What's Really Going On in Bushwick's Underground EDM Scene: Online Communities, Police Involvement, and Rave Families


Bushwick, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, has recently been under the microscope of millennials for its booming art and live music. The community is a go-to when you want to catch a live show, but what lies beneath the surface?

PHOTO: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED (Electronic DJ Porter Robinson at his 'Virtual Self’ show held in a secret Brooklyn Warehouse)

PHOTO: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED (Electronic DJ Porter Robinson at his 'Virtual Self’ show held in a secret Brooklyn Warehouse)

Three words: Electronic Dance Music. More commonly known as EDM, this unique, tech-engineered genre of music is no stranger to the Bushwick music scene, dating back more than 20 years with punk raves that were known for their weird and wild mayhem. Although there are many big-name spaces in Brooklyn that seem to be the center of attention today (House of Yes and Output to name a few) Bushwick is special for its discrete community of underground events.

Subreddit feeds such as "r/aves" give ravers a chance to find out about some of the best EDM events all around the United States. With a bit of simple Google searching, you can find area-specific event feeds, which in our case, is Brooklyn. These feeds will often lead you to further extensions of information regarding your preferred scene, such as city- or genre-specific Facebook groups, and even GroupMe message forums.

An anonymous user in the NYC-specific GroupMe, which is jokingly titled "R/aves Official Cult" explained that underground rave spaces often come and go in Bushwick, and usually end in raids by the NYPD due to the lack of permits and safety regulations. Some of these underground rave spaces, both closed down and running, include FNV, Amazura, Palace, and The Lab. Interestingly enough, officials aren’t always working against the underground rave scene. In reference to preventing the events from getting shut down, the same GroupMe user stated that, in their experience, "Paying off some cops or having off duty ones as door security would help."

Ravers of Bushwick do not seem to worry too much about events being shut down, and they attend events week after week without regards of apprehension. The anonymous raver said of their time in the underground scene: "The scene was really tight -- you basically saw the same people so it felt like family," adding, "There were also a few more organized rave families." According to the Reddit and GroupMe user, "People were there as much to meet others as they were for the music."

Human interaction and wholesome connection seems to be the highlight of these events. The NYC R/ave GroupMe user talked about the difference in environments between popular venue shows and underground raves: "Big events mean bigger stages and light production, [there's] less connectivity because there’s too many people, and less connectivity with artists themselves -- again, too many people."

Rei La, 19, Brooklyn EDM event frequenter, weighed in on the topic. When asked about his first underground experience at a secret Bushwick warehouse event he recently attended, he said, "Everybody was a lot more friendly and social. The overall atmosphere and environment was very accepting and close." La described the party as a very diverse crowd of 30-40 people. Explaining why he prefers Bushwick underground events over large, promotional ones, La said: "I prefer underground warehouse shows, I think the environment and the crowd is better than most big name venues."

The truth is, the word "underground" is a blanket term for all of the smaller EDM and rave-oriented events that pop up in Bushwick. From secretive, but still popular warehouse parties like big-name DJ Porter Robinson’s "Virtual Self" show, all the way down to events at 40-person capacity warehouse spaces, the Bushwick rave scene seems to focus not only on the music, but the experience. The tight-knit underground community is lowkey, and less than loud about their whereabouts, yet welcomes those who are new to the scene. The enigmatic and unusual nature of the underground EDM events in Bushwick does not diminish the fact that these events are a place for people to come together, meet new friends, and bond over good music.

Lead Image Credit: Sarah La'Berge

Sarah La'BergeTeam Blended