Why Hong Kong’s raves deserved to die!

Hong_Kong_Rave_must_die

I just discovered some old photos from a rave party I attended eight or nine years ago in Hong Kong. Looking through them now I can see why the scene had to come to an end.

This particular rave featured big name d.j. Sasha, and took place at HITEC in Kowloon Bay. Browsing the photos you can get a feel for what the atmosphere at a major rave was like.

I believe this party took place in 2001. It was towards the end of Hong Kong’s once flourishing rave scene. By the time this event rolled around, the vibe at raves had started to change, and they began to attract the same crowd that would normally go to discos.

hong kong rave party 90s
Glow sticks!

Note the sunglasses... and what is that guy sniffing?

hong kong rave party hk
More glowsticks and sunglasses!
hk rave scene party 90s sasha
Yes, that is a pacifier!

Drugs, shirtless people, bad outfits, pacifiers, sunglasses, lollipops, and glow sticks – the scene was basically a caricature of a real rave. In typical Hong Kong fashion, people got the style, but not the message. They understood the accessories, but not the substance.

The parties were often crowded, smoky and expensive. (I believe Sasha was around $600 HKD a ticket.) Vendors with a captive audience sold over-priced water and beer. People crashed in the hallways.

HK rave party hong kong

hong kong rave 2000 era

hong kong nightlife rave scene party hk

Now defunct magazine, Absolute, was the best at chronicling Hong Kong’s scene in those days. They published in Chinese and English and covered the parties as well as showcased talented, creative locals. People such as Michael Lau, L.M.F., and Eric So, were all profiled early in their careers.

A byproduct of the rave scene’s popularity, gangs started to invade the parties. At one event someone was killed. The police then began to crack down on any large event, which made putting on a party onerous for organizers.

Though there are occasionally still big parties based around d.j.s, the scene is nowhere near what it once was. Musical preferences have also changed. Commercial Hip Hop and R&B (aka Pop music) now dominates Hong Kong’s nightlife.

hong kong rave party hk
Lollipops were popular too! 🙂
Simon Birch hong kong hk artist dj blackjack
Who knew that celebrated artist Simon Birch was once DJ Blackjack!?

If I remember correctly, DJ Blackjack and nightlife legend Joel Lai were two of the promoters for this particular event!

19 Comments

  • nice article. just read the same about New York’s Rave or Techno scene.
    But like in every crisis there lies potential: Now it is unfamous again, and good parties can take place without the style-only public…

  • This article is only one side to the part HK scene. There was a healthy party scene too with many good djs promoting good music for many years before this happened. The drug infused music that is evident in these parties that Absolute Magazine promoted were funded by these same party organizers with their advertising. Did you forget the other djs, parties, events, organizers, magazines that tried to promote a scene for real music lovers without the drugs? There were many parties we went to with thousands of people that was all about the music. There were drugs for sure but its just too easy to just write about a scene with such a narrow view of what really happened in Hong Kong. Maybe those articles are for publications then, and not blogs? Drugs are still around at parties now. The problem was the education, the bad music and about making a quick $$$. Karma people Karma.

  • Great pics. You basically described the implosion of the rave scene of every “scene” in cities across the world. I will say HK people are very transient like that, but you definitely hit it on the head with “people got the style, not the substance.” That’s HK in a nutshell sometimes. The changing, trend-seeking crowd was part of the problem, but like in other cities, promoters are partly to blame. Instead of seeing a music and culture to promote, they saw money to be made… jacked-up entrance fees, over-priced beverages, over-crowded venues… hell, I just described the HK current clubbing scene.

  • Yes, I know there was an earlier chapter in Hong Kong’s rave scene that was more underground and more about the music. This post wasn’t about that. As I said in the beginning of the post, this is about the end of the scene and some of the reasons why it collapsed…

  • Dear Admin,

    I am so impressed by the articles written and photos taken here~ i enjoy reading your blog so much that it has more or less become a habit!haha 😀 keep it up and i am looking forward to reading your new entries and new thoughts on general HK lifestyle!

    S

  • Awesome pictures. Back2Back was one of the last of the great ones. The lows just started outweighing the highs. I still think back to those f*cked up times with a grin. I keep telling myself that I’m going to do a weekend one day like it was 2002, but I need my brain on Monday morning, and so that day never seems to come around.

  • The rave scene died down in New York City around the same time. The big clubs; Soundfactory, EXIT, etc were all raided constantly for selling drugs. Bottles of water went for $5 bucks, cigarettes for $10.

    I remember being at a party at EXIT when I started to see some dude foam at the mouth… Party went on. Ambulance came to cart him away. Party went on.

  • I am visiting HK in April and something I enjoy doing in any city I travel to of global impact is dance, a lot. I want to get a vibe there and take that as a memory. Am I to believe there is not even an underground scene with house music, electronic or even drum and bass in a city that large?

    If there is, please fill me in so that I know how I will spend my evenings and maybe early mornings while in Hong Kong late April.

    I helped usher in the rave scene in Washington D.C. and what others say above is true. The demise of truly great parties and scenes everywhere was the same thing. the public showed up to be seen, not be part of a scene. It was about them, not the music. It never was nor will it ever be about you or me. It is about us and the music, what it says to you. It is like art, it is subjective.

