on friday night, i went to an illegal warehouse party organised as a benefit for one of the various left affiliated protest groups out there. it was so hush hush that we had to gather in front of a pub from which the hosts picked us up every half hour or so.
it seemed a bit superfluous as you could hear the music from a block away. but then, there was an undeniable underground atmosphere about it all. the mysterious txt messages, the rendezvous. it added to the experience. it made one feel that one was connected to an anti-establishment protest movement that the authorities frowned upon – even if it was over the matter of a liquor licence and cost-negligible venue rental fees.
the warehouse, all high ceilings, wooden beams and stained windows had been converted into a carpark and kitted out with an electric roller door, a concrete floor and various park space markings. It didnt seem to have been used in awhile. there were thickish layers of pigeon shit here and there. the organisers had set up a food table, a band space, a dj alcove, a lounge space, a movie projector, a laser and a smoke machine.
The sound system was small but adequate. It suited one of the bands that were playing there fronted by a diminutive pixie of an asian girl whose bjork style voice rang plaintively to portishead style trip-hop. A little cliched now but almost as beautiful as the singer.
the crowd was the usual collection of hippies, ferals and fringe left activists. It was all for a good cause – protecting old growth forests – one that I could not fault greatly even though I’d read some of the research from the logging industry that appeared to demonstrate that sustainable logging practices preserved diversity while producing good quality timber. If only I trusted the timber industry to adhere to those practices.
I recognised one of the people there. i’d been to a party organised by a friend who had decided to select people from various social circles based on their dissimilarities. I’d been astounded to discover that he trusted government officials to serve the interests of the people and that the State could do a better job of empowering people than the rigours of competition. He was no doubt astounded to discover someone who believed that a free market in general solved more problems than it caused.
Perhaps it was my imagination, but it seemed to me that he was a little put out that I was there at all and what’s more wearing an anti-neo-liberalism, anti-G20 badge that my date (who was an activist that he knew) had pressed on me. Perhaps the irony was lost on him. At any rate, we muttered strained polite greetings at each other and I thought once again about the gulf between my political and personal.
If only free-market types held semilegal warehouse parties with topless acrobatic types hanging from the rafters instead of boring dinners where everyone had to listen to someone talk about the benefits of a flat rate tax.
the next day, I head out to Opeia for a winter solstice outdoor trance party.
the organisers had set up three large fire pits around the dance space. the fires went all night. people made their own smaller fires, brought tents, mattresses, pillows, chairs and blankets. by the morning of the next day, the dance space was a mixture of campground and living room.
the space itself was a small circular clearing in the middle of a thick gum tree forest. it never did rain but it got very cold on saturday night even if the stars were beautiful. and the next day, when the sun finally came up, there were no clouds at all.
there is a rhythm to these outdoor trance parties that is partly to do with the drugs, partly to do with the people who are attracted to them and partly to do with the music itself. this party was greatly influenced by mushrooms and acid, by the small group of travelled ravers and by the trance set list.
as the psychedelics set in, the music gets harder, more frenetic, harsher. people stumble into objects. possessions are lost. more drugs are consumed when they shouldnt be. and the glassy eyed disconnectedness of people plagued by internal visions spread. the nadir is at four or five. at this point, there is little left but the music which continues driving on. the floor thins out except for the ones who’ve taken amphetamines or the ones who’ve just arrived. the firepits are crowded with people trying to make sense of themselves and what they’ve just uncovered or just trying to get laid.
however, as the dawn approaches, the music changes and becomes softer and gentler, the beats are not so clearly differentiated but are clustered and rolling. The people who got too trashed are by now sitting down and the smart ones who left to sleep through the dark hours or to just chill out at their campsites come back down to the dance floor.
At this hour, if they havent already people begin to take their sunrise dose so that when the sun lifts itself above the treeline and its first rays makes it through the branches and leaves, threading the ground, the people and the music itself with light and shadow, everyone is smiling. And even though I’ve not imbibed anything stronger than chocolate and a bit of scotch all night, I’m smiling as well.
At some time during that night, I discovered a camp site of scientists sitting around a fire in their camping chairs. There were a couple of doctors, an ecologist, a neuropsychologist. I liked all of them but I hit it off especially with the ecologist. She had a dry wit, a keen intelligence and was flatteringly interested in my fatigued incoherent rants. I attempted to ask her questions. She said I was interesting. I said likewise. We did not exchange phone numbers. Perhaps because I found her friend the neuropsychologist who said proprioceptive quite unselfconsciously in mid conversation more attractive. But while I made dry comments as best I could, I lacked the courage to say more to either of them.
It did occur to me however that underneath it all, I was a little starved for middle-class tertiary educated slightly politically complacent conversation, for people who saw the world as ultimately understandable, ultimately exploitable and essentially material.