A version of this article originally appeared on Noisey Netherlands.
Shamelessly giving into one's desire to be filmed has become completely acceptable in our society. Simply walking down the street can become an obstacle course of selfie sticks, vloggers, and impromptu fashion shoots. Which might be why Boiler Room fits perfectly into our self-obsessed world: both DJs and the audience alike are on camera and visible on a livestream. When the party ends, the recording is posted online. A night at the club becomes an eternal, tangible memory.
Something peculiar happens to people when they're at Boiler Room shows. I've watched multiple streams and I've seen regular partygoers turn into maniacs. If vlogging is a form of masturbation, Boiler Room is a techno orgy in which the camera is the center of attention. Usually there's someone at the front who can't hold it together and needs to hog the spotlight. Looking crosseyed, foaming at the mouth, shoving other people away, yelling, and trying to touch the DJ—the desire to be in front of the camera seemingly knows no bounds.
I recently went to Boiler Room at the Amsterdam music festival Dekmantel, determined to get my few minutes of fame in the front row. I wanted to find out if acting like a diva in front of the camera is a façade people put on or if there's really an insatiable desire for stardom that takes over. Here's a timestamped breakdown of what happened.
4:25 PM — Hey everyone, it’s me!
My Boiler Room experiment started as soon as I arrived at Dekmantel. I wasn't really looking forward to it, so I figured I should just get it over with. I'm tall—about 6'5"—and I'm used to attracting death glares at concerts when I dare to stand close to the stage. But my desire to be the star of a Boiler Room video outweighed my sense of courtesy towards the rest of the audience. I hoped they would understand.
To get myself in the right mood, I slammed a beer and tied a colorful bandana around my head. I took a deep breath and entered the fray. Sometimes I moved sideways in a crab-like fashion to slip between groups of people. Unfortunately, it was impossible to completely avoid hurting the party-loving crowd. The first time I stepped on a set of toes, I politely apologized. But as I got closer to the magical camera, the less sorry I was when I accidentally pricked my elbow in someone else's eye socket. I was experiencing the natural selection that takes place at Boiler Room: compassionate individuals never make it to the front at a Boiler Room party.
4:36 PM — Am I being filmed?
I got stuck somewhere in the third row. In front of me was a girl who shot me annoyed glances every time I tried to subtly push her aside. In front of her were a boy and girl who looked like they came directly from a contemporary version of The Matrix. They were quite short, so I thought the camera might've already been capturing me.
I grabbed my phone to check the livestream and discovered that the DJ was directly between me and the camera. Of all the places he could be! I tried to stick my head between the people in front of me, but it didn't work out very well. The Matrix guy certainly wasn't happy about it. There was only one solution: I had to get closer to the front. Then my coworker, who was watching from the office, sent me a text: "Yes, I see you". I was winning!
4:48 PM — I'm on camera!
The girl in front of me left and only the Matrix people were blocking me. I saw the camera, but it kept focusing on the hands of—there he was again—the DJ. I made my most attention-grabbing moves and it helped. The camera lens scanned over my body from top to bottom. It felt great. I couldn't help blowing a few kisses to the couch potatoes who were watching at home. Hello! I'm here! I exist!
4:53 PM — I’ve turned into a monster.
People who were commenting on the stream also noticed me. Apparently the lust for attention was evident on my face. "Tall guy is like Godzilla waiting to attack the front," one of them wrote in the chat window.
4:56 PM — I’m at the front!
The DJ was working towards the climax. Spurred on by the music, I started yelling and pumping my fist enthusiastically. The build-up was taking a long time, which was kind of tiring. Physically exerting yourself like that for longer than 20 seconds looks stupid, but letting go of all movement before the song's climax is worse.
While I was busy pumping my fist, the person next to me was jumping up and down. When the beat finally dropped, he initiated a mosh pit. If his ploy was to get closer to the front he made a big mistake, because I (not he) reaped the benefits of the chaos he caused. The Matrix folks got stuck in the maelstrom, but with an elegant pirouette I was able to free myself. While I straightened my bandana, I realized:
I was at the front!
What happened in my head at that moment is hard to describe. It was kind of a wild, manic sensation. Suddenly I wanted to show my chest because I went to the gym once this year.
I started unbuttoning my shirt and made my most diva-like moves, and the camera couldn't help but focus on me. The guy who started the mosh pit acknowledged my superiority and put his hat on my head. I didn't know what I looked like, but it didn't matter because during this high everything looked great on me.
The DJ was giving me the exact soundtrack I needed. I felt like hugging him. I took one more small step forward. Everyone was screaming and dancing.
“Back off a bit!” Some spit flew out of my month as I undid one more button. “Back off!” Someone was pushing up against me. Some guy with a microphone who acted like he owned the world. While the music faded, he started announcing DJs. I felt my euphoria shrivel up and the corners of my mouth come down. My moment was done. I took the hat off my head. It was brown; not really my color. I left, hunching ever so slightly.
5:05 PM — The aftermath.
Outside, I sat down on a tree stump, flooded by regret and embarrassment. The camera had turned me into a crazy person by giving me the opportunity to showcase my dance moves online for all eternity. I temporarily disassociated and somehow wasn’t myself anymore. And because of that, my shameless douchebaggery is now available on the internet until the end of time. Fortunately, I was wearing sunglasses.
Sorry, Identified Patient. Your set was awesome, but I was too focused on my own fame. Sorry, everyone whose toes I stepped on. Sorry, girl who was standing in my way. Sorry, Matrix people. And sorry, people at home. I’m considering making a remorseful vlog to apologize, but I’m afraid even that won’t make me feel better.
You can watch the embarrassing episode below in its entirety: