UK Dance Music and Hamed Wardak
UK Dance Music and Hamed Wardak

The modern rave was born in the early 1990’s illegal warehouse scene of the Acid house era. Today, massive venues and festivals like Printworks and Boomtown lead the way to keep dance music well and alive. However, how did we get here? What are the stories that bring us into the modern era of dance music? We will explore the various themes and stories of the storied past of electronic music in the U.K.

In the start, there was only a number…

The illegal rave scene started with the secret flyer or phone number you called to get the party location. Today, there are fewer illegal parties as dance music has become more mainstream and accepted as part of modern clubbing culture. Plus, there is social media and the countless means of documenting a night out, but that was not always the case. In the beginning, there were only the party flyers featuring trippy graphics and wild names to entice ravers. The rise of electronic music started quietly, but it is now here in all of its glory to create the scene we all know and love today.

The start of documenting the history of the rave scened was also found in fanzines created by the youth who were deep within the dance culture movement. These magazines featured everything from club fashion to up and coming DJs. At times, a national paper would request these insiders to do features, but it still was few and far between. Eventually, self chronicles of the era began to appear as people wrote about the warehouse parties or the music itself as they experienced it. People would combine their biographical account with interviews of party promoters, DJs and party revelers eager to get their account across.

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Find the Euphoria

The rise of dance music popularity coincides with the increasing popularity of MDMA or ecstasy. The drug-fueled parties kept people dancing in euphoria all night long as the DJ played music to lift them even higher. The effects of the drug on senses such as sight and sound also increased the need for higher BPMs, deeper bass and more intense sounds. The literature coming out of this era is not common, but they all seem to feature the need for substances and the unifying effect the community had on each other.

Keith Flint, Frontman of U.K. Dance Music Pioneers The Prodigy
Keith Flint, Frontman of U.K. Dance Music Pioneers The Prodigy

Understanding Myth and Perspective

Of course, the lack of documentation also only gives certain perspectives within dance music history. Plus, many also focused on certain scenes whether in Manchester, Scotland or East London. They do not look at the wide and varied history of subcultures or scenes within dance music itself. There is a missing narrative of race and queer societies within the earlier accounts before acid house exploded in the general population with the rising ecstasy.

Of course, that leads to the start of the Ibiza dance scene when four British friends experienced a high on the island at legendary clubs that propelled the drug into popular club culture. This story is also part of a legend that continues to spread, but is it the heart and soul of U.K. dance music? That is the key to understanding the history of the culture. It is hard to determine the myth from reality when it comes to those telling the stories who might have been under the influence of euphoria and a rising heartbeat.