Illegal Raves Across Europe Returns EDM to Its Roots

Illegal raves were once one of the few places that captured the euphoric sounds and energy of EDM. Now, with festival season grinding to a slow halt, illegal raves are seeing a resurgence – and that has officials worried.

Stories across Europe tell the tale of secret parties popping up in Germany, France, Portugal and the UK. “Hundreds seen at overnight rave near Cannons Leisure Centre,” reads one headline. “Easing of lockdown makes way for raves across Europe,” says another.

Some, like DJ Mag editor Carl Loben, argue that illegal raves aren’t seeing a renaissance, just an evolution.

Illegal raves in the 90s and early 2000s relied on answering machines and flyers to get the word out. Social media serves that same purpose today. “If one post gets re-posted by ten people, with a thousand people on their Snapchat, then a thousand people have seen it and then so on,” says James Morsh, a UK club promoter.

Still, the general purpose of these underground parties have not changed. “I think people are just longing to socially connect,” Berlin-based DJ Elias Doré told Reuters.

Indeed, friendships that last a lifetime are often made at large EDM festivals like Untold in Romania. Facebook and Twitter posts frequently describe two people meeting at the main stage, connecting, and ultimately starting a family together. Returning to events like Glastonbury or Tomorrowland, year after year, represents a reunion of sorts for many music fans.

People searching for a way to connect, following weeks of being locked down due to coronavirus, seemed to have found it at these illegal raves.

Police Strain to Stop Underground Parties

Police speaking with revelers wearing face masks as illegal raves break out across the UK.  Photo Credit:  Ben Cawthra/LNP
Police speaking with revelers wearing face masks as illegal raves break out across the UK. Photo Credit: Ben Cawthra/LNP

These hidden social soirees, prohibited by COVID-19 restrictions, are not without their critics.

“We know months of restrictions that people are frustrated and want to come together in gatherings. But these illegal raves are obviously unacceptable,” UK Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News. Authorities are also finding themselves in a constant struggle to stop the party.

Once recent event, in Manchester, attracted 6,000 people. “…by the time the police got there, there were so many young people there for the rave that it just became an exercise in trying to manage it,” Oldham council leader Sean Fielding told the Guardian.

Officials worry renewed interest in illegal raves could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases. But they concede there’s little they can do to stop these “unlicensed music events.”

“The reality is the police are going to be unable to prevent such numbers and volumes of people descending onto a location, particularly if those individuals are intent on having their rave,” Tony Blockley, head of policing at the University of Derby, said in a recent interview with the website Wired.

That still hasn’t stopped other law enforcement agencies from appealing to the common good.

“I would urge anyone who is planning to attend an illegal rave to think twice,” a local British police superintendent said. “We know that people want to go out and socialise with friends, but everyone needs to remember that the coronavirus regulations are still in place.

“New cases of COVID-19 are being diagnosed in the local community every day and it’s essential that we all follow the national guidance, including social distancing, to help protect the NHS and save lives.”