Hello peeps, I want to bring your attention to a much maligned and misunderstood scene, that of the free party scene, yes the same which makes you think of the ( straggly ) dreaded special brew / super strength cider and k crew ; yes there is that but lets reflect on some positive elements and shed light on some novel venues and uses of public places for things other than car boot sales or rotting shells of previous industry. The lovely and very wise Elissa Brewer reminisces and ponders on the free party scene in London and surrounding areas during 91 - 99 and makes some salient points re self regulating and the damage done by K and other non party enhancers Sam Blay who runs Roach Material Rave Flyers a visual history of the southern rave/club scene through cataloguing all the great and some terrible artistic examples points to the DSS sound system from Bournemouth who provided infamous parties on the south coast and who wisely escaped to Australia and are still running huge systems and making stomachs feel a bit gippy with their nasty D&B and Dubstep also of note is the Free party People blog which details some of the huge free parties with some vary hazy and nonsensical recollections and a great source for all things free party related from the glory years of 90 - 94 before the criminal justice bill came into effect - linked to them is the fantastic Spannered books a small publishing house who just put out an excellent piece of pulp fiction based in the Bristol Free Party Scene - it captures the frenetic-pace, the highs and lows in a hazy psychedelic stream of consciousness which could amount to being cobblers but luckily isn't read a preview here
Over to Elissa " It seemed to be whoever, was doing something all of the systems would collaborate ( ed> big ones including Spiral Tribe , Circus Warp , Bedlam and ( my fave DiY) you can find loads of anecdotes and party history here http://freepartypeople.wordpress.com/ , " Everyone would just get on board in any way they could it was just before everyone used the internet to disseminate information , when there was a lot of creativity involved with people making fluoro back drops and weird sculptures from whatever they could lay their hands on. Making rudimentary video projections and even cine and super 8 ( now that's considered quite quaint or retro cool given that cheaper digital projectors and video editing and youtube have made it dead easy and cheap to provide visuals ) and also the music was at a point were there was still a lot of innocence and you would hear lots of strains of different dance music albeit of the harder variety with the exception of the likes of DiY who played brilliant basic deep house music and deep slower techno DiY Simon DK & Digs and Whoosh from Aforementioned DiY ( who celebrated 20 years and still going in illegal raves in 09 )
DIY had a system at the rave that was to be the last straw for huge free parties and would arguably bring on the Criminal Justice Bill - ...
here's a Simon dk playlist for Castle Morton some choice tunes get ready to shock out
Apparently this weatherall remix of the Orb was big at castle morton - must've been amazing to be rocking and shocking to this - dub it up!
Elisa comments on the more common sight of female DJs at free parties "the DJ's I witnessed were amazing! particularly the women , one woman DJ I remember completely blew the place apart with a mixture of techno and afro beats (possibly Gizelle?) ...People often brought their own instruments. One friend of mine from a gypsy Spanish background always brought her castanets to parties it wasn't all terrible bongos and didgeridoos thankfully " some of the favourite female DJs on the scene and in the techno world were people like Gayle San (Final Frontier/ The Omen resident both clubs worthy of their own posting ) and Brenda Russell who would also play in my home town of Bourne mouth at a legendary club called the Outer Limits alongside other UK Legends like Colin Dale, Dave Angel and my fave Dave Clarke . you can find out what where the promoter and DJ Paul Edge wound up here - pretty amazing story you can find some of the flyers from classic south coast clubs like Madison, The Manor, Sterns (in Worthing) and The Academy ( now the Opera House/02 academy ? fuck knows it seems to change every 3 years ) Geriatric Ravers & Roach Material
A big free party organiser in the south known for their raves in strange places were the DSS sound system who once blagged their way into a church hall by duping the parish vicar much to the chagrin of villagers. that event was incredible despite the hall only holding 500 people it went on til mid morning before it finally got busted and I think the organisers managed to keep their rig and were not charged I'm proud to say I know the people behind it who put on some amazing parties including cave parties near sandbanks and beach raves along the south coast but primarily in Bournemouth - home of the Blue Rinse and Tory stronghold DSS are very much still alive and their rig lives on in Sydney where they are evading the authorities putting on events of upwards of 3000 people in legal and illegal spaces this tribute site also links to roach material a paper history through the acid house / raves scene with a south coast bias dodgysoundsystem.blayboy.co.uk/ www.roachmaterial.co.uk
One monumental rave organiser was Fantazia who presented this amazing rave which saw some of the best weather and very strong sweets by the looks of it! There is not one raver kid born before 82 who doesn’t know Ratpack's refrain Now I was standing in the corner .... Oh just watch the video ! Whistle posse blow !
Very interesting to see an appearance by mr Andrew Weatherall in 1990 at Madisons for the Flesh Event with Chad Jackson in room 2 .