    I am enjoying your blog, thank you for spilling it out for us. See you all in April. Look for me, Ha.

  • Hi Wanna Dance,

    Sure, there’s house, electronic and drum and bass music. If you dig deeper into the site, by exploring the ‘Music and d.js’ category, you’ll see tons of different kinds of music. Have a look back at Hong Kong Hustle before you visit and see if there is anything listed in the Upcoming Events section.

    Yumla, Dragon-i, Volar and Cliq are all clubs to check out when you’re in town. These all have visiting d.j.s and occasionally, cool local d.j.s who play dance music beyond the norm. (They also have commercial d.j.s as well, except for Yumla.) I’m sure you’ll find a place to groove!

  • Good article, “They got the style, but not the substance”, true that. I am ABC and I totally feeling exactly what you saying dude.

  • Hey guys, I’m new in Hong Kong. I just found out Infected Mushrooms and Marcus Schulz are down in HK come 27 May. Just reading your blog, the rave scene may not be that good, but I’m dying to check it out anyway. Any of y’all going? Got any tips for a foreigner?

  • TOO F*$KING RIGHT.

    You just said everything, I just came over from Canada and Shanghai. Both have decent rave scenes, and i miss the fun so much. It doesn’t have to be about the drugs, but that’s a bonus to me. I just want the music and the people.

    Although this isn’t the fact for all of HK, it’s just died down and i think you’re very right there.

  • hy i just arrive in hong kong, i was living in the uk before and i miss the scene underground to much please help me i need go back to place where i can listen good music!!!! and not the sh*t of the center!!!!

  • whilst nostalgia google searching i happened upon this…i was there, someplace. i lived in hk for about a year and a half from 2000-2001 and considered myself a fly upon the wall of the hk rave/nightlife scene.

    it got scary as an expat when the parties started getting broken up and on more then one occasion i was allowed to leave the lines the police would make everyone form and got the hell out of there.

  • I was at a Sasha gig in the Entertainment Building, Queens Road, Central in ’96. It was the best ‘dance party’ I ever attended in HK. It was mainly an expat crowd and the ‘scene’ went down hill from there. After ’98 it was a poor imitation of what I had known in the UK and Europe in the early 90’s. I lived in HK from 95 till 07.

  • It died for me the tragic night I held a dying boy in my arms, April 1st, 2000
    at ‘PINK’ HITEC, Kowloon Bay. I’ll never forget that night.

    I was pulled along with the crowd, no control other than to be swept with it.
    Out of the main dance hall, out into the foyer where a wide circle formed. 4, 5,
    6 young triads with choppers swinging and hacking into a young man. His arms and
    legs flapping around with the force of the blows. His limp body fell to the
    ground and the screams from the crowd went silent. I shouted out to a guy with a
    phone to call 999 and ran to the boy lying on the floor and cradled his head in
    my right arm. A pool of blood poured out and surrounded us both. I comforted him
    and told him he’d be alright..he understood I was a gwei mui and uttered a few
    broken english words he could think of “I don’t know”. He was as I, and all
    witnesses didn’t know what had happened, all still in shock, trying to
    understand. The paramedics arrived quickly, 5-10 minutes it seemed. I saw
    flashes going off, cameras from photographers. I turned around and they were
    pushed away by security as was the rest of the crowd. We began to bandage his
    wounds up and the extent of his injuries became clear. A large gash to his right
    upper arm down to the bone, his bone the only thing keeping his arms on. Second
    strike, to his left wrist, his watch was the only thing in the way to stop it
    being hacked off completely. Strike three, to his right thigh. Myself and two
    other paramedics worked quickly to plug the wounds with the bandages we had.
    Blood still pumping out around us we knew there were more wounds. We sat him up
    and his 4th strike was on his back. The stretcher arrived and a drip was put in.
    He was going…his eyes went heavy and closed. I watched them carry him away.

    It was a ‘White Party’ but I only had one drop of blood on my trainers. I hadn’t
    knealed down in his blood, I’d squatted. I stood up and walked with my bloodied
    arms to my elbows into the bathroom. An attendant held the door open for me, so
    I didn’t need to mess up the handles.

    We left the venue soon after and it wasn’t until about 2 hours after I started
    to shake..the shock had hit me.

    We did still go to raves after that, but it was never the same. The police raids
    became more frequent and we couldn’t enjoy the parties like before. A guy passed
    a girl freaking out to me and asked me to take her to the toilet. She smashed
    the glass doors, couldn’t handle the drugs. A triads girlfriend tried to start a
    fight with me. I walked in on two girls counting their pills on a toilet seat,
    undercover police stormed in and pushed me into their cubicle. We were all lined
    up, they strip searched with towels around the toilet bowls. After me picking
    up a huge fuss, they believed I was innocent and I thankfully was let out…to
    my friends waiting outside, chanting “Free Jane”. I carried another girl out who
    had an epilptic fit because of the strobes. The K kids, it was all too messy.

    Keep on dancing!

    Love to you all Hong Kongers!

    Jane

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