During my recent, and very predictable, new year sabbatical from raving I started to think a lot about the pros and cons of going out in London. At the grand old age of 31, I’d been feeling the burn – not physically so much, but mentally I had a persistent feeling that things had changed, that ‘it wasn’t like it used to be’ and that maybe curtailing my raving ways would be a good idea… at least for the time being. Being away from the clubs and warehouses, I had a lot of time to ponder over the issues that affect partying in the current climate and having already written a piece on the London club scene for Mixmag, I realised there was a lot to consider.
I then watched the whole shuffling debate unfold with pretty much everyone in the world and their mum adding their two pennies worth or at least stoking the flames of debate and aiming a hail of venom at the shufflers. On top of this came my own experiences and attitude towards going out and partying, as well as feedback from my circle of friends.
The general consensus, in recent times, has been quite negative – away from the common issues associated with warehouse parties – poor ventilation and sound, queues for toilets, badly managed bars and so on – something that came up time and again was the crowds at parties. As we all know house music is massively popular at the moment and has attracted a slightly different kind of demographic to what most of the older, more discerning, ravers are used to. This has caused a hell of a lot of friction and, frankly, unnecessary hatred towards the shufflers and their ilk. Now, this may seem like familiar ground especially since Vice, The Guardian and various blogs have all covered shuffling to various degrees, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In my eyes, what we should be asking ourselves is not ‘Where did the shufflers come from?’ but ‘Where has the love gone?’… what belies all of this friction is an overwhelming air of snobbery, in the place of empathy and acceptance – which used to be a lot more common in the rave scene.
The ‘Godfather’ of shape cutting/shuffling: Madkezza
*Before I continue, I must admit that I was as guilty as everyone else of turning my nose up at the shufflers, the younger ravers, the ones who only go to parties where certain DJs are playing. But, having had some time out to really think about things, I’ve changed my mind a little – which is the reason why I’m writing this piece. Of course, I’m 31, so the first point to make is that my observations of club culture are from a more experienced (and hopefully more grown up) point of view – and I have less in common with the typical raver, who would likely be in their late teens/early twenties, which pretty much nullifies my complaint that ‘young people have no manners’! I’m old, they’re young, and I’m trying to get over it.
In 2012 everyone noticed a considerable change in the clientele at warehouse parties. It went from a bunch of (usually) middle class east Londoners and their associates, who’d been raving since ‘day dot’ and all knew their Move D from their Ben Klock, to the perma-tanned Essex gang with their BOY baseball caps, bum bags, ultra-loose vests and Nike Blazers. And then it went a bit more ‘street’, with a slightly more aggy crowd coming from various corners of London. As I said, this caused some friction – and shuffling became a symbol for all the trouble that filtered into raves; fights, robberies, bad attitudes… All the more experienced ravers did their utmost to avoid the parties where they knew the shufflers would be and turned their noses up whenever anyone who fit the ‘shuffling mold’ would be hanging out in the same warehouse as them.
Aggression started to become more common than love and euphoria, people would barge past one another without apologising or saying ‘Excuse me’. In fact, I made friends with someone at the krankbrother street party last year simply because I excused myself as I squeezed past him. He was so surprised that somebody actually had the common courtesy to do so that he remembered me and we got chatting and spent the rest of the day hanging out together. Manners cost nothing, saying ‘Excuse me’ and ‘Thanks’ when pushing your way through the crowd counts for a hell of a lot and would improve the atmosphere at raves massively. Even if you’re flying on cloud 9, having someone shove past you is guaranteed to bring you down – and it can be so easily avoided. So, my first point is that, in order for us to improve the general ‘vibe’ at parties, manners and pleasantries are crucial. It’s a no-brainer really, but seems to be severely lacking most of the time.
Footage of illegal acid house raves in 1989.
