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Return of the Renegades. SP23, Spiral Tribe's creative crew to play London

As the EDM phenomenon continues to push electronic music ever further into the mainstream, it seems that some of the original ‘renegades’ behind rave culture in the UK are finally returning to her fair shores.

In the week that Fatboy Slim was booked to play the House of Commons in a breathtaking display of irony, SP23, a crew of artists and musicians that were at the core of the infamous Spiral Tribe Sound System announced an event in the UK, 21 years after effectively being hounded out of the country by the authorities.

Spiral Tribe were at the forefront of the illegal warehouse and free festival movement at the beginning of the 90’s. Recession drenched, Tory led Britain was in full revolt against the naked profiteering and stark individualism of the ‘there’s no such thing as society’ Thatcher years, and a whole generation found unlicensed freedom under a night sky. As the futuristic electronic bleeps rang out, the open source wave was rapid and overwhelming, culminating in the Castlemorton Free Festival (the anniversary of which was celebrated last year by Channel 4’s first showing of all night dance music show, House Party). The sheer volume of people and the predictable tabloid hysterics led to members of Spiral Tribe being arrested and put on trial in what was at the time, one of the most expensive court cases in British legal history.

Having finally been found not guilty of public order offences, the crackdown began in earnest, with a systematic police operation leading to the ‘Tribe’ upping sticks and heading across the channel. There, they built a huge network of free festivals, pioneered the performance of live dance music as well as DJing, and kept on moving in various nomadic forms throughout the 90’s until they stopped using a physical sound system and began to morph into a creative collective called SP23.

After one small event last year in Docklands, it looks like SP23 who have a huge following in Europe are back to play the Village Underground in London on 19 April.

Interestingly enough, the Mutoid Waste Company, who were similarly declared persona non grata at the beginning of the 1990’s and who worked closely with Spiral Tribe in Berlin also returned to the UK a few years back. Last year, they finally got the credit and the international stage their 'Mad Max' meets steampunk lunacy deserved when they performed at the Paralympic closing ceremony in London.

So behind the gloss and carefully managed PR of the new stadium filling electronic acts, it seems that the original spirit that drove the electronic music movement is still burning bright. And as the Mutoid Waste Company and now Spiral Tribe’s SP23 crew return to the UK; while beats and basslines are set to rock the House of Commons – it is extraordinary to reflect on the tangled coils of social and cultural history.

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