SINGAPORE’S NEO-PAGAN RAVE RESISTANCE
Exploring the hidden underbelly of hyper-capitalist hell
Only in Singapore could you enter an 80s Art Deco mall, take an elevator to the movie theater, and—wondering am I in the right place? as you dodge giggling teens on dates—open a door at the end of a hallway to discover a secret noise show. The carpets still smell like popcorn grease, but theater’s seats have been ripped out to make room for moshing in this ad hoc music venue. Avant-garde haircuts and bulbous black outfits surround you as the crowd moves towards the stage. When the music begins, it sounds like an exorcism: a scuzzy seance of slide guitar distortion and hardstyle drum kicks creeping across the soundproofed walls. And to think there are kids cheerfully watching a blockbuster anime next door as all this demonic shit goes down!
Singapore, winner of the dubious honor of most expensive city in the world, doesn’t exactly have the most fertile conditions for a thriving underground. Social conservatism often relegates the nightlife industry as an immoral afterthought; during the pandemic, a government-mandated party prohibition was so strict that clubs were shut down for two years and even spinning disco balls were banned. Breakneck real estate development has resulted in the closure of many indie venues. Instead, the hyper-capitalist microstate has a rotating roster of luxury nightclubs, including a megaclub with its own ferris wheel and a luxury lounge that once boasted the world’s highest number of billionaires per square foot.
Singapore’s glossy reputation as a playground for crazy rich crypto-kings belies a chilling authoritarianism where state power is enforced with a noose. This week, a local man was executed for allegedly attempting to traffic a kilo, or two pounds, of weed—evidently, the state is doubling down on its policy that cannabis has zero medical value, even as decriminalization sprouts across the region. Yet, despite this paranoid prohibition of altered states of consciousness, sky-high rents and a scourge of $30 cocktails, plus a crushing conformism that pushes deviance deep into the underground, the local rave ecosystem has never felt more potent.
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