In our world, in their world: When style outranks substance, take the rubbish out


When you’ve dedicated decades to beats and club culture, it’s disappointing that more often than not all people come away with now is a link to the post-event video. And let’s face it, nobody in their right mind really wants to watch that.

Allow us to digress.

Despite spending many years walking in and out of darkened rooms and tents, killing brain cells and forgetting track titles, it was only relatively recently that we realised how easy it must be to forget some of the small details when it’s alarmingly possible for everything imaginable to go wrong. Loyal BLOC Festival advocates, after watching the final doomed edition morph from three days of fast noise to a police incident, everyone here is grateful when we don’t have to stop our friends being trampled on and the police don’t kick us out before midnight.

Nevertheless a problem has long been emerging. But don’t worry too much; we aren’t ready to join in with the Veteran Caner’s Society and their dull trips down memory lane. At least not just yet; rose-tinted spectacles make us more nauseas than a night spent in the recovery position on a speaker at Gatecrasher during the late-1990s. We’re also not quite old enough. Still, the inconvenient truth is hard to ignore.

Dance music is more visible today than it ever has been. Mega-events are held in places that- during the first waves of the scene at least- were once unimaginable, and stars are now superstars proper. The juxtaposition of ‘faceless DJ’ with stadium-filling celebrity image was jarring when names like Paul Oakenfold ruled the commercial roost, given his history in the British grass roots. Today theatrics- from ghoulish make-up to mouse heads- play an integral part in many artist’s ‘unique selling point’ as they look to elevate their show, or at least position themselves so a new audience can get a good photo.

Please don’t misunderstand; the resurgence of a culture that’s traditionally synonymous with acceptance, good times and half-decent drugs is fine by us. Even if some people do look like twats and ketamine keeps ruining the atmosphere. But there are corners that have evidently learnt nothing from mistakes of the past. Bigger, more and marketing have become the priorities; when an artist has a few club dates they are referred to as a ‘tour’, parties see themselves as brands with expansion plans, and someone in America actually made this video, rating the coolest stickers on the laptops of famous DJs.

Who cares what their MacBook Pro looks like so long as they actually play a decent set?

In the UK we have seen where this can take us before and yet seem to be following a similar path again. The worst case end-results are disappointment and boredom prescribed by uninspiring, creatively bankrupt businesses with the sole intention of selling forgettable nights, throwing together slagheap compilations, and releasing throwaway anthems you’ll be embarrassed to own in a few years. The only real difference is, when the crunch hits again, this time there will be no millennial New Year’s Eve to blame the ensuing hangover on.

With inflated everything else come inflated egos and hype, a lack of objective criticism and the inability to see things for what they actually are. Or at least that has certainly been true in the past. How many of those claiming things have “never been better” actually mean “bigger”? For proof, spend a few hours at a 5,000 capacity, £30-plus-booking-fee nightmare, where you can’t dance for bodies and the cookie cutter line up goes through the motions and predictable tunes.

Alternatively, head to one of the countless festivals where you can’t hear the beats properly, if at all, while paying £5 for a programme to tell you what’s actually on and when, despite already spending serious cash buying a ticket. This is before we come to the bar tab.

We have nothing against events on any scale. But we do take issue with events, big and small, when they turn out to be shit. If something isn’t up to scratch, then surely it should be killed off, or left on death’s door to choose between copping out or dropping the bad habits, like a smoker given the chance of a new lung. Instead we’re tolerating if not encouraging an often-blind pursuit of profit and recognition on the part of many in positions of influence- from promoters to performers- who show a complete disregard for what’s important.

And by that we don’t mean putting a tiny number of early bird tickets online so it looks as though the party is selling out, paying students beer money to share positive status updates, or filming a video diary so fans can get an insight into how good a musician’s life is. Instead, our point is that promises must be delivered on, and people should be given an experience to treasure. Things need to be done properly, or what’s the point in bothering at all?

Robotic notions of what’s cool and current reflect the fact many of those involved in the industry don’t really give two basslines about house, techno, or any other electronic variant, and will be the first to jump ship once the scene falls out of favour again. Which it inevitably will. This rampant style over substance attitude has worrying implications and is becoming nothing short of soul destroying, because trends- including electronic music- rise and fall. In contrast, blurred memories from quality events stay with us long after parenthood arrives and we call it a day, irrespective of how many names were on the bill that night, the size of the crowd, or whether it was filmed for future digital broadcast.



Top image (C) Mr.TinDC