They started out as Sheffield's answer to New York's Club Kids, brightly-attired, fun-loving teenagers seeking their own unique identity, and ended up as glowing identikit clubbers with dummies in their mouth. Former Mixmag scribe Alexis Petridis summed it up: "The choice was stark: you could either dress like a rapper or one of The Strokes and be in with a chance with the opposite sex, or you could dress like an imbecile and go clubbing." In this historic piece from December 1999, Miranda Cook tracked down some of the protagonists to try and find out what went wrong – and where the dummies were buried.
It's June, and Lotherton Hall is shining. From the glittery 'Gatecrasher' sign hanging by the gate to the blazing lights of the fairground to the silver-tipped spikes of clubbers' hair, the flashing bulbs on their shoulders, the lightsticks, the glitter: everything dazzles, glimmers and glows. Trance rips through the tents, people walk around with 'TUNE' painted on their faces, others have pipe cleaners or the word 'smile' made out of Woolworths' foam letters perched on their heads. But Little Jon, who's been haunting the dancefloors of Gatecrasher since its beginning, is faintly nonplussed. "I've never seen so many cyberfreaks in my life", he mutters.
It could be the story of any scene. A group of friends try out something different at their local club. They want to be individual, to stand out from the crowd. Others quickly join in and get involved, and before long it's spread and blown up all over the country. And that's when the cracks emerge; like fights like, and eventually the end looms into view.
Ten years ago house music set out its agenda. It was going to turn the band-idolisation of rock on its head and make the clubber the star of the show. But it didn't always manage it. For the most part, the superstar DJs ruled. Until 1999, when the clubbers took things into their own hands; for the first time since the beginning of house music, the real superstars were there on the dancefloor.