Social media pedestals the here and now, networks lure us in with a never-ending scroll of breaking news. YouTube is a battleground for saw-it-first comments, but dig past trending videos and you’ll find a community who trade memories of a hazy, half-remembered past. In the comments section of ‘90s rave anthems linger a group of ex-ravers who have passed up nights spent in sweating in fields for suburban lives in satellite towns. The pills have long worn off, but the comedown lingers in the bittersweet memories which come alive when they close their eyes.
Joe Wilson’s music video for Bicep track Glue layers the track’s heart-tugging nostalgia with shots of empty landscapes across the UK: the shell of lidos, motorway wastelands, rolling hills, once home to rave after rave, images sliced with real-life recollections from Youtube users found by the director under rave tracks. “Travelling to Leicester in the boot of my mate’s Orion off my box with only four cans of Stella.”
Joe’s film is building a Youtube community of its own. “I am 47,” reads one misty-eyed comment. “‘No hassle’. That was the real joy of it all. Never needed to do drugs myself … everything was just so H A P P Y. My 16-year old son introduced me to Bicep (nice one, lad). Not sure he’ll get the same experience. I’m still happy but I think I’ll go for a little cry now. For old times sake. It was pretty incredible.’”
It’s Nice That: What was the brief for Glue? Had you worked with Bicep before?
Joe Wilson: I had worked with Bicep in the past and they sent me the song to listen to and asked if I had any ideas that might work. As soon as I heard it I loved it so spent a few days playing it non stop trying to imagine a visual approach that would accentuate the nostalgic feeling it evoked. It has that intangible quality whereby you feel you have heard it before despite playing it for the first time.
Where did you come across all the Youtube comments?
The text is extracts of YouTube comments taken from home videos of the original raves or songs that defined the era. For the last few years I have collected some of my favourites but for my own personal enjoyment rather than anything specific. I made a long list and then worked with Bicep to narrow it down to a selection that we could weave a narrative with. We were keen to have a blend of humour and sentiment, and I think it is this mixture that really connects and resonates with people.
In a sort of perfect circle, the comment section of this video has became a home for other people’s recollections of the time which is nice.
Where did the idea of mixing old rave spots with Youtube comments come from?
Like the song does so well, I wanted to pay homage to the ‘golden era’ of UK rave. Raves are synonymous with remote fields and big warehouses so I thought why not revisit those places? Instead of being packed with thousands of ravers however, they are empty and desolate with little evidence of the history created and the experiences shared. The internet is filled with incredible archive footage from the period but I wanted to create a video that was almost the antithesis to that home video style, with the use of still landscape images to allow for reflection and contemplation. To contextualise the images and paint a picture of the importance of these spaces on UK music culture I thought it would be fun to interject comments I found on YouTube from people who were there.
All the locations are sites of original raves from the late ‘80s until the mid ‘90s. The promotors at the time had to be really inventive with their choice of venue in order to avoid being shutdown by the police so it led to a departure of club type spaces in city centres and a move into more obscure locations. I found out where many of the events took place using anecdotal evidence online, old rave flyers and speaking to people who attended, and then drove around filming them. An abandoned lido in Margate, remote airfields and half demolished industrial estates all form an unlikely collection of historical music venues. Despite having never been to most of the places before I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like when filled with sound systems and bucket hats.