Published on February 26, 2014 | by Phoebe White


Save the rave

Head shot of Phoebe White

Phoebe acknowledges that music can define subculture as well as spark discussion. [Linwei Li]

Not long ago I moved to London with, to be honest, not much interest in my studies.

I came to London to see what it could offer me in terms of the relentless London raves, parties and clubs I expected to attend.

It was an exciting time, and consequently I ended up spending my first two years of university at a rave, party or club, or whatever was on the table each weekend.

From a (much too) young age, I have had the urge to hit the town.

Even at the youth club I attended at the age of nine or ten, you would always catch me hijacking the sound system and whacking on a bit of that old banger Come With Me by Special D.

Historically, music in general can define subcultures; it sparks an uprising for style, attitude and discussion.

Typically, society enjoys the feeling of belonging to a particular movement; being involved in something that is completely original, revolutionary and sort of secretive. And dance music is no different.

Throughout music, like-minded people are brought together for one shared genre, whether it’s live music and bands or an operatic society – whatever you might be into. it is an organic feeling of unity.

No one likes it when it naturally runs its course to be eventually capitalised, thus resulting in the decline of its popularity among the ‘original’ fans and losing its spontaneously singular purpose.

And let’s not get started on music festivals, I’ll save that for another time.

Music variety is vital in the progression of genres, and there is always one prominent genre that dominates the charts.

But what makes the dance music scene so special? Why has dance music risen from the ashes of marginalised people, hit the charts and then failed, only to be resurrected once again and catapulted into the charts as a crazed 2013 phenomenon of fist pumping, pilled-up adrenalin seekers?

Underground scene

Throughout the 20th and 21st century, dance music has rocketed, creating a sensation and craze only to be kicked back down into the underground scene once again.

But why is this? This phenomenon did not start like some of Simon Cowell’s manufactured girl bands, that have risen to fame and died out in the space of 48 hours – this is a lifestyle choice of some sort; an ideology and a state of mind.

You might already know that sexual minorities are central to the emergence of the popular dance music we know and love today.

Typically, society enjoys the feeling of belonging to a particular movement, being involved in something that is completely original, revolutionary and sort of secretive, and dance music is no different.

In the early ’70s, when New York disco and garage emerged, parties were a space where ethnic and sexual minorities of the time could be safe, be themselves, and be with others in ways not allowed in the ‘normal’ everyday world, and music was an essential part of these gatherings.

The initial feeling of dance music was the absolute ecstasy with expression of freedom, in all its forms; disco, house, garage, acid house, techno, and all the others bring happiness to people and the sensation of liberation and belonging.

That is why so many regard it as something that is sacred and defines their personality and lifestyle. With this, we know that dance music has its roots firmly cemented, and is committed to providing an originally uplifting experience for all.

Today however, with its broadened popularity, every song has an electronic dance music (EDM) break in it.

This has now sparked thousands of partygoers, young and old, to live the dream of what Sean Kingston refers to as, ‘drink all day and party all night’.

Thousands now saturate the ‘secret’ warehouses of London, Manchester and Leeds every weekend to recreate the novelty of the underground originality that comes with the phrase ‘warehouse rave’ – amazing for young promoters and new companies setting up these nights, but not so good for the atmosphere.


Having only lived in London for three years and only being 21, I can hardly say I know the history of London’s (or any other country’s) party scene.

All I have to go by are stories from mums, dads, family and friends, memoirs and documentaries.

But I can safely say that in the last three years, the originality of these ‘warehouse parties’ is vastly going down the toilet.

With most promoters charging up to £30 for a ticket, it makes me wonder what we are paying for.

In the ’80s, the Chicago House producer Frankie Knuckles famously left The Warehouse, a renowned Chicago club, when it doubled its entry fee and went upmarket in 1982, and started his own club, The Power Plant.

So this progression is not something new – it’s happened before and it will happen many times again.

But with all of these overpriced faux-raves taking place, I want to know where the real raves – the free parties filled with high-on-life ‘original ravers’, sweating buckets with smiley faces on their T-shirts – have gone?

I may have a slightly dream-like idea of what I would like to see, but I know it is not out of reach.

If you are looking for originality and innovative dance music experiences today, look no further than emerging DJs and producers who are often students here at UAL, putting on their own nights in small basement spaces in places like Peckham and Stoke Newington, or even look to the humble house party down the road.

And if someone knows of where I can find a rave that isn’t in a squat full of people shooting up heroin, please comment below, because I am surely missing something.


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