Where there’s smoke there’s fire and that wasn’t a rave

Let’s just get one thing straight: whatever happened in St Hanshaugen last weekend, it wasn’t a rave. A bunch of entitled, straight, white people shouting over a tinny PA blasting out dance chart music, is little more than a russebuss to Berghain (if I can borrow a phrase from Olanskii). It’s a thinly veiled attempt at monopolising on an aspect of counter culture most of the people involved have never experienced first hand. You’ve read the stories, heard the rumours and saw the debate on television, and I just want to make sure that you know that whoever these people are, they don’t speak for rave- or club culture. These are nothing more than a bunch of kids with more money than sense, but the associations they’ve encouraged with rave culture and the international media incorrectly emphasising this association in a narrative of dangerous liaisons in a bunker in Oslo, could have disastrous ramifications for the last remnants of the original counter culture rave- and club scene. Especially in Norway and Oslo, where an authoritarian nanny state has always had a complicated and mostly dichotomous relationship with dance music culture and the community.

DIY parties and raves, in big part because of this relationship, has always had a presence in Norway. Accessible forests and remote suburban hamlets offer a chance to disappear and have led to some legendary party sets to flourish in Norway with experienced DJs and promoters hosting events that always make sure to fly under the radar, in order to not attract any attention to themselves or their guests. Intimate gatherings in largely open air venues with hosts taking every precaution to ensure the safety of their guests, have attracted less attention in all these years combined, than this one isolated event that shouldn’t even be considered in the same sport let alone the same ballpark. In recent years, events like VOID, Uteklubb and Technokjeller’n have come a long way in legitimising their efforts in Oslo by appearing in established venues like Jaeger and Villa and hosting official stages at the annual Oslo Musikkfest, a city wide event endorsed by local government. In fact to say that events like these are DIY is understatement, since more go into the planning and execution, than what usually goes into a similar event at a club. 

Unfortunately all the good work that these people have done, have just been eradicated, by this event in St Hanshaugen. Career politicians looking for a scapegoat through the blurry vision of political ideologies, and more often than not personal advancements, always fail to see the nuances, and will most certainly now only strengthen their resolve on all they perceive to be club culture. Almost immediately after, just this week in fact, they’ve maintained their position in closing venues before 12:00 when we saw encouraging signs that they would allow venues to stay open until 3AM. It’s just a bit ironic too, considering the fact that it was exactly this reason that these kids sought a cave to rave; the hubris of politics at work in the very denial of reality in every conceivable effort to always appear to be right. Limiting opening hours in a society so conditioned by drinking and socialising habits in the early mornings, in large part enforced by the state’s practises, have not changed these habits in Oslo at all, and in some aspects have only strengthened people’s resolve to maintain their routines. 

What do you expect? Human nature will always prevail, and in a situation like a pandemic, strengthened by the need to escape a grim reality , Oslo has responded, first with impromptu house parties and later with raves and club events happening around the edges of the city’s forest borders. When the house parties got too rowdy and the clubs started closing early again, there was only one option left and those that would usually spend their Fridays at Justisen and their Saturdays at Lawo, had nowhere left to go but underground. Appropriating a model from their more successful and more sincere counterparts, these kids sought refuge in a bunker, but got it disastrously wrong, by poisoning their guests and a couple of police officers with carbon monoxide, their experience woefully inadequate when compared to the real ravers, passing down knowledge from generation to generation. It says something too of the current situation that even a serious, established outfit like Uteklubb have resigned this year to a pandemic, and are only looking tentatively to the summer of 2021 to mark their return to the dance floor. 

People are still going to want to dance however, and during times of strive or uncertainty, that need for human contact, a social engagement, and some kind of release, only grows. Take the story of Tijana T, dancing in warehouses in Belgrade while bombs rained down over Belgrade. “It’s not only about social or economic circumstances, it’s also in our mentality.” she told this very blog, and while I’ve always been cautious about drawing a direct line of influence from the dance floor to politics, there is still some sense of rebellion in going out to a club and especially a rave, and there’s something mentally healthy about just stepping out of reality, even just for a night. Getting bogged down in the woes and existential crises of everyday life will have serious repercussions on anybody’s mental health, and any- and everybody will naturally seek to liberate their mind, even if it’s just for a moment in a leisurely pursuit of their choosing. We chose dancing.  

It leaves an irrecoverable mark however, when something like the event in St Hanshaugen happens, and in a case like that, where it’s completely unwarranted, having no relationship with anything that constitutes the established rave scene in Oslo, their ignorance in calling it rave and the international media on perpetuating that line can really ruin what some serious people and true enthusiasts have invested a lot of time in effort in. It’s important to me then, that you know that whatever happened in St Hanshaugen last weekend, that was no rave.  


* The words contained here within are the opinion of editor Mischa Mathys. The views here within don’t ncessarily reflect the views of Jaeger Oslo.