Plague Rave: An illegal event or an event taking place in a country with fewer restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Occasionally played by high-profile DJs, plague raves often take place without the use of masks or social distancing measures.
We see you, so does everyone else. If you’re still playing gigs then it’s all starkly documented on Twitter accounts such as ‘Business Teshno’ and others. At the beginning of this crisis, many DJs old enough to know better were flying around frantically, wringing out the last drops of their tour schedules. That was perhaps a little easier to understand. Still hard to forgive, but a little more of a grey area. Now? A year deep into this misery inflicted by COVID-19, understanding so much more about the virus and the whole planet reeling? This close to world-wide vaccination? The industry’s understanding wanes.
While many of those DJing these events operate at the upper end of the earning scale, both before and during the crisis, I recognise how difficult things are. The income of performing artists has been decimated and getting paid to play is, of course, appealing. It’s not just the income we miss, either. We DJs miss honing our craft and the ability to express ourselves. We all miss it terribly. Even the travel, the lairy punters and the malfunctioning equipment. But this is just not the time.
Plague Raves are still happening in places like Tulum and Miami, wherever the law is sufficiently lax. If you’re one of the DJs still playing them, then on behalf of your colleagues, peers and even in some cases friends… we’re begging you. Asking you nicely. Please. Stop. You don’t have to become the bad guys. Acid House was never supposed to be about ‘Us and Them’. You are rapidly becoming ‘Them’.
'Plague Raves are a reason for every one of us to be demonised as ‘the problem’ and for our industry to be pilloried and punished in the future. We need to unite now, more than ever.'
‘It’s not illegal to play parties in Tulum right now’, I hear you cry. But you don't need to be a professor of history to understand that, today more than ever, law and personal morality diverge frequently. A useful rule of thumb is to look at who else is on your side. If it's anti-mask moon howlers, perma-stoned faded celebs, corporate-funded faux libertarians and swivel-eyed Trumpy politicians, then let this be your 'Are we the baddies?' epiphany.
When you’re putting human lives at risk, you are either ignoring your conscience or frankly you just don’t have one. South Korea has one of the best responses to COVID. So good, in fact, that they even reopened some clubs. What happened? A massive spike expertly tracked precisely to those who went. Clubs closed. People got very sick. Some died. Did it not occur to you that cases in the young skyrocketed directly after a summer of plague raves? Previously cases in the young were rare. Was that a coincidence?
The science is incontrovertible. What can we do if you literally refuse to believe? Like some sort of flat-Earther, is science only there to prove your victimhood? We’ve tried repeatedly on socials to reason with the Tuluminati, to penetrate the bubble of prepared and highly polished politician’s responses.
Since the beginning of the pandemic and right up until now, it has been relentless. A solid year of trolling the rest of us. Through first waves, second waves, holidays and changing seasons, peaks and troughs, nothing has stopped a certain group of DJs completely ignoring the pandemic and going wherever anyone will pay them.
'The rest of us haven’t ‘given up’ and we’re not staying at home out of fear. Nearly every other DJ has chosen not to work simply because they care about others.'
We ask you: what is the lie you are telling yourself? That you’re a saviour? A rebel? A plucky outsider? Spreading happiness and joy? Because you look more like one of those deranged influencers in Dubai, insisting on TV that mincing about in a bikini is an ‘essential service’ for their followers. If you can’t see it in humanitarian terms look at it like this; how popular do you think you are with your peers now? Making money during a disaster that is stopping the rest of us working?
There's a stereotype of DJs as greedy, narcissistic, coddled and grasping posers who exist in a bubble of self-regard and ignorance that many of us have been trying to shrug-off for decades. Frankly, you’re not helping.
The rest of us haven’t ‘given up’ and we’re not staying at home out of fear. Nearly every other DJ has chosen not to work simply because they care about others.
As I said, we can totally understand the temptation. Especially for those who had just started to come up in their careers as the COVID hammer fell on the anvil of our faces. You feel like you have to grab it right now before it slips away. But gigging right now is literally endangering the future of the whole industry. Until this pandemic is under control, clubs and festivals won't be able to open. We will not get it under control if people keep gathering in manky crowds. You’re not just jeopardising your own career, but that of the vast majority of industry workers who have played by the rules. All the good people from the busboys to the lighting engineers to the promoters to the graphic designers to the security who depend on this industry, and all their families.
'There are some dark jokes about petitions to name new COVID variants after DJs who are still gigging, but the consequences to your career could potentially go a lot further than bad karma or social media shaming.'
Organisations like the NTIA have been working themselves to the bone on all of our behalves to stop the entire club industry slipping away. They write: ‘There are political misconceptions of our industry from decision makers seemingly leading the charge, who require little or no excuse to sideline these sectors for the long run. [DJs playing now] does not help this situation.’
Plague Raves are a reason for every one of us to be demonised as ‘the problem’ and for our industry to be pilloried and punished in the future. We need to unite now, more than ever. We are begging you now. Please. Stop.
Yes, government support for the arts, artists and the self-employed has been shambolic. Yes, why should you take responsibility when your own government clearly have not? We get it. Bad leadership is making this a thousand times worse than it needs to be. That’s not a reason to ignore sense. It’s a reason to take personal responsibility. Be a leader yourself.
Maybe you’re under pressure from the people around you? We know a lot of bigger DJs are at the apex of a network of people who depend financially on them. We've seen, sometimes tragically, the damage this pressure, spoken or implied, from management, agents or even entourage can do. But anyone who is encouraging or enabling or guilting you into gigging during this pandemic, whether to pay their bills or more likely to sustain their lifestyle or status, understand this; they do not care about you, your talent, wellbeing, or your future. You are utterly disposable to them, and doesn’t all this show it so very clearly?
'Join the rest of us as we wait this out, support each other, find outlets for our creativity and try to hold on to the beautiful ideals that built this culture.'
There will be a reckoning one day. There are some dark jokes about petitions to name new COVID variants after DJs who are still gigging, but the consequences to your career could potentially go a lot further than bad karma or social media shaming. Your ‘secret’ Whatsapp groups just aren't secret, sorry. Will it take publishing your names, sharing the screenshots of you mocking others, denying COVID even exists and joking about death? It really shouldn’t.
If you feel pressured, reach out and ask for help. It's not too late! Don’t double down. Don’t keep digging. Join the rest of us as we wait this out, support each other, find outlets for our creativity and try to hold on to the beautiful ideals that built this culture. It takes real strength to put the brakes on. Dig deep and find that strength to please, please stop.
Every time a plague rave happens, the disease grows. When it grows, two things happen. People get sick and the whole colossal shitshow lasts just that little bit longer. If you stop now, you will help end it sooner. And the sooner it ends, the sooner we can ALL dance again together. Not divided. Come back to us.