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The VICE Guide to Raving

Because these days dance music is the only music left.

Photo by Alex Patterson

Everyone's a raver now. “Guitar music is dead” is the kind of thing your dad says – that’s how dead it is. Now, it’s all beats. The future you glimpsed in 1990s movies where everyone's into techno and has slime green hair is upon us. From here on in, "gigs" are things that only the cast of Made in Chelsea go to and Ron Morelli is your substitute dad.

But while so many of us go raving, the vast majority get it wrong. Be it the drugs, the joy, the communal toilets or the pressure not to look like a dick, we often end up looking like dicks. We eyeball the DJ, we pump our fists, we kiss Europeans and we piss our wages away on booze and drugs only to dry heave it all straight back up over our £80 trainers.


So, treat this as Raving For Dummies; a kind of self-help manual for people who can deal with week-long comedowns. Maybe it seems fascistic to tell people how to behave at an event that's supposed to be about hedonistic release, but watch this video and you’ll understand that perhaps Britain's new raving class could use a bit of guidance.

This is imperative. Looking good when you're young is the cornerstone of British youth culture – the thing that sets us apart from the Americans with their board shorts and the men on the street with their rape culture slogan-Ts. That all-important sense of aesthetic belonging – that indescribable feeling of, "Fuck, I look a bit of alright," is what all great cultural movements are built upon.

Except now it isn't. The demise of subculture in the UK means that you really don't have to spend too much time on this. Some people still make a valiant effort but really, how long can you spend angling your Night Slugs fitted? You aren't Michael Alig or Sting in Quadrophenia, you're just one of those guys who gets his fade shaped up once a week. The days of people doing their hair with eggs and glue, ironing their Mohair jackets, or pouring blue paint over their heads are consigned to the past. The closest we have are girls dressing like Hassidic ninjas at fashion parties, and no one has ever had fun at a fashion party.

Modern club fashion is, by and large, cosily utilitarian; easy to wear, machine washable and unlikely to get you attacked in a Wetherspoons on the Sunday recovery session. It'd be great if someone did push the boat out a bit, but in what direction? People standing near repetitive beats have a shameful sartorial history of bleached dreadlocks and furry fluro legwarmers; if fashion had a Hague, everyone at Electric Daisy Carnival would stand trial for war crimes. So maybe it's best to stick with the streetwear.


Photo by Marco Tulio Valencia

Sorry to break it to you guys, but they’re all shit and they're all bastards. Soon enough, every dealer realises that cutting corners isn't going to put off their customer base. Not when all their customers only buy drugs when they're drunk and are happy to ship £50 for some mix of boric acid, levamisole and a cursory dose of whatever it is that they actually want to buy.

Which is why the current attitude seems to be: Just choose your poison, if it doesn't work, take more. Eventually something will happen. It could be good, it could be very, very bad. Just don't for one second believe that Rico, AJ, Taz or whatever stupid name your dealer goes by is actually your mate, or that they give a flying fuck about you or your vital organs. They think you’re a chump and they’re laughing at you for calling it "food" as soon as the car door's shut.

Obviously – get it off someone you have some vague connection to and don't buy something new and stupid with a weird name like "Dr Death"; buy something familiar instead. It’s definitely best not to die from shitty drugs and sadly, sometimes people do.

You’re going home. Home to Walthamstow. You're not in Ibiza. Not everybody is living for the party, this isn't one nation, there isn't one drug and there's certainly not one beat. Britain is a claustrophobic, hateful country where having a good time can often be treated as an act of disrespect. There is no reason for you to believe that your fellow passengers (or your cab driver, for that matter) are in solidarity with your night out. They have jobs, children, spouses, lives to live – and let's face it, if you're going out raving with any regularity, you probably don't. This is not a bad thing at all but rubbing your lack of life experience in their faces isn't gonna go down too well. Save it for San Antonio.


You don't have to swing on the tube rails and you don't have to run up to people asking them stupid questions. You're not Australian. If someone broke these rules while you were on your way to a long, lonely night shift, or home to look after your poorly child, you'd probably think they were a cunt. So don't.

Photo by Kieran Cudlip

Unless you're Prince, they're just a part of the night that you have to go through. Stay calm, breathe normally, don't play the showerman when they go through your wallet. Basically, it's a test to see how bait you are. To see if you understand the "We'll look, but we won't look that hard" rules that have served most clubs in the country well enough for 30 years now.

