Something to rave about?
I arrive with a group of friends at the somewhat dingy warehouse Netil House by London Fields in the East End of London at midnight. Even though we bought the tickets online weeks ago, the location was kept secret until the day before the party. The night we are going to is called ’Mulletover’ and is usually arranged four times a year, but never at the same place twice. The queue is long and even though the air outside is freezing spirits are high. I’m here with four girlfriends but after a quick glance at the line we establish that the majority of the club goers here are men. Not that we are complaining.
To our surprise there are no bouncers or security guards at the door for this event. After we have traded in our tickets for stamps we are free to enter the party — not even a standard bag-search is being conducted. It is a well known fact that the many of the club goers at this kind of rave are there to do drugs (and some occasional dancing) but this club does not even pretend to care what gets in. I ask a girl, who has moved here from Berlin, why she has decided to go. ‘Because I know it’s going to be a really good night, the DJ’s are really good and I know people here are going to be laid back and easy to talk to.’ I ask her if she is planning on doing drugs. ‘Yeah, I’ve done it before, it goes really well with the music and suits the atmosphere.’
After a hot, long and crowded queue to the cloakroom we make our way towards the bar. The room is big but badly lit and packed with an eclectic mix of people. At the bar I see a beautiful black girl who is holding a luminous purple balloon and ordering a drink. As the bartender hands her the beverage she pours out the last of the white powder from a plastic bag in the drink and casually leaves the bag on the bar desk. Although my bar-neighbor and I are slightly taken aback, the bartender does not seem to think twice about the incident. He quickly grabs the empty little bag and throws it in the bin on top of empty beer-bottles.
As the evening goes on, the queues to the bar seen to vanish dramatically (as opposed to the bathroom-ones which seem endless) and most people are buying bottled still water as opposed to alcoholic beverages. After chatting to a few people on the dance floor it quickly becomes apparent that MDMA (the pure form of ecstasy) is the drug of choice for the evening. This class A-narcotic can make its user euphoric, heighten the person’s sense of intimacy with other as well as reduce anxiety. Its side effects include sweating, paranoia, teeth grinding and insomnia. It is one of the most widely used recreational drugs in the world today and is first and foremost associated with electronic dance music, such as being played at this event. Ecstasy was at its height ofpopularity during the early 1990´s rave scene and came as pills. It is now making a comeback in the form of MDMA and comes in either powder or crystal-form, meaning its user can either sniff it or mix it in their drink. According to the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, the average price for the drug is £37 a gram.
The temperature in the room is rising quickly and it is getting extremely hot. Sweat is dripping off everyone’s foreheads. Some t-shirts are practically soaking wet, but all that seems to matters on the dance floor is the intensity of the loud electro-music pumping out of the large speakers. The ferocious energy of people dancing is electrifying and contagious.
One of the biggest differences I notice between this night and a ’normal’ night out in London is the attitude of the people. Sure, many of them are probably high as kites, but the openness, curiosity and friendliness I encountered was remarkable. During the course of the night I met people from all sorts of backgrounds; brokers, builders and botoxed physiotherapists.
I notice two young girls on the dance floor, both with distinctly dilated pupils that are looking at a wad of £5-notes, with bewildered looks in their eyes. “What is this? Is it receipts, it isn’t money right? What are these things? I don’t get it,” the girl holding the money asks. Her friend, who looks slightly more composed, takes a close, long inspection of the notes, shakes her head slowly and finally replies, “I have no idea.” A while later I see a blonde guy in a checkered shirt standing still, almost swaying as in a trance, with his mouth open, eyes rolling back into his head revealing only the whites. I try to get his attention by poking him, “Hey, are you OK?” He blinks and looks down at me. “Yeah, yeah I’m alright”, he says and smiles before putting his hands towards the ceiling and starting to dance.
At six o clock in the morning the music disappears and the reddish lightning is suddenly turned off in favor of a fluorescent one and the stark gloom of reality hits. There is a sense confusion and disappointment in the room; morning has come and the party is officially over. Or is it? A short guy in a flannel jacket is handing out passes to an after-party in south London. It opens at six in the morning and closes at one am — of course we are going. As we walk outside the impressions of the grey mundane buildings that surround us combined with the first careful rays of the sun seem wrong, unnatural even. As I’m walking towards a cab I ask a girl what she thought of the night. ‘Yeah, it was a good night, kind of crazy as it is when you do drugs and stuff but a solid techno club night,’ she says.
We jump into the cab and drive across an unusually foggy, but very beautiful, London Bridge. Our stop is trendy Cable 33, Bermondsey Street. When we arrive there is already a massive queue to get in. The pace of the line is snail-like and the minus degrees penetrating the morning air aren’t exactly helping. On top of this, we notice that our wristbands are not, as we had assumed, free passes. There is an £8 admission fee to get in. After some debating (phrases such as “I’m too tired, I want to go home,” and “You’re only young once, let’s just go in” are intermixed.) The latter argument wins.
Inside, there are three huge rooms of people dancing that are as buzzing with, presumably artificial, energy as they are foggy from smoke machines. This fog is fragmentally colored with rays of electric purple and neon-blue. It is hard to fathom that it is actually seven in the morning and not midnight. We recognize a few faces from Mulletover but can’t help but thinking that maybe an after-party wasn’t such a great idea after all. We perform a half-hearted dance routine for a few minutes, but the joy is gone. The thought of a warm, cozy bed seems irresistible.
At eight o clock in the morning we decide that it’s time to go home and get some well-needed sleep. We hesitantly brave the cold and start walking towards London Bridge Station in order to catch the bus home. Some of the shops and cafés in the area have already opened, enhancing the surreal feelings of daytime. On the bus ride home it seems hard to imagine that at Cable 33, the party is only just beginning.
Independent Drug Monitoring Unit
Interviewee at club: firstname.lastname@example.org