Unbelievable as it may seem to many of us, the 90s are now 30 years past and can therefore be considered “vintage”. It is in the circular nature of popular culture that a new generation will discover bucket hats, Doc Martens and illegal partying for themselves. It is interesting to consider though, that the “Second Summer of Love” in 1988/9, was the biggest youth culture revolution the world had seen since the 1960s and since then, no underground culture has had a similar impact as of yet. In both the 60s and the 90s, a new movement emerged out of political and social division – and with the alarming political chaos we witness around the world today and young people increasingly taking to the streets for their values, that moment might just be around the corner again…
Before rave culture took off, nightclubs were usually rather depressing places where people went to get drunk, try to meet someone or have a fight. Acid house and Ecstasy turned nightclubs into what they were supposed to be all along: a place to dance. The drugs and music together created a euphoric high that engulfed an entire generation in a hedonistic haze of peace, love and unity. Rave culture transcended class and race, town and country, north and south. Life suddenly went from black and white to Technicolour.
As with most youth culture movements, they are deeply suspicious to the establishment, and after a series of ecstasy-related deaths in late 1988, a nationwide moral panic ensued. As the media sensationalised the dangers of acid house and ecstasy, the movement became a challenge to authorities, prompting parliament to pass a new law to
“remove persons attending or preparing a gathering on land in the open air of 20 or more persons (whether or not trespassers) at which amplified music is played during the night (with or without intermissions) and is such as, by reason of its loudness and duration and the time at which it is played, likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality; “music” includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”
Those repetitive beats, that were born out of a pro-hedonistic rather than anti-authority movement thus became political by default. Top of the Pops issued a ban on records featuring the word 'acid,' while Topshop banned the sale of smiley T-shirts, a symbol that was associated with drug use. Today, we know it as the unmistakable symbol of raving, expressing the simple joy of hitting the dancefloor, together as one.
Raves provide a way for people to immerse themselves in a positive, permissive atmosphere of love, unity, fun and happiness. Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect (PLUR) are the core principles that rave culture is based on. Perhaps the foundations for us to embrace a kinder way of life, selfcare, mindfulness, equality, a more fluid definition of sexuality and gender, the tearing down of social constructs and stigma and the quest for a more sustainable lifestyle, were all laid back in the summer of love. Rave culture made these kind of safe spaces possible in the early Nineties, and for a lot of people it was an extraordinary liberation. This was rave culture's great and lasting achievement.
It has been 30 years, but the spirit of the 1988 summer of love remains and still resonates, even if some of the paradigms have changed. Instead of a drug-soaked thrill, this generation may seek out new sober raves or attend a respectful rave in a forest with a ‘leave no trace’ policy where everyone sweeps the location once the party is over - even in the early morning after dancing all night. As the first generation of ravers grow up, there are now parent and baby raves or raves for the deaf, who can feel the euphoria through the vibration of heavy beats through the floor.
Fashions may change but the desire to let your hair down and have fun in a positive, permissive atmosphere remains and looking towards the future, we'll need all the euphoria we can get. Raving and rave culture is all about celebrating our love for dance, music, and self-expression. This season, The Place will celebrate the infallible alchemy of dance and electronic music with Gary Clarke’s Wasteland, Igor + Moreno’s BEAT and Scottish Dance Theatre’s double bill of works by Sharon Eyal and Emanuel Gat.