Apparently, today’s young people are timid and boring — according to comments made by Block Festival’s co-founder, George Hull. But is that what’s really getting to him?
When reading of Bloc Festival co-founder George Hull’s full-frontal attack on young people and contemporary electronic music culture, my initial thoughts were that this was a classic case of an ageing bloke over-romanticising his younger years. His description of young people as ‘too safe and boring’ in his opening paragraph is one that has been used to describe every generation of the past fifty years by the one preceding it. As everyone knows, young electronic music fans in 2016 are unable to rave as hard and drop as many pills as their ‘90s counterparts; just like said ravers were unable to pogo as hard and gum as much speed as the punk rockers of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s; and said punk rockers were unable to protest as hard and drop as many LSD tabs as the Summer of Love generation of the late ‘60s.
The use of the word ‘hipster’ in the title only heightened my scepticism towards the article’s credibility and worth. A broad, catch-all term, hipster is generally used by those distinctly out of touch with modern youth culture to describe someone who shows even the slightest sign of departure from the consumerist, bereft-of-culture monotony of mainstream western society. To label his customers — whom he is charging £180 a ticket — with this lazy term is not only highly insulting to them, but also exemplifies an indifference to the people who attend the festival he runs.
Another plot hole in Hull’s article are his constant references to rave culture and raving. To put it bluntly, rave culture is dead — and has been for some while. No self-respecting young electronic music fan would describe themself as a raver and Bloc is certainly no rave regardless of whether Hull would argue otherwise. To a young person in 2016, the term conjures up images of ageing, fluorescent-clad types prophesying the strength of ecstasy in days gone by and dancing over-enthusiastically to The Prodigy.
The electronic scene has evolved and matured greatly since then and no longer fits Hull’s interpretation of it as a ‘youth movement’ based around ‘freedom’ and ‘rebellion’. The electronic music audience has largely become more mature-minded and this can certainly be said for Bloc; a festival that encapsulates a plethora of intertwined electronic genres and brings together some of the world’s most cutting-edge electronic musicians. If it was the raw, rebellious freedom of an old-school rave in a field he was looking for at the 2016 edition, perhaps booking the likes of Thom Yorke, Floating Points and Four Tet to headline — three artists as far away musically from the genre of rave as they are exceptionally talented — was arguably a bad move.
Admittedly, modern electronic music culture can lack the raw energy that is present in footage of early raves, but for someone fetishizing over rawness, freedom and rebellion, Hull ought to turn his attention to the ever-expanding British grime scene. A scene spanning back over a decade with a proudly anti-corporate, DIY-attitude to production; he would only need to take to YouTube to witness the sheer energy on offer from collectives such as Boy Better Know or The Square. All in all, the article appeared to be nothing more than a midlife crisis-evoked rant aimed at the youth of today. That was certainly how I interpreted it until it was pointed out to me that Hull is a mere 32 years old, suggesting there is perhaps more to it than first meets the eye.
Once reading the article thoroughly it becomes apparent that Hull’s interpretation of electronic music is one that is heavily influenced by a right-wing, business-orientated mindset. Rather than eulogising rave’s glory years for the music and the liberation, he does so from the perspective of an eager businessman surreptitiously trying to exploit young people’s desires for dance music and ecstasy for his own profit.
His reference to ‘Thatcherite spirit’ and praise of a former rave promoter turned ‘libertarian-conservative blogger’ reveals his true stance on the topic, as does his berating of safe spaces. His depiction of the latter as being ‘the opposite of fun’ due to them being ‘properly supported, represented and instructed’ is particularly telling — effectively a wealthy white male peddling an anti-diversity narrative — and contrasts entirely with the black, gay and wholly inclusive roots of electronic music in Chicago, Detroit and New York.
His interpretation of electronic music directly contrasts with the true essence of the scene and herein lies his real issue with these ‘dull’, ‘spineless’, ‘uptight’ hipsters. Young promoters and electronic music fans in the modern-day — those who Hull is referring to with his hipster slurs — take a proud DIY approach to putting on nights and booking DJs. More often than not, their involvement in the scene spawns entirely from their love of the music and all profits made are invested back into their nights — used to book future guests, buy new equipment, etc. — in a bold two fingers to the corporate, profit-orientated mainstream.
This anti-consumerist approach taken up by the ‘hipsters’ openly conflicts with the motives of a Thatcherite businessman — one who has come to realise the scene is no longer the cash cow it once was in the glory days of rave.