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Fashionable young find East End ecstasy: Cigarettes were long, drugs abundant and guarana the main drink. Marianne Macdonald sampled a new 'unaggressive' style of acid house event

THEY BEGAN queueing at midnight and were still arriving at 4am. Unadvertised and costing pounds 15 a head before drugs, a Dalston warehouse was yesterday the venue for what was billed as London's biggest acid house event.

This was not a rave, but a party: the latest entertainment fad which eschews aggression for love and plays dance tunes as well as house music to clubbers at the sharp end of fashion.

Yesterday morning they came in their thousands to the disused warehouse off Kingsland Road, east London, for the 'Always There' gig held by Que Pasa. Fuelled by the drug ecstasy, guests marched toward it in jackboots, platforms and trainers.

Inside faces leered out of the darkness, communication was impossible and thin young people apparently from the 1960s and 1970s bobbed in a seething mass.

Outside were 30 security guards, while inside guests popped drugs and swayed to the bass. The currency was straws and water a precious commodity. Cigarettes came long, drugs were abundant and lager was replaced by guarana, the herbal energising brew. By 1am the party was pulsing, the beat jerking the ribcage and the darkened skin-up room littered with cigarette papers. 'Pretty cool,' one fashion victim said to another, looking at a cardboard invitation with a dotted line to rip off a 'roach' for a marijuana joint.

'Where did you get your eyelashes?' a girl in a gold lurex dress, Nike trainers and bunches, mouthed. An actor dressed as an old-man sported a false red moustache. 'May they worship at your shrine for all time,' drawled a cyberman in dreadlocks.

People herded at the bar clutching bunches of straws, which were sold for pounds 1 apiece in a separate room to exchange for bottles of water. 'How much was your jacket?' said one. 'Eight hundred straws,' he replied. 'Guarana: it's the surreal thing,' read the notice beside him. Meanwhile the insistent beat crept up the scale: boom ba da boom ba da shuck shuck boom.

'Ecstasy . . . party,' exhorted a female voice over the crowds fighting their way between the hot, cavernous rooms and twitching like puppets to the music. 'Have you any water?' cried a girl anxiously, clutching an empty bottle of Evian. 'I can't face the queue for the loo,' another shouted, adjusting a Madonna- style corset. Beside her a youth in a baseball cap with Juice written on his T-shirt was dividing cocaine with a razor blade.

'I don't usually like London crowds. They're too up their own arses,' said Breeze, one of the 10 DJs paid to play until morning. In the staff room, people were leaning protectively into windowsills to roll joints or exchange 'designer stimulants'. A flash went off and there were exclamations. 'Evidential]' cried one, fearful of arrest. 'What I want to know is, what have you injected the oranges with?' said another, looking at some fruit.

Outside, a fug of sweat, cannabis smoke and a repulsive unidentifiable smell hung over the dance floor and dripped down the walls. Women draped themselves over picnic tables, tossed back long hair, lit Camel Lights. 'And you can't play pool and you hate cool someone might kill me tonight,' someone had scrawled on a table.

Up again rose the volume. Everywhere the fashionable young eyed one another and chewed gum to fend off sour breath induced by ecstasy and dope. Shirts were unbuttoned or taken off altogether and a boy squirmed in a corner, holding up his hands as if they were tainted. 'This is the way it is,' said Egg, the Que Pasa promoter, looking round benignly.

'We're giving young people a chance so they don't end up on crack. We're dictating delightful dance music and positive influences,' he added.

A girl with waxy skin, gaunt with exhaustion, pushed past. 'We're looking at the future,' Egg said, raising his hands. 'We are the future.' Around him the lights flashed and the partygoers dipped and danced in the thumping heart of darkness.