Tag: DJs

I have had the good fortune to watch live DJs spin music at raves in over five different countries. The rave scenes in these different countries varied greatly, but part of that is also due to the time difference. The raves I am going to mention here took place over a period of 15 years. During that time, rave culture changed in each one of these countries. I only partied at a certain time in each country, so I don’t know what they were like during the other times. This makes it difficult to compare one country to the other directly. But I will try.

The first raves I ever saw were in Seattle, Washington in the United States. They were simply amazing. I’m sure some of this has to do with the fact that they were my first raves, but back then it was the height of the rave culture in the US. The DJs were amazing and so were the venues. They took place in warehouses, but also large public venues. People took ecstasy and danced all night while wearing crazy clothes. The atmosphere was simply wonderful and it has never been beat by any rave or EDM festival I have attended since.

Outdoor rave in Europe
Crowds at an outdoor rave in Europe

Next I’ll quickly mention a rave I went to in Las Vegas in the desert. It was similar to the Seattle ones, but I did not know anyone there, so I didn’t have quite as great of a time. I also did not have any party favors and let’s face it, that does make a difference. The music at that desert rave was great, too, but I have to admit it was very cold at night in the desert and I was not dressed for the occasion. I had a few beers before I went, but there was no alcohol being sold at the venue, because there were people under 21 there and it was in the US. I got tired quickly because of this.

The next rave I went to was in Tokyo, Japan. This was in a gigantic venue right on the waterfront. The music was incredible, perhaps the best out of any of the raves, but the atmosphere just wasn’t there. The whole thing was much too commercial and that definitely took away from the feeling. We did have some party favors this night and I was there with a girl I really liked. This all made for a great night, but I did miss the underground feel of the raves back in the US.

From that point on I didn’t go to any raves for a while. In Europe I just went to clubs, because they did not seem to have real raves. They didn’t need them. You could do anything you wanted in the club. The next actual outdoor music festival with electronic music was in Seoul, South Korea. It was an electronic dance music festival with some large DJs. Some of the biggest name DJs in the world actually. Unfortunately, this being Korea, there were absolutely no party favors whatsoever. There was a lot of alcohol and everyone got very drunk, but it didn’t feel like a rave at all. It felt like a big party. It was a ton of fun, but I would not call it a rave. It was missing everything that makes a rave a rave.

EDM festival type rave in US
Ravers partying at an EDM festival in the US

Finally, I went to a few raves in Shenzhen, China. Being China, there was some weed, but nothing else. They also sold alcohol. I didn’t know anyone there and the parties were very small, so I got bored quickly. The music was fine, but nothing special. It was a nice try, especially for China. This is a country where you really do not have any good clubs at all and the nightlife generally sucks. The fact that someone tried to put on a rave is really incredible. They did a good job, too, but that’s not enough in this country. When you are in China, no matter how good you are at promoting parties and events, you just can’t compete with raves in the US or even Japan.

I just realized I forgot to mention the biggest rave of them all: the full moon party in Thailand. Yes I’ve been there and it was incredible. It also did not really feel like a rave, since most people were getting drunk. I was always against the US policy of not selling alcohol at these things, but now that I see what happens when you do, I actually like it. Raves are about drugs, not alcohol. The drugs fuel the enjoyment of the music and the general atmosphere of love and peace. Alcohol does the exact opposite of that. This is why the best raves I have been to were in the United States. That is probably surprising to you. It definitely is to me.

You’ll find info on raves on the Badass Raves FB page.

raves

A few years ago I spent two months traveling through China. I spent all of my time in the south and the west. I began in Shenzhen, then went to Guiling and Yunnan provinces. I spent the first month there, then headed back to Guangzhou. From there I traveled to Chongqing and then to Sichuan. I spent most of the second month there, with 10 days or so in Lanzhou and Urumqi.

Night club in Shenzhen China
A KTV style Chinese night club in Shenzhen

During my travels, I made it a point to go to a club or two in every major city, to see some local DJs. I came away with one major impression. Chinese clubs absolutely suck. Most of the Chinese DJs are terrible, too, but even if they managed to spin a good set, I doubt I would even notice given how horrible the clubs are. I swear some of them just use regular old record players.

I’ll start in Shenzhen, since it’s the most western city. Located just north of Hong Kong, it gets a lot of international DJs as well as a bunch from Hong Kong and Macau and of course local ones. Many foreign DJs live in Shenzhen, too, since it is the best place in China for them to find work apart from Shanghai and Beijing. It is known as a very progressive city with great nightlife.

While it is progressive, the nightlife is far from great. In fact, the only Chinese city with decent clubs where you can have a good time is Shanghai. And the clubs are only decent, not great. Nothing like Tokyo or even Seoul.

Basically, in China there are two types of clubs: those catering to Chinese people and those catering to foreigners. In all of China, there are maybe 5 of the latter. In Shenzhen, there are none. The city does get some big name DJs, but they end up spinning in the Chinese style clubs, which is absolutely ridiculous. Here’s why:

Pepper Club, located in the Coco Park area of Shenzhen, is the most western club and the one that attracts the most big name DJs. The dance floor is the size of a medium-sized table. It is the biggest you’ll find in a club in the city. Instead, every inch of floor space in the club is filled with tables that customers can sit at for a large fee. This way, the club can make money and Chinese people can sit around in their little groups and not mingle with anyone they didn’t already know.