Chad Jackson - Hear the drummer get Wicked
Madisons was a classic Bournemouth rave den in the mould of a Sharon and Tracey club loads of mirrors and dodgy interior unfortunately it had to close due to a dangerously unsafe floor due to all the stomping that would've meant 500 + ravers could of come crashing through the floor into the miss Selfridge below at any of the events ... ) also worth a special mention is Boy With Style events at Remix which saw such luminaries as Moby and Carl Cox Play in this brilliant club + nights from Flying records who had a branch in Bournemouth and would provide brilliant club tours inc the junior boys own label connection Heres a vid of local legend dj dream playing some very hard Belgian gear with loads of hoover at Remix – make some fucking noise yeah!
Remix Nightclub Bournemouth 91"
I also remember a bi monthly residency from sasha and digweed (northern exposure ) at the aforementioned Madisons that saw epic prog house tunes such as this and saw people crying, group hugging and generally flying high.
Sunscreem - Perfect Motion (Boy's Own mix)
....endless car conveys out into the middle of the new forest and down to Bournemouth beach ensued ...alas this raver was too young and had to sneak back to mates houses and come down on the patio or in stinky teenage bed rooms heres some vids from john Digweed's Hastings and Brighton parties obviously Brighton had a better scene than lil old Bournemouth but we had beautiful long sandy beaches ! from the bedrock website "Found this lying around the house and thought I would share it with you. One of the coach trips from Hastings to The Event in Brighton in 1991 for one of the legendary Passion nights which followed on from the successful Storm Parties in 1990 nearly 2000 ravers every month having it large.
Passion The Event Brighton April 1991
Also must mention the legend that is Mike Speed local resident at madisons Mike speed moved from his native Scotland down to the Bournemouth his sets were legendary and often surpassed the guests at madisons and the manor including a rather moody Sasha when he was going a bit too wafty into the prog / trance stuff in the late 90s . Mikey speed used to work in local record shops and would always be friendly and point out all the best new techno and house releases and get in the best stuff he was an inspiration to many a young DJ from Bournemouth and deserves more credit for his work - Mikey i want tae go back tae back wi youse one day ya big yin one guest who must of played at least 3 times a year bown in btown and who mike speed always warmed up for was Billy Nasty one of the best techno djs in the world his fast cutting and ruthless brutalist yet still funky style. his sets would include classic acid to leeds bleepy stuff to early Hawtin (before it went all tits up for him ) up to early trance and hard house Mrs Woods style tracks like Robot Man Got To Do The Do really stick in the memory though he was so inspirational to I and many other DJs this radio one essential mix features plenty of legends such as Dave Clarke's red series , underworld , the aloof , andrew weatherall's sabres of paradise and conemelt other huge nights such as Electric Kingdom had Carl Cox, Dave angel, Westbam & CJ Bolland and huge jungle and hardcore nights at the much missed Madisons.
Another huge event venue was the academy - now the opera house before slinky took over and turned it into a hardhouse nightmare. people like Laurent Garnier playing broad sets including a drum and bass section which went down very well with the crowds - shouts must go to the cocoshebeen crew and also the much missed Manor nightclub which saw ravers elated with the Destiny and legacy nights with three floors of house , garage and drum and bass and unfortunately for me the dreaded happy hardcore was well represented there as well.
Anyway enough of my south coast dreaming ! back to Elisa and the free party scene in London. "an ugly side to the free-party scene that was starting to creep the late 90s was the Ketamine .... the regretamine, which really put a downer on the creativity, and lots of people dependent on it. The older generation were sad to see the effect of it. Also on some occasions problems with drug gangs infiltrating the parties, menacing Yardies who would harass party goers . I personally saw little of it but was aware of stories and heard scary things . But on a whole the party scene was completely self regulated... amazingly peaceful considering the volume of people in such a space... a real sense/ atmosphere of solidarity and needing to be in it together for everyone there. The ultimate point was to go for as long as possible for as many people as possible regardless of who they were and where they came from it was a social experiment there weren't the social divisions you see in regular clubs and events an this is What i really loved was the way free parties broke down a lot of social barriers. Living in London, there was so a lot of that clubbing experience that could feel very "cattlemarket", consumer culture driven, sexist, racist, ageist, even at some so called alternative settings such as Glastonbury ( which today is nothing like the edgier and more vibrant beast it was ) . All that was completely broken down at free parties. For me, I think that was one of the things that was most interesting about it. It broke down the normal expectations and social constructs. The experience I had as a woman, was very good, because I felt free from the normal widespread expectations of a woman at a mainstream club or festival , i.e., to look as pretty as possible, and attract a man, or be on a man's arm. At the parties, all that went out of the window. Elements of it sometimes came into play, but I think women felt freer to express themselves as people. After three days at those free parties, the last thing anyone cared about what what they looked like. Interestingly, I