A-Z Of EDM Part Two

It's EDM week and here's part two of our guide to the vocabulary of American rave culture.

Welcome to part two of our crash course in the essential elements of the EDM vocabulary

Catch up on A - M right here

N - Neon

If it's a tangible thing, and you're taking/wearing it to a rave in America, it better be neon or you're going to stand out like a narc at a gabber night.

O - Overdoing It A Bit

You know those people you meet in first year halls, who never drank before they came to uni? The ones who never sneaked out of sixth form to go Spoons, or went to WKD and Frosty Jacks fuelled house parties? They were hands down the biggest wreck heads at freshers. It was like as soon as they set foot on a uni campus they felt they had to cram years of DL underage drinking into a month of non-stop partying. 

Well that's kind of what America is like with dance music. Fair dos they invented the whole thing, but it seems that at some point around 2010 they realised just how much fun Europe had been having at raves for the past 20 years and decided they needed to play catch-up big time. It seems they've been hell-bent on smashing two decades of partying into the last couple of years. With at times, frankly horrifying results.


Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. The EDM slogan and - supposedly - the foundation on which the American rave scene is built.

Q – Quite A Lot Of Flesh On Show

Maybe we're prudes, maybe it's the climate, but one of the standout differences between UK and US raves is that the former is full of people shuffling around in North Face Jackets and Air Max 90s and the later is full of people wearing stickers and body paint as clothing.

R - Raves

American raves are a far cry from the dingy warehouses and mucky fields of their UK cousins. Most large events come replete with the kind of spectacle and branding opportunities you expect from a large scale theme park. In fact they're pretty much just like Disney on Ice but instead of Mowgli and Simba they have Skrillex and Diplo, and instead of it being 'on ice', they're all on Molly.

S - Steve Aoki

If the EDM scene is a kingdom, surely Steve is their cake throwing, jet setting, crowd surfing king.

T - Totems

Totems are basically flags on sticks that groups of ravers use so they can always find their friends in a crowd. As with everything in the EDM scene, these have quickly evolved into a thing that people will spend inordinate amounts of time working on prior to the event.

U - Unicorns

The unicorn subculture was 'birthed on the playa' - which basically means it was thought up by some hippies at Burning Man. But however it started, it's permeated the American rave scene and has even made it across the pond to Britain. People who identify as unicorns seem sort of like everyone else but wear slightly brighter clothes and have fake horns on the heads. You can learn more about them here.

V - Vaping

A throwback from the acid house raves of the second summer of love. Vaping involves using Vix VapoRub while under the influence of a certain Serotonin-depleting drug. The two combined apparently produce an even greater sense of euphoria with a stronger 'rush'. In modern times the Vix is often applied to bandanas and then worn around the front of the face... Yeah, we don't get it either.

W – We Are Your Friends

The Zac Efron fronted film that brought the EDM scene to the silver screen. It was meant to be the Saturday Night Fever of the SoundCloud age, but instead it summed up its entire (deeply vacuous) plot in a widely ridiculed trailer and went on to have one of the worst opening weekends in Hollywood history. 


X – X-treme Festival Behaviour

Where do we begin? Firstly the world looked on in shock as that 'Booty Eating' photo from TomorrowWorld went viral - yep that's right, highly public rimming, that's what we're dealing with in 2015. Then we found out that crews of thieves were apparently going to festivals just to rob phones and wallets from attendees, then there were over 300 arrests at HARD Day of the Dead. Then, of course, there are the deaths, hospitalisations and the jumping off the back of a cruise ship incident. The EDM scene is chock full of the kind of exploits previously reserved for late night shows on Channel 4 in the 90s. 

Y - [Oh,] You Mean Sonny?

"You mean Sonny?" is a slogan / meme that's evolved out of EDM forums. Basically it's a way of calling someone out for trying to pretend to be more knowledgable or involved in the US dance scene than they are. Skrillex's real name is Sonny John Moore, and I guess in the early days of EDM forums, somebody must've said they knew or met Skrillex and someone trying to be smart must've replied with, "oh, you mean Sonny?" or something like that. Anyway now it's a veritable rave catchphrase and can be seen on forums, t-shirts, memes and totems. If you want to know more, there's a reddit thread about it here.

Z – Zombies (Bass)

Bass Zombies - people who essentially camp out in front of the bass bins for the duration of an event - exist the world over, but it's only within the US EDM scene that they finally got their own terminology. Perviously they were just called 'white guys with dreads'.

A-Z Of EDM Part One

Now you know the lingo, check back throughout EDM Week for more explorations into American rave culture.

More Features:

Is This EDM's Grossest Display Of Sexism Yet?

Why Are There No Female DJs In Reddit's Top 100?

Is Comedians On EDM The Worst Thing Ever?

Written by Matthew Francey

24 Nov 2015