Busted: teen nightclub disguised as rave church

DarkSide was a Dallas teen dance club whose owners attempted to wrap it in a legal spiritual envelope to stop it from being shut down. In the Dallas Observer, Anna Merlan looked into "The Bizarre Life and Troubling Death of DarkSide, the Dallas Rave Church That Never Was." Here's the best quote:
"The media made it out to be a sex-infested, drug-infested underground rave club that was run by a pedophile and raver kids who didn't give a damn," (DJ John Wayne) says now. His voice rises a little. "That's bullshit. Yes, there were drugs. Yes, Tommy is a pedophile. But there was a deeper purpose, a deeper meaning, a deeper connection. This wasn't just something we did on weekends. This was our life."

Reminds me a bit of the Nine O'Clock Service, a cyberdelic early-1990s rave church in the UK that fell from grace after the minister was investigated and ultimately confessed to abusing young women in the group.

"The Bizarre Life and Troubling Death of DarkSide, the Dallas Rave Church That Never Was" (Thanks, Vann Hall!)


  1. Yes, there were drugs. Yes, Tommy is a pedophile.

    Just change that to wine and pedophiles and you’ve got yourself a bona-fide church.

      1. If society starts using the word “drugs” when referring to alcohol I’ll be happy to play along.

    1. Well, technically, statutory rapist yes, pedophile no. Pedophile = pre-pubescent. His GFs were 14 and up.

  2. Someone will sensibly ask how this is different from established large religious groups, (well, mormons and catholics don’t seem to be so much into drugs..?  insert: someone’s quote about how to get really rich: establish a church)

    Yet here’s my question (too lazy to discover for myself): did this maneuver allow them tax exempt status?

    1. I guess one difference is that the Catholics and Mormons don’t try to keep it a secret that you’re attending mass in a church instead of doing drugs at a rave party.

      1. I wouldn’t bank on what mormons or catholics (or scientologists or…) don’t try to keep secret

        1. Believe me—if you ever have to sit through a Catholic mass, you won’t mistake it for an awesome party.

      1.  IIRC he was quoting Heinlein or Heinlein said he (Hubbard) originated the quote, but I don’t know of any reliable attribution for Hubbard as the originator of the quote.

        I suspect that neither of them were the first to say this, however.

  3. a deeper purpose, a deeper meaning, a deeper connection. This wasn’t just something we did on weekends. This was our life.” 

    What a crock of reeking **it.  It was a filthy hole where drug addicts and pimpleheads and freaks got their buzz.  If your life was raving, then your life is empty, pointless, and wasted.

    1.  Oh, get to fuck, I spent the 90s at any number of demented warehouse parties,  free festivals and dingy techno clubs. I had the time of my life, and I’m absolutely fine. Productive member of society and all that shit.

        1. Oh, I know,  comes to post one inflammatory comment and all that. They can still get to fuck, though.

    2. The ecstatic/experiential of a true religious experience and getting shitfaced really aren’t that different in a person’s mind. 

      Plenty of fine, churchgoing persons have “empty, pointless, and wasted” lives by your definition.

    3.  How is that any different from wasting your life in a “legitimate” church, worshiping a god that doesn’t exist, and denying yourself healthy pleasure, because some flee-infested goat herder 2000 years ago said you had to suffer to be in this god’s favor? I don’t see this rave church as any more of a crock of shit than any other church.

      1. There have been studies that suggested a biological similarity between the effects of religion and certain drugs… Marx may have been on to something.

        1. If the fictional iron age man existed, we has a ship builder (well his father anyway – Mary’s twin brother was Joseph of Aramethia, a wealthy ship builder who also employed Mary’s husband Joseph). He was also wealthy in his own right (Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to pay taxes), the son of a noble  and in line for the throne of David. I’m not sure when Christians started the poor carpenter story, but the Bible itself never says Joshua Ben Joseph was a carpenter. It says he was a contractor. Which is also not really true since his chosen procession was that of Rabbi. The contractor thing is an allegory.

  4. Back in the 90’s in Ohio we used to throw rave parties at actual churches. We would go to the pastor dressed up real nice and we said we wanted to have a ‘lock in’ for a ‘young adults group’. A surprising number of churches would take us at our word if we looked clean cut and upstanding. Normally they charged less than the warehouses, if anything and they did not think to ask about things like ID or insurance. 

      1. That is the thing about lock-ins, they go all night, and yes some of the parties would get broken up, that was all part of the game. However, a suprising number went until 3 or 4 in the morning. Needless to say, we could never use the same venue twice.

      2. We had a hippie coffee house in the local church in the 70s. In fact, I lost my virginity in the baptismal tub. We just locked up at night when we were done and slipped the key through the slot.

        1. “We just locked up at night when we were done and slipped the key through the slot.” So that’s  what the kids are calling it nowadays!

    1. In the 90’s in Saskatchewan, we formed an electronic music society, and rented church halls for concerts, because they were cheap and had raised stages and nice kitchens.  And we cleaned up, handed back the keys in the morning, and got our deposit back…

      1. Yea in Philly we had God’s Basement and they held Rave’s for yeaaaaaaaaaaaaars down there. Good times.

  5. Reading that whole thing was a weird mixture of “ew, ick” and “hey, I remember being a teenager”.   You’ll note that the major villains (as protrayed in the piece) were the oldest people involved…  the kids just wanted to have fun.

  6. The next time I get into an argument, I’m going to use that guy’s logic:  “People say x and y, but it’s all bullshit.  Yes, x and y are true, but that’s not the point…”

  7. I still cannot figure out why people’s desire to make music/dance,  get high, and get it on, is BAD and to be prevented using force (i.e., police). I’m not saying people don’t do remarkably stupid things when impaired, but we can do that without the dance or public aspect of clubs; and most people go clubbing with positive results. I also agree that given our current legal regimes around age, people under the age of majority should have their own places to have this sort of fun.

    I certainly think adults should do these things in a physically safe location – their home, outside somewhere clean with adequate sanitation, or indoors with appropriate fire codes and so on. But that doesn’t require violent threats, guns, and jails. Just inspections/licenses, and the ability to clear a space out peacefully, and issue the appropriate fines/incentives to get it safe.

    Again, dancing/drinking/drugs are bad because why… ?

    1. Fuck knows. I’ve seen far worse behaviour at legal events than free parties though, I do know that.

    2. because (some) men are pigs and will fuck up a good thing if there is sex involved, and there always is. Then, authority given a legitimate reason to be there, oversteps. It is a subtle balance, really.

  8. Ha, I used to get flyers online for this event all the time. Ravers gonna rave is all I have to say to Dallas and despite all their efforts to stamp out raver culture in their city it’s still going strong. ( Albeit heavily underground. )

  9. Rave churches seem like a hard-to-keep-going thing. But a regular church with a rave-subgroup? There’s been one of those in San Francisco for almost two decades: Saint John the Divine Rhythm Society: rhythm.org

  10. Dammit.  So much for my idea to start a church to get around WA state’s “opportunity to dance” tax.

  11. There was a club called The Monastery here in Seattle in the ’80s (alas, it closed down not only before I lived here, but before I was ten) that did the same thing.  It was pretty infamous.

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