met a lot of women, who worked in the sex trade, in some way or another, either prostitutes, lap/ table dancers, and I think from what I saw anyway, it was an escape from the normal constructs of society that was their normal reality. I suppose there were also drugs there, and a lot of them were obviously fed drugs as part of their work. So they were addicted, but at least I suppose they had the opportunity to feel more connected in the party environment, also to express themselves as people and not be objectified. That's just an example, lots of ego stuff was broken down... people didn't identify so much with themselves, have anything to prove, it was more of a solidarity experience, people went there wanting to feel connected and were more open to that. And weirdly, considering the lack of formal "security" people always felt safer there than in normal clubs. On the rare occasion something would happen, even something as little as a comment, there was a fierce loyalty and friends stepped in for each other straight away. But actually these moments were rare, there was most of the time a pervasive sense of just wanting to have a good time, connect, dance, get away from the normal constraints of society, quite anarchic, but also with a strong sense of what was not OK . Having said that I was punched once! But that's because I stepped right into the fray to break up a fight and caught a fist in the mouth, but that was the only actual fight I ever saw. And after I understood, that actually one of the men involved had been very out of order and the other one had felt that he was a real threat. The result was a massive verbal onslaught on the guy, people stepped up to work out what had happened, and it turned out the guy, he'd actually been violent towards his girlfriend, had seriously stepped out of line, and he wasn't seen again at any parties. From my experience, I thought it was very sad that the K got in the way Also the other harder drugs and reliance on alcohol were annoying and ground people down . Some drugs were strongly considered unacceptable like crack and heroin , and this was very verbalised on occasions were it entered into the area. People did not want the drug gangs to become part of the situation but it was the drug dealing element that really numbed the creativity, and the connection vibe that ecstasy and acid use brought ... With the K, which was the main drug of choice by the late 90's , people talked of the potential to have out of the body experience together. But this experience is really quite rare and often people just end up a useless mess in the K hole
down with ketamine
And the down sides were too great, sometimes it would look like a mortuary with unable bodies strewn around the party It also left people too vulnerable to thievery although I felt safe there most of the time, there was a limit, I felt, as a person of being able to let yourself be so totally removed from reality in that kind of environment. But then a certain amount of getting high some way or another, was very much part of the experience, and was personal to each person. “ I experienced crazy things with people in acting out strange situations These mad ones were in Camden, MI5 building near St Thomas's hospital, Islington, Old street, Stratford, West London, Hammersmith, Acton, Vauxhall and Brixton. I Remember Zeebedee Boing a DJ and promoter being a key figure and all the Stay up forever crew like Chris liberator D.A.V.E the drummer who was often around at the time playing and pivotal figure in the scene. D.A.V.E the drummer One Night In Hackney the people behind the great parties were mainly from Slough and East London. I remember a rave in Acton, which was probably the best one of the best ones ( and there were many!) I went to, massive sound systems, amazing set up lazers strafing the whole place and intense strobes ... absolutely brilliant atmosphere possibly around 5000 people there at one point we sat out side the warehouse where there were a load of old smashed computers, we put up an Internet Cafe sign... people just came by and pretended to be at the cafe and started asking for coffee and cakes Very surreal...childlike, fun...Everyone completely loved up.
Loads of Italians in amazing luminous perfect techno gear, like from some kind of Manga cartoon, alongside, all the techno kids, travellers and punks, and whoever else wanted to come in...everyone having an excellent time, and being excellent to each other as far as I could see. ...the main thing was getting to a point where you totally felt free and became fast friends with people over 2 - 3 days. if this track from a john peel session doesn't make you want to find the nearest warehouse and go mental then you are dead inside!
Stay Up Forever Remix 13 - Liberator DJ's - Radio On One
As the free party scene has become so rare these days thanks to Michael Howard and the previous Tory Government then the successive Labour government who devolved into the Tony Blair war machine/Gordon Brown Debacle and now our current bunch of Tory twats cutting deep and hard into our grannies and pockets . ably assisted by their lib dem bottom scrapers I feel a bit sad that generations now will maybe never know the feeling of a truly great free party or even a good underground club where people are off their faces and really friendly - of course they are out there but you have to look pretty hard to find proper kicks stuff like this makes me really sad that people want to pay to see a man steve angello in trackie bottoms playing CDs and not really mixing ( prerecorded set a la Guetta) and spitting everywhere at huge dry fests like this
Steve Angello - How To Fake Your Fans @ Dance Valley 2011
... perhaps this summer we will see a resurgence in free parties what with the fuzz distracted by the O-schlimpics - lets hope! come on free party people get organised lets have some huge rigs assembled !
By Robin Jessup