Raves return as superclubs shunned
By Sunday Herrald – Friday, 12 July, 2002
They provided some of the defining moments of the 1980s, infuriated police and politicians and inspired the biggest youth movement since punk … now illegal raves are on the rise again.
Dance fans fed up with overcrowded clubs and overpriced DJs are returning to the days of acid-house parties. Held in disused warehouses, fields and tunnels, these dance parties are, for now, known to a select few on a word-of-mouth basis.
Posters disclosing only the time and name of the night alert followers to an upcoming event, keeping pick-up points or venues secret for the hundreds of people expected. The information is then spread through word of mouth and by mobile phone text messages.
Promoters and DJs across Scotland say the nightclub industry — especially the more commercial ventures — is facing difficult times. In an attempt to discover the reasons behind the fall of the club scene, Scottish dance magazine M8 is devoting this month’s edition to the crisis.
The magazine’s Mickey McMonagle said: ‘The major clubs are experiencing problems at the moment. DJs are asking higher prices, perhaps too high for the promoters and the punters — up to £2000 a night.’
He believes another contributing factor is a recent rise in the popularity of cocaine. Whereas ecstasy fuelled raves and acid house in the 1980s, McMonagle believes cocaine encourages people to sit in a bar and listen to a good DJ set rather than battle their way through a crowded nightclub.
‘There are illegal dance raves out there,’ he said. ‘Sometimes it’s a case of a few friends getting together to stage a party for themselves in the open air. I knew of one guy who shipped his friends out to an island in Loch Lomond for a party.’
Under the Licensing Act 1996, organisers must apply to their local council for an entertainment license each time they want to stage an event. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said such licenses cover the sale of alcohol and ensure health and safety regulations are upheld. Failure to apply for a license would render the event illegal.
Raves and free parties first emerged on the UK dance scene in the late 1980s and dominated youth culture until the mid-1990s. They soon became commercialised with major events such as a 1993 rave on a Chernobyl theme at Edinburgh’s Ingliston Royal Highland Club Centre attended by 5000 people.
‘If there was ever a time for illegal dance events to come back it would be now,” said DJ Huggie of Blast at Club Mercado in Edinburgh. ‘There are so many club nights now that people want something different. Dance music is so mainstream that what was a weekend thing is now a 7-day-a-week pastime. Whereas three years ago there were around 20 different nights throughout Edinburgh and Glasgow, there are around 60 now.’
The return to rave — there have been numerous events in both Edinburgh and Glasgow over the summer — is part of a wider phenomenon of an ever expanding global underground dance community, its DJs travelling throughout Europe and the US.
The recent formation of Network 23 and the long-term popularity of Desert Storm, both underground youth networks operating via the internet, show that the trend is still alive and growing in the 21st century.
Gavin, who has recently attended underground dance events in Scotland, said the appeal lies in the community spirit. ‘The people that go along are very like-minded. If all your friends are dancing you can sit down and talk to these people and connect with them,’ he said.
He believes commercial clubs are deterring clients with a heavy-handed approach to security and overcrowded venues.
But not all promoters are convinced a drop in attendance to legitimate clubs equals a rise in the underground scene. Raymond MacIntosh, organiser of the licensed Summer Solstice yearly outdoor dance event near Lossiemouth, said festivals — not illegal raves — are set to benefit from clubbers’ dissatisfaction.
Ricky Magowan, founder of the monthly club night Colours at Glasgow’s Arches nightclub, agrees. He said: ‘I don’t think we’re going to see a trend towards underground dance parties in Scotland. When that was all the rage in England there were only a handful here. We also don’t have the transport links.’
The underground movement of the past has been ‘bastardised’ by large companies, Magowan said. ‘The big clubs are getting bigger while the smaller ones get smaller,’ he said. ‘Big-name DJs are getting to the top while the middle-of-the-road names are struggling.
‘A lot of DJs aren’t faithful to the home scene and are moving abroad, and there are so many festivals that people are reluctant to spend £15 on one DJ when they can see several at once.’