POP CULTURE: A Tale of Two Rave Scenes

Utah ravers under fire, Vegas scene barely holds on

Pj Perez

"I was greeted by a man in full army attire, gas mask and all. He said to leave. I said, 'What's going on?' At which point I was brutally attacked, thrown to the ground, and in the scuffle, punched in the face by SWAT ... Another SWAT member rushed over to subdue me to the ground, putting his knee in my back and arresting me. At that point, I am screaming to a patron, 'What's going on?' Another SWAT member came over and kicked me in the leg. I only weigh 130 pounds. I had three grown men attack and beat me and throw me to ground for absolutely no reason at all."

—Statement posted by Alisha, Versus II attendee, at www.utrave.org.

In central Utah's desert outside of Salt Lake City, nearly 300 young men and women were enjoying perhaps one of their last free nights before school starts at Versus II, a rave on private property on August 20. Then a police helicopter appeared, circling the area and scanning the crowd with a spotlight. A voice over a loudspeaker told attendees the party was over and to leave immediately.

From all edges of the event, heavily armed officers from various law enforcement agencies (including Utah County Metro SWAT, Utah Department of Corrections, Utah Department of Public Safety and Provo SWAT), garbed in military fatigues, stormed into the party, ordering DJs away from turntables and shutting down the equipment. Citing a lack of proper permits (something the organizer denies) and drug use and possession, police began making arrests and forcing the crowd off property. Those capturing the raid with videocameras or camera phones claim their devices were taken. Attendees also claim tear gas was used. Police deny both charges. A number of attendees were forced to the ground, some say for as little provocation as asking what was happening, many by three to four officers apiece.

Ever wonder what a dying rave scene looks like? Those at Versus II found out.

Las Vegas' rave scene—once fruitful and promising—has also all but died, though there is not a defining event as pronounced as the Utah raid.

Flipping through a dusty file folder dated September, 1996, I find many of the colorful and varied fliers used to promote Vegas raves and underground clubs in Vegas. Time II, September 10, 1999. Ancient Love, March 31, 1995. Abduction, August 24, 1996. These are a tiny sampling of dozens of one-off raves and regular events held in and around the Vegas Valley back in the day.

As a teenager in Sin City today, there are zero places for rave and dance sounds. Nightclubs are restricted to ages 21 and over, and weekly events from rave promoters are held in bars.

A decade ago, things were different. Clubs like GenX and XTC tried to serve the all-ages or 18-and-over sets, but they met early demises, usually because of licensing problems or going broke. Most raves were all-ages, save for a few 18-and-over events in secure locations.

And then the 20th century ended. The parties became less frequent. As more clubs opened and electronic music gained mainstream prominence, DJs found themselves with solid gigs and the original rave kids found themselves older, no longer shut out of those fancy ultralounges and decadent dance dens on the Strip. Promotion crews disappeared, either worn down from constant tangles with police or strapped with debts from increasingly poor attendance at events.

Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Gilbert told the Salt Lake City Weekly that his officers "were there to disband an illegal gathering where distribution of narcotics was going on." He also denies any beatings took place. To see the footage and make up your own mind, go to

Vegas, as quiet as it has become, at least has a history of successful, large-scale events going off without a legal hitch, meaning that the few promoters hanging on have hope of resuscitating the scene. But I have to wonder if any promoter in Utah—and any potential party-goer—will risk another turn of events such as the raid on Versus II.

Pj Perez attended raves years before cops could lazily search the Internet for their next raid. Read more random commentary and media-scouring at

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