THANKS TO OUR PURITANICAL LIQUOR LAWS, there aren't many options for thrill-seeking adolescents in this town. Clubs and bars are out--hangouts that dispense booze are off-limits to everyone under 21. Forget that many cities have successfully implemented policies enabling underagers to mingle with those of legal drinking age. If a club wants to serve liquor in Seattle, they can kiss their younger demographic good-bye. Anyone who's witnessed the recent bumper crop of teensploitation films knows that this is no small loss. But for some clubs these restrictions have been a boon; particularly those clubs that specialize in underage events--such as raves--which de-emphasize the need for a good stiff drink.

Take the wildly successful promotion group known as United State of Consciousness. Like good entrepreneurs the world over, they recognized a need in the community and set out to meet it. USC's intentions aren't evil per se, just plainly commercial. What they offer doesn't purport to be anything other than a product--and where else can the young 'uns find top-name hiphop acts next to hot DJs from around the world? Nowhere in this city, that's for sure. USC struck gold.

Three years later, USC (the rave promoter, not the university) is rave-speak for massive events. Their superior lineups and guerrilla marketing techniques (flyers strewn about shopping malls, plastered on parked cars, and shoved in your face at every turn) have drawn crowds that often reach 5,000. For better or worse, they've changed the landscape of youth culture in our city. Where kids would normally swap My First Concert stories, they now exchange tales of My First Rave.

But don't be fooled by the use of the word "rave." These aren't the impromptu break-in--and cost-free--warehouse parties of yore. USC parties are carefully orchestrated events that use Ticketmaster as their box office. They may not resemble concerts at first glance, but they share more with arena shows than with old-school raves. I wouldn't be surprised if Coca-Cola began sponsoring these rave-a-paloozas.

Now USC wants you to help them celebrate their third year of underage-event domination. Since when was it okay to charge a cover of 30 bones for your own birthday party? Once you get past that faux pas, you'll find the lineup is tough to top. Hiphoppers get the Pharcyde, the X-Ecutioners, and Afrika Bambaataa; Techno geeks can nod along to Joey Beltram; junglists will scrutinize the skills of U.K. DJ Shy FX, and the kiddie ravers will pay wide-eyed homage to Josh Wink. For USC's sake, let's hope the kids have been saving up their allowance.

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