Ravers unite

Across the Generations – These grainy black and white photos could have been taken at a warehouse rave in 1994; in fact they were taken last month at Studio BMH, the new multi-purpose space at Bellingen Memorial Hall.

By Phil Nicholas: Bellingen Memorial Hall Venue Coordinator, Bellingen Shire Council

The 90s Acid House party that followed a screening of Beats at Bellingen Film Lovers attracted dance music fans young and old. By ‘old’ I mean folks like me, who danced to this music 30 years ago and still harbour a fondness for thumping four-to-the-floor rhythms and strobe lit dancefloors.

It was particularly gratifying to see half the room occupied by 18 – 24 year olds. What had attracted them to an event such as this and how had they happened upon this music? I decided to investigate.

YouTube, TikTok, Spotify and Soundcloud was the response from several of the dancers. “I found tracks I like on playlists shared by other users, then the app suggested more of the same.” I felt the old fogey in me twitch as this news reconfirmed how different the journey of music discovery is now, from when physical formats dominated. Back in the day, music scenes and fads felt more ubiquitous, perhaps because they were closely tied to other widely-observed physical expressions of cultural allegiance: fashion, television advertising, magazines etc. Nowadays an algorithm has replaced human curators in many contexts.

Nevertheless, further investigation made me reconsider. Another dancer commented, “My friend told me about this gig and I never thought there would be an event like this in Bellingen.” I think the fundamentals remain the same in that one discovery leads to another and word of mouth still plays a key role. The online playlist is the modern version of the cassette mixtape. Users share their playlists with others, in effect a digital word of mouth recommendation. 

It’s clear that music remains important to young people, providing not only entertainment but also serving as a crucial element in their identity and self-expression. If each generation continues to discover music from across the eras, then it feels appropriate to organise gigs that represent those genres so that young people can enjoy an authentic experience. Upon entering the Studio, the general consensus from those youngsters was, “Sick!” Old fogeys note: that means good.