Protest nurses new political vibe in electronic music scene
I can’t help it. NI have to evoke a cliche and say that Emma “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” Goldman would have been proud to wave her hands in the air with the wiggling fun fur and bobbing baseball hats at this week’s idance rally, when thousands came out in support of the electronic music scene.
And amongst the cute chicks with butterfly wings anointing the chosen with happy-face bubble bottles, random massages, massive beats and the sharing of gummy bears, the first sprinklings of the politicization of a previously staunchly (or lazily) anti-political culture are perhaps being sown.
“City council is voting on the rave ban tomorrow. Who’s going to be there?” councillor Olivia Chow asks the audience.
“I will! Me! Me!” shrieks a girl in a backwards baseball hat who I’ll bet my wee red runners never even knew where City Hall was a year ago. (What, a rally? What? Nathan Phillips Square? Oh, you mean where I get the bus to the Top Secret Rave Location?)
And she is probably typical of most of the thousands of neon kidz and crusty old-school (ie. post-24) partiers who showed up at Nathan Phillips who had never been to a rally, didn’t know what the words “municipal politics” meant (wasn’t that on our history test or something?) and wouldn’t have been able to name any city councillor, unlike one extremely excitable soul who apparently did, who wove through the crowd screaming, “She’s Olivia Chow!! She’s Olivia Chow!”
“Can you believe it?” says rave activist Sandy Watters to me in awe as she stares at the massive crowd. “It’s crazy.”
In one year, dancing all night has become political. Taking up space while wearing wide pants has become political. Even happy faces have become political. And drugs, youth and music have always been political — so here we go again.
We’ve seen the transformation of partiers from a subculture who loved their scene but had little or no willing relations with the media and the authorities into a savvy, slick, grassroots, networked machine, complete with their own press releases, advocacy groups and growing alliances with other communities.
“There’s some truth to concerns that we’ve sold out,” admits Watters. “But it was either stand up or be stepped on.”
At NOW’s press time, city council was just beginning its debate over raves on city property. It’s been a crazy year for this community. But I think it’s coming to an end.
Two summers ago it was squeegeers. Last summer it was the homeless. This summer it’s partiers.
While nobody should ever pretend that the right to dance is in the same league as the right to not die on the street, both issues obviously concern those who have power shutting down those you don’t.
And maybe this experience of sudden subcultural persecution will mean that ravers parlay their middle-classness, their butterfly-wingness and their music into their first inklings of a wider political consciousness.
Or maybe they’ll just dance, which, in a way, is important, too.
On the cement overhang above Nathan Phillips and the gyrating crowd, someone has scrawled in chalk: “Burn Ravers Burn!”
Oh, we will, darlin’. We will.