AS David Guetta returns to his roots and Clockwork Orange proved this summer they still have a huge spring in their step, the nostalgia boom in electronic dance music continues.
The BBC Four, three-part documentary series ‘Can You Feel It’ which aired in three parts last month charts the story of the dance music revolution from an underground musical movement to a global culture. This is a culture that is proud of its roots and shows no sign of slowing down.
In the UK, the club and festival scene is vast in 2018 with more genres and DJs than you can shake a glow stick at and British DJs from the golden era of clubbing such as Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling, Pete Tong, Sasha, Carl Cox, Brandon Block, Judge Jules, Seb Fontaine and many others remain as popular as ever.
A culture born over 30 years ago has not only endured but continues to grow year on year. With so much choice and the music now easier than ever to produce due to today’s technology, some say that the market has become over-saturated with mediocrity. There is a lot of predictable soul-less stuff on offer for sure in the digital age but in the 90s and 00s there was a conveyor belt of timeless classics. However, if you look hard enough the contemporary classics are still coming through and that’s why the resurgence of classic house and techno from yesteryear is so exciting as it mixes with the modern dance floor. The influence on mainstream music is also undeniable, just ask the aforementioned Guetta.
Perhaps this is why we are seeing the success of events like Clockwork Orange, Pete Tong’s Ibiza Classics and the return of legendary South East night Club Class this Christmas become the hottest tickets on a more regular basis again? Clockwork Orange sold out Studio 338 in London this year, all their Ibiza dates, Camden Palace (now Koko) and London’s Printworks with another sell out Manchester show in November and they have a festival planned for next year. Club Class announced a Christmas Rave in Maidstone, Kent only last Monday off the back off a huge show last year celebrating their 20th anniversary and the tickets for this yuletide trip down memory lane have already sold out. Pete Tong and Sasha’s classical shows are also selling like hot cakes as have been the Haçienda and Cream versions. Danny Rampling’s milestone Shoom events have been a huge success too.
The old guard are still leading from the front and going strong mixed in with a wealth of new breed talent and incredible up and coming DJs spanning house, techno and drum and bass. Carl Cox is still the biggest draw on most line ups he appears on while Andy C is selling out Alexandra Palace and Wembley Arena with his impeccable delivery of Drum and Bass. It makes you proud to be British.
With the nostalgia boom that’s been growing over the last few years we are seeing the return of the middle aged raver in force and a rejuvenation of the careers of many of the old guard who led the scene in the 80s and 90s. But its not just the older generation that are there to lap up the nostalgic experience, young ravers are also attending these events in an effort to see what all the fuss is about. It’s not uncommon to see sons and daughters dancing at the same event as their parents! My teenage daughter had her first festival experience this summer dancing in a field in Gloucestershire to the sounds of Leftfield and Goldie and is now hungry for more. That’s what I was doing at her age, it’s not supposed to be cool but in 2018 it certainly is and it is a testament to the inclusive, universal nature of dance music. It’s also why disco is huge right now.
We asked Brandon Block, Seb Fontaine, Judge Jules, Danny Gould from Clockwork Orange and Sergio Bienati from Club Class for their thoughts. Who is driving the nostalgia boom, the young ravers or the middle aged contingent?
Us oldies, we’re still reliving our youth. The scene was such a big part our lives spanning 30 years to date and it is still going strong. That’s hard to let go of. Alongside that, much of the music had meaning and purpose for all of us in that time, it mapped a huge part or our lives. We lived it, breathed it and wore it like a huge medal. Well deserved in my opinion.
Also this had a huge impact on our children and their lives. Dance music has never faded like other music eras have. It opened our minds and our children’s minds to all types of music and of course the kids still want to go clubbing. The classics still resonate now too because the music was so good! It’s not easily made like it is nowadays, it had soul, words and meaning which is why it’s so popular in my opinion.
It’s very shallow today with the disconnection in the technological world so that a lot of the time we only communicate in clubs through music and our memories We’re supposed to be connected but we’re talking through gadgets, not face to face, not even on the phone. That’s why the old school raves soul/house and disco music is still massive and so popular.
