Monday, March 22, 2004

Ketamine Killed My Community

i'm going to do my very best to avoid slipping into crass nostalgia or old fart condemnation, but i can't be alone (surely?) in thinking that the prevalence of ketamine on the (london?) party scene is sucking the life out of it. i don't mean that it's not active - a cursory glance at some of the party sites and forums shows the scene is as busy as ever.

but i mean the energy, the (jesus..) joi de vivre, the creativity.

for a variety of reasons, i've been going to a few more free parties of late than for a while (largely because my favourite haunt, the mighty Ministry Of Unsound, is no more and i was missing staggering round bizarre buildings as the sun came up).

and to be honest it reminded me why i started going to fewer and fewer a couple of years back. there's a hardness, an edge that's crept into the scene that surely wasn't quite as prevalent before? i know things generally have got harder - the police, the logistics of actually pulling a successful party off - but i just find it really depressing seeing some 16 year old kid with a thousand yard stare and ketamine crusted round their runny nostrils trying to find someone to hold on to who isn't as fucked as they are.

the last thing i want to do is judge or condemn other people's drug habits, none of my business. but look at it like this:

i have this idea in my head of a hypothetical channel 4 documentary film crew making it into a warehouse in Acton in say, 1995, and finding a room full of people just fucking having it. grinning, dancing, helping each other out. in the hypothetical documentary, the energy and creativity and sense of camaraderie would leap from the screen.

and now, the same film crew? what would they find? well, judging by the party i went to on sunday morning in Liverpool Street: a huge building (a tile warehouse in a former life) with - i'm not sure - perhaps 6 rigs, i lost track. all pretty much playing the same plodding lifeless squat techno, lacking even the harsh energy of the old Liberator/Stay Up Forever London Acid Techno scene. and somehow a greater sense of menace than there used to be....

don't get me wrong - there's always been a darkside to the squat/free party scene, and i used to be fairly immersed in it. but now the whole thing is just so dark, often literally - gone are the days when the building would get well cleaned up in advance, decked out in flouro canvasses and lights, the whole deal.

and i'm sure ketamine plays a very big part in this. i did k for a while (the first time, at a Butthole Surfers gig, which was simultaneously appropriate and yet a fucking dreadful idea.). and i'm afraid it's always been in my nature to sort of test chemicals to destruction, wring what i can out of them. and it certainly took me to some very strange places - after dabbling in polite, cocaine-proportioned lines, eventually i was scarfing it up like Tony Montana at the end of Scarface. in those sort of quantities, it can leave acid standing.

but i tired of it damn fast, and at the same time noticed how much it was taking over the party scene. from people doing a few lines in the morning to make the tube journey home more of a challenge, i was confronted by girls (almost always spanish or portuguese, somehow) staggering by midnight, falling and muddy and utterly defenceless.

even when i found it fun, i found it anti-social. i mean, take enough k and you don't know where you are, so why the fuck make the effort to go out?

and the disassociative properties mean you're not taking in much about your surroundings, so maybe that's why parties are so functional, dark, because there's no point bothering. and there's the increased crime at parties - the jackings, the muggings, the rapes. maybe i'm leaping to conclusions, but it's going to be easier to violate someone (financially, physically, whatever) when they don't have a fucking clue what's going on, and nor does anybody else in a 100 yards of where they are. there's a lot of blame placed at the door of crackheads, and i'm not denying the problem. but maybe they moved in when the crowd became easier to pick off.

it's not all bad - the Unsound crew put on blinding parties, and the lovely OCB folks put on a stormer on Saturday - great atmosphere, nice building, great visuals (if a little underattended) so maybe it's a question of choosing what party crew you seek out, avoid the more 'squatjuice' dirty techno rigs. but that's a shame, because i used to actually enjoy the kind of Mad Max insane scenarios i've found myself in over the years, and if there's an increasing split between crews trying to keep it too nice and then the big dark ones, which are somehow at the same time absolutely rammed but lacking life, that would be a shame.

i'm sure it's not all the fault of K, but it must be a factor. and maybe i'm showing my age, but seeing a 14 year old who can hardly walk or keep their face from spasming trying to sell me K depresses the fuck out of me.

i dunno, maybe it's just the comedown................

posted by dubversion at 3:19 pm

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