But I don’t want to be in the Boiler Room!
Nothing is as boring as the over-obvious enemy, the predictably normal nemesis… you try to reserve the bile for worthy opponents, emerging threats. But sometimes you have to call it out, just the same. True when we’re facing intractable political and social issues, but also true in the more banal environment of entertainment. I’m looking at you, ‘dance culture’.
Let’s just come out with it: the Boiler Room shows are unbearable. These events have somehow perfected the ultimate evil cocktail of only the most awful aspects of electronic music culture.
I know, there is nothing as dull as hearing stories about ‘good old days’ when the music itself was the thing, not the event itself. Well, fuck it, this is coming at you in undiluted truth-o-vision.
I remember very well, back in 1996 a good friend of mine booked Detroit’s finest political techno crew Underground Resistance to play Stuttgart. They played in the back of a bar – the windows blacked out with some hastily thrown up curtains. I’ve no idea who from the Detroit posse even turned up. First of all they wore hoodies all night, second the bar was completely dark and full of smoke and strobe lights, and third the music was the thing – and boy was it good; we danced all night and fell out of the smoke into the morning sun.
Back to the present day. Oh look, it’s a Boiler Room* session. How do I know? First you see a group of telegenic super-happy dancers, smiling but bopping a little sharp-elbowed as they jostle for the most camera-friendly posish behind the DJ. To be seen and seeing. Instead of sharing a moment, dancing with friends, escaping inside among the crowd, it’s become another status statement to the outside world: “Look at us! We are here where things are quite definitely happening and stuff!” And the central object of desire is the DJ – not the music. In other words: this Boiler Room is the negation of everything that made nightclubs such a beautiful experience.
[*”Boiler Room – Home of Underground Music”, yep, you read that right]
Sure, among Kaput’s older readers some might still recall with a certain horror those MTV Dance Parties of the late 80s and early 90s. Underdressed young people were moving their beautiful bodies to some then-banging house music – mostly in exaggeratedly sunny beach environments. It was quite a picture of the good life.
But we watched these as parodies – and yes I am aware that part of Boiler Room’s popularity is people taking the piss, a little schadenfreude at the ‘cool kids’, ducking their lips in HD. And yes compared to MTV’s dance parties we can I guess begrudgingly admit that the Boiler Room does book some good DJs – just listen with your screen dimmed?
(Short intermezzo: the only Boiler Room I really dug was one filmed in the patio of a Riad in Marrakech with local musicians.)
Footnote: back in the day the American noise-label Amphetamine Reptile Records once released a very lovely mashup of MTV Dance Parties on one of their video collections named „Dope Guns & F*cking Up Your Video Deck“. Between the clips they cut in short interludes in which punk rockers in fur coats danced to noise music by bands like Halo Of Flies, Helmet or Surgery on (burning) oil barrels – sadly these haven’t made it to YouTube yet, so you’ll have to take my word for it as you watch another overlit room full of chic lovelies frugging about to Matthew Herbert.