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These Early 2000s Rave Photos Will Make You Long For the Pre-Smartphone Party Era

“I went for six weeks,” Smith says via Zoom from his native U.K., “got paid 25 pounds a day, got fed three times a day and met the community of hippies and bus dwelling people and that culture who build the festival.”

Smith recalls 1989 as the year that “rave really arrived at Glastonbury.” While electronic music may not have been on the official lineup (which included Elvis Costello, Van Morrison and Fela Kuti) Smith recalls a separate field for soundsystems and all night dance parties. “It was obviously unlicensed,” Smith says. “That was one of the best things about Glastonbury back in the day, the organic things people just made happen.” He shot 18 rolls of film at the festival that year, becoming an anthropologist in the scene to which he was just innately drawn.

While Smith’s intention wasn’t to become a rave photographer, his skills with a camera and position the fabled U.K. rave culture of the late ’80s and ’90s simply made him so. In time, as the scene expanded from unlicensed events in West Country farmland into clubs throughout Bristol and Manchester, Smith started photographing indoor events for himself and a variety of music publications — capturing the intensity, creativity, debauchery and unmitigated joy of the club scene in the ’90s and early 2000s.

Now, more than 200 of Smith’s images from 2000-2005 have been compiled into the book Full On. Non Stop, All Over. Published by U.K. imprint TRIP Publishing and featuring an introduction by legendary electronic world writer Simon Reynolds, the photo book captures the rave scene in the brief moment before smartphones invaded our pockets, brains and venues, forever altering the way we experience the dancefloor and the present moment itself. “Everything changed when smartphones arrived,” Smith says.

To compile Full On. Non Stop, All Over., Smith — a full time artist based in Bristol who presides over an archive of roughly 250,000 of his photos — dug into his archives, initially selecting 3,000 images that were over time narrowed down to the roughly 220 shots that appear in the book, which was released this past June. Smith’s work is also currently on view in Bristol’s M Shed museum through October 31 as part of Vanguard | Bristol Street Art, an exhibition exploring the city influence the development of Bristol street art.

Here, in his own words and in tandem with image from Full On. Non Stop, All Over., Smith traces the parallel trajectories of his career and rave culture.

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