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Dance before the police come
July 9, 2012 11:48 AM   Subscribe

"Shut Up and Dance’s 1991 hardcore LP ‘Dance Before the Police Come’ was released at a time when the UK authorities were struggling to contain the massive explosion of raves. Thousands of people each weekend were playing a cat and mouse game with the police to party in fields and warehouses, and if the state was often outwitted by meeting points in motorway service stations and convoys of cars, it tried to keep the lid on the phenomenon by staging high profile raids."
Dance before the police come: a social history, covering UK (and US) raves, queer activism, morality police (both figurative and literal) and racial discrimination.

Found via Dan Hancox's excellent article on the disaster that was this past weekend's Bloc Festival in London (during which people danced before the police came, and after they left, via the medium of turning shipping containers into huge drums).

Also: the title track from Shut Up And Dance's 1991 album: Dance Before The Police Come.
posted by Len (14 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you weren't there, you might believe that the Hacienda was where all the action was at. For those of us who actually *were* there, the Blackburn parties were a much better scene.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:15 PM on July 9, 2012


Certain council governments just outside of certain major English cities stand to make a great deal of money for their local pubs, cafes, and misc. stores (and by extension, the town council itself) by making the licensing processes for these raves a walk in the park.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:24 PM on July 9, 2012


Just last week (based on something I think I read on metafilter?) I watched Summer of Rave. It was fairly nostalgic for me since I spent the summer of 1990 in Scotland. Sadly, I never got to go to any raves (but plenty of dancing happened!)
posted by vespabelle at 12:33 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is exactly what I'm talking about when I say that rave culture really can't/shouldn't be bought, sold or commodified.

The important difference between buying a ticket to today's massive commercial EDM festivals and the earlier free/cheap/illicit parties (and massives) is simply this: Ownership.

"Do it yourself" along with it's related sisters "radical self expression" and "radical personal responsibility" are central tenants of house/rave culture.

Without the DIY ethos, you only have an audience that isn't invested in the ownership (and stewardship) of the party. With the price of an expensive ticket to a large, mainstream/permitted festival, audience members become expectant and demanding to be entertained for the price of that ticket. The audience feels more free to litter, to behave badly, to push back at the expected cultural norms - to get as much value out of that dear ticket price as they can.

When DIY culture is applied to renegade parties and festivals - there aren't any expectations of services. Or safety. Or even entertainment. It is implicitly understood, communicated and conveyed by the message of the medium itself that you're very much on your own. If you're bored - don't be boring. Entertain yourself. Make something. Make music. Make costumes. Make art. Make love.

With DIY culture there is a personal investment in that event. People feel involved and engaged. They feel a sense of ownership. They think to themselves "I helped build this and make this happen." even if all they did was show up and dance and participate peacefully.

Because at the root of house/rave culture? That's all that's really required. For people to show up and share of themselves and partake and connect with other people. You don't need a sound system. You don't need major headlining acts. You don't need kilowatt laser shows. You don't need police or security, either.

All you need is a belief that music, art and love live inside each of us - and the freedom and safe space to express it. House/dance music can be as simple as clapping and voices. A glass bottle being tapped, a hollow log thumped with sticks. That's where house music really started, with the simple, natural rhythms inherent in all of us. It started thousands or tens of thousands of years ago.

And that's basically what drew me so strongly to house and rave culture - the very intense DIY ethics and the focus on community. It's an incredibly pure distillation of the joy and music of human existence. It literally starts with a heartbeat.

And this is why it's still going strong three decades later, and why it's not going away any time soon. It's primal and primeval and taps into some of our deepest ancestral memories of culture and belonging, and it is good.
posted by loquacious at 1:09 PM on July 9, 2012 [23 favorites]


Without the DIY ethos, you only have an audience that isn't invested in the ownership (and stewardship) of the party. With the price of an expensive ticket to a large, mainstream/permitted festival, audience members become expectant and demanding to be entertained for the price of that ticket. The audience feels more free to litter, to behave badly, to push back at the expected cultural norms - to get as much value out of that dear ticket price as they can.

Burning Man this year is going to be AWESOME!
posted by alex_skazat at 2:00 PM on July 9, 2012


it tried to keep the lid on the phenomenon by staging high profile raids

That seems... counter-productive.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:22 PM on July 9, 2012


Big fish/little fish/cardboard box.
posted by Webbster at 2:44 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was the Thatcherite Tory M.O.: hammer down hard on anything and anybody who isn't quite like us: ravers, travellers, all those innocent hippies wanting to celebrate solstice at Stonehenge and such. That's how they had smashed the unions of course earlier and they'd grown increasingly nasty and bloated in power, as well as increasingly clueless.

Of course it was counterproductive, but they couldn't help themselves. It took Blair and New Labour to show yuou could be down with the kids and an authoritarian bastard at the same time, which in turn gave us David "quite like the Artic Monkeys" Cameron.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course it was counterproductive, but they couldn't help themselves. It took Blair and New Labour to show yuou could be down with the kids and an authoritarian bastard at the same time, which in turn gave us David "quite like the Artic Monkeys" Cameron.

And also Cameron and his attempt to glom onto "The Eton Rifles" because he is apparently too stupid to do a close reading of song lyrics.
posted by Frowner at 2:50 PM on July 9, 2012


Could NOT agree more, Loq. In fact, that ethos is the reason why our Nottingham UK partners named themselves the DiY Sound System. I have fond memories of setting up afterparties 3 levels deep to avoid getting pinched by the local Rave Task Force (afterparty 1 was on the flyer; afterparty 2's location was only posted via infoline while the main party was happening; afterparty 3 - the "real" afterparty - always happened at a secret, but public, location that was passed via word-of-mouth).

But I truly miss our annual Earth parties; they were the pinnacle of house music for me personally, and I will always regret not getting across the pond to party it up with our UK brothers and sisters when I had the chance. I can only imagine what field parties over there must've been like...

I can still listen to our old mixtapes, though (download linky!).

I do NOT miss driving around at 4 a.m. with a genny and milk crates filled with power strips, extra cords, flashlights, a raggedy roll of TP and warm beer packed into my car, though. Or always faintly smelling like gasoline...
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:58 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah and I here I was thinking Peverelist came up with that great song title!
posted by jcruelty at 3:27 PM on July 9, 2012


"The important difference between buying a ticket to today's massive commercial EDM festivals and the earlier free/cheap/illicit parties (and massives) is simply this: Ownership."

9 people stabbed (by one person?), 3 overdose deaths and (apparently) a kidnapping at a large Dublin EDM festival:

:(
posted by panaceanot at 3:57 AM on July 10, 2012


That DIY thing comes as a surprise to me. I was made familiar with the rave scene in Wisconsin. All second-hand, I was past the age when that was for me. But the secret of the rave, as explained to me, was largely the absolute absence of alcohol. In those days they certainly weren't free, and they were quite awesome. And once you got in, you stayed in until morning.
posted by Goofyy at 9:24 AM on July 10, 2012


NYPD Officers Arrest Couple for Dancing Inside Deserted Subway Station
posted by homunculus at 11:24 AM on July 10, 2012


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