Featured photo: Rainbow Rave (photo by Kevin M @czykyoself)
For almost a year, Rainbow Rave, an LGBTQIA2S+ party focused on celebrating queer art, music and dance, has been held in Winston-Salem every few months. Their next event takes place this Friday, June 23 and features musician Wreckno. Learn more at rainbowrave.party.
Triad City Beat sat down with David Bower, the chief artistic director of Rainbow Rave to talk about his experiences in the organization and what it has meant to him.
Could you give me a brief description of your background and position in Rainbow Rave?
So, my name is David Bower, and I like to say I am the chief artistic officer, ha! But I am also not the biggest fan of titles, but I am the lead organizer. I grew up in the electronic music scene in New York, attended and managed many LGBTQIA2S+ parties, and always felt my best surrounded by these folks that spread love and made me feel seen. I am a raver at heart, and I am a DJ. I have always loved sharing music and bringing people together.
Our group is made up of artists, producers, DJs, ravers, production and sound lovers, and scene veterans from around the country that seek to create underground, art-driven spaces that highlight musicians of all styles, backgrounds, and genres while maintaining a safe space for LGBTQIA2S+, femme/female, NB/GNC, and queer people.
How and when did Rainbow Rave start?
Rainbow Rave started July 2022. I wanted to bring an event different from what Winston-Salem offered — safe space creation with no judgment focused on electronic music and art. It was just me and JAM when we started and my close friends who supported me. Two close friends, Jayme and Mark Urmos, who started JAM Digital, helped tell the event’s story through digital media. We filmed me DJ-ing the Pride rooftop party at Bar Piña last year as a promo, and things started to take off. We then did a fantastic outdoor party in September, and we hope to deliver an elevated version of that party this fall.
Shortly after that, I needed help looking for event space that would work with us to grow the event. I spoke with many folks but found the best space: The Millennium Center. The owner, Greg Carlyle, has been working with the underground music scene for many years and was familiar with the complexity of our style of events. Greg was the original supporter of the electronic scene in Winston since the mid-’90s. Some readers may remember the Beyond parties thrown in the Millennium Center with acts such as Rabbit in the Moon and Tiesto gracing the Center during that time. Greg has been a tremendous support to our event and has helped us grow it over the last year with two events under our belt.
What is the mission of Rainbow Rave?
We aim to highlight LGBTQIA2S+, BIPOC, femme/female, NB/GNC artists and their art forms. We create safe spaces for self-expression, art and dance for our attendees, and we work to provide access to dance music and dance music culture that would otherwise not be represented with a genre non-conforming mindset.
How does Rainbow Rave work to be inclusive?
Our mission is to be radically inclusive. I’ve found that it is one thing to say someone is included, but truly another to feel included. I have experienced this throughout my life, and we work tirelessly as a team to commit to radical inclusion for all folks who think this way too. Our events are 18+ as music and art are central to our commitment, not alcohol.
We start with our inclusive ticket pricing. Regardless of someone’s financial status, everyone should be able to attend so we offer income-driven tickets to those requesting assistance. Secondly, everyone is welcome at Rainbow Rave who believe in our commitment to community, artistry, and PLUR: peace, love, unity, and respect. Finally, our events always donate a portion of our ticket sales to a community LGBTQIA2S+ organization locally or beyond to show our support.
With the proliferation of anti-trans, anti-queer legislation, and hate (Proud Boys at Radar, Pride flag vandalized), how does Rainbow Rave respond? How do you all work to keep people safe?
The proliferation of anti-trans/queer legislation and rationalizing hate in public is unacceptable. As a community, we need to work toward peace, love, unity and respect for our traditionally underrepresented folks — these values are perpetuated in our space. And our attendees know this; we believe everyone is equal. We use volunteers in the crowd as ground control to lead our events with love and acceptance. Every person is strictly searched at the door to maintain our security and community.
How does the increase in hate affect you all personally?
I was at the drag brunch recently and walked through the crowd of Proud Boys waving my progress flag covered in rainbow paint and glitter. I was called names and bullied but did not respond to their calls. As a community, we have dealt with bullies and hate for as long as I can remember. But this does not mean we should accept it. Building and educating our community and young adults with the ideals of love and acceptance no matter who you are is the way we push forward.
Why is Rainbow Rave important to the community?
Winston-Salem is just getting started with safe spaces. We have a long way to go for true havens where people can genuinely be themselves, free from hate or judgment. You come to a Rainbow Rave because you know you can finally be yourself here. You can create, you can paint, you can dance, and you can smile. These ideals are core to what a community and a family should be, and we have started to see interaction and cooperation to make this happen. Rainbow Rave has been the utmost joy and center of healing for me, and we are just getting started.
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