This article, on Dublin’s burgeoning underground dance scene, was written in March 2011, and published in shortened form in the latest issue of Look Left and has now been uploaded in full on the blog.
The economic recession coupled with tight nightclub licensing laws has led to a proliferation of D.I.Y., independent after-hour parties, raves and club-nights in Dublin. People have become fed up with being overcharged for alcohol in bars and being turfed out at 2:30am due to the strict licensing laws. It is still a little known fact that Ireland has the earliest nightclub closing times in Europe. Instead of sitting around and simply complaining, various groups are channelling their anger and efforts into coming together and organising their own events which often bend or break the rules.
The response of the Garda has been swift and harsh. Numerous underground, late night and BYOB events have been shut down by the police in the last six months. Undeterred, music and art collectives have reacted to this clampdown by adjusting the way they publicise and organise events in order to dupe the authorities.
Last November this author along with around three-hundred other individuals boarded a fleet of double-decker buses on the quays on a cold Saturday night at 1am. After a twenty-minute drive we found ourselves stepping out from the bus and into an empty industrial estate in the south-west of the city. We were here for a large, after-hours rave in a disused warehouse which was rented for the night by a small group of DJs and promoters. It was a unifying experience. Young lads barely out of school from local housing estates chatted to middle-aged ravers who had been around for the first wave of Acid House in 1988 – 1992. Some people were on the chemical MDMA otherwise known as ‘ecstasy’, others weren’t. Some people brought along beer or other alcoholic drinks, others didn’t.
There was no reported acts of violence or theft, an all too common occurrence in our city’s clubs and streets at night. Everyone had come to listen to the music, dance and have a good time in an environment that was outside of the control of overzealous Garda, greedy publicans or thuggish bouncers. Events like these, albeit on a smaller scale, are happening every weekend in the city. Nights don’t finish at 2:30am anymore, people see it as half-time.
In July a collective of female DJs under the name of M***a ran a BYOB electronic music and arts party in the garden of a city centre house. The location of the event, which was dubbed the ‘A Midsummer’s Night Party’, was only released a few hours before it took place. Throughout the last months another collective (whose initials are SF) have run several after-hour club nights in a small warehouse in central Dublin. A group of European DJs who have recently moved over to Ireland have been running regular after-hour party’s on a boat. Meanwhile, another group of promoters put on an all night rave in a theatre in North Wicklow in February. They plan to put on a similar event on Good Friday. For the last year, there have been gigs and club nights in a basement a stone’s throw away from Grafton Street. All recent developments have not been as positive though.
As alluded to before, the police in recent months have become more aware of this culture of after hour clubbing and have been cracking down hard. A rave in a warehouse in North Dublin on New Years Eve was shut down by the police, the organisers maintain that this was done illegally as they had gone through all the proper legal routes to put on the event. A few weeks back, a late night gig in a popular venue on the Quays was shut down by the Garda and only last week (March 12) a small BYOB club basement club night was closed down by uniformed police.
Unfortunately in some cases, the organisers of events like these are doing it for dishonourable reasons. While all the events and crews mentioned so far are mostly well-known and established DJs who putting on events for the love of music, at least one other group of promoters seem to be cashing in on the D.I.Y. clubbing spirit. This one particular crowd have been known to grossly overcharge for alcohol and ask for exorbitant prices for their events with little or no talent in their musical line up. These people are not in it for the right reasons. Like the greedy publicans who raise their prices at 10pm and expect you pay over €6 for a bottle of beer, these cowboy promoters are trying to make a quick buck out of the rave culture. Don’t be fooled.
From the very earliest days of Acid House to the Criminal Justice Bill protests to the Reclaim The Street parties to last week’s underground rave whether it’s in Dublin or Derby, the actions of the counterculture D.I.Y. rave community can be often seen as a political action. Taking over abandoned buildings and creating Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) in order to highlight the crude commercial capitalism of clubbing today should be encouraged and applauded.
With the days getting longer and the weather getting better, I expect it to be a hot Dublin summer. Whether deep down in a forest, hidden in a dune of a beach or in an empty NAMA controlled building in a ghost town Industrial Estate, who knows where over the Summer you might find a hundred kids with a generator and a rig. Keep your ears peeled.