by: Aileen Amaya and Adi Dahiya
Free water at the rave is an ongoing project to advocate for accessible hydration in dance music communities across North America and the world.
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The following essay appeared in the Rave Cafe Zine 002, May 2023.
6am, Sunday morning of Movement festival: we’re leaving one club, en route to the next. It’s been a sweaty night. Ready for more dancing.
Push. Dance. Sweat. Hydrate. Bump. Eyes closed. Hands up. Repeat…
Our thoughts turn to powerful free-flowing water the mellifluous bass vibrating the water molecules in our bodies everything consumed synced in frequency.
Amidst this inexorable marathon weekend, we realized that some basic elements of self-care were neglected while we were locked in a groove of Detroit techno. Lack of sleep, expensive bottled water, thoughts consumed in a psychedelic vortex. Empty Nalgene bottles hung lightly from their carabiners. In this moment, our collective necessities became clear.
Water should be free and accessible for every raver.
We all know that it’s healthy to be well-hydrated, especially while partying, but sometimes there are physical, mental, financial, or political obstacles in our efforts to maintain this state. It's important to question & dismantle those obstacles, or at least find creative solutions to make free water accessible. If we don't, ravers will continue to suffer the effects of dehydration caused by hours of dancing, heat, and recreational drugs: headaches, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, irritability, cramps, vomiting, nausea, and other ailments.
A better world is possible when we prioritize communal care.
Across the many different dance music communities around the world, we find inconsistent access to free water. Promoters or venues often insist on profiting on hydration, or they fall back to laziness in situations where clean water access requires a bit of problem-solving. Their excuses are always weak; everyone who throws a party has the capital and capacity to offer free water if they so choose.
Tips for taking accountability:
As a party-goer, look out for the symptoms of dehydration:
Our years of raving have eventually led us to activism for the cause of free water, inspiring us to share this message through conversation and art. At a recent festival in upstate New York, we created an art piece called The Water Shrine. This site-specific piece transformed a seemingly ordinary gazebo on the festival grounds into a place that elevates and celebrates hydration.
The nighttime installation invited people who were taking a break from the party to sit down, refill their water bottles, and reflect or meditate under the soothing glow of slowly-shifting light beams. The lights were faintly visible from afar, but mostly as indirect light falling on the water fountain in the center of the gazebo. Curious observers walked closer to identify the light source in the ceiling of the gazebo and stopped to appreciate its shifting patterns. Once they stepped inside and reached the fountain, they become a part of the installation, bathed in light for others to notice — and perhaps to be inspired towards hydration themselves.
We’re not the first to argue for free water, but it’s important to keep beating this drum and spreading the message. If you’re an artist, consider joining our cause by creating work that centers hydration. Even in a world with rising temperatures and looming water shortages, venues & promoters must strive to uphold this principle, and party-goers should only support those events which prioritize communal care.
Feel free to reach out with questions, comments or concerns via email.