The last rave I’d been to before this one was Bangface, which ended on March 16th 2020. On our way out of the event we felt lucky to have gotten in one more session before the door on all raves closed indefinitely.
“That’s probably it now” my girlfriend said on the train home.
“For a couple of months” I responded.
Back to the Rave: The I Love Acid event in Liverpool
Sixteen months later, July 2021, and we find ourselves on the way to I Love Acid, an event not entirely dissimilar to Bangface musically, aesthetically or in spirit. One of the co-founders of I Love Acid, DJ and promoter, Posthuman, is playing a set at this event, and recently put out a mix on soundcloud detailing what he would have played at Bangface 2020, had covid not already been disrupting things.
Indeed, Bangface is for the hardest people, and in my experience I Love Acid attracts a similar grade of wanton raver, the type that beams a lairy ‘fuck it’ look from their eyes that is infectious and foreboding in equal measure. To join in these events requires a particular form of surrender to the chaos, which most people aren’t prepared to concede.
The close association I make between these two events may have coloured my expectations on our way to I Love Acid Liverpool, a 4-10pm Sunday day event which took place last week at 24 Kitchen Street. There would definitely be some Bangface hard crew here, I thought, and they are not well-known for their adherence to safety measures. Then again, they are some of the funniest, gentlest and in some odd ways most considerate strangers I’ve encountered. This would simply be a test on how far ‘fuck it’ could go in light of the new normal.
We arrived to a familiar scene of human shapes pulsating in the dark, and to the unusual sight of a DJ (Posthuman at this point) wearing a facemask while delivering his set. The dancefloor was not well populated at first, and for a moment I had the idea that maybe nobody would show up, either because it was a Sunday, or because the market had evaporated in the face of covid-anxiety. Maybe the organisers had reduced the capacity of the venue to such an extent that it would only be partially filled at best. Was this it? Was this the way raves would be now?
These immediate reactive questions aside, those who were there definitely had some enthusiasm about them. Posthuman and a sound system was more than enough to excite me, and I decided to join in the warm-up without thinking anymore.
As the numbers grew so did the encounters between strangers. Elbow handshakes were replaced by sweaty hugs. In such an environment it is nearly impossible to get people to adhere to social distancing, if only because a drastic reduction in social distance is half the reason people are here. Without going into specifics, the same things happened at I love Acid Liverpool as they did at many other raves pre-covid. It wasn’t that nobody cared, but more accurately that this wasn’t the time or place for it. We were either back, or we weren’t.
With this in mind, it seems that whatever safety measures are introduced in the future will probably begin and end at the door (ventilation and sanitation aside). The amount of heated discussion that has taken place over this subject highlights how “the scene” is in no way unified in its response to covid.
Currently, the situation is one in which any financial support from the government has been pulled. Yet although horrible financial pressures bring a different level of personal urgency to debates about plague raves and vaccine passports, many DJs, promoters, producers and event organisers have given measured and well-considered reasons for even allowing themselves to come back in the first place.
Consider some of Posthuman’s comments from a recent video posted on his twitter page, in which he explains his reasons for putting on events post July 19th:
“I’m in a situation where, as both a promoter and a DJ, if I cancel events I’m not just cancelling my own gigs, I’m letting down the venues that I work with, and I’m also letting down the acts and DJs that I’ve booked. All of them who are people who have struggled throughout the pandemic.
“I’ve decided to go ahead with my I Love Acid shows…I did think about cancelling things for a while, but it seems to me that things are going to go ahead anyway. The spread is going to spread anyway, and I can’t afford it. The DJs that I’m booking can’t afford it, the venues can’t afford it. We can’t all afford to say no, keep the doors closed and stop everything, because there’s no one that’s going to help us out if we do that”.
By the end of I Love Acid Liverpool the dancefloor was crowded, and the last set from Kerrie left nothing to be desired except ‘one more tune’. Leaving at 10pm was slightly disorienting, but as a first event back after 16 months the daytime hours seemed to be a sensible precaution. If day raves are the future I could happily adapt to that at the age of 35.
I doubt this will be the case though. Closing times such as this could only exist before capitalism branched out into the night-time economy, and there is now a generation of ravers on the horizon who have missed out on their first couple of years. Regardless of closing times, they won’t be stopping at 10pm.
And finally to the million-dollar question: Of the five of us in my group who went to I Love Acid Liverpool, three have tested positive (we are all fine, thank you). However, two of us have not caught it, and if the event itself had been the point of infection then there’s no way they could have avoided it.
The answer is that we just don’t know. It is a week later and I can no longer taste coffee. In hindsight would I have still gone? Yes, but with a caveat. For one thing I don’t definitely know that I caught the virus at this particular event (I was at pubs before and after). Second (and here comes the caveat) I would have been more cautious. Not inside the event itself, which as I’ve explained is difficult and beside the point anyway, but in preparation, an upon entry.
Two things I have learned:
- I will definitely be double jabbed before going to any public space again. This is not an argument for vaccine passports, just a personal choice made in hindsight. Make of it what you will.
- Proof of a negative lateral flow test should be required on the door of every club, if only by way of the industry doing as much as possible to stay open, and shield itself from the inevitable accusations of fuelling whatever rise in cases may occur in the future.