It's one of those unspoken codes of our culture that some people still manage to fuck up, but it's easy to avoid trouble if you have a bit of imagination. Unless you're the kind of mug who goes to Guantanamo-esque megaclubs that have coppers and dogs on the door – then you're pretty much fucked. Until you get through and have to buy your pingers back off the bouncer’s mate inside, that is.

By virtue of not being Moscow, where going out on a Friday night is basically like finding yourself trapped in a disco caste system, or Berlin, where the bouncers are taught to just scream the word "NO" in your face over and over again like art-gay Don Logans, clubbing in the UK is a fairly democratic experience. And this spirit of communality spills over to the guestlist, which at most nights is less a guestlist and more an everyone-within-a-30-mile-radius-who's-heard-a-song-with-a-repetitive-beat-list.


We get it. You’re skint and you all want to have a good time, but there’s a fine art to getting in for free without being a prick. If the venue is run by a faceless promotional entity, then by all means try to blag it. Mail ahead to say that you “run a blog”; it works more often that you’d think. The delusions of grandeur inherent to corporate club promotion deserve to be feasted upon, so if your shame threshold is high, crack on.

But if the door charge for a local club is less than £8, just don’t fucking ask. If you begrudge handing over a fiver but routinely spend half the night calling round for £60 grams of coke, you’re missing the point. The less often you pay to get in, the less nights at small clubs that cater for your SoundCloud wormhole tastes will happen, and the more you’ll end up staying in and watch Boiler Room. In short: unless it’s your good friend’s night and they’re cool with you being a semi-permanent +1, pay up or go home.

Photo by Jake Lewis

Don't buy drinks for your wasteman mates. Don't do rounds. Don't engage the bar staff in conversation. Don't order anything that clearly isn't fucking there. This is a club, not a microbrewery. Just stand patiently, order quickly and try not to spit at the bar staff when there's no change from a score for two vodka lemonades.

I don’t know why anyone under 30 takes coke. Most of us just about make a living wage, and we’re snorting so much of it that "cocaine in the water" is now a reality rather than an outlandish Rick Ross lyric. It’s not exactly an instant club-aid like pills or acid, either. Once you’re in the club, 90 percent of your night will be spent calling for, collecting, dishing out, asking around for and talking about coke. Then, if it’s not run out, the after-parties turn into cotton-mouthed mothers' meetings when we’re supposed to be, you know, having a laugh. And some dick always pockets the communal note.


The only party drug that is worse than coke is ketamine. Ketamine is weed’s sociopath cousin – an unforgiving bastard without any of the familial benefits. No hunger, no happiness, no sleepiness, no desire to listen to Kyuss really loudly – just semi-paralysis and a burning streak of piss once you’re mobile enough to drink again.

The appeal of ingesting animal tranquilisers in organised social situations still ranks as one of life's greatest mysteries, but for some reason it's gone from being the preserve of the dubstep heads, who could sort of get away with it given the sheer lack of motion at DMZ, to being the drug of choice for your garden variety straw-hat deep-house wanker. I mean, most people are terrible as it is on ketamine, let alone people who are terrible 24/7.

Plus, as far as disco injuries go, having doctors cut out your bladder is definitely the most embarrassing.

Photo by Daniel Leinweber

Stop staring at the DJ, ffs, they’re not a magic eye picture; they’ll still look like someone bent double over some electronic stuff no matter how unrelenting your gaze.

Clubbing should be sacred. It should be immersive, life-changing and totally defy shareable documentation. So don’t video it.

At Berlin’s Watergate, there is some fucking hero whose primary role is to confiscate phones from people who are taking photos, Shazam-ing tracks or both. “You can pick your phone up after ze club, or you can leave with your phone,” I’ve overheard more than once. Brutal, Germanic efficiency has never been so appealing.


If you really want your photo taken in a club, go to a Top 40 R&B night in the city centre that’s teeming with student photographers, who’ll gladly indulge you in your narcissism. When I go to a club, I want to feel the walls bend, the ceiling drip, my bones melt, drag myself away for air – not live in fear of a Facebook de-tagging frenzy. It’s estimated that 10 percent of all photos taken in human history were taken in 2012 alone, and 10 percent of those were of you gurning.

