Milton Keynes, England.
Today is your 18th birthday.
Lasers and strobe lights lead you away from the pitch black freezing winter night as Christmas seems a distant memory. From Utrecht with lust via Essex, Dutch love hearts take you on a magical carpet ride to the People’s Republic of Euphoria with a layover in the Land of Fantasy.
An ocean of ravers kick the air with Fila Trailblazers and Reebok Classics. Tobacco and ganja smoke mask the damp odour of the perspiration of youth. Sweat rains from the ceiling like an April downpour into your can of Red Stripe. Young, scantily-clad, small-breasted woman make your adolescent bollocks tingle and cock stiffen while they bounce up and down gulping Pamela Anderson-shaped bottles of Virgin Cola and the infamous and controversial Hooper’s Hooch, as if the soon to be new year were the forthcoming apocalypse.
Your mother says you’re rebelling against John Major’s Britain, but on the contrary, you are Major’s Britain. She says come next year, Tony Blair will make the world a safer and fairer place. You’re not so sure. Even at such a young age, you can see through liars.
Glow sticks are your guiding light, this venue called the Sanctuary is like Ronseal, exactly what it says on the tin. A lad with a strong Manchester accent and curtained hair sells you whizz below the current market value price. A taste of Northern hospitality in the home counties.
Horns and whistles blow as tunes like “Heart of Gold,” “Feel Free,” and “Party Time” perforate young eardrums with an eclectic assortment of pounding kick drums, breakbeats, hoovers, stabs, and rolling piano loops, elevating you and your chosen family to a higher state of consciousness as you have your hands in the air and cry your eyes out with tears of chemically-enhanced joy.
Your new best friends are ravers brought together by disc jockeys named after characters from The Magic Roundabout. Bucket hats, Gio Goi, Kappa, and custom white T-shirts with oversized yellow smiling faces with slogans such as “Stop the Criminal Justice Nill” and “The Police Wanna Fight, We Wanna Rave.” Your new best mate is Trigger from Salisbury, or is it Bodger from Bristol? Who the fuck knows…he hands you a bottle of poppers and you singe your nostril hairs on the alkyl nitrites.
The MC counts down from ten, you and three-and-a-half thousand of your peers join in: ‘97 is here. “United in Dance” by Force and Styles blasts out over the distorted sound system as the arena becomes just that. Time appears to stand still in the moment as the country you grew up begins its dawn of massive cultural and social change as you come up on another dove and slowly begin to chew your face off. Happy hardcore will never die, because you are hardcore until you die. Who knew heaven was in an unused industrial unit 45 miles northwest of London?
Your Joe Bloggs jeans are saturated with the fluids pouring from your eccrine glands, stale booze, and possibly semen. Your once white Ellesses faded to black from stomping concrete, vomit, and broken glass for eight hours straight, as the music comes to a stop in the wake of morning glory and the daybreaks and the sunrises into the new year.
Your ears ring aloud with tinnitus, like gunfire had just ceased on a battlefield, and you and a petite brunette girl with the prettiest green eyes you’ve ever seen embrace and share a long kiss. She tastes of Hubba Bubba and menthol cigarettes; you swap numbers wrote down on bits of flyers and A4 paper, as not one Tweet or Instagram post was made on this incredible night…thank god. As this was a time when people were still human and Britain was still Britain, and life was just…easy.
In loving memory of the Sanctuary Music Arena, Milton Keynes, 1991-2004.
Joe Murray has been a merchant mariner for many years and has been lucky enough to travel the world with his job. He took up writing short stories as a hobby to distance himself from the drinking culture that is heavily ingrained in his occupation. Murray was inspired by his father, who used to enter short story competitions for Ireland’s Own. His stories are often like an enjoyable mix of Dennis Lehane and Irvine Welsh. Murray divides his time between Somerset, England and Ibiza, Spain.