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Show Us Your Hands: Inside EDM’s Gloving Craze

With their mesmerizing movements and entrancing light shows, glovers are becoming an EDM force

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If you've been to an EDM show in recent years, you've seen them: dancers waving light-equipped gloves in the faces of mesmerized ravers. What may look like a drug-induced lark is actually part of a budding international phenomenon, known to the rave community as "gloving." While a DJ performs on stage, a glover entertains the audience, donning illuminated gloves, moving his or her fingers in time to the beat and forming rapidly changing light patterns. Glovers' displays can be a show within a show, and the man largely responsible for gloving's spread is Brian Lim.

What follows is a break-down of Lim's business and the gloving craze at large, complete with accompanying videos. By Nicole Pajer

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The Art of Gloving

26-years-old, Brian Lim is the CEO and founder of EmazingLights and iHeartRaves, collectively "the world's largest rave retailer." Since selling gloving essentials (LED glove lights and stretch gloves) from the trunk of his car at a Baldwin Park In-n-Out Burger, the savvy entrepreneur has leveraged his business into a $5 million enterprise. 

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Poi Power

Lim first became entranced by gloving when his girlfriend purchased a pair of light-equipped gloves in 2009. He took them for a drunken spin around a club and was hooked. "I was having the time of my life," he says, speaking on the phone from the EmazingLights/iHeartRaves headquarters in Anaheim, California. "I realized there was a market for these."

While working 70 hours per week as a business technology analyst for Deloitte Consulting, Lim, the son of Chinese immigrant parents who worked running a donut shop, relocated his cottage-industry to a brick-and-mortar store, opening his first retail location in West Covina, California. Now he operates out of a 15,000 square foot warehouse in Anaheim and has expanded to include four additional EmazingLights/iHeartRaves stores across California and Texas in addition to his thriving online business. Ravers shell out as much as $125 to nab his latest LED gloves and accessories like tethered swingable "poi" light toys — sort of like glowing yo-yos, a version of which can be seen in this video. 

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Harsh Vibes

A master glover himself, Lim has catapulted his cherished pastime into a community of more than 20,000 performers. Glovers flock to his stores for monthly competitions and check out his YouTube channels to educate themselves on the latest gloving techniques like "popping" — quickly tensing then releasing muscles to create a "stop and glitch" look — and "liquid," which Lim describes as "using a joint-by-joint motion to create the illusion of flowing water." This video shows a tutorial for the latter. 

As you might expect, not everyone is a fan of gloving. In 2010, EDM promotion company Insomniac banned gloving from their festivals. "This was like a natural disaster that hit the gloving scene hard," explains Lim. "We're still trying to recover."

Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella explains that it was the "cuddle puddles" of gloving gawkers piled up on the floor and associated drug connotations that fueled his decision. "Between the fire marshals and the media perception," Rotella says, "[gloving] was putting the events in jeopardy and was not helping the health of the culture." Despite his adherence to glove-free shows, Pasquale respects the hobby, noting that some glovers "are really skilled."

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Gloving Gods

For his part, Lim has worked to turn the community away from the "drug-infused scene." Those lights may look amazing under the influence of MDMA, but true top-tier gloving maneuvers require sober discipline."We like to focus on the competitive side of gloving," says Lim. "You need to practice daily and have a clear mind to compete and win against a large group of peers."

Gloving can get competitive, as seen in this video. Glovers from across the nation come together on a monthly basis to perform in gloving competitions. While winners can take home thousands in cash and prizes, the competitors are ultimately seeking credibility. To judge his monthly competitions, Lim summons the help of the community's top glovers. "People gather around as the glovers perform," says Lim. "They're then judged on a points system, which is based upon a set of five criteria: execution, musicality, cleanliness, variety, and trick difficulty." 

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Gloving’s Growth

Gloving is even moving out of the strict-EDM world. It's been featured on television shows like The Voice, America's Best Dance Crew and Shake it Up. Lim also established the International Gloving Championship, the world's "biggest and baddest" gloving competition, which he hosts at the Yost Theater in Orange County, California. The event brings the world's top glovers together and provides them with an arena to perform outside of raves. "We're going to be introducing team battles in gloving for the first time," says Lim."

In addition to the annual IGC, currently in its fourth year, Lim and his Emazing Lights colleagues are in the process of creating the first professional gloving team. Called the Light Theory, the team will consist of paid glovers who will perform at various events and EDM festivals. Lim also plans to have the team teach classes on gloving. He's also working to open EmazingLights/iHeartRaves stores across the country, with locations planned for Florida, New York and Illinois.

Despite the growth of the business, Lim remains committed to the idea of gloving as a creative expression. "With gloving," he says, "your imagination is the canvas and your hands are the paintbrush."