People love to moan too much as well, everyone’s a critic nowadays. If you look at the RA forums you’ll see people moaning left, right and centre about clubs/warehouses and their crowds. But what can they do? You can’t ban a certain type of person, or someone who dresses (or dances) a certain way. The way forward, and it may make me sound like an old hippie, is for everyone to just take a step back and try to be a little more accepting of each other. To me, this is the key to having a good night nowadays and it should never change. I’m probably wrong, but when I watch videos from the old Sunrise parties, or any footage from the late eighties/early nineties rave scene in the UK, there seems to be this atmosphere where everyone – no matter what class, creed, race or dancing style – is on the same level, letting loose, enjoying the music together and not worrying about how they look, or who they’re dancing next to …and they probably weren’t as bothered about acoustics or air-conditioning either! Of course, this was when everything was fresh and new, so perhaps that has something to do with it. But I do believe that, although society is acclimatised to raving now and it’s not really anything that special or new, we can still manage to maintain a communal vibe and at least try to enjoy ourselves without worrying about who’s dancing next to us. Surely the whole point of going out to party is to have a good time and forget your worries? Not to create new ones because you don’t like what the person next to you is wearing. Dance, smile, shake it off and get on with it, life really is too short to waste energy on being negative in a space that’s made for positivity.
As one high-profile promoter said to me when I was putting together the Mixmag piece: “After our Halloween party last year just looking at the comments on our Facebook wall, there were a lot of negative comments about the crowd. Ok, people might not like the person they’re dancing next to but it used to be you went to raves and people got on with each other, it didn’t matter if the person next to you was black or some like 19-year-old kid or someone in their forties, everyone got on. There doesn’t seem to be as much of that now, everyone seems to want to hate on everyone else and I think that’s part of what the problem is – if people went out for the music and to have a good time, then London would be a better place.”
Another thing that got to me during my recent outings was the fact that no one seemed to want to socialise anymore. Now I’m quite introverted so I won’t go running around a club trying to be everyone’s friend, but now and again it’s nice to nudge someone, smile and maybe chat about how good your night is for a few minutes. Oh no, we can’t do that anymore, we all have to stick with the group we went out with and we can’t let anyone infiltrate our moody little tribe. Again, bring back the love – it’s not hard to be friendly and it certainly isn’t a weakness. Drop the attitudes and the chip on your shoulders. Raving is about having fun, letting your hair down and enjoying the music, not posing and posturing – there are catwalks built especially for that kind of behaviour, buy a one-way Eurostar ticket, head to Paris Fashion Week and don’t come back.
I know it’s annoying when some kid comes bouncing around in a warehouse party thinking certain DJs are the be-all and end-all of house music, doing some old dance that we thought had gone out of fashion years ago, but really… is shuffling that offensive? Is not knowing the discography of every bloody DJ and producer such a big crime? I’ve heard people say, “We don’t want those kind of people in raves.”, “They don’t know anything about the music”… and? So, in order to attend a rave these days you must be a house and techno encyclopaedia, be well spoken and only dance by nodding your head and swaying side to side?
This is the biggest issue for me, there’s a very nasty undertone which reeks of classism – so the person next to you knows nothing about Marcel Dettmann, so what? They’re having a good time and so should you. No one has the right to tell someone that they can’t listen to a certain genre of music, no one OWNS house music, it’s not mine, it’s not yours, it’s not anyone’s, which means anyone can listen to it and get what they want out of it. If all someone wants to do is listen to their favourite DJ, or if they only know the names of one or two DJs, who has the right to tell them they can’t? Don’t get so uppity about it, just accept their outlook and get on with your own business. Everyone takes different things from music and not everyone is as fanatical about knowing names of tunes and DJs as others are. Some people just want to go out and enjoy themselves regardless of who’s playing or what rare, limited-press B-side the super cool DJ has slipped into the mix… they love the music just as much as the trainspotters.
The bottom line is, if someone wants to pay money to go out, dance, drink and have a good time – and their behaviour doesn’t infringe on your enjoyment of the night, then why have a problem with them? Dance music in all its forms has been such a unifying force since its very beginnings, there are so many people from all walks of life who live for the weekend when they can let their hair down and forget all the stresses and strains of life in the big city for a few hours. Some of these people will be a bit more boisterous and energetic than others, but is that such a bad thing? I think there are a lot of people out there who really to check themselves and their attitudes because they’re no better than the people they dislike so unnecessarily. It’s just as ignorant to hate someone because of their background as it is to barge through a club like a runaway train.
This crowd issue is everyone’s problem – yeah there are knobs out there, but don’t judge someone or look down on them because they’re a bit rough round the edges or excitable. Until we start trying to open our hearts more and to be more accepting of one another, then it’s never going to get any better. I don’t care how much of a tree hugger that makes me sound because it’s the truth and should be applied to society as a whole really…
Words by Marcus Barnes.