My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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happy birthday dear officer…

Last night, i attended a renegade party buried in San Francisco. We could see the road from our location, but the road could not see us. When we saw cop car after cop car drive by, we knew it was over. But still, as they stopped, we crouched down, climbed trees, hid behind bushes. The officer climbed the hill with his flashlight, shining it on people. He got to the top where he realized there were at least 150 people there.

“Oh. My. God.” was the only thing he could mutter. And he kept repeating it.

In response, someone jumped up and yelled “Surprise!” at which point everyone jumped into singing “Happy Birthday” to the officer. His eyes were wide with shock, jaw still slack. He was too stunned to be forceful, but he made it clear that we needed to get off this land. So as we filtered out, we eached passed by the different officers, all of whom were muttering in shock at how this many people could possibly get past security onto this land. As i walked by, i apologized for the inconvenience. He just looked at me with shock. Here was a large crowd of certifiable (primarily) sober adults, with no teens in sight throwing a ?rave?! ::gasp:: He mumbled “no problem” in response. Poor guy probably had no idea just how this could possibly happen.

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40 comments to happy birthday dear officer…

  • This is a wonderful story. It reminds me of the days of the first raves in SF in the early 90s and the BART parties that were well coreographed to jump trains at BART connections points at exact times so the party would last for a couple hours.

    The round of happy birthday has left a smile on my face all day.

  • Only you and your friends would be socreative and quick thinking!

  • Danah Boyd on a recent renegade party

    At Apophenia, Danah Boyd tells this great story about a recent renegade party: Last night, i attended a renegade party buried in San Francisco. We could see the road from our location, but the road could not see us. When we saw cop car after cop car dr…

  • ab

    actually the first thing he said was “Woah.”

    *Then* “oh my god oh my god”

    :-)

  • Alan Prather

    I’m curious what land you were on? Was it government land or something or just an un occupied fenced in area.

    God I miss SF, I had so much fun when I lived out there.

    I live in DC now and everybody is so damn uptight here. It’s hard to finds pockets of ‘laid back’ in this city. Even the goths and rockabilly folks take themselves too seriously.

  • Alan – of course i can’t tell you that! ::wink:: Let’s just say that they had their own officers.

  • I want to go to renegade parties! :P

  • jay

    okay, so .. what .. we’re supposed to overlook the obvious police state nature of things, and enjoy the fact that cops are so astounded that people want to get together and party?

  • Walt

    For the 30 and over crowd, those of us with kids, and the socially stupid; I think we need more backstory. What is a “renegade party”? Is this like flash mobbing or mobile clubbing?

  • Peter

    Nice technique. We used to throw parties down in China Basin all the time, out at the Landing. Those were the days. Keep it up, keep techno sexy :)

  • Renegade is the polite way of saying very very illegal. No permits to be on a particular land, no permission of owners, etc.

    This is not a new social phenomenon. It’s simply the undercurrent to what made raves great. Raves used to happen renegade style all of the time. Interestingly, i don’t think anyone at this party was under 21 and the average age was near 30. I know folks have these impressions of ravers as cracked out teens, but that’s not what this was at all. Most of us are educated professionals who were sober and being goofy as hell. Many of us grew up on renegade rave culture and love good music and dancing under the stars.

    Unfortunately, the worst parts of rave culture ruined the fun for the rest of us. All we want is a fun dance party with our friends.

  • phil

    I must agree with Walt. What the heck is a renegade party? There isn’t even a wikipedia entry for it.

    I’m imagining something between a flash mob and a rave, but I’m sure I’m off base.

  • xz

    nice one z! and congrats on getting boinged.

    wish we had been there.

  • toya

    hilarious. reminds me of a renegade here in austin 8 years ago under the Mopac bridge. There were too many of us to arrest so they lined us up on a sidewalk to check our IDs to see if we were 18+ and then let us go. must have been a slow night.

  • mcg

    sounds like what me and my friends did in high school. seriously, what is so effing cool or new here? hanging out where you’re “not supposed to?” is it an eff you to the shrivs and straights? i know, i know, you all think i am a cold cynical basta’ who has lost his “sense of wonder.” but come on. admit it, this sounds so lame.

  • mcg – it’s not about being “effing cool or new.” It’s a funny story about what happens when a group of friends run off to play in the way that they most enjoy and have a silly encounter with a police officer. It’s not about shrugging off anyone, it’s simply about wanting to dance under the stars because that’s what we all love to do. Even in our psycho work culture, there’s still something to be said for play.

