A field, somewhere in Warwickshire, summer ’08, the early hours of the morning. Very far from reality.
In front of me is Larry, or “Laz,” a first-year at Oxford. Laz has been dancing all night in one of the tents where DJs wearing huge feathered masks are spinning the sounds of the U.K. student scene, Drum ’n’ Bass, Dubstep, Rave. Laz is wearing a faded pink rabbit costume spattered with mud and thick-rimmed glasses skewed across his face.
Laz is very very high, on a mixture of MDMA, cocaine and whatever else he has found.
Laz is a drug grazer, pestering people for pills, puffs on joints and bumps of Special K. Laz has been described as “a big dog with drugs.” But now Laz has gone too far, or people are just ignoring him.
“Have I taken too much?”
“I don’t have a clue,” I reply.
Laz starts to hop in front of me. The thought runs through my head that we could be in a britpop novel called “Asteroid Trash” where we had been blasted to another planet and all anybody could do was blow their minds out with absurdly huge speakers and drugs. We would be wrapped in tinfoil to protect us from neutrinos.
“Is the water in my belly sloshing about? Am I overdosing?”
“How do you know?”
“I’m not a doctor.”
Friends join us. Laz keeps asking what’s wrong with him. Another friend starts overdosing in earnest. He is writhing on the floor.
We take him to the medical tent, get him water.
Somebody with an open shirt and a bow tie stops us on the way. He follows us.
“Well I rather thought I would join the foreign service …”
My friend cuts him off. “D’you want some coke?”
“Well, rather …”
My friend gives him half a gram to make him go away.
“I’m rather new to this, you know, do you need a mirror, or have I just been watching too much Hollywood? Haw haw haw …”
Laz cuts through his ridiculous laugh. “Can I get some?”
While the two are arguing, my friend winks at me: “Let’s scarper.”
We arrived here sometime the day before in buses filled with Oxford students in costume, laughing, loud, but just like any other students in the world. I had been invited along by a friend. People in London had filled me in on the party — “I did that when I was at Oxford, I ended up in a patch of stinging-nettles in a field in Gloucestershire, wearing a leopard-print thong and everybody had gone,” a staffer at the magazine I was interning at offered. I had to go.
By the middle of the night it became clear that sex and debauchery are limited to the “porn tent,” and that most people are trying in some vague way to re-create the decadent Oxford of the ’80s, defined by drugs, excess and tragedy. Irony has been obliterated in the chaos.
We’re having fun. Were the drinks spiked with LSD? They were last year.
Somehow we’ve been dissociated from our lives and drawn into a world of girls dressed as leopards begging for another hit of nitrous oxide, men scrounging in the dirt for pills, a tent where drugs can be purchased from student dealers.
A huge part of the reason we’re so dissociated is the music — Dubstep. The sound has been around for a while in the U.K., but it really hit big in the summer. It’s the perfect music to spend the end of a bender on. Slow beats mingle with racing blood pressures and the scene steps, with every beat, further from any semblance of normality. In the centre of the dance floor, a man dressed as a tiger-tamer slowly approaches a girl dressed as a tiger, moving with the beat. They writhe, keeping their distance.
There is some sort of mystical connection holding these kids here, and it’s not drugs. The cokeheads are scrabbling lines from beer-soaked tables outside by the fire, the pillheads are raving it away to Drum ’n’ Bass in the dance tent, but the Dubstep side of things is calmer, riding on a wave of exhaustion and indescribable sensation. That’s not to say that people haven’t been taking drugs here, they probably have, but the slowness of their movements betrays the existence of another, more powerful presiding spirit.
Exaggerated dance moves fill the spaces left by the prolonged beats. And somehow, for a few moments in that field, only the occasional entrance of one of the night’s refugees troubles the unity of the moment.
We go outside. Laz approaches. Somebody who asked me about Derrida at Yale is cutting a line. The moment has been obliterated.
Soon, it’s 7, we have to go. A friend is taken to the hospital. Like tired soldiers, resenting the return to reality, students struggle up a stony hill where buses are there to take them home.
“Fucking Good Party,” someone offers. He had stood in the dance tent since sunset, munching on his gums and pumping his fist.
In the meantime, Laz grabs a handful of obscure designer pills off a table and gulps them down. He collapses back in Oxford and is rushed to the emergency ward.
Back at a party here in New Haven, the Spice Girls have just come on, irony-style. People laugh, dance, talk about important things in hushed voices. Obama.
A DJ here once told me why he refuses to play Dubstep: “It’s just white kids in a field music.”
True, that’s what it is — look at us. But it’s also an obscure sublimity, a subversion of normal jumpy dance culture into something that the heavy bass of some rap music touches upon from time to time. That’s probably why Kid Sister has recently remixed with Rusko, one of the U.K. scene’s most popular “producers” (DJs). [Ed. note — the writer’s assignment was to write about Kid Sister]
Dubstep nights do exist at clubs in New York and LA, but in the United States it’s still on the down-low. Maybe Kanye will get his greasy mitts into the Dubstep pot. Then we’ll probably hear it at Toad’s.
I wonder if Dubstep would work on the Yale party scene. People have started asking me about it more, but there is little else that suggests the music is catching on at Yale. OK, Yale kids are too busy to throw a rave on their own prerogative and only a minority indulge in hard drugs, but it goes deeper.
Here there is no lust for fulfillment, only the cutting sharpness of reality. And I like that. But once in a while the desire for that wild eternity hits me, and all I can do is sink into my bed and tune into the wildness of Caspa, Rusko, Benga, Coki, Skream and all the others.