One of the biggest draws to the dance music community is the atmosphere. People come from far and wide searching for a safe space where they are free to be themselves, check anxieties and judgment at the door, and thrive in the moment. It’s not uncommon to see signs at festivals with phrases like “EDM saved my life” or “everyone loves you here.”

But how can a style of music bring so many people together in such genuine harmony?

The answer to this question lies in the stories of thousands of festival and show-goers. One in particular, the story of JC Boushh, sheds light on the amount of healing music can bring on multiple levels.

JC grew up as a wacky kid with a big imagination. Throughout his younger years he always seemed to be on the fringes of his age group. With only one or two close friends, JC was often picked on for being too skinny, didn’t socialize very much, and was rather sheltered by his parents.

One night when he was 17 (in the 80s), a friend took him to his very first club, Odyssey in Los Angeles.

“It was like I went from being sheltered to total club scene kid overnight. I went from 1-100 real quick. It was the first time I started to feel like I was a part of something. The things I remember the most are the music and the mirrors. The Billy Idol song “Dancing By Myself” was from when he was at nightclubs and people would dance with themselves in front of mirrors. It became a cool, accepted thing to do and that was how I learned how to dance.”

From that night on, JC was a total party animal. He would be out partying every night, gone for days at a time, and eventually started experimenting with drugs.

However, as many people do as their late teens and early 20s come to an end, he tested out the idea of “settling down.” JC joined the police force in Sierra Madre and worked as a detective for the next 10 years. His role in the club and music scene shifted from fan to behind the scenes, as his unit of private investigation oversaw a number of clubs. He got married, had three kids, and seemed to have it made from an outside point of view.

As JC’s area of the police force downsized after the Rodney King riots, he was laid off and things took a turn for the worst in his personal life. His marriage had been both emotionally and physically abusive. He had been isolated to the point where he had lost most of his friends, and felt that others controlled every aspect of his life.

“Three years before we got divorced, I found out my wife was cheating. I was completely devastated. I was an emotional wreck, drinking a bottle of vodka every day. I could barely function. I shaved all the hair off my head and even got a tattoo. My kids pulled me out of it for a time. They reconciled me about it so we tried going to therapy. For three years it was just miserable. The cheating and the abuse didn’t stop. There were, of course, some good times, but it always went back to bad situations. It was a constant roller coaster ride and it took a huge toll on me.”

Much like his teenage years, one of his few close friends was into the rave scene at the time and convinced him to buy tickets for Coachella. He had always wanted to go since it was so close to where he lived, and the fact that one of the few people he had a healthy bond with was encouraging it, made him very excited for it to finally happen.

“I spent about $1,000 on tickets. Everyone came to my house to get ready on the day of Coachella. We were all ready to go, I went to check on my wife to see if she was ready, and suddenly she said no we aren’t going. She told me I could, but I knew it would have been miserable and ended up in a fight— so I didn’t go. At that point in my life, I realized that I was never going to get to do the things I wanted to do. I was going to have so many regrets in my life. There I was at 48 years old. So I filed for divorce.”

After removing himself from such a painful relationship, it wasn’t long before JC started to feel like his old self again. He moved in with his best friend who took him to his first real festival, HARD Day of the Dead, and he fell in love with the scene all over again. The music, the atmosphere, and the overall acceptance from everyone around him was magnetic.

He started taking care of himself again in the physical sense as well. He began eating healthy, working out, and eventually losing the 65 pounds he had gained throughout the toxic portion of his life. Doing so led to befriending a group of guys who were going to EDC Vegas 2014.

Upon walking into the Las Vegas Speedway, JC experienced the view that has awestruck so many over the years. With his best friend meeting up with his new group, it was a weekend of healing.

“I really felt the love of the community. I finally felt like I had found what I had been searching for throughout my whole life. This was that moment I always wanted. I was loved, I was respected, and I was cherished. It was all of these things that I never got from my parents or my ex wife, whom never thought I was good enough. There were 40 years of not really feeling like I was loved or important to anyone, and suddenly I felt it at this place. It was incredible.”

Ever since, JC has frequented shows and festivals across the United States. He also plans to take his youngest son to his first festival this coming spring to share the experience with family. Beyond his involvement in the music scene, JC has also started his very own personal training business as a way to help others feel the way he did when he began to take his life back.

The dance music scene has done so much for JC and others like him, which makes it unfortunate that so many critics view it as a problem in our society today. When asked about how he would go about changing the minds of skeptics, this was what JC had to say:

“I’ve seen music go from punk rock to rock n’ roll to house. Every single one has some sort of drug or alcohol activity. It is simply unrealistic to make EDM and raving the bad guy because from Woodstock to everything thereafter, there has always been “something else” involved with music and the arts. That’s just life. It’s difficult to explain to people what raving is like. It’s something they have to experience. I think it takes a very open mind and someone who is willing to put down their reservations for a second and embrace life. That’s what it symbolizes to me at least. Embracing life to its fullest. Anyone can go to a rave and say they hate the music and everyone is fucked up in their underwear, but that’s a closed mind. It’s the same thing people thought about Woodstock. They just need to be open to it.

The love and acceptance at raves should be a part of everyday life, but unfortunately it isn’t. For some people raves are the only places they can experience this. It’s a small slice of what heaven could be like.”

We can all learn a thing or two from JC’s story. No matter how tough things may get, how close to our hearts our problems may be, there will always be music. As long as there’s music, there will always be a safe place to be free.

To keep up with JC and his future rave adventures, give him a follow on Instagram here!