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Public Enemies: Cities vs Dance Music in 2014

From Miami to Tokyo, legendary clubs and long-standing festivals took a beating from lawmakers.
Illustration by Satoshi Hashimoto (via Monocle

2014 was yet another year in which dance music became public enemy number one for city lawmakers the world over. Although some ordinances were eventually repealed, the increased visibility of dance music (perhaps thanks to its spotlight-seeking scion known as EDM) meant that the past twelve months saw numerous clubs and festivals face tougher opposition than ever before. Ineffective drug policy, corruption, and mismanagement lay at the heart of many of this year's issues.


Early in the year, Sydney, Australia's nightlife was dealt a brutal blow by sweeping "lockout" laws that took effect on February 24, the height of Australian summer. Under the new (arbitrarily designed) regulations, club-goers were prohibited from entering a club after 1:30am. Any customers that leave a club after 1:30am are similarily barred from re-entry. Despite intense public opposition and the closure of several nightclubs, the law shows no signs of lifting.

Following 83 on-site arrests, the death of 21-year old Adonis Escoto, and the trampling of a security guard, Ultra Music Festival narrowly avoided a ban from Miami's Bayfront Park in early April. The ban, intended to negate the city's agreement to host the festival until 2018, was proposed to combat the "deleterious effect" that the festival has had on Downtown Miami. Business-owners, fans and the festival promoters countered with evidence that the main effect Ultra has on the city of Miami is to make it buckets of money from tourists and spend-happy ravers, flush with cash at the start of annual festival season.

Later that month, Toronto Councillor Mammoliti introduced a motion to ban large-scale dance events at Exhibition Place, Canada's largest exhibition and convention centre. Over the years, Exhibition Place hosted dozens of 9000-person electronic music concert and was recommended by Toronto Public Health in 2000 as the safest, most regulated place to hold such events. So what went wrong? In a supreme act of selfishness, a local nightclub owner (and campain backer of the now-former, disgraced Mayor Rob Ford) saw the centre as competition and gave the Toronto councillors a not-so-subtle nudge. After widespread public outcry, the decision was eventually repealed.


A bit further south, dance music fans got some good news later in April when it was revealed that Electric Zoo would be returning to New York City. Safety measures were ramped up and spirits raised by a bizzare PSA, but unfortunately the festival was shut down on Day Three again, this time because of bad weather. Oh well. At least they caught the fuckhead whose drugs killed two people there last year.

The birthplace of house music wasn't spared the ire of out-of-touch politicos either. After signing with new owners, Chicago's Congress Theater banned DJ shows outright. The ban applies to music "created by a DJ or anything that is not a real instrument" and still stands. This came on the heels of murmurs about how the city's notoriously corrupt council had been caving to pressure from some neighborhoods who decided that house wasn't something they wanted in their backyard. While the Congress might be done for, venues like The Mid and Smart Bar are still holding strong, but the future of house in Chicago might be one the people have to fight for.

Japan's controversial "Fueiho" law banning dancing saw its share of the spotlight this year too, as Tokyo police intensified crackdowns on nightclubs. We went to Japan and spoke to promoters, lawyers, and nightclub owners about the effects that the 66-year old national law has had on clubbing throughout the city. Japanese DJs released music to raise awareness of the issue, while representetives from the dance music community brought their gripes directly to Japan's parliment. On October 24, a new measure was at long last passed by Japan's Cabinet, indicating a full repeal of Fueiho was to come, legally allowing dancing at night. The law, while a step in the right direction, still imposed several arbitrary rules.

Even in a dance mecca such a London, nightclubs were no safer from the efforts of city policymakers to shut them down. Shortly after its 15th anniversary, famed super club Fabric faced closure when, after the fatel overdose of an 18-year old girl, police called for a review of their license. 35,000 petition signatures were collected in the following 24 hours, and the Islington City Council eventually allowed Fabric to continue to operate, but with crippling restrictions. Fabric is now forced to employ drug-sniffing dogs and make use of an ID scanning system--a rarity in UK clubs.

Read More:
Ultra Will Stay in Miami… For Now
Toronto Just Banned Electronic Dance Concerts on its Public Grounds
Electric Zoo Returns to New York with Enhanced Safety Measures
Fabric Saved, but Police Impose Strict Security Measures
Chicago's Political Machine Targets EDM, Bans DJ Shows Outright
Japan's War on Dance: Clubbing in the State of Fueiho
Why You'll Have A Bad Night Out in Sydney

Ziad Ramley is on Twitter: @ZiadRamley