We continue our review of 2020 in dance music, with the second half of a year in which DJs tragically redefined the phrase ‘killing it’.

Do you remember, about ten years ago in January 2020, when we were all so positive and hopeful that this was going to be our year to get the DJ career together/label off the ground/disruptive artisan gin start-up going? Who would’ve thought that within a few months we’d all be arguing about the morals of playing at raves that might, you know, kill your Nan. Because the format wars, the loudness battles, that time Richie Hawtin pushed a speaker onto a fan, they all had nothing on this years defining DJ conflict: plague raves

Throughout the summer we were treated to video clips of awful-looking super-spreader parties where nobody danced except the DJ – Plague raves: watch like nobody’s dancing. Where people gathered closely together for hours on end with no masks – dance like nobody’s breathing. 

It was like waiting for the cavalry to turn up, but when they do, the battle is all but lost and they’re not the cavalry they’re just an ineffective app called CVLRY that won’t install properly and deletes all your contacts.

It’s easy to dismiss the DJs who played at these events as simply irresponsible but if you actually listen to what they play, you realise their music is shite as well. Still, at least now we have a new category of DJs, ‘DJs you’d only book if all the other DJs were on fire’. Perhaps they can all get together in a new agency, we could call it the ‘Needlessly Dying Alone Agency’ or ‘We Ruined Everything Inc.’ something like that. 

Amid this almighty shit show at the disco, I mean it’s hard to pick a winner, surely we’re all winners here, but a special mention has to go to EDM haircuts the Chainsmokers who put on a socially what’s-the-opposite-of–distanced? show deep in the midst of lockdown one, ostensibly to hawk hand sanitiser, where the warm-up DJ was CEO of investment bank Goldman Sachs. What’s the point of satire anymore? 

Aside from the exponential increase in on-line mastering from DJ’s home studios, another unexpected symptom of covid was the rapid rise in DJ streaming. All across the world, in every country, right at this moment, DJs are going live on Facebook and Mixcloud. Meanwhile, there are plenty of actual raves going on during the pandemic if you know where to find them. What a time to be alive. Or indeed, in the case of the victims of supers-spreader parties, dead. Weirdest thing about it all though was why on earth the World Health Organisation didn’t contact techno Twitter about how to combat the virus when clearly we had all become expert virologists. 

There were moments of light this year of course: Elliot Eastwick organising a GoFundMe for Denise Johnson’s family following her untimely passing, raising £25,000 in 24 hours and eventually over £30,000 to pay for her funeral for one. Faith Fanzine returned. Community shop Nour Brixton received a reprieve from the vultures, leeches and parasites who make up the world’s worst house DJ crew/venture capitalist cabal ‘Housekeeping’. Bandcamp emerged as the true friend of the producer and artist, waiving its revenue share for sales one Friday every month. Plenty of musicians and DJs organised charity albums and streams, creating community in the absence of actual dance floors. We even organised a successful covid fundraiser here at Attack. Then there was that tech house producer offering to tell you your tech house snare needs to be louder for thirty sheets, that was funny. And Omar S raised a brief smile when he released his follow up to ‘Get Lost Pitchfork You Twat’ with his ‘Fuck Resident Advisor’ album.

It’s easy to dismiss the DJs who played at these events as simply irresponsible but if you actually listen to what they play, you realise their music is shite as well.

Summer arrived, Wiley was thrown off Twitter for going full-on racist, US drum & bass artist ‘Flite’ attempted to nick UK d&b DJ Flight’s name, but this was all just distraction from what was rapidly becoming a summer of ignorance as plague raves flourished across Europe and the US. 

Then just when we thought we’d already reached peak 2020 with wealthy DJs at super-spreader events, playing music of black origin during an epidemic disproportionately affecting black people, it took the death of a sex offender DJ for a substantial proportion of top tier DJs to shit themselves in public by posting glowing eulogies to Morillo. Hero of the year awards go to journalists like Annabel Ross, not only for covering the story, but for weathering the inevitable shitstorm of abuse that comes when writers, particularly women, dare to posit the apparently radical idea that women should be free from sexual abuse.

With the end of the summer and the UK heading back down into lockdown, the government began handing out 10K fines to organisers of large gatherings – thanks plague ravers – unless of course you’re posh and going grouse shooting, then you’re golden. Don’t know what was the worst part of this, the towering hypocrisy and rank injustice from the Tories or the rash of jokes about acid grouse and grouse parties. By now any sensible person had a mask over their eyes and ears as well as their mouth. 

The night time industry despaired at the UK government’s slap-dash, confused, nepotistic approach to the pandemic, but London’s Nightmare Tsar Amy Lame had apparently pricked her finger on an enchanted needle in January and slept till the autumn. Luckily for us in the music industry, she eventually woke up and tweeted a couple of times. It was like waiting for the cavalry to turn up, but when they do, the battle is all but lost and they’re not the cavalry they’re just an ineffective app called CVLRY that won’t install properly and deletes all your contacts.

Late October and footage of a London warehouse rave popped up leading everyone to have to argue again that maybe what with the rapidly rising infection rate now wasn’t the best time to be dancing together in close proximity for hours on end then wandering off to all parts of the home counties. In response, some evoked the original spirit of acid house – when we were hounded by the state and their police, when we protested them legislating against our music and our culture – as though doing balloons at an incel-house plague rave in a pandemic was somehow equivalent to the second summer of love.

We are apparently finishing the year with WangGouGate or maybe GouWangGate, haven’t decided yet, in many ways a perfect microcosm of dance music social media

Come November and all we could talk about was rigged votes and illegal ballots – yes, it was time for the DJ Mag Top DJs Poll, in which a print mag dedicated to dance music runs a readers poll, which in all likelihood was a major contribution to the mag actually staying afloat in this terrible year. With depressing regularity, every year DJ folk become furious with DJ Mag about who’s in the list, utterly misunderstanding the extraordinarily simple concept that the poll is voted for by readers, not the mag. And of course these same critics would happily jump at the chance of a double-page spread in the mag were it offered to them. 

We are apparently finishing the year with WangGouGate or maybe GouWangGate, haven’t decided yet, in many ways a perfect microcosm of dance music social media: someone posts the ground-breaking earth-shattering news that a top DJ is a techno Karen, which then unleashes the dogs of misogyny, happy to post their wishes of violence against the DJ based purely on her gender. If nothing else I guess it gave us all something to talk about as we settled into the second wave of DJ streams.

Just like everyone else I can’t wait for the pandemic to be over and I can once again find myself tight-jawed in a strangers kitchen as the sun rises, waiting for my turn to tell a story. And as soon as the vaccine arrives Imma tuck into a massive plate of bats. But not yet.

Throughout this appalling shitshow at the disco, this Fyre-Festival-on-fire of a year, music has still been our constant friend, confidant, saviour even. We have music, each other and we have hope. No doubt these have been dark days, but this is also a time of hope for the future, for the remaking of our scene.  May 2021 bring us all the love and light we need and all the change we deserve.

Read 2020 Pt. 1: Through The Haunted Mirror.

18th December, 2020

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