Reaching middle age doesn't mean packing away your light-sticks and neon headband into the loft just yet.
Photo by Flickr user Katie Sara Anderson
A unique situation is arising; as we head toward the 2020s, the first-generation raver is now becoming middle-aged. Ripened but not retiring, many maintain the "party lifestyle", proud relics of the Summer Of Love, impervious to the line in the sand that denotes the passing of youth.
But how welcome is that token old guy in the club? Does he stick out like a sore thumb, or is he a reassuring piece of memorabilia from the old days, stoically marching on where others retreat to golf courses and TV talent shows?
We investigated the safest havens for middle-aged clubbers.
Britain is the forefather of dance music and the birthplace of e-culture. From my first experiences of UK clubland I noted that the barriers to entry were limited. At age 14, armed with a fake student card, loaded on Pakistani champagne and rather strong acid, I entered my first club, stumbling into the Noah's Ark of ravers. The early parties weren't subjected to the dissected pigeonhole-ing of today's music. All the genres were played together, back to back. This eclecticism extended to the patrons – anyone and everyone jumped in. The average crowd was a microcosm of a social tapestry; a melting pot of ages, cultures, sexual orientations, ethnicities, religions and record collections.
This clubbing blueprint seems to have survived throughout dance music's evolution. The cultural diversity and ingrained individualism means people are naturally accepting of the anomaly – even the craggily old raver throwing tired shapes.
As mindsets go, Brazilians are practically wired for partying. It's in their blood they say, an aphorism about as profound as saying they love their football. But remembering their last World Cup campaign, I naturally wondered if their partying reputation might also be on the decline. Are all those carnival puppets and hordes of drummers as dated as a Pelé step over?
Turns out they're not. After partying for three days through the streets of Rio I had reached a zen-like state similar to that mind oasis where all the drugs harmonise for a few hours. All your pretensions and ego are siphoned out of you once you're plugged into the vibe. The atmosphere is charged with energy, sex, celebration, petty crime. But most of all acceptance. Acceptance that whatever you are, you may be. An 7ft cross dresser will samba next to God-fearing Catholic grandparents. Everyone pulsates together, no judgements.
Brazilian families are traditionally tight knit throughout the generations; from the cradle to grave. Whereas most westerners' social lives are bracketed rigidly according to age, life in Brazil is more inclusive. This generational kinship means people don't subscribe to age shaming, and greying ravers will go unnoticed.
When I say that Dubai is the spiritual home of VIP clubbing, I'm not being funny. Okay, the silver service clubber might be an unwelcome addition to dance music in parts, but it just makes sense in Dubai.
Dubai's extravagance reeks of some colonial high society; unabashed consumerism with royal undertones. Rising from the oil reserves like a tray of Ferrero Rocher it's brimming with luxury. The architecture is seemingly the brainchild of Michael Jackson and a corporate accountant on PCP. This billionaire cosmetic job built the world's tallest building (Burj Khalifa), a Financial HQ shaped like the Arc De Triomphe and an indoor ski resort, in the desert.
The nightlife is expectantly bling. Clubbing patrons are partitioned into three distinct groups; rich financiers, people pretending to be rich financiers and prostitutes. A damning assessment? Perhaps. But this nightclub ecosystem invariably repeats itself.
However, whilst definitely discouraging the 'techno chin strokers' to change their Berlin vacation plans for Dubai, I wouldn't discount it for everyone. For the cashed up, middle-aged clubber who wants to spend time in a nightclub ogling Eastern European girls half their age, then Dubai is a comfortable refuge. And by virtue of it being a rich man's playground, the average age is generally higher. No one bats an eyelid over those portly bronzed balding business expats penned into their champagne showrooms; in fact most will consider them part of the Dubai gentry.
In tandem with dance music as a whole, the White Isle is oblivious to the media's seasonal eulogy – Ibiza has been proclaimed dead more times than Fidel Castro – and remains the powerhouse in club tourism.
Ibiza has undergone a fair transformation over the years. The paradisiacal Balearic secret society was unearthed and overrun by the British lager louts, then superseded by mega-clubs and the inter-continental raver, to its current status as the Spanish Saint-Tropez, with its celebrities and hyper-inflation.
But underpinning all this change has been the perfect template for a clubbing holiday. That dry Mediterranean heat, the Spanish siesta, the come-downs evaporating on the beach are all mythical. Drinking beer listening to the pitter patter of deep house on Salinas Beach as you unwind from 48hrs clubbing is an alchemy not replicated anywhere else.
It's the holiday destination that first generation clubbers keep visiting. It provides both a nostalgic release and party outlet for the 40-somethings. For ex-raver parents, the annual Ibiza trip is their last vestige of youth, dangling precariously with the greying pubes and hysterectomy appointment. It represents the chance to revisit those carefree days before commitments, responsibilities and nappies ruined all the fun.
So, as the wingspan of dance music gets wider and wider, it accommodates a broader range of revellers, from toddler DJs and decrepit fist pumpers. So rest assured seasoned raver, reaching middle age doesn't mean packing away your light-sticks and neon headband into the loft just yet.