I Asked 20 Ravers At The World's Biggest Rave What They Do For A Living In The "Real" World, And I Did Not Expect These Answers

    "To outsiders, we were drug-obsessed, selfish, deadbeat jerks. That's so not true! We respect the space and each other. We offer water, even tampons, to each other. We look out for one another."

    My name is Pernell, I'm over 30 years old, and I'm still a raver — been doing it since I was 16. Last week, I dusted off my totem sign and made it out to EDC, Electric Daisy Carnival, in Las Vegas. It's the largest electronic dance music festival in the world, and this year, over 500,000 people came. Attitudes toward EDM drastically shifted in the last decade; it was only in 2010 that Los Angeles banned Insomniac's EDC, prompting the festival's move to Sin City and a national fight over the future of large-scale electronic festivals in the country. Ravers aren't strangers to scrutiny. Since we're often misunderstood, I embarked on an EDC pilgrimage to interview my fellow ravers and learn more about their lives outside the dance floor.

    author with fellow ravers at edc

    I asked everyone I met about their day jobs, their salaries, and the raver stereotypes they have beef with. Here's what 19 headliners (and one world-famous DJ) revealed to me under the electric sky, along with the cartoons I drew of them in exchange for their honesty:

    fireworks over edc art installation celebrating 30 years with cartoon concertgoers
    jake the sneaker reseller
    emmanuel the server holding a "free hugs" sign
    cervantes the teaching artist wearing a wolf rave hood
    Cartoon of Ryan/Kaskade, a producer/DJ
    view of edc venue with fireworks display
    twins mindy and mandy in front of a carnival ride
    marissa the insurance worker in front of an rv
    raymond the promoter celebrating his 3rd edc
    "trance heaven" sign at an edc stage
    zeke the video editor hangs in a tent with a chocolate wrapper in his mouth
    anthony and javi sititng on the ground
    nurse and shelter-work couple kiss in front of the downtown edc sign
    a wheelchair user cheers while being lifted up by fellow concertgoers
    chelsea in marketing, jet in health policy, nina in health policy, and josh the lawyer with their light up red high heel totem sign
    casey the energy healer poses in the middle of downtown edc
    lex the political researcher and cody the high-paid lawyer enter the venue

    My final takeaway: All are welcome at EDC, but it's not for everyone. As the world's biggest rave, it gets overwhelming and expensive. One-third of the 19 ravers I spoke with make $60,000 or less per year; general admission tickets cost about $500, and one person in a four-person group can expect to pay $600 or more for lodging at camp or a hotel stay. I unforgivably paid $2,000 to tent solo at Camp EDC. Why the hell would ravers shell out a minimum of $1,000 in one weekend? Well, the lawyers, health policymakers, teachers, and servers of EDC share something in common: They feel at home here. They don't feel judged, and that's important to a raver's spirit. That palpable feeling of belonging to something beautiful surged in me as I descended the bleachers toward the glowing speedway sparkling in the night. And from someone who's only getting older and lonelier, you don't just put prices on things like that.

    author wearing sunglasses in front of a lit-up seating area asking fellow attendees what people get wrong about ravers

    If you've also gone to EDC, what's a moment that stood out to you from the weekend? If you're a former raver who's retired their glow sticks, what rave memory do you still cherish, and what does your life look like now? Share your stories below.