Why it's time to leave the club early

Rave culture tells us we should put a good shift in by staying all out all night, but this competition and peer pressure is becoming toxic…

Hero image in post
photo: Team Woo
Hero image in post
photo: Team Woo

Rave culture tells us we should put a good shift in by staying all out all night, but this competition and peer pressure is becoming toxic…

By Hollie Hilton14 Dec 2023
7 mins read time
7 mins read time

We’ve all been there, perhaps it's day two of a festival and you’ve been dancing for eight hours in a sun-drenched field, or you’re at the second superclub of the day in Ibiza having only had a gulp of dodgy tap water and whatever your mate brought in their pants. The energy is getting a little lower and some of your friends aren’t looking like they’re actually enjoying themselves anymore, and yet the two-stepping goes on, because nobody wants to pull the trigger that will end the night first.

There’s a lot of peer pressure to make a night out a full night out, especially in the rave scene. What is it about the culture that’s creating this? And how can you feel emboldened to not feel the need to “put in a good shift”?

On a recent holiday, a friend looked like they were having a not so great time and said they no longer liked the music, so I proposed we leave the event, only to be told an hour later when we arrived at the Airbnb that they would’ve gladly stayed out later. It was 5am. The next night they informed me they “didn’t want to go home early again”.

I felt responsible for having ended the night early, despite knowing that nobody had been enjoying themselves anymore, they had complained about the music, stopped two-stepping and genuinely looked exhausted. I thought I was doing everyone a favour by being the first to suggest ordering a taxi, but instead of agreeing that they too felt like it was time to call it a night, I got scapegoated as the person who needs to go to bed.

The peer pressure to stay to the end of the rave is something that’s always baffled me, and was something I thought people would grow out of, should we really still be feeling the ‘I stayed out later than you’ competitiveness in our mid 20s. Yet speaking to friends this summer, it seems the myth that you only like the music or only have a good time if you stay until the music stops still persists.

In group settings or at multiple-day events like holidays or festivals, the peer pressure can feel especially daunting, since there is often an expectation of consecutive nights on the sesh, with little sleep or time for resetting. The group chat has been planning this for months, remember? Dr Venetia Leonidaki, Consultant Psychologist at Spiral Psychology agrees, “conformity tends to increase when a group consists of at least four or five people. This happens because in a group situation there is more uncertainty and our levels of anxiety naturally rise, making it more likely for us to turn to each other for guidance.” Other factors can magnify the impact of peer pressure, Dr Leonidaki explains, like: “physical tiredness, overstimulation, a drop in inhibitions due to drugs or alcohol” All things that go pretty hand in hand with rave culture.

Festivals and raves have always been about letting loose and releasing steam. Ravers especially, hark back to the good old days of 24hr ecstasy-fuelled free parties in abandoned warehouses and forests. . But, over the years, these parties have become replaced by venues that get their cut - and give a kick out time - and in a climate where our disposable income doesn’t stretch as far, there is the added financial pressure of getting our money’s worth on a night out. Across a spectrum of genres, music events have consistently increased ticket prices this year. This goes for smaller independent festivals like Field Manoeuvres through to Britain’s biggest festival Glastonbury, which received notable backlash for upping ticket prices from £280 to £335.

Dr Leonidaki explains that “If you pay a high price for something, you will understandably have high expectations. In an expensive group event, the collective expectations also tend to be high and group members may implicitly influence each other about having to make the most of the event.”

We also can’t underestimate the power of our own subconscious, as Dr Leonidaki suggests: “Our own expectations can no doubt play a role in how susceptible we are to peer pressure in those scenarios. If making the most of a situation is your rule to live by, then of course you will find it harder to know where to stop.”

As with much of life, enjoyment is about quality, not quantity. Making the most of your night out doesn’t have to mean two-stepping until your feet hurt and everyone around you is slurring their words. At festivals, especially - staying out til the early hours could actually mean compromising on other early morning activities the next day, such as early sets from newer artists, or wholesome activities like film screenings, fresh water swimming or meditation circles. All equal parts of truly experiencing a festival to its fullest, or getting your money’s worth.

So how do we avoid this pressure, and ensure we have the best time when we’re out partying with our friends?

Speak to your mates

In group settings it can be hard to speak up, especially when you think your opinion might go against the grain. But actually, Dr Leonidaki mentions that “In a group situation, such as a festival, where levels of uncertainty and anxiety are high, the group may unconsciously look for a leader to guide them.”

Someone is exerting the pressure. Identifying who this is is the first step in getting an early night. While they may just be "responding to an unconscious pull from the group to have a leader," as Dr Leonidaki says, a good approach is to ask them where this desire to control the outcome of the night is coming from, and why they feel like everyone should do that thing. It isn't confrontation, it's about inviting a dialogue from everyone there.

Don’t lie

Equally, don’t pretend you’re having a good time if you’re not. There might be others in your group feeling the same way who don’t have the heart to say it. Remember: as an audience member you have complete agency to decide whether something is for you, enjoyable or not. Part of experiencing art is being able to say, you don’t like something or that it's not for you.

Don’t internalise the pressure

You might be tempted to make this a you-problem. You may ask why am I not enjoying myself? Why does everyone else have more energy than me? “But you cannot avoid peer pressure completely,” says Dr Leonidaki, “if you are in an environment where the peer pressure makes you feel like you are putting yourself at risk then exit and stay away from this environment. This might lead you to do things you wouldn’t usually do, such as taking substances that might give you a boost, or help your stamina.” Never do something for the sake of someone else’s enjoyment.

Consider compatibility

It’s easier said than done, since we don’t all have people lining around the block to be our friends, but going to music events and festivals with people that you’re actually compatible with in those settings can help.

Compatibility in this respect means energy levels and comfortability. Some people like to be out all night, others like to dip early; some might be sober, others not. It’s important to surround yourself with people you can express your needs to. Music taste also comes into play here. there’s been a huge boom in electronic music - according to Resident Advisor there’s been an increase of electronic events and festivals, representing a 66% increase post-pandemic on 2019’s listings. And sure, that may be because of the demand for a big one. But if your mate isn’t into the genre, keep in mind they might not be as excited as you to be in a crowded dark room, listening to it until dawn..

There isn’t any one way to experience these events and nobody should tell you there is. If the goal is to enjoy the experience to the fullest (and what else is there!) then we should be customising our own experience. If that means going home to bed before the vinyls have stopped spinning, then so be it!