  • aflaxknedrr

    heh heh heh

    don’t leave out the fun parts:

    everyone was taken to the party on a shuttle bus with blacked out windows so they had no idea where they were going. And when they got there they had no idea where they were because this spot is so well hidden.

    AND when the party got busted we re-formed in a second outdoor spot and danced the sun up!

    As a post script: the only reason the party got busted was because some people couldn’t get tickets and decided to follow the shuttle bus, zipping up and down the road looking for parking.

  • bagaag

    I want to be witty, original, and cool, too. Where do I apply?

  • jon

    Heh… I’m surprised the cop didn’t bust you for singing Happy Birthday without a license! (IP joke)

    Many years ago we had what amounted to a renegade party at the end of the runway at the airport here in Austin. A massive jet landed just over our heads. We probably scared the pilot shitless. They were coming for us pretty quickly; we had to dive over a barb wire fence to escape. Ouch.

  • djh

    So where was it?

  • It’s hardly a party if the cops don’t show up

    danah boyd goes to a party:Last night, i attended a renegade party buried in San Francisco. We could see the road from our location, but the road could not see us. When we saw cop car after cop car drive by, we knew it was over. But still, as they …

  • rigel

    well, im not going to be gauche and ask where it was , since spots like the one described are generally highly guarded secrets, so i’ll ask the same question i asked in my email:

    what crew was it that threw this?

  • I’m sorry but please understand that i will provide no identifying information concerning either the crew or the location either via this blog or by email. Please don’t ask.

  • Busy

    Wow, a real renegade? I didn’t think those existed anymore! Good stuff, I can be a little less cynical today. Poor confused cop.

  • JHouston

    The Presidio.

  • i have been part of a crew throwing renegades here in the central valley for the past 8 months or so. our spot is a condemned warehouse and he have had upwards of 250 people at each event. this month will be the last one tho, as the building is scheduled to be razed to the ground the first week of august.

    and yes, it is silly, and fun and it DOES keep house music sexy
    :o)

  • hoptoad

    i made it to the 2nd party and had a blast ! i wish i had been there for the singing though

  • solipse

    In New York ‘renegades’ are called ‘outlaws.’ Ah, these quaint regional dialects…

  • yeesh

    beebles are still going to raves?

    that’s sad.

  • 6killer

    Was Lorenzo Lamas there?

  • Reminds me of high school in northern Wisconsin when we would get ~40 people together head into the woods with a generator, speakers, and a PA and just throw a dance party until the cops showed up. Usually they were so dumbfounded by the occurance that they just let us go. Ah…northern Wisconsin

  • liloplum

    I grew up in San Francisco, and when we were kids we couldn’t get into any of the bars ’cause the regulations were enforced and they were making plenty of money off the move-ins (this was the early-mid ’90s). We used to go to the beach and have a bonfire with a dance party–a line of fires down the beach, every high school with its own, and boomboxes and car stereos–walk off in the weeds to piss and be careful not to piss on people making out in the dark..or on the hills: Turtle, Bernal, the patch just below Coit Tower. The kids there still do this. You can do it to if you don’t happen to have been invited to a special party…any place where the trees, the altitude or the ocean generate a darkness black enough to lose yourself in, where the city flattens out into yellow lace, until the fog settles and turns purple around you, you can drink till sunup. Just bring a sweater…

  • Fred

    This reminds me of partying in the canyon when I was in highschool, no tunes but the cops still came and everybody hid in the bushes. We had booze though. I can’t imagine going to the bush without booze (party or not), but maybe thats just because I’m Canadian.

  • karl geez

    Sounds like Outlaw Parties – the illegal raves of yesteryear… I Feel old these parties were 10 years ago in Brooklyn – The begining of NASA and STORM. Anyone else remember N10 and Kent Ave?

  • sponge

    Well just to bridge the gap, I went to NASA a few times in 93 and I was also in the crouching crowd singing happy birthday to a cop in the dark!

    And it doesn’t make me feel old at all. It makes me quite happy that I am where I am, and still having fun in the way that feels good.

  • Annie

    You gyys are toooo freakin’ funny!

  • can someone tell me which type of generator i have to use so that the electronic circuitry of my mixer, amp, and turntables won’t be fried when we throw our outlaw this friday in an abandoned parking garage? please asap (i went to the rental place but they told me that their kind would fry our electronics b/c of voltage fluctuations)

    DJKingSpin@yahoo.com

  • Aza

    ya, what kind of generator do you use for this type of thing? can u get around voltage fluctuations using a surge protector?

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