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A Look Into The Rave Scene With Disco Donnie

‘RISE’ documentary shows the evolution of the scene with Disco Donnie.

The producers of RISE: The Story of Rave Outlaw Disco Donnie have re-released the seminal 1990s rave documentary in honor of Disco Donnie Presents 20th Anniversary. Fans can watch the film on the Disco Donnie Presents website for a limited time. The 1999 documentary RISE: The Story of Rave Outlaw Disco Donnie shows a lot of contrasts and similarities between the rave scene then and now by focusing on Disco Donnie’s initial parties. DDP is distinguished as one of the leading EDM production companies in the world, lead by founder and CEO James “Disco” Donnie Estopinal. Disco Donnie serves as a genuine innovator in the production industry after evolving for over 20 years now, but DDP isn’t the only aspect of dance music that is going through changes.

Disco Donnie got his start back in the 90s in the jazz-influenced city of New Orleans, Louisiana. RISE: The Story of Rave Outlaw Disco Donnie illustrates dance culture through the eye of a promoter in this era, when raves were entirely underground, much unlike the world we live in today just 15 years later. When Disco Donnie first started hosting parties, the rave scene revolved around techno, disco, trance, and other genres that are still considered to be out of the mainstream umbrella today. Although EDM is the music of this generation, there are still many genres that have yet to surface into the ears of the untrained listener who might think they're all the same.

One main aspect of RISE: The Story of Rave Outlaw Disco Donnie is the relationship between raves and drug use. This documentary features multiple attendees of DDP’s parties who testify against the claims that raves are “drug-induced orgies.” Many of the ravers featured in this documentary make a point that there are people who attend these parties and stay sober. The ravers in this documentary still represent a good amount of those who attend EDM events now; it wasn’t all about the drugs then and it’s not all about the drugs now either. This documentary distinctly calls attention to Disco Donnie’s motive in creating a place to feel a sense of belonging and deters from the term “drug party.”

Many ravers today still feel that sense of belonging when attending EDM events. The concept of finding a place to feel at home and accepted by those around you is one of the key elements of an EDM event. In comparison to the 90s, it remains an issue for events to generalize that all attendees are doing something illegal and even shut down early as a result of drug overdoses during the show. In this documentary, Rene Brunet, State Palace Theater owner, states that in the 90s venues had the common issue of blaming the entire crowd for illegal drug usage when in reality only five or six kids actually did something wrong.

Although the rave scene may have evolved since the 90s, there are many aspects of the culture that will never die. For instance, the raver’s mantra PLUR has proven to be an undying factor in the raving experience, setting a primal tone for both the experience and the culture as a whole. This documentary places major emphasis on the concept of PLUR and its ties with DDP; Disco Donnie believes that PLUR is a powerful message to the EDM community and DDP is a production company that strives to keep the underground alive.

RISE highlights all of the aspects of the rave culture that existed 20 years ago, ultimately shedding a light on the evolution of the scene into what it is today, with some light influence of Disco Donnie himself. Interestingly enough, the underground scene then is still considered to be the underground scene now; genres such as techno and disco are just beginning to hit radio stations and festival main stages.

Tommie Sunshine, an authentic pioneer of the EDM movement, already knows where electronic music was heading. He welcomed the motion of EDM into the mainstream realm, saying he wanted it to cross over and that mainstream society wouldn’t take away from the actual music: “There always has and always will be an ‘underground,’ even when this does become pop music, and you’ll turn on the radio and its all electronic music, there will still be jamming house parties and still be underground raves, that will keep that part of the music going.”

But how true is this really? Warehouse parties are seemingly going extinct. It has become prevalent that EDM circulates much more so in the festival industry than throughout smaller venue networks. The DJ has become the pop star, for better or for worse, and it has resulted in the need for EDM events to include lazer beams, fireworks, pyrotechnics, LED panels, and much more to be considered a decent event. While this can be considered apart of the “experience,” some might argue that mainstream influences take away from the love of the music and where this all began.

Overall, the rave scene has changed tremendously. It’s hard to say where it will go from here, but RISE: The Story of Rave Outlaw Disco Donnie opens several doors that raise questions in regards to where the industry stands today. Is it still about the love of the music? Or has the focus shifted to the love of profit? One thing that is for certain is that is the fact that there will always be people who appreciate and preserve the scene for what it really is. Disco Donnie is predominantly one of those individuals, and his events will continue to hold the qualities of a true rave on a pedestal due to his modest beginnings in the underground of New Orleans, Louisiana.

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