BATH - NEW YEARS EVE
It seems kind of fitting that the last free rave I ever went to was on December the 31st 1992, the last day of a year filled with unique and amazing experiences. This final party also probably had the happiest, friendliest vibe of them all. But most importantly for me, was the music. I always really listened to the tunes while I danced at these parties; music was and always will be one of my biggest passions. There were times though, when admittedly it just became a soundtrack to a drug fuelled adventure in the countryside. But on this night however, the music was just so god damned good that it commanded my attention and at some points I could do little more than laugh with glee. Shortly after, I made it my mission to find tapes of the event, and track them down I did. I still have all eight of them which pretty much spans the whole party. And they still sound fucking great.
The weather on this New Years Eve was particularly dire. Thick, freezing fog lay in menacing stretches making driving conditions treacherous. But word was that DiY were putting on a party down near bath, and I could still clearly remember the good times me and Stuart had at their do in Plumpton. So me, Stuart, my sister Liz and her boyfriend Paul spent some considerable time umming and ahhing as to what to do, after all we already had some E's so maybe we should just get mashed up and hang around with our mates in Witney town. Naah, fuck that we concluded, and piled into Stuart's mums car. (I'm pretty sure she knew we had it!)
The journey was indeed highly unenjoyable, Stuart jerking to a near stop every time a dense blanket of fog suddenly enveloped us. Several times we nearly turned back, until we got beyond halfway and knew we had to keep going, despite the fact that half the time we could barely even see the road below us. We followed to A46 to Bath, then turned left on to the A420, and then thank God there was the White Hart pub, the final part of the directions I had scribbled down earlier on. Two hundred yards beyond this, apparently, was the party.
So we parked up in a nearby field (apparently DiY had already pre arranged this with the farmer who owned it) and bowled into the pub, as it was still pretty early. The place was packed, and taking a brief look around at the Fila trainers and Destroy t-shirts it was pretty clear that 90% of them were popping pills with those bottles of Becks, slowly gearing up before the party started. The few locals were probably more than a little surprised to see their quiet country establishment crammed to the rafters with trendy young folk.
There was an infectious air of anticipation and excitement, so we swallowed down our E's; this week they were Shamrocks, the latest shit hot ones to hit the streets. Before long the word came that the party had just kicked off. We followed the rest of the crowd the short distance down the lane, passed the parked cars, and right there in the adjoining field was a large, white marquee, a sight that by now had come to symbolize the free rave scene.
It was still only about 11.30, half an hour to go before the big clichéd 12 o'clock thing. But then the music started.
Since my last outing with DiY I had been becoming progressively interested in the more laid back four by four house sound. However I was still very much under the manic influence of breakbeat rave and hard, tribal techno; with labels such as Moving Shadow, Production House, and Rising High being my muse. But when that deep, chunky beat kicked in, when that dubby, bouncing bassline shook the floor, and when those spacey, tripped out, soulful atmospherics and vocal hooks washed over me, I knew my heart was lost.
While Spiral Tribe took you on an exhilarating, adrenalin fuelled journey; DiY's DJ's - Jack, Ian, DK, Cookie, Digs and Woosh (the best named DJ's in the business) and all the rest - simply made you wanna smile and dance your skinny ass off. The music was still just as underground, innovative and out there, but the whole attitude was less hardcore u know the score, and more kick back, chill out and get funked up. However, they still partied just as hard as any of their contempories.
At midnight the music stopped for a few brief moments, and with a simple "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 1993!" the party really began.
The marquee was as packed as the pub had been. This was partly due to the freezing winter air outside, but there is no doubt that the tantalizing; mouth-watering beat was as irresistible to everyone else as it was to me. As the familiar waves of nausea announced my impending E, I looked around at the bobbing crowd and saw a sea of smiles reflecting mine back.
Although coming up on E was usually quite an unsubtle affair, both physically and mentally, there was still a moment of surprise when you suddenly realized that everything was now wonderfully different. Music sounded incredible. Everyone looked like a potential best friend. And dancing became so easy and natural that it was hard to stop. And boy, was this music easy to dance to. The floor of the tent had been thoughtfully covered with some form of wooden decking, and this provided an excellent springy surface on which we collectively got off our heads and grooved into the night.
