Glow sticks, light sabers and Chuck E. Cheese

Back in the day, I went to my fair share of so-called “raves,” which are large events that feature repetitive, electronic thumping, lots of flashing lights and the peddling of tons of strange and dangerous drugs.

You were never supposed to call it a rave, though. The proper term was “party” because raves were illegal, and probably rightly so. The last rave I went to ended when a boy died from inhaling balloons full of nitrous oxide. That wasn’t why I stopped going, though.

Raves seemed most popular amongst the straight edge kids I knew, especially the Mormons. And that contradiction alone was way too weird for me.

Skip forward 10 years. Four days ago, I was invited on Facebook to a “flash rave.” The idea was to show up, set up some music, rave for about ten minutes and then disperse as if nothing happened. Sort of like an Improv Everywhere type of thing.

From the Facebook invite:

Here’s the PLAN:

At exactly 11:00 pm, when the Old Main clock chimes, everyone needs to rush into the Union Connections Lounge (the hallway-esque area in between the Union entrance room and the Ballroom/Food Court) and dance. DJ Joelle has volunteered to provide some sweet jams for us, which will be great because it’s a small and easily filled room with ample electric outlets lining the walls for equipment.

So, friends, it’s ON! Be waiting in various parts of the Union or outside until the magic hour, and then GET YOUR DANCE ON!

The event lasts only for 5-10 minutes (hence the name, FLASH rave). I ask that everyone be on their best behavior and have respect for everyone and everything involved. We’re making University of Arkansas history, here, so we need to be classy about it!

Feel free to bring glo-sticks :-)

When I saw this, I immediately thought Epic Fail. I mean, how effective could an internet invite be? Even though there were already over 1,000 confirmed attendees, I’ve been to plenty of events advertised on Facebook where 100 people were supposed to show up and only one or two actually do. Also, I know it is not easy to get approval for an event in the Arkansas Union and this would never fly. Best case scenario, I thought: a few dozen people standing around looking at each other wondering what was supposed to be happening. Worse case scenario: Two or three UAPD officers standing around making sure no one had any fun. Either way, I knew I had to go and see what was going to happen.

DJ Jöelle (Photo: Chase Smith)

I arrived ten minutes early. The Connections Lounge is essentially a bridge over what is technically Garland Avenue, which passes underneath the Union. It “connects” the old union to the new union section where RZ’s Coffeehouse, the Union Computer Lab and a few offices are now located. DJ Jöelle had just been on KXUA’s Wheels of Steel, the live DJ program, and was setting up a small DJ set in the corner of the lounge. There was an unusual amount of people milling around, but I’m pretty sure if you didn’t know what was going on you wouldn’t have even noticed.

About five minutes later, there were easily 300 people in the new section of the Union. The atmosphere was changing to one of anticipation. Confused students were starting to notice that their study tables were now surrounded and that there was standing room only in the Union.

Usually when you get this many people together at the University of Arkansas, a hog call will inevitably begin. And it did. Of course, following that was the singing of Happy Birthday for the 20 or so people who were statistically having a birthday that day.

After that was over, and before someone could start singing Old Lang Syne, this mass of people finally moved into the Connections Lounge. I managed to duck out before being swept away with them.

The electronic thumping began and dancing commenced.

At first, it seemed like just a mass of unfocused youthful jubilation. There were maybe 500 people at this point, although it was becoming really hard to get a good count. There were costumed individuals dressed as everything from typical ravers to giraffes. Toilet paper flew through the crowd, as did glow sticks and even a wad of money at one point.

This continued for about five minutes, with at least two breaks for more hog calling.

Table surfing (Photo: Chase Smith)

Then there was the crowd surfing which included both people and a table. Then some guy stood on the table and “surfed” the table which was surfing the crowd. Eventually he fell which drew a collective gasp from the mass of onlookers beneath.

At one point, I saw none other than Chuck E. Cheese being surfed about while giving the hang loose sign. That was probably the highlight for me.

Then, somehow, someone cut the lights and the room went dark. Neon green lights danced across the ceiling, glow sticks and light sabers waved above outstretched hands and the music thumped on (although not as loud as the crowd size would dictate). I don’t think DJ Joelle or anyone involved with this was expecting such a turnout. The crowd roared, and you could feel the waves of heat coming out of the room. Steam rushed in when someone would opened the door to the outside. It was an Honest to God rave, as much as any I have ever been to. I was surprised that it had actually happened. And I quite amused at the fact that I had yet to see anyone from UAPD.

After about ten minutes, and in a stunning display of support for literacy, the crowd started chanting “LI-BRAR-RY! LI-BRAR-RY! LI-BRAR-RY!” but then continued dancing. A fellow, whom I can only assume was the floor manager on duty in the Union, ran past me, opened a door, and flipped a few switches bringing the lights back up. He slammed the door and marched into the crowd forcing them to put down the table. I stayed for about five minutes longer. I’m not sure if the people providing the music got out before anyone said anything to them.

The crowd dispersed, many of them probably headed to the “LI-BRAR-RY!” to study. By the time I got home, there were already 50 or so pictures documenting the event uploaded to Facebook, including some really great screen caps from the Union web cam.

I think the 15-minute event was all one could have hoped for. The student newspaper, The Traveler, is referring to it as the “First Annual Flash Rave”. Will there ever be another? I guess only time will tell.

Stuart Feild is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Originally from Little Rock, he moved to Fayetteville in 2002. He recently scraped through the UofA with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History. While a student, he was station manager of KXUA and still has a regular show. Currently, he makes music and fills printers with paper for a living. For more of Stuart’s contributions, visit his author page.

NOTE: Flyer staff mistakenly assumed the photos accompanying this post were taken by the contributor and thus published them with no credit. The photos were actually taken by Chase Smith, who has agreed to allow them to stay with an added credit. Thanks, Chase. We also noted this in an Oops post.