months of such a dark time was, to be perfectly honest, life-saving for me. Going to Roll N Rave and back to EDM Drive In for Halloween also helped me immensely. They gave me something to finally look forward to, which is a feeling that I had been missing for the first half of the year.
If I can be serious and vulnerable with you, I really don't know if I would be here today if it wasn't for having these events over the past few months. They brought life, excitement, and happiness back into me, in a time where I wasn't sure if I even wanted this life anymore. They reminded me that even when it seems like the whole world is falling apart and there will never be any good or happiness again (sort of like if the dementors swooped down and just all started sucking the happiness out of everyone at the same time, ya know?), that there are things out there that make you forget about all the bad and that are worth sticking it out for. And that everything might actually be okay, eventually.
I needed these drive in events for my mental health this year, and I don't for a second regret attending a single one of them, even when I got criticism on social media for attending. Because here's the thing, nobody knows what anybody else is going through. Sure, it's easy to look at my photos of attending a- GASP- drive in rave DURING A PANDEMIC and assume I am selfish, only care about myself, and "can't even go a few months without partying". (I wonder if these people would still say those things if they knew where my head was at in the months before attending a drive in.....) Of course, none of those are true, and you would know that if you knew me. I know who I am. I know that I attended safe events and took extra precautions myself to be as safe and courteous towards others before and after (such as quarantining and covid tests). And I know that having the opportunity to attend these events truly saved me this year, and for that I will be forever grateful.