MULTICOLORED LASER LIGHTS search the darkness, picking out bodies crowded into the tight, hot space of Rise. Located in the Theatre District, the city’s only after-hours dance club is packed at 3 a.m., full of people swaying to a pounding bass line, music you can feel in your chest. Most are in their late teens or 20s, and many are clearly rolling — they’re under the influence of a drug called MDMA, sometimes called Molly, that causes a flood, or “cascade,” of serotonin and other neurotransmitters to the brain.
The effect, for most users, is reduced anxiety, an increased feeling of connection to others, and heightened sensations — sight, hearing, touch — making everything feel good. Downstairs, a dozen clubgoers lounge on couches under a pair of disco balls. A shirtless guy with flowy pants is wearing gloves with glowing, colored tips, spinning them repetitively in front of a woman wearing sunglasses while another guy gives her a back rub.
Rise is a private club for members, and it doesn’t serve alcohol. For a $20 fee, nonmembers can come in, dance, buy water, and relax until dawn. A guy wearing a black-and-white baseball shirt has arms covered in what members of the electronic dance music scene call kandi, beaded bracelets given out to make friends and share good vibes. On one arm is a line of tattoos — a peace sign, a heart, a yin and yang — that represents the rave doctrine of PLUR, short for peace, love, unity, and respect. He’s still working on the last tattoo, he says.
“This is a way of life for me. I’ve met a lot of great people, and I know it sounds weird but I’ve learned a lot about myself,” says the 21-year-old clubgoer, who freely admits that he’s rolling but asks not to be quoted by name. He says he first tried club drugs in 2012 and has been regularly coming to events like this — DJ shows, after-hours dance parties, raves in underground spaces — for nine months. “You’re very comfortable when you are rolling; you really connect with people,” he says. “Like that girl.” He points to a woman across the room. “I love that girl. . . . She’s awesome.” Read more