Where better to find out about the future of rave culture than from a bunch of high people in a field?
The UK dance music festival is the ultimate collision of Britishness and youth culture: combining our incessant desire to camp throughout all weathers with our insatiable love of ecstasy. As the electronic music genre is pretty young, what dance music festivals will look like in the future is up for much debate – liable to change based on the developing technology, how inclusive the industry will become, and even the kinds of drugs we’ll be taking. What is certain, however, is that no matter what changes in the next 50 years, you’ll probably still be getting fucked up in a field somewhere, hiding pills down your socks, and paying £150 in the name of a techno festival.
Which is exactly what I was doing last weekend at Houghton, a festival in Norfolk, with a superbly-curated lineup of techno and house DJs, a beautiful setting, and tons of 20 to 30-years-old chewing their faces off to the thudding baselines of Jane Fitz.
Houghton is a relatively new dance music festival, defining itself by being painfully boutique – from the aesthetic to music to the food. Big brands are eschewed for smaller names: there’s a “Sauvelle” vodka bar instead of a Smirnoff one, fancy taco restaurants instead of a cheesy chips van, and a lineup with big names like Ricardo Villalobos, Craig Richards and Hunee, alongside far more esoteric artists like DJ Sotofett or Nicholas Lutz.
In its second year, the festival has a lot to live up to, and had a lot of us wondering how the format will change in the years to come (will the sound systems improve? Why are there so many men called Gary shoving into me? Will global warming eradicate rain?). So what better way to find out about the future of dance music festivals, than to ask the people who love them the most?
Many punters were up for chatting, but only a few people I spoke could actually string a sentence together (and nearly all of them didn't want their picture taken). But whatever. Here’s what ravers predicted dance music festivals will be like in the year of our Lord, 2050:
Noisey: What do you think dance music festivals will be like in 2050?
Max: [Giggling] Hello. My name is Max. In 2050? Well, hopefully by that stage, we'll all have implants in our ears that enable us to hear music only within us and not with other people, so we can have parties in places that don't create noise disturbances. Then maybe we'll have festivals all over the place. Like a silent disco in your head. Or there's some kind of small mechanical device. Though maybe that's quite optimistic because 2050's not that far away.
Noisey: What will dance music festivals like Houghton look like in 32 years?
Hannah: I need to think about this. [Pause]. It's a cloud rave, where everyone is in space pods, and everyone's levitating, and everyone's in their own pod, levitating around the stages they want to go to.
Noisey: Do you think in 2050 drugs will be decriminalised at dance music festivals?
Susan: Drugs will contribute to GDP [laughing].
Noisey: Hi! What will dance music festivals be like in the future?
Timothy: We've just taken some MD and acid. Hang on, I need to think about that. Oh, I know exactly what it's going to look like in 50 years.
Oh okay, you can tell me that then.
We don't talk to each other, we just sit in our rooms and wear virtual reality headsets and we can do a slight wave to someone in the corner, and then hopefully they'll wave back, and that'll be it. Everything's open source. This is the future where humans own the world. There's no concept of currency.
What about in terms of music?
From a techno perspective, I'd like to hope it’s like what it's like now. It has to be strictly vinyl. Strictly. I'm not sure I've said strictly enough. Analogue. A vintage synthesiser.
Actually, I think festivals of the future will just be recycled festivals of the past.
Charlie, 30, and Josh, 26
Noisey: What do you think dance music festivals will look like in the next 32 years?
Charlie: [Festivals are] becoming much more of lifestyle marketing rather than actual music marketing. It's less and less about the music and more about creating a little micro-universe; its own little village. I think what will start happening is that festivals will start having a much higher focus on interactive activities and the visual activities. What people want is immersive experiences, and there's also been a huge rise in immersive experiential events.
People are going to want to do more group activities, people are wanting to interact. As we become more and more disjointed as a society there's a bigger need for us to feel like we need to bond together. So all these immersive experiential events will give them a platform to step out of themselves for a minute and…
And offer a community?
Yeah, and have a community. Escapism will drive an entirely different trend through dance music festivals, and they will create immersive whole body experiences for people so they can reconnect with themselves because that's half the reason people love festivals. Because they can just let everything go. There's just this immense need for connection.
Josh: Imagine if ecstasy became legal. And everyone's just doing ecstasy-infused mojitos.
Charlie: Yeah I don’t think that’s a stretch. If we have a second global financial crisis, I think we will have a lot of countries that will think of alternate ways they could start profiting and making money. There are many countries that have decriminalised drugs so it's not a far stretch to imagine that. Like when Greece was in a massive crisis. If that starts happening to some of the poorer countries around Europe then I don't think that will be a stretch to imagine they'd pick a drug and start government mass producing it.
Simon: I think dance music festivals in 2050 will probably look like 3000 people stood on their phones texting each other on the dance floor.
Because it's getting that way already.
I feel like festivals are doing quite a good job of keeping phones out, no?
I think that's only because this festival's in the middle of nowhere and there's no signal. I don't think it's a conscious thing.
In 2050 do you think we'll still have phones? Maybe we'll be communicating in a different way?
I mean, I don’t know… fuck, I'm not HG Wells.