Podcast: Michelle Lhooq on Raves, Spirituality, and Release
If you ever wanted a window into an underground weed rave, an autonomous zone, or the intersections between Buddhism and MDMA therapy, Michelle Lhooq's journalism is for you.
Lhooq is a journalist who covers subcultures, drugs, raves, and everything in between. Her Substack newsletterRave New Worldis a raw, immersive window into modern counterculture in all its ecstasies and contradictions, and her book WEED: Everything You Want to Know But Are Always Too Stoned to Askis a modern classic.
She's done marvelous profiles of everyone from Grimes to Michael Alig, but some of her most fascinating work involves deeply immersive profiles of the people on the front lines of protests and partying, and often, in Lhooq's work, the lines between those two worlds are blurred into invisibility. Her work explores both the radical potential in raves and drug culture as well as their limitations and dangers, holding and interrogating that complexity with sensitivity.
In our podcast interview, we spoke about the spiritual side of raving and psychedelics, the intersections between ecology and nightlife, and the rich potential inherent in the shared spaces created by collective ecstasy. We also talked about the commodification of weed and psychedelic culture and the unfortunate reality that most modern psychedelic therapies are only available to the 1%.
We also theorized about the strange future of post-pandemic parties, the cultural changes the pandemic might have catalyzed, the dissociative spirit of the postmodern condition, and the future of psychedelics.
"For too long, nightlife and partying has been associated with destructive behavior," Lhooq said. "But during the pandemic I think a lot of people turned to substances like psychedelics for mental health reasons, and with the legalization of these substances it became more acceptable to talk about them... So when we came out of the pandemic, what was so interesting to me was how many people who you don't think of as nightlife people would say, I miss dancing so much. I think there was a destigmatization of partying and dancing, and a recognition that this act is a form of catharsis and healing, and it's a primal aspect of human beings."
However, as always, Lhooq's perspective is thoughtful and multifaceted. She's always invested in creative approaches to the development of the human spirit, from "expanding the idea of what a rave can be" to exploring the "spectrum of sobriety" and beyond. All in all, she's inspired by "anything that helps you feel more connected to yourself, your body and the people around you, this feels like a healing modality," she said, a phrase that could be gospel of our modern era, so defined by dissociation and simultaneously by a desire for connection.