How To Explore the Underground Culture of Any City

Explore the underground culture of your next destination using these cool tips.

I have spent the better part of 10 years living life in the underground music scene — and it was amazing. Most people will never know the thrill of being able to go totally wild in a warehouse, or literally in a hole in the ground. It's a thrill, and the people who you meet at these venues are incredible. 

What most people don't realize is that there's no reason why they couldn't explore the underground culture of any city they go to. It's there, it's open to anyone who wants to come by and embrace it. However, the thing is that it can be hard to find. 

Speaking as someone who's helped run the parties that make up underground scenes, it's very easy to get in. Here are some tips to help you have a ton of fun, meet new people, and get connected. 

The first thing you should be aware of is that you may need to network a little bit before you go to your city of choice.

Photo: Konstantin Sergeyev

In order to explore the underground culture of any city, you will need to know people in that scene. However, not knowing anyone in that town doesn't mean that you're out of luck. It actually just means that your need to go out and meet them first. 

There are a lot of online forums that allow you to link up with people who are involved in underground culture. Looking up underground rave forums, underground punk shows, and going on forums where they discuss artists that are hard indie is a good way to meet people there. 

If you want to get into the underground art scene or the underground swingers scenes, you may need to look at forums and networking sites that are more aligned with those interest. Fetlife and Cityvibes are good for underground BDSM and escort service discussions, while Facebook might be a better option to network with people who do underground art shows.

Get to know them, and you'll probably do well when you get to the city you want to visit. Moreover, just going to the events is a good way to enjoy it — but you'll still need to learn the vibes of the area. 

Understand that your clothing, newness, and who brings you in will matter.

Part of exploring the underground culture of any city is being extremely socially aware. Most underground cultures will be very quick to exclude someone who they feel doesn't understand the rules of the game, the proper attire, or worse, may cause their scene to get "sold out." 

Most people who are involved in underground scenes, especially those that aren't really legal, will be very suspicious of newcomers. The way you can actually enjoy yourself is to show that you understand the culture, wear the clothing, and legitimately respect the scene you're in. 

Ideally, you'll learn about the culture, buy an outfit that will help you blend in, and also will get someone to bring you to a party. Or, even better, you will have already been a member or participant of the culture in the city you're from. Both will give you clout with locals in the new town and will allow you to bond better with others. 

One thing you need to know before you explore the underground culture is that they are underground scenes for a reason.

Underground scenes are absolutely wonderful when it comes to getting a real sense of community and finding a part of yourself that most might never get to see. However, they are underground for a reason — and that reason is rarely because they just don't want newbies to find out about them. They are underground for a number of reasons, most of which involve keeping those involved safe. 

There are many examples of scenes that tend to be stigmatized by a society that stays underground as a way to protect those who are involved.  For example, with BDSM scenes, outsiders may see kinksters as "deviants" or otherwise immoral. On the other hand, underground punk scenes may be associated with violent mosh pits, self-harm, or political extremism. Stigmas can cause relationship issues, job loss, or worse. 

Another major reason why underground scenes stay underground is because they often are illegal. For example, the underground rave scene may involve illegal parties being thrown in dangerous warehouses that also act as open air drug markets. On the other hand, the underground plastic surgery scene stays underground because most of the "surgeons" aren't actually doctors — and because many of the procedures are illegal. 

Underground cultures basically require participants to learn to keep their mouths shut, and to learn to keep things low-key. Not doing so can bite you in the butt in seriously bad ways. 

You also need to realize that there is a lot of potential for danger if you explore the underground culture in any city, or any scene.

One of the biggest reasons people like mainstream culture isn't just because it's popular — it's because it's safe. It's safe because that's what people in mainstream culture demand from any venue or business. 

If you go to a Britney Spears concert, you don't have to worry about ATF raiding the concert venue. If you go to a regular plastic surgeon, you don't have to worry about dying due to being injected with toxic crap. If you have vanilla sex with your partner, you don't have to worry about accidentally choking yourself or your partner to death from BDSM gone wrong.

The same things cannot be said about underground scenes. If you go to an illegal rave, it could be raided by the DEA, the police, or even the FBI. If you go to an underground plumping party, you could accidentally die from injecting cement into your body. If you go to a swingers' party, you could catch HIV.  

Even the safest of underground scenes have a slight chance of danger. By choosing to go to an underground party, you are accepting a certain level of danger. Complaining about the danger will not do well for you, nor will it make things safer. If anything, it'll detract from your time there. 

If you want to stay safe while you explore the underground culture of any city or country, use common sense and listen to your gut. Don't inject stuff into yourself. Don't argue with people, or wear the wrong colors in the wrong neighborhood. And remember — you have to look out for yourself. 

Choose your underground culture wisely.

Every underground culture has its own perks and pitfalls, and what would make some thrilled might be a terrible idea for others. Be honest with yourself and try to figure out where you would belong best. 

If you love artwork and are highly educated, the underground art scene in almost any city will work beautifully with you. This also tends to be the scene that's friendliest towards older groups, sober people, and professionals. 

On the other hand, if you love electronica, you might want to explore the underground culture associated with raves, DNB, industrial, EDM, IDM, power noise, or EBM. These scenes tend to have a lot of loud noises, drug usage, and other illegal activities. It's better to be young at these events, though. 

Underground hip hop culture works well with almost every young demographic. However, it tends to skew towards urban groups and might intimidate many suburban kids looking for a fun time. 

Burner parties are brilliant for hippies, punk rockers of every age can enjoy crust punk life, and let's just be real, most of us already know which "scene" would best fit our lifestyles. 

Lastly, it's very unwise to explore the underground culture of any city without a partner and a place to stay.

Underground scenes can be dangerous, intimidating, or lonely if you don't know anyone there. Going to a show or party with your friend is the best way to avoid having problems and an excellent way to ensure that you get all the fun memories you can get. 

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How To Explore the Underground Culture of Any City
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