In the mainstream media, “rave” is a loaded term – the Ghost Ship community deserve better
Fact Mag writer Chris Zaldua explores the negative connotations with the word "rave" and reflects on how its reference to the Ghost Ship tragedy trivializes the lives that were lost.This article originally appeared on Fact Mag
On Friday December 2, a fire broke out at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, California and took the lives of 36 people. Bay Area journalist and Left Hand Path label co-founder Chris Zaldua reflects on the tragedy and asks why the mainstream media continues to misrepresent an underground community with roots going back decades.
These are just a few of the ways that the mainstream American news media has characterized the tragedy at the Oakland warehouse, where a horrific blaze left at least 36 people dead. Much national reporting has veered towards the sensational, the salacious, and the superficial, misunderstanding — or ignoring — the underlying structural causes that led to this tragedy.
One thing is clear: electronic music — and the ways in which communities experience it, perform it, and organize around it — is poorly understood in America. Commonplace conceptions of electronic music in the US, particularly in national news media, tend to focus on “EDM”, a multi-million dollar industry designed and engineered by marketers and publicists, where gimmickry takes the place of artistic integrity and vision. Underground electronic music — which was showcased at December 2’s event, and which has thrived beneath the surface in America since the 1980s — is rooted in the expression and artistry of marginalized communities.
For more than 50 years, the Bay Area has nurtured, supported, and elevated underground art, music, and culture. In the 1960s, the San Francisco Tape Music Center and its disciples (the late Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Morton Subotnick, Don Buchla, many more) played a critical role in broadening the very concept of “music” to include electronic sound. In the late ’70s and ’80s, punk, industrial, and experimental music thrived in San Francisco: Monte Cazazza; Survival Research Laboratories; Throbbing Gristle’s final performance; RE/Search Publications and beyond. In the early ’90s, Wicked brought acid house over from the UK, and with the help of Sunset Sound System they pioneered West Coast dance music culture — by throwing underground parties, naturally.
Johnny Igaz aka Nackt
Photography courtesy of Amanda Allen Kershaw