The surge in middle aged clubbing is simple. This was the generation that started the rave and club revolution that we know today. Back then it was less about it being an industry and more about it being a movement. I guess it never left our blood and we missed it.
The nice thing is having the younger generation joining the parties as well. In my view its fantastic, they get to see the atmosphere at parties as it was back in the beginning and it’s great having them there. I’d be less excited if it was just older clubbers and it’s great that new music is part of this as well. The DJs are chosen for their DJ ability and love of music, not how many instagram followers they have.
DANNY GOULD (DJ and promoter, Clockwork Orange)
The children of the 60s and 70s grew into the acid house explosion which in turn became the 90s, super clubs, the ruling of Ibiza with each night hosted by English promoters and parties on virtually every night, weekends throughout the country rammed to the rafters. Then came the millennium, the supremacy of Ibiza gave way to the new breed, those that where once kings closed the doors of the castles and the kids, the new breed began to out number the old, who but only a few years previous where those same kids.
The buzz had gone, no longer could you stand amongst your clan, you simply stood out. The music and scene changed dramatically and so we embraced responsibilities as did our parents before us. Our love and memories for the past was without question yet we walked into mortgages, packed trains, children, deaths and marriages, and so we thought we where retired. You can never extinguish the light of house music, especially the olds cool of yesteryear. Who could have known that from 600 people in 2012 we are now hosting our very festival in 2019. This is our 2nd coming, the Orange revolution, We only live twice now as it so appears, The kids are grown up, mortgages paid, divorced and balding with bellies to suit we ain’t ready to retire, we ain’t ready to fade into the Ibizan sunset, we want to f**king have it large once more.
The golden age of dance music is difficult to define and comes in peaks and troughs. Actually as recently as 2014 it had its most commercially successful year ever in that every dance music record in the charts was a number 1. If you go back to the era of the 90s and the 00s the one major differentiating factor was that high speed internet did not exist. The world didn’t have access to the whole catalogue of music and that created an environment when there was a bit of a them and us scenario. Those that went to certain clubs that were into certain types of music and into certain DJs were very vocal and passionate champions of their particular sub genres and that doesn’t exist so much now because the internet has become the internet of everything. It’s more difficult to create a small scene without it blowing up too quickly. I wouldn’t agree that the music was any better back then but perhaps the degree of passion and sense of them and us was different at that time.
The reality is that the nostalgia boom is for everybody and has a large, young contingent, the records sound great because the sound systems are a lot better fast forward 20 years and the events are very, very good, there is a huge amount of success there.
The generation who are in there 30s and 40s aren’t as separated from those who are in their late teens and early 20s as my parents would have been. I couldn’t imagine my parents coming out to one of my gigs, it just wouldn’t have happened.
SERGIO BIENATI (Promoter, Club Class)
The demographic and ticket sales from our events show that it’s a 35 – 49 year olds market place at present for the nostalgic events popping up. I think if you look at all the brands doing one or two events a year, they are from a golden era of clubbing between 97 and 2002 when superclubs were a ‘thing’. It was a unique moment in time where a unique set of superstar DJs were made in the UK. Radio 1 had Judge Jules, Danny Rampling, Seb Fontaine etc…
Away from the halcyon days of 88 – 91. 1997 – 2002 clubbing in the UK was huge. Dance music clubs and promoters were prevalent in most cities and major towns, it’s that generation that is now up for reliving those moments. Friendships that have lasted a life time were formed in those nightclubs during those years. Marriages, responsibilities and children have followed and slowed down their appetite to go clubbing now that those kids are growing up, the parents find themselves wanting to relive those nights out with their friends, albeit once a year.
Clubbing then was about hedonism, escape, openness to be who you wanted to be without being judged. A free spirited community of like-minded souls not controlled or dictated to by social media or the need to upload a ‘selfie’ to prove what a great time you are having (when more often than not they aren’t). The seismic shift in what clubbing really is these days is the need to document where you are, who you are with and what you’ve eaten on the way there. Back then, we just lived for the music and the dance floor.