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Senior Year

Senior Year, 1997: Block Rockin' Ravers

by Philip Sherburne

Senior Year, 1997: Block Rockin' Ravers

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Electronic dance music's breakout success seems to have caught everyone off guard, right up the chain to its biggest players -- even Skrillex professes that he never saw it coming.

But it's not entirely unexpected. Today's dubstep bros and curious kandi kids are, in many ways, the second coming of a phenomenon that kicked off in 1997, when American rave culture first metastasized into a mainstream affair.

That was the year the Alternative Nation set aside its guitars in favor of thumping breakbeats, ushering in an unlikely pantheon of crossover stars like The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and a pair of recalcitrant robots known as Daft Punk. The sounds that took root on domestic soil ran the gamut from Orbital's starry-eyed trance-outs to Roni Size and Reprazent's dramatic drum 'n' bass; what they tended to share were super-sized proportions that connected with an audience better versed in fist-pumping than hip-shaking. (Seen that way, 1997's Spawn soundtrack may have represented the movement's nadir -- with collaborations like Goldie with Henry Rollins and Orbital with Kirk Hammett spawning an unholy techno/nü-metal fusion -- but it was also its logical conclusion.)

So hop in with the class of 1997 as they hit the festival circuit and remake rave culture in their own image, one epic road trip at a time.