An Ex-Raver Compares and Contrasts “Groove” and “Human Traffic”

Movement 2011 Edition

PLUR bitches 

My initial concept for this blog is a testament to how long it has been since I’ve watched these movies. I wanted to compare and contrast Human Traffic with Groove in order to declare a winner, a better version of my rave zeitgeist. I remembered Human Traffic being about a rave. It’s not. It’s about some kids in London going to a club for the night.  So comparing the “rave” in Human Traffic to the actual rave in Groove would be an illogical argument.

However, I spent 4 hours watching these movies and they are getting compared.

To start, I should concede that Human Traffic has 2 major things going for it with which Groove can only barely compete:

  •  Human Traffic’s Music Supervisor was Pete Tong; and
  • Carl Cox does a cameo as a club owner.

 Groove competes with these heavyweight electronic music personas with only a John Digweed cameo. And he played his generic trance tracks that have been remixed into mall store music a decade ago. Carl Cox and Pete Tong totally kick John Digweed’s ass.

 Oh, excuse me, DJ Pollywog is also featured in Groove. PASS.  I don’t know where to start, be it with the white girl dreads, the gold body paint or the horrendous rave slut outfit.  At least she isn’t as bad as these dangerous predators: raver girls.

 So you can probably tell I am leaning towards Human Traffic from the start. Groove just rubs me the wrong way. If you take part in an alternative zeitgeist like raving, you don’t want it defined by the populist media. Groove is to raving what Urban Cowboy is to country music.  They portray almost everyone in the scene as an idiot and they’ve aligned bad fashion choices with an entire subculture.[1]

I may have somewhat disliked Groove when I was going to raves but that is nothing compared to how much I now wince at the well-meaning candy kids’ antics.  Light shows, cuddle puddles, conga line back massages, Vicks VapoRub, furry clothing, and finally the actual candy, really make me shudder at our generation’s arrested development in wholly new ways.

Rave Yarn Hair Pink Miami

Yarn hair is for cabbage patch kids.


*Image from Miami New Times

At the very least Groove was probably a way for raving to be introduced to the masses without the moralizing firewall of Times and other local news broadcasts which gleefully reported on the handful of ecstasy deaths that were ultimately the result of dehydration/heart arrhythmia brought on by a cocktail of drugs.  So there’s that.

 But if you are one of the few rave movies set in the U.S. then you have a responsibility to accurately depict the zeitgeist.

 Groove opened in 2000 in San Francisco and centers around 3 main characters : David and Colin Turner (brothers) and Colin’s fiancée Harmony. David is the requisite “straight” who has never been to a rave. So this is his first experience raving and subsequently his first experience spending the night on a nasty warehouse floor where he expostulates about the minutiae of his life to whoever will listen, in this case, Leyla (Lola Glaudini). 

Lola Guardini Leyla Groove Movie

Possibly the only redeeming feature of this movie.

Since Leyla is an old-school raver and this is her one-millionth rave then she does not take ecstasy and lolls around listening to David’s bullshit. She moved to San Francisco from New York because she screwed up her life so much there raving all the time that she ultimately lost about 4 years in some rave worm-hole. So she comes to San Francisco and immediately goes to a rave?

Homeless man sign ecstasy marijuana

Ostensibly what Leyla was doing in New York.


But she is not ready to give up the lifestyle just yet, so she immediately logs on to some pre-historic analog rave forum and requests a ride from anybody in the bay area. So the first people that offer her a ride are the candy kid ravers from the local college, who ordered their pink wigs and furry boots from

Harajuku girls lolita japanese

We love cute! ❤

 And off they go. The candy kid harajuku girls spend a lot of time in the “chill room” at the rave which is an interesting fantasy that a stoned special events coordinator from the film studio must have thought up.  There is a free buffet of fruit and FREE bottles of water laid out in said room as well as multiple non-mildewed couches and beanbag chairs [how darling]. People that throw raves in empty warehouses on the sly definitely always supply their guests with a free continental breakfast. We have all seen catered raves with candles burning everywhere, I’m sure.

