Star Wars fans are all grown up and have replaced Comic Con with raves

As the first notes of John Williams’ “Imperial March” resounded from Catch One nightclub’s speakers, a sea of smartphones went up to record the moment. As it was the first piece of Star Wars’ iconic score we had heard all night I couldn’t help but capture it too, my arm lifting up alongside those pumping their stuffed Baby Yodas in the air. Others waved technicolour lightsabers in the air as if they were the famed Oscar-winning conductor himself. Twin Darth Vader helmets stared each other down in the graphics behind the headliner DJ Meetch as he ramped up the beat to a crescendo, giving way to another song that had the crowd headbanging in approval.

“This was a Star Wars event, right? So obviously I needed to make a huge Darth Vader theme intro!” DJ Meetch told The Independent. He noted that he had performed with event organiser Mayhem Events for years, but this set has easily become one of his favourites. “Everyone was so into the cosplay and dressing up for it.”

The Star Wars fans had all come together that evening to celebrate our collective love for Star Wars on the franchise holiday May the 4th - a play on the popular line within the series “May the force be with you” - or at least most of us, some were just looking for an excuse to go out on a Saturday night. Whether you were a die-hard or casual fan of the Star Wars franchise, or you had another reason to find yourself under the roof of the notoriously labyrinthine nightclub, one thing was for certain, we were all hellbent on having a good time.

The second I slid out of my Uber and ambled down a lengthy driveway, I could hear the unmistakable thump of the bass and glitchy dubstep waft out from the doors of Catch One’s giant warehouse room. A long line wrapped down the block, with a myriad of people dressed up as Jedis, Sith Lords, and Stormtroopers shivering in what Los Angelenos call cold weather, which is typically anything in the low ‘50s. Thanks to a few friends in high places, I was able to skip the line and enter the fray immediately.

Avary and I posing in our costumes. (Olivia Hebert)
Avary and I posing in our costumes. (Olivia Hebert)

The dark cavernous warehouse was illuminated by rainbow strobe lights, a disco ball, and Star Wars-esque graphics that at one point included rows of spinning Star Destroyers moving in sync with the music. I surveyed the scene, taking in the small statue of R2D2 and the array of Jedi robes, nervously smoothing out my Padme Amidala costume that I had only just received in the mail.

It was a cheap replica of the outfit Natalie Portman’s Senator Padme Amidala wore in the prequel trilogy’s Attack of the Clones during the climactic battle of Geonosis, fighting side-by-side with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, but under the dim lights, you could be convinced it was the original.

Speaking of Anakin Skywalker, I met multiple variations of the character that night, starting with Avary, who I had encountered in the house music section of the club, wielding a glow-in-the-dark fan as they grooved to a remix of Jungle’s “I’ve Been In Love.” Little did we know that we would soon be each other’s dance partners for the night, headbanging the night away. Avary told me that not only were they a big fan of the franchise, but it wouldn’t be in their character to pass up an opportunity to dress up: “I love a themed event!”

A DJ plays to a warehouse full of ‘Star Wars’ fans (Olivia Hebert)
A DJ plays to a warehouse full of ‘Star Wars’ fans (Olivia Hebert)

They added that they almost went as a Jawa but their 6’4’’ height ultimately didn’t make sense in order to pull off the notably tiny scavengers from the original trilogy. Although we didn’t encounter any Jawas as the night wore on, we did meet a few Sith lords, who were adamant fans of the series, to varying degrees.

A model named Andrés donning haphazard Darth Maul makeup told me that he was an “above-casual” Star Wars fan, but wasn’t diehard enough to ace trivia. “Ask me the names of things and I probably won’t remember but I love the movies with all my heart,” he said.

Others flexed their commitment to the franchise in different ways. One person I met – who went by the name of T – flexed his Star Wars devotion by showing off the Millennium Falcon stencil tattoo he had gotten on his forearm. If there’s one thing about the fandom, it’s that they’re dedicated to the galaxy far far away – no matter where the series stands in the court of public opinion.

Over the past decade, the franchise has been inescapable within pop culture, thanks to Disney continuing to pump out multiple films and TV series beyond the normal trilogy format the films usually adhere to. Some sects of the fandom have become notorious for hurling vitriol at the franchise’s stars, including Daisy Ridley, who plays sequel trilogy protagonist Rey, and who took a social media hiatus to escape the onslaught. Fans have also been known to complain whenever creatives behind the scenes take the story in a direction that doesn’t adhere to their preconceived notions of what the films or series should be, feeling a sense of ownership over a franchise that has brought them joy or reprieve from a chaotic outside world.

A man in a Mandalorian mask lifts up his baby Grogu doll that’s wearing a tiny sombrero atop his head. (Olivia Hebert)
A man in a Mandalorian mask lifts up his baby Grogu doll that’s wearing a tiny sombrero atop his head. (Olivia Hebert)

Any negative energy circulating online certainly hasn’t made it into the real world, with my fellow rave-goers hyping each other up on the dance floor, cheering as a woman in a Stormtrooper mask busted a move or when a couple performed interpretive dance moves with their sombrero-wearing Baby Yoda doll. Meanwhile, I had encountered yet another Anakin Skywalker, this one being in touch with the dark side, donning eerie yellow contacts. Beneath the glow of the ever-changing LED lights, we all cut loose to the techno beats of DJ Baby Yoda.

“Looking out at the audience and seeing a sea of Stormtrooper helmets, Mandalorians, lightsabers and Baby Yoda dolls made me smile so hard it hurt!” DJ Baby Yoda admitted to The Independent. “The LA crowd was really into the Star Wars vibe and being a big fan myself, it felt like home.”

She added that she tailored her set for the fans, “sprinkling in samples” from the film to the joy of the crowd.

“There’s something very special about the rave scene here in LA,” she said. “The people are so full of love for music, for dance, and in this case, Star Wars too. It’s a culture I’m proud to be a part of. ”

In my experience, the nicest crowd of people you’ll ever meet will be at a rave, and May the 4th was no exception. As Yoda would say, the positive energy of the force was all around us and binding us together for one common goal: a celebration of unabashed nerdiness.