Alas, there will always be a gaggle of dickheads trying to turn Corsica into Roskilde 2000 – it's just one of those sad parts of the nightlife experience, one you might have to just allow. If they did it a pub, or at a bus stop, or a family wedding, you'd be well within your rights to end them. But in a club, it’s cramped and frankly being a dick to some people for having more fun than you sucks. Unless it’s this next lot, of course…

Photo by Jake Lewis

Those people that go raving once a year. The Birthday Boys, the Heartbreak Kids, the stragglers, the City boys, the pilly civilians with sunglasses and comedy big-fish, cardboard-box dancing straight out of a Freddie Starr routine from the mid 90s.

Don't give them any space, or respect, or time. There's only one way they'll learn: pure fucking animosity. This isn't the summer of love any more; electronic music is now basically the only music and you're gonna have to fight for your territory. Clubs need to regain exclusivity otherwise they might as just be V Festival with worse toilets.


They’re old, throwing Tai Chi moves, staring at the ceiling, wearing sandals and those graphic equalizer tees, but don’t take the piss. Give them space and let them be. Have some respect for an old rave soldier. You wouldn't piss on a war memorial so no need to take selfies with the scene's Chelsea Pensioners.

Photo by Jake Lewis

They used to have chillout rooms, now you have these. Give people fags, but don’t ask for too many. Smoke weed, but don’t be too bait. Enjoy the relaxation and solace but, and here’s why doing coke sucks, if you’re on gak you’ll want to spend the whole night out here, chatting about work or boys or girls or some shit. And frankly, if all you wanted to do was that, you could've just stood at a bus stop for free.

One thing though: people who want you to give them your joint are the pits. Under no circumstances are you to give a stranger a pull on the zoot. Would you go up to someone inside and ask for a sip of their drink? Would you ask a stranger for a drag on a cigarette? It’s the same principle. People who want "a bun on that" are all Part-Timers (see Part-Timers).

There are two types of rave afterparty; the one that the DJs go to, and the one that the ravers go to. If you can, try to get yourself into the DJ one, as there will be way more booze and drugs (this will be easier for the ladies to achieve but remember girls: you don’t have to touch that ageing Dutch producer's penis if you don’t want to).


If you don’t fancy the intimidating debauchery of a DJ's hotel room, then why not try someone’s flatshare in Hackney/the trendy locale of your respective town or city? They’ll be cool, right? It definitely won’t be full of people playing a game of Spotify Monopoly will it? Oh God. It will.

Your best option for an afterparty depends on how you prepare beforehand. Don’t do all your drugs, don’t spend all your money, leave little reserves, little pools of both before the rave is up, and just head back to whichever mate has the best speakers in their house. That way you don’t have to deal with a bunch of people trying to impress/bang a DJ, and you also don’t have to deal with a gaggle of strangers being total cunts.

Photo by Maggie Lee

Nothing better than going out. Nothing worse than staying out too long. Very occasionally the Straight Through Crew will have a great day, but seriously, very occasionally. Like, maybe twice in your life. Mostly you just end up smashing out lines of medium-priced cocaine and sitting in the corner with a bottle of something you’d never choose to drink, watching and waiting for a way out.

The thing about nights out is that there are an infinite amount of them. Your twenties aren’t going to go up in flames because no one dropped a big tune in the club, or you didn’t pull, or the vibe isn’t right. Use your senses, cut your losses and make up for it next time. More often than not, that moment on the rooftop swimming pool as the sun comes up ain't gonna happen. Taking another pill after 5AM is Russian roulette with bullets in every chamber bar one.


There’s no real advice for this. Maybe watch some telly, or try to sleep loads? You should probably try to avoid speaking to your parents, I guess. Whatever you do do though, it’s nicer to do it with someone else.

Frankly, you're not going to avoid it, and you're certainly not going to escape it; you've put your body through a lot and now it needs some down-time. Some really fucking down-time. No amount of Valium or bacon is going to stop you from feeling like Flight MH370.

Just remind yourself that everything you're feeling is your fault. Not Taz's, not Rico's, not AJ's. Not your mates who egged you on, not the promoter's, not the DJ's, you. Just you. It's an oddly comforting admission of shame, and one that'll help you see your comedown on its own terms, rather than as part of some bullshit narrative about you "needing to release". Just ride the wave, through the tunnel and into the light. Be an adult, take responsibility for your comedowns.

And the same goes for heart attacks.

Check out VICE's dance music channel, THUMP

More on raving: 

Thatcher's War on Acid House

A Big Night Out… at a Psytrance Rave!

Explaining Rave Culture to Americans 

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