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Racine Journal Times (Racine, WI); Sunday March 19, 1995
Rave-ing Mad Or Just Plain Fun?
Underground 'techno music' parties dance on the wild side

by Catherine Ann Velasco
(Front Page, 7A)

They were trying to have a good time by dancing to the raw sound of the underground in a Yorkville warehouse. But a burning cigarette could have ended it all for the 2,000 young adults crowded into a rave party earlier this month.

Rave parties are a gathering of hundreds of party-goers who dance all night to a deejay's loud, pulsating music and laser show. Many sip on energy drinks filled with amino acids and proteins to keep up to the beat.

"It was really cool, but too many people were there and it got busted," said Erik Nash, 18, a senior at Park High School.

"The music was really, really good. It was really cramped and it was really hot," he said. "It wasn't too nice. There wasn't really that much room to dance. I still had fun."

It was a disaster waiting to ignite, said the Racine County Sheriff William McReynolds.

When he came upon the scene March 4 at 14000 Leetsbir Road, McReynolds couldn't believe his eyes.

A young people pack -
a recent rave party in Madison. Raves first exploded in popularity in Europe.

"It was body-to-body. It was person-to-person. It was wall-to-wall people. I've never seen anything like this. It was packed tight. They could barely move," he said. "I would not go in there. I was afraid if I'd go in there, I wouldn't get out."

All but one exit was blocked and the lights were shut off, including the exit lights, he said. Black plastic sheets covering the walls and insulating foam blanketing the floor were destined for trouble as hundreds of teens lit up cigarettes.

In the "ambiance room," youths crawled underneath a parachute-covered area that was like a tent. They sat or laid on the foam-covered floor and smoked while they watched weird videos, said Sarah, 17, a junior at Burlington High School.

"I didn't think that was really a bright thing to do," she said about the ambiance room.

"The whole place was a firetrap to me. I was not pleased. We left at 2 a.m.," she said. "It sucked. It was terrible. There were so many people I couldn't move. I paid $15 to get in and I stayed only for an hour or two. It's usually not that packed.

"You couldn't dance. There was absolutely no room. You had no personal space. It was totally dark. Normally, they have a light on. It was impossible to keep track of anybody," Sarah said. "being with that many people in such a small space made me tense. It made me mad."

McReynolds agreed it wasn't safe.

"I walked in the door and it was knee-deep in paper and garbage and people were smoking. If a fire had started, not even 100 people would have gotten out. We would have had the disaster team here," McReynolds said. "We are going to take every step we can to prevent another one from happening in Racine County.

"The county was holding a liability that would have been unbelievable. What they are doing is so incredibly-dangerous," he said.

After finding out no permits have been obtained by the rave promoters, McReynolds shut down the party slowly, taking about five hours to safely disperse the crowd of 2,000 people and about 700 cars.

Massive amounts of people are attracted to raves held at warehouses, barns, stables and abandoned buildings. They all have one mission in mind: To dance all night to a new-found beat not available in dance clubs.

Raves have a mysterious and underground edge as they are hosted by promoters who entice young people with psychedelic 3-D flyers, revealing the date, the deejays and a phone number - but no location.

Ravers have to dial the phone number the day of the rave to get the address of the map point. At the map point, you are given a map to the event if you are dressed in rave attire.

Then, ravers travel miles around the Milwaukee area to places like Yorkville and Oconomowoc in search of a party.

The Racine County Sheriff's Department found out about the March 4 rave party when they were alerted by the Milwaukee Police Department, which had closed down the map point because hundreds of kids were standing in line at a house for tickets and a map.

Many times, the owners of the buildings have no clue that a rave will take place. McReynolds said rave organizers will rent large buildings for $1,000 a day under the guise of conducting a sound and lighting exhibition.

The building at 14000 Leetsbir Road is owned by Community State Bank and leased to Environmental Innovations Inc, 6211 Durand Ave., who rented out the building not knowing the real purpose.

To prevent any more rave parties in the county, McReynolds sent all businessmen and large building owners along the Interstate 94 corridor a letter last week, explaining rave parties and telling them to be aware that people are attempting to use the buildings for illegal parties.

In many cases, the owner of the building --not the promoter-- many be held liable for ordinance violations and any civil liability that may arise should a serious incident occur.

The sheriff's department would like to charge promoters with recklessly endangering public safety, but it won't stick, said Lt. Charles Runnels of the Racine County Sheriff's Department.

Instead, the town of Yorkville sent Kurt Eckes, 28, the rave promoter of Drop Bass Network in Milwaukee, a $500 fine for holding a dance without a dance hall license.

"I would like to go after the promoter for the cost to shut it down. This guy walks away with $35,000 to $40,000. It cost us $1,200 to $1,300 or more in man-hours. I would like to get that back from the young man -- the taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for it," McReynolds said.

This it the second time in two years that the Sheriff knows of a rave party held at Leetsbir Road. The first time was in March 1994 and Drop Bass Network was also the promoter. But this time, Eckes got a temporary use permit for a sound and lighting exhibition from the Planning and Development Committee of the Racine County Board.

Runnels, who was a second-shift commander that night, said he sent some officers over to keep an eye on the party and to control the crowd.

Runnels said, "It went very well, but I don't think they had a lot of fun because they couldn't do what they wanted, so this year they didn't bother with a permit."


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