Dance scene ideals at odds with antisocial behaviour
OPINION:IN HIS opinion piece in The Irish Times on Tuesday, “Dance scene’s lethal mix — drink, drugs and ignorance”, Brian Boyd asks the question: “Can a genre of music be held responsible for the behaviour of people who like it?”
While the rest of his article doesn’t outrightly connect a genre of music to the violent events during Saturday’s gig in the Phoenix Park, it makes a fair (albeit convoluted) effort at implying that there is a link.
This is one point where Boyd’s argument appears to have offended the commenters who have taken their right to reply to The Irish Times website in remarkable numbers.
Another bugbear is that the author’s grasp of “dance culture” appears loose at best, wilfully ignorant at worst. Indeed, his use of the word “ignorance” in the article has been picked up on as an exquisite irony by many.
In the article, Boyd describes Swedish House Mafia as “broadly speaking a ‘dance culture’ act” and, at a later point, refers to them and their contemporary Skrillex as “underground dance music”.
While it is true that both acts make electronic music, to many people associated with dance culture, particularly its underground, the ersatz and formulaic stylings of these artists is deeply unpopular, and viewed cynically.
It is understandable that the thousands of Irish clubbers, producers, and promoters involved with the scene on a weekly basis might take offence at Boyd’s fast- and-loose use of terms like “underground”.
Indeed, in what might be an uncomfortable irony for the author and his argument, it can be argued that these particular acts slot snugly into a template associated with touring rock and pop bands. They do not play clubs, rather outdoor gigs and festival slots, and globe-hop around the exact same circuit as the likes of Coldplay, Snow Patrol and the rest.
While an entire feature could be written on what actually constitutes “dance culture”, a few short lines will have to suffice here on why Boyd’s misreading of it has offended so many. The dance community, while as prone to problems of its own as any musical subculture, still nurtures a certain set of ideals that are completely at odds with the antisocial events that occurred on Saturday.
Much of modern dance has its roots in the future-utopian projects of Chicago house and Detroit techno that kindled among the marginalised communities of North American blacks and gays in the 1980s. As it has evolved and diversified ever since, the culture associated with it has always prided itself on its community spirit and inclusivity, especially around matters of multiculturalism and sexuality.
To bandy the word “ignorance” around without acknowledging this history of values and tolerance is cheap enough; to illustrate the point, as Boyd does, using a slogan borrowed from a 1980s campaign relating to HIV/Aids (a disease that had a tragic and direct impact on early dance culture), is misjudged and unfortunate.
Further to the above considerations of culture, another failing in the piece must be pointed out. It entirely overlooks the fact that Swedish House Mafia were only one act among many who played on Saturday.