They are all about to dance till dawn at a party for the oldest ravers in town, organised by the Club Together posse, a network of likeminded mature clubbers. Lawyer Jo, 27, (not her real name - 'in my field, people are a bit conservative') of Club Together explains: 'A lot of people we know wanted to go to clubs and parties but didn't like all the baggage that went with it. The rave scene has turned nasty - it's very young, very druggy, too anonymous. We had been to other organised parties which were not quite what we were looking for, too noisy, not such a diverse crowd, and we thought 'Hey, we can do this ourselves, it's fun'.'
Club Together hires a venue (this time, a Hackney photographic studio) and organises sound system, DJs, bar, cloakroom and security. Tickets are pounds 10 each, which usually covers the evening's costs. Attendance is strictly by invitation only. 'We started a mailing list of friends, and friends of friends - it's up to about 600 now, mainly working people, everything from paediatricians to plumbers, a lot of older people in their twenties and thirties,' says Jo. 'Key people take 20 tickets each and pass them on.'
'It's like a tree, with unexpected branches, unusual connections,' says co-organiser Pete Lawrence. Around 400 turn up to each rave, while a weekender in a Gothic hotel on the Welsh borders attracted 250 last Bonfire Night. This kind of underground system is developing as an alternative to the established club scene - Jo knows of five other similar networks.
The entrance to the Hackney studio, at the top of a metal fire- escape, was protected by high, spiked railings and the muscular figure of Denver the doorman. Inside, pulsating strobes flashed over the dance floor. Another room was lined with mattresses to sit on (or lie on, as the evening progressed). Psychedelic light projections in pink, orange and green oozed over the white walls, parachute silk billowed limply from the ceiling. At 11.30pm the studio was still empty; ravers don't keep early hours. But by one o'clock, the mattresses were packed with people chilling out and chatting, and the air was thick with smoke, some from cigarettes, some not.
There are certain disadvantages to raving all Saturday night - 'you feel pretty jet-lagged going into work on Monday morning,' admits Jack. But most people are enthusiastic. Katrina, who works in music publishing, is 23 - 'pretty young for here,' she admitted. 'I'm a regular. You know you can come here and not meet a bunch of people who'll try chatting you up. Everyone knows someone else - it's very friendly. And I've never seen anyone get wrecked and throw up.'
There was agreement that older people make the best ravers. Teenyboppers get a universal thumbs down. 'Lots of 18-year- olds have an attitude - they're young, pretty and with-it,' sniffs Jack. 'It's not like that here.' 'The whole rave scene has turned into 16- and 17-year-olds who lose control, get off their faces. You don't want children passing out at your feet. These are people who know they can stay awake,' explained Cat, 25, a computer graphics artist. 'You fit in more, you don't feel such an old fogey,' according to John. Hairdresser Lisa is only 21 but appreciates the mature ambiance - 'it's nice to meet older people enjoying themselves rather than younger people fighting and taking drugs. I love the older people. I've made friends aged 32.'
The party animals ranged from up-to-the-second Seventies-chic style-conscious through to severely scruffy. On the packed dance floor, a few were thrashing around in the typical rave swimming-frantically-on-the-spot style; others were executing a restrained shuffle from foot to foot. 'You wouldn't get me near a dance floor when I was young,' says 35-year-old Dave, a housing officer. ' I hate that token dancing around the handbags to crap music. But this housey music is compulsive. It's not all 16-year- olds, you know.'
Graham, a barrister, 27, was sticking to his waxed jacket. 'I'm here to listen and watch - it's like going to the theatre. The Christine Keeler affair sprang from professional people having a good time,' he observed darkly. 'In fact,' he added, 'I had a better time last night in a wine bar drinking champagne.'
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