For some reason they love this. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to a nice bar or pub and talking to my friends, too, but I don’t want to do it in a place with a DJ and pounding music being piped into every inch of the club through hundreds of speakers in every corner. The only time you would want music that loud and that all-present is if you’re in a dance club where everyone is dancing. Not in a place full of tables.

But in China, the clubs are all made for sitting, but the noise level is made for dancing. It makes for the most useless nights out, where you can’t dance, can’t walk around and meet new people and can’t talk to your friends since you can’t hear anything they say. So you end up with a bunch of people getting drunk in small groups but not really talking, everyone just staring into their smartphones. Off to the side, a DJ plays music that no one can dance to and no one can talk over.

I have no idea if the club owners here have simply tried to copy the western club environment and failed miserably, or if they created this horrible clubbing experience on purpose. I imagine they make far more money this way, since people pay for all the tables. Obviously if they were trying to attract foreign customers, they would fail and go bankrupt, but since they get plenty of young Chinese customers, they don’t really need to worry about the rest of us. They can safely ignore us and just do whatever makes them the most money and whatever appeals most to Chinese clubgoers.

This wasn’t just a Shenzhen  phenomenon. All cities are like this. Shanghai, and maybe Beijing, have some decent clubs in the western style where it’s possible to listen to good music and actually dance to it and meet new people, but the other cities don’t. They are far worse than Shenzhen even. In Shenzhen, the clubs are glitzy and at least look like posh clubs. In smaller cities, they look like they want to look like posh clubs, the kind that would attract a famous DJ, but it is obvious it’s just a facade. The clubs all look cheap and tacky.

And the DJs they get to spin music are locals and their skill level is that of someone just becoming a DJ, someone who is in the middle of learning to DJ. They play the same top 40 tunes, but not top 40 from today. The songs were top 40 five years ago. The music is always turned up too loud. If they do play electronic dance music, it’s far too fast and seems completely unnatural. Not that you could enjoy your EDM even if it was good, since again, there are no dance floors and only tables with Chinese people smoking and playing a game of dice.

I’m not the only one who hates the clubs in China. Every foreigner who has tried to go to a few feels the same. The phenomenon of filling every inch of available space with tables and leaving no room for a real dance floor has even made it into a question on Quora, which you can read here. As you can see from that, there have been plenty of huge DJs, some of the world’s most famous DJs, playing gigs in China, but outside of Beijing and Shanghai, you won;t find the venues to really enjoy those DJs. And even in those two cities, the Chinese style of club is taking over. I guess they are just more profitable and are thus squeezing out the clubs that are more traditional and actually enjoyable. Money wins every time. We lose every time. What a shame.

Clubs

When I was in college I went to my first rave. I went with one of my friends who I’m actually no longer friends with, but he was a nice guy. We were both learning to DJ at the time using this method and we wanted to see some real live DJs. We went to an old warehouse on the West side of Seattle. I’d never been to this part of town before and had never been to a rave before. I didn’t know what to expect from either.

As I was driving the car, we were listening to techno music. I always liked this kind of music but I had never gone to a rave to hear a live DJ. As we were blasting the music in the car on the way there, we were getting more and more excited. My friend’s sister went to a lot of raves even though she was several years younger than us, but strangely we had never been.

As we drove down the street along the waterfront and got close to the rave, we started seeing more and more people dressed in brightly colored clothes. Many of them were wearing strange hats, carrying stuffed animals, sucking on pacifiers and just generally giving off a very ‘peace and love’ kind of vibe. We were dressed the same as always and it was clear would be completely out of place.

We found a place to park and walked up and got in line. The thing that made the biggest impression on me that moment was the girls. They were hot. Not all, but a large percentage. Before getting out of the car we took some pills and it was the first time we were doing that too. Seeing the people around us it was clear we were not the only ones doing it.

Once we had gotten through the line and we had been patted down and frisked, we walked into the warehouse and approached the dull thumping of techno music. The first DJ really wasn’t that great in retrospect, but it sounded amazing to us at the time. The main reason for that was the atmosphere of all the people around us. They were totally into the music and letting it carry them, without a care in the world. And did I mention the girls were hot?

Once the pills kicked in we joined in the dancing and we had a great time. That time only got better early in the morning, when the main DJ took the stage. His name was Donald Glaude.

DJ Donald Glaude
DJ Donald Glaude

He was a large black man with an afro who played an incredible selection of songs and he knew just how to get the crowd going. The energy he fed into the assembled masses was incredible and it was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be a DJ. I have since tried many methods to make that happen, but in the end, I was not able to become a DJ. I just don’t have the ear for music. I guess it’s for the better; leave it to the professionals. I’ve since seen Donald perform several times and he has been amazing every single one of them.

American DJs