One of the few things that compares to my love of movies is my love of music. Like films I embrace all genres, the classic sounds of Zeppelin, Floyd and Springsteen, the pure pop of New Order and Madonna, the funk of Prince and RHCP, the hard rock of Foo Fighters, and the lesser known delights of Buckwheat Zydeco, John Butler Trio and Ladyhawke. But one of my biggest passions is dance music, and for the last three years there’s has been an event in Kent that has combined the energy of dancefloor fillers with the fun of Halloween. Welcome to Bedlam.
Modern dance music has been around for decades now, since the early 1970’s when New York underground dance music mutated into disco. In the UK dance music reached its commercial peak in 1999, when house and trance music reached a receptive audience. The Ibiza soundtrack had infiltrated everything, from fashion and magazines, to advertising and television. It even took over the charts with tracks such as ATB – 9pm (‘til I come) reaching the number one spot. Superclubs grew everywhere, from ‘Cream’ and ‘Gatecrasher’ to the supposed new dancefloor mecca ‘Home’ in London. But dance music popularity waned as the new millennium kicked into gear, and by 2001 superclubs began shutting their doors. The Friday night crowd no longer wanted to dance into the early hours, they wanted to get drunk. Club culture died and bar culture took over.
Dance music survived though and returned to the underground where it was much more at home. In 2008 a group of dance music fans started the Rave in the Cave events, a bizarre combination of a late night dance event located in a Napoleonic fort, Fort Amhurst in Chatham. The supposedly haunted fort and its ancient chalk tunnels made it a wacky but wonderful location for a rave. Two years later the events relocated a couple of miles up the road to Fort Horsted, a slightly less fragile but no less intriguing location. The event was then taken over by Bedlam who ran quarterly raves to rave reviews. As part of the schedule, Bedlam put on an annual fancy dress Halloween bash; the events have become legendary in dance music circles. This year’s event saw Bedlam regular Tim Green headline alongside one of the world’s best new house DJs, the Michigan born Seth Troxler.
The music may be a bit too raw for the uninitiated, a deep electro house much less commercially minded than the trance sounds of the late nineties, but for newbies Bedlam Halloween offers an irresistible atmosphere. Picture Scream’s Ghostface taking to the dancefloor next to Beetlejuice and the Joker. It’s a sight to behold and guaranteed to put a smile on any face. The other benefit of the Bedlam rave set-up is a hassle free evening. Everyone has turned up for the music and the atmosphere so you won’t find any of the beered up brawling or puking chavs that frequent town centres up and down the country on a Saturday night. Everyone is friendly and welcoming.
The organisers out-did themselves this year. Pumpkins glimmered in the long Fort tunnels, old TV’s flickered with a ghostly static. We even had The Shining (1980) playing on a large projection screen in the chillout / smoking area. The dancefloor was awash with eerie green lasers and dry ice. Not even the hour delay of Troxler taking to the decks (thanks to an M20 traffic jam) put a dampener on the fun; we got an extra hour of Tim Green instead, a Kentish DJ who is fast becoming one of the world’s best purveyor’s of house music. Freddy cut moves next to Jason Vorhees, zombies got their groove on next to blood soaked surgeons, and as with the previous two Bedlam Halloween raves, it was the perfect start to the All Hallows Eve season.