Room filled with candles


 So Colin classily proposes to Harmony at the rave and she gleefully accepts but it also turns out that Colin is bi-sexual. Awkward!  So Harmony gets angry at him for rolling his face off and making out with the creepy massage guy and she ends up running away, tiny backpack bouncing.

 But she gets over her homophobia I guess and they kiss and make up on the dance floor just like how they used to do it at Studio 54. We all know how well club love works out.

 Party Monster movie cover

 Later, the cops break up the rave and everybody sadly leaves.  BUT THEN they all come back because John Digweed shows up at 6 am like a diva headliner. Somehow this all occurs without the mass usage of cell phones. 

 Then John Digweed plays that one trance song. The end.

 The real problem with this movie is that it spotlights all the rave stereotypes without commenting on them in a new way. Now I’m going to go ahead and bring back Human Traffic. In Human Traffic, viewers get a snapshot of club life in London that also weaves about 6 distinct characters [with background information! Wow!] into said snapshot. It also highlights things about the culture that others may not know from vague observation.

Explanations of different types of music are offered. For example: Two-step is kind of garage is kind of grime is kind of dubstep.  They also reveal some of the unfortunate consequences of consuming ecstasy, ahem, like problems in the bedroom.  Kinda obvious but following that, you get a front seat view of some neurotic mind games that one plays as the sun rises and the roll disappears. Basically, they can fully flesh out some understandable human relationships. What you might learn from partying for 8 hours straight with the same people. 

 Groove’s human relationships can be likened to more of a pre-party. You just scratch the surface with polite accessions of similarity but you don’t get down to the real, the gritty stuff.

Groove affirms what people already think they know:

  • ravers wear strange clothes,
  • take drugs, and
  • act promiscuously.

They try to infill with a little sob story and morality alert about partying your life away.

There is no real growth or epiphany. It is the film version of John Digweed’s generic trance song.  You know what’s going to happen after the build-up.  You know when the bass will drop.  You can dance to it easily because the beat will never confuse you.   Human Traffic is like a good Venetian Snares track.  You go in thinking one thing is going to happen, then something completely unexpected and amazing happens and by the end you feel like you’ve come to understand something new about the world. 

Oh, and here’s another thing about Groove.  In the middle of the party, one lonesome cop comes up to the door and wants to know what all the noise is about. The cop, interestingly enough, is a young Ron Swanson with the moustache in full effect. The guy throwing the party leads Ron through the warehouse, explaining that he has just purchased the property for his business, plans to renovate it, and his having a celebratory party. He walks around, showing Ron where he will be putting the cubicles, cafeteria, and fax machines [ancient!]. 

Meanwhile, everybody that attended the party has hidden in the chill room, on command from the dude throwing the party.  Does this seem even remotely right to you? They stopped a rave within 10 minutes and made hundreds of people hide from the cops, a mass exodus from the dance floor that the viewer never sees. Plus, this one policeman in California decides, “Hey, I’m gonna check out this huge party without back up, I am sure nothing will happen to me.” Never in Detroit.

Groove can transport ex-ravers back in time to a slightly not really good facsimile of what they may have experienced. For the Detroit raver memories, there would be more jaded locals who will charge you for parking and then let a random crackhead jack your car at the Theatre for the winter coat you stashed in the backseat.

Ah yes, just one of many fond memories straight from the D.

[1] I enjoyed watching Urban Cowboy.



Filed under Afterparty, Detroit, Music, Rave

4 responses to “An Ex-Raver Compares and Contrasts “Groove” and “Human Traffic”

  1. Pete Wrong

    Human Traffic is not about kids on a weekend in London, you twazzock…..they are in Cardiff.
    Calling it “raving” means ur probably a yank….house music, whilst made in America, yanks have no idea about house culture.

  2. Damion

    Just one thing… Human Traffic is not in London, it is in Cardiff, Wales

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