Love Parade - A Dream turned Nightmare

Words by: Cila Warncke
Posted: 27/7/10 19:12

Love Parade - A Dream turned NightmareTwenty people are dead as a result of the horrific crush at the Love Parade in Duisburg, Germany. The victims include Dutch, German, Australian, Italian and Chinese (www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/25/germany) music lovers. They died for the fantasy that electronic music is exempt from the rules of the real world. If we are to honour the dead, and prevent future tragedies, we need to destroy the central myth of electronic music culture.

The siren call of dance is the promise that yea though we walk through the valley of the shadow of reality, music will deliver us from evil. In the early years partiers banded together to run police cordons and invade tumble-down warehouses in pursuit of transcendence. If they could just make it to the party, just let the beats hit their ears, just lose themselves in the music, everything else would melt away. It is not coincidence that rave flourished in the UK during the last bitter years of Thatcher's reign. Conservative politics had gutted opportunity and young people had little opportunity and less respect. Dance music promised an alternative to the greedy, grasping, indifferent consumer culture around them. It came with a slogan: Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. Ecstasy lifted people to collective euphoria and fuelled the ideal of dance events as a sacred space.

As electronic music culture developed the pie-eyed hippie idealism became muddled with politics and money - lots and lots of money. Clubbing has become a mainstream, corporate, commercial enterprise. Nevertheless, a kernel of the original dream remains. Up till now, we believed that nothing very bad could happen at a dance party because electronic music is about love, togetherness, looking out for each other. The Love Parade tragedy echoes events like Roskilde, where eight people died at a rock festival (www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A442874) but it is different because it happened to us.

We all have a stake in the tragedy because electronic culture is built out of a shared sense of rebellious identity, traditional rules, fears and constraints are not supposed to matter on the dancefloor. When the music soars we feel lifted; invulnerable, united. At the Space 2009 closing party rain-drenched clubbers danced oblivious in the midst of high-voltage electrics while lightning bolts etched the sky. Every week in Ibiza clubbers drive too fast on winding roads, or dance in a frenzy in 40-degree clubs, or paddle drunkenly in the sea. They - we - take stupid, egregious risks because we can't believe anything bad will ever happen. Mostly, we're lucky. We rely on fate, fortune and the kindness of strangers to get us home when we've had too much, to survive the bad trips, to find our car keys and wallets, to avoid unsavoury people, bad neighbourhoods and scary situations.

What the Love Parade catastrophe forces us to admit is that terrible things can happen to us; that there is no magic circle around the dancefloor. Surely part of what fuelled the official negligence and what prompted partiers to enter a dangerously overcrowded situation was the belief that nothing bad could happen at an event called the Love Parade. It is tempting to believe this because we need something to believe in. Now, just as in the early days of rave, we live in a world of economic hardship, political bullshit, violence, war, and pessimism. More than ever, we crave love, harmony and togetherness. What the Love Parade tragedy reminds us is that music can lift us higher, but it cannot defy the laws of physics. The hard truth is that human fragility runs deeper than any ideology, or ethos, or sub-culture. Life is precarious and precious. The tragedy occurred because the organisers arrogantly thought they could defy common sense; thought they could fit a million people into space for 250,000; thought that they didn't really need proper planning and security. They were wrong. We are human first, dancers second. Never again can we dare trust the power of music to save us from reality...


Advertisement

Advertisement
Podcast
Timo Maas
Andres Campo
Bas Ibellini
Kenny Glasgow