Now is not a good time to harbor a pacifier fetish if you're over, say, 10 years old. The wisdom of such an accouterment for anyone old enough to sport a tongue stud is of course dubious, but lately, the latex toddler-plug has come under the classification of narcotics paraphernalia. Ditto for those colorful glow-sticks endemic to most mass gatherings with a median age under 35, as well as painter's masks, which could be used to keep fumes in rather than the more traditional usage. In other words, when it comes to raves, the party may well be over.

The American rave movement, those all-night bacchanals comprised of equal parts DJ-driven electronic music, hordes of mad-for-it kids clutching glow-sticks and gnawing on pacifiers, and a heady mix of fog machines, Intellibeams, and the empathogenic club drug ecstasy, is suddenly facing the kind of coordinated law-enforcement attention that the UK experienced way back in the summer of 1994.

There, legal skirmishes over the increasingly prevalent amounts of ecstasy flooding the country's nightclubs eventually resulted in the widely despised Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, a draconian brace of laws that dramatically increased the constabulary and New Scotland Yard's powers, including the removal of the right to silence and much wider search and seizure powers. Most astonishingly, the act targeted raves with precision specificity, defining a rave as anywhere with over 100 people playing or listening to "music characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats," and allowing the police to break up gatherings with as few as 10 individuals.

Due in large part to the recent passage of the Ecstasy Prevention Act of 2001 [see sidebar], many people, not the least of whom are the ravers themselves, worry that the stage is being set for a similar authoritarian melee to occur in the states, with the immense and the far-flung raver subculture targeted for extinction.

Law enforcement in Austin says that's not the case, claiming instead that their recently redoubled efforts to combat the spread of ecstasy, undertaken in conjunction with Federal DEA advisement, are merely a long-overdue attempt to head off a burgeoning drug crisis that threatens to overshadow the mid-Eighties horror show of crack cocaine.

Raves and ravers are only being focused on, say the authorities, because that's where the X is. And they're partly right. But by all accounts, the drug has already spread to everywhere else: rock concerts, Sixth Street, any and all places where people are bound and determined to get high and have fun, and damn the legalities.

Now is not a good time to be a raver. Not even in the Live Music Capital of the World.