The party goers seemed a little less grungy than the usual Spiral crowd I was so used to. A few more logos, the odd pair of Kickers mixed with the obligatory trainers, little or no combat gear. Everyone, in fact, looked fucking great, or so it appeared. I spent some time dancing next to a very perky looking traveler girl, who had multi-coloured, striped knee length socks and short funky dreads. There was one particular track, with an awesome hook and incessant bassline, which seemed to be just never ending, it bounced on and on sounding better with every beat. I shared this thought with her and she laughed and agreed. When, seemingly ages later, I caught her eye again and the track was still playing we just pissed ourselves laughing. It was a fucking good track though, but I never found it on the tapes!.
My sister and I took a wonder outside to get some fresh air, and some fresh drugs. We had become quite used to partying together since meeting up at Castlemorton. Actually I still had a couple of E's left, but I selfishly kept them to myself (I was not a very sharing person when it came to drugs) so I helped Liz search out some speed. Of course by now everyone had heated up nicely, there were quite a few people sitting on the damp ground, oblivious of the freezing temperatures while they slapped a few rizlas together. I made it my duty to mention to everyone (and I mean everyone) how good I thought the music was, and was met with universal agreement, and the odd toke on a spliff -cheers, thanks!
I spied a skinny white guy with long blond dreads down to his waist Moffball! He was one of the DiY crew I had met at their last party, so I rushed over to say hi how you doing do you have any drugs? He seemed to remember me I was the one with the insane, perpetual grin - and we chatted for a bit before he introduced us to one of his equally friendly traveler buddies who apparently had some rather nice speed.
I'm not entirely sure what it was, but the wrap of bright yellow powder was soon in Liz's belly and from that point on lighting cigarettes became increasingly difficult, until I had to take over this delicate operation for her. The rocket fuel searing round her little body also made coherent speech a challenge, but she none the less appeared to be having an excellent time so I polished off my E's and joined her in marveling at the electric blue sparks that were now appearing like daises in the grass. We had several incredibly meaningful though profoundly illogical conversations with similarly mashed party heads, including one terrifying looking traveler with tattoos, piercings and long black hair who turned out to be the sweetest bloke you could wish to meet.
The lure of the music eventually drew us back under the cover of the marquee and we continued to boogie away on the wooden boards, which were becoming decidedly wonky as the night progressed. Hearing Hardfloor's Hardtrance Acperience was a memorable highlight layers of 303's building and building, keeping you hanging on for the break until the very last, orgasmic moment.
The MC reminded us that Fantazia was having an expensive do a few miles up the road, and I was only too pleased to drop a few pound coins into the donation bucket that was being passed around. Jack, DiY's bext known DJ, was playing at Fantazia much to the amused scorn of the rest of his posse. He did, however, eventually manage to escape and played us the final set of the night.
As a cold grey dawn slowly began to break, Stuart, Liz and I went outside to inspect the surroundings in the new light. Everywhere was still shrouded in the thick fog that had made our drive down so pleasant. However, now it looked totally brilliant. To our chemically tinged eyes the mist had a translucent, surreal quality to it, blues and greys blending in to more vivid pinks, greens and purples. We stopped and stared, becoming aware of a number of other ravers in a similar state of awe.
And then there was that thing, that tree. It appeared to be hovering about a mile above the ground. I 'assume that it was a very tall tree, its bottom half completely hidden by the fog. But at the time, we just couldn't get our heads round it. "Hey mate, what the fuck's that thing up there?" I asked some guy next to me." Shit, " he replied, "that's fucking weird ". Several others became interested, and we all had a great time bonding over stupid explanations of UFO's and more ciggies and spliffs.
A watery sun did manage to break it's way through and gradually burn away the final wisps of fog. The party began to thin out a little and, despite still being immensely fucked, we said farewell to DiY and to an awesome, intense year that can never be repeated. Although the weather was by now totally clear, the drive home was very similar to the one down. Stuart continued to frequently slam on his breaks, only this time it was due to imaginary objects that kept appearing in his path. I'm not sure what we did when we got back, but I remember sitting in the pub that evening, our heads and feet still involuntarily bobbing to the beats on the jukebox. It would take a while for that night, for that year to leave our minds.