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The man curating the best comments left under rave videos on YouTube

@UKRaveComments is the Twitter account putting the purest part of the internet in one place

Nostalgia is back in business. In a world where the future is increasingly hard to imagine and the present difficult to endure, people are leaning on their memories and pining for the past. With no nightclubs open to shake off the week’s worries, lockdown added extra weight and romance to old rave videos, while group WhatsApps lit up with friends’ fantasies about the nights out that they’d have “when this is all over”.

Some predicted that acid house would return – and something like it did, as soundsystems descended on parks across London over a hot summer, and stories emerged of free parties taking place from Wales to Manchester. Councils soon clamped down though, even stationing vans of dogs in otherwise peaceful public places in order to deter any would-be ravers, and the government began issuing £10,000 fines to any illegal rave organisers. 

@UKRaveComments is a Twitter account that launched in May of this year with a simple premise – to tweet the best comments left underneath old rave videos that have been uploaded to YouTube. If you’re unfamiliar with this particular type of internet interaction, this type of commentary is perhaps the only pure thing left online. Anonymous ex-caners reminisce about the glory days of acid house in the early 90s: taking ecstasy while watching Altern-8, describing the feeling of rushing to “Voodoo Ray”, or eulogising hedonistic squat parties in Hulme.

What makes these comments so compelling is that none of these people seem unhappy at having left the rave behind. Rather, it’s people cherishing their memories, at peace with the idea that these were beautiful moments in time, not to be forgotten.

Appreciation of this modern form of rave ephemera is nothing new – Clive Martin wrote about it for Vice back in 2013, and four years later Bicep paid tribute to the phenomenon in the video for their rave-inspired hit tune “Glue”. However, mid-pandemic, there’s a potency to these comments, and the music too. Raving has always carried a sense of yearning, that formidable mixture of euphoria and melancholy, an infectious feeling of freedom.

With nightclubs no closer to reopening, and the festivals facing an uncertain future, @UKRaveComments has found an audience with hedonists of all ages. We caught up with the man behind it to discuss sentimental reflections of the rave, government response to partying, and why he set up the account.

When and why did you start compiling comments left under rave videos?

UKRaveComments: It all started over the lockdown when I was furloughed. As a lot of people were, I was spending far too much time on my own Twitter. After a while, the constant stream of current events and discourse was having an impact on my mental wellbeing. I turned to music to cheer me up, which included a lot of Fantazia-type hardcore. Pure feel-good. I soon discovered that there was an absolute goldmine of raver’s anecdotes. I put two and two together, and turned my time on Twitter around by sharing them! I was inspired by the account @DiscoComments, big up to them, although my account has gone in a slightly different direction at this point.

Have you ever left a comment under a rave video? If so, what was it?

UKRaveComments: You know what, I don’t think I have! Maybe to be a music nerd and ID a tune in a mix. I should definitely give that a go and share my own memories though.

What’s your favourite rave memory?

UKRaveComments: Here’s where I reveal that I’m a lot younger than my source material. A lot of my favourite rave memories have come from Hope Works in Sheffield. Love the warehouse space they use. Great memories of losing it to dubstep classics in a Timedance takeover at the end of the night. That night was the first time I heard “I’m Alright Mate” by Bruce, the breakdown was a proper freakout moment.   

Another one that stands out was my time at Kala Festival. I think it was the first festival like that in Albania, and the President thanked the attendees by sending over a massive crate of free beer. Me and my mate Charlie decided to hire a pedalo, throw a load of the cans in, and enjoy the music floating around the sea near the festival stages. That was the end of the festival and later on, as the sun was coming up the DJ played “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads to finish, excellent feeling.

Do you think the account has gotten more popular because of the pandemic? People feeling nostalgic, unable to go to clubs.

UKRaveComments: Definitely. I think it’s a mix of nightlife being on-hold, and people just wanted a less gloomy kind of content on the timeline like myself. There’s definitely a big amount of people reminiscing and sharing stories along with the posts which is cool to see. 

If you could pick one comment from your curations that captures exactly what rave culture is all about, which one would it be?

UKRaveComments: This one below comes to mind. I love it when the memories take on an ecstatic and dreamlike quality. Love that someone said it made them think of the end of Ulysses. Also, some of my favourite content hasn’t been YouTube comments, but original anecdotes submitted to the account. I’ve had some brilliant ones from @carlosmanwelly, the highlight for me being this story about bailing a mate out of jail for non-payment of the poll tax to go raving. I’d like to echo a response to this and say this is British history we should be teaching in schools. Really paints a picture of the era.

The comments underneath YouTube rave videos are often described as the “purest part of the internet”. What is it about them, and rave culture itself that communicates such wholesomeness?

UKRaveComments: Music and culture journalist Dan Hancox tweeted: “There's something about ‘hardcore will never die’ rave/jungle sentimentalism that makes it feel like the only non-reactionary form of cultural nostalgia.” I think that really stuck with me when curating the comments for the account. 

Obviously, a big element in rave culture is the drugs. A culture that is fuelled by ecstasy more than alcohol has such a different characteristic. Also, Jeremy Deller said something interesting in his Resident Advisor interview talking about rave music with video game and kids’ TV samples, “it's a kind of nostalgia even at the moment”. In that sense, it gave people an opportunity to ‘play’ which they hadn’t been allowed to do since they were children. This massively lends to the sentimental reflections you see in the scene.

“The thing with young people is you can’t keep them locked down for long with nothing to do” – @UKRaveComments

Do you see illegal rave culture returning, given the lack of nightclubs? The conditions seem right for it, even if the government is placing large fines on party organisers.

UKRaveComments: The thing with young people is you can’t keep them locked down for long with nothing to do. They will start to throw raves and parties, no matter how authoritarian the government’s response is. The thing I’m worried about with the new rave fines is how fairly it will be enforced to people of different backgrounds. Just like most drug-use is de facto legal for middle class white people, they will be able to get away with a lot more. Personally, I’m playing it safe till this whole pandemic thing blows over. 

Who are your favourite contemporary ravey acts right now, and who are your favourite rave legends?

UKRaveComments: Contemporary, the label Local Action releases so much of my favourite music. India Jordan (“For You” is track of the year), Finn, and Elkka. The label Hooversounds as well, anything Sherelle plays! Hessle Audio is something I’ve loved for ages, everything they’ve released this year makes me want to rave.

Legends: I love all of Moving Shadow, pretty much, especially 2 Bad Mice (going back to Hessle Audio – if any DJs are reading, try blending “Alien Mode” into “Bombscare”, I feel like that’d work well). Foul Play are amazing. DJ Ss is incredible (a local legend for me as well). Plus so many great mixes by LTJ Bukem and Peshay I’ve listened to. Too many to mention!