Raving Against Regulation in Sydney's CBD

Kinofilia Coverage: Hugo Unwin

Irony often manifests in unexpected ways. Last Saturday evening I received directions to a dance music event held in the heart of Sydney's CBD, a clandestine ‘tower party’ whose secretive nature is a direct response to the increasingly hostile attitude towards the dance music scene in Australia. Sydney has been hardest hit by regulations, with citywide 1:30 am lockout laws designed to curb ‘alcohol-fuelled violence’. At their heart, these draconian regulations prohibit organic formation of Sydney’s club music scene by limiting re-entry to city venues. This has transformed the nexus of quality underground music venues, epitomized by Civic Underground, where ‘all night’ now signifies a 4 am closing time.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the response of dance music fans in Sydney has been wholeheartedly innovative. The ‘bush doof’ scene is breaking loose of its’ psytrance connotations, with an exciting set of underground house and techno DJs availing themselves of the sprawling Australian bush to establish parties further afield than the confines of a city within a country regulating itself into an Orwellian present.

So to the rebellious response, and the spot inducing speculation among Sydney’s group of burgeoning dance music aficionado. For 12 hours, this office space was transformed into a heaving dancefloor of excitedly liberated individuals. We began our bottles of gin prior to entry to the Xmas Tower Party, in response to a further manifestation of the highly regulated alcohol industry, a statewide 10 pm end to sales of takeaway alcohol. In a throwback to my teenage years, this transpired in a Redfern park, a symbol of Sydney’s gentrification. Unsurprisingly, it was the glare from spotlights of a police car lumbering along pedestrian pathways, which we begrudgingly took as our cue to leave, in a reluctant demonstration of docility in the face of authority.

The lively commute to the office was a far cry from the existential trepidation that characterises a journey to work. Upon arrival, we were searched by friendly security, whose responsibility extended only so far as to ensuring minimal glass inside the venue and that attendees weren’t paralytic, in a far cry from the invasive door policies forced upon authorized venues. The excitement was palpable in the elevator, and it was unusual to imagine it stacked with bureaucrats and office workers, sneaking off for their lunch 10 minutes early. Stepping out of the elevator, the rave was well underway, the marble lobby packed with festively adorned people, replete with anything from Christmas hats to full Santa suits and beard. Black plastic sheeting enticingly obscured the boundaries between the space’s work hours and present use, as we entered my first dance floor to feature office chairs.

Up front, a Funktion one soundsystem blared tech house bangers. The shifting of the late night crowd gradually gave way to a comforting repetiveness, as the crowd found their position on the dance floor. In tune with their surroundings, the djs operated to a work plan, playing minimally inventive tracks to the inebriated crowd. Respite from the pumping dance floor was to be had in the outdoor smoking area, a balcony overlooking the city. Inevitably the the fire alarm briefly sounded at 5 am, drowned out by the thumping bass of resident acts and providing yet another reminder of the event’s conflicting relationship with its building. The strong showing of Europeans made the atmosphere feel miles from the constant fear of an impending dancefloor brawl or ejection by overly enthusiastic security personnel.

Blueprint’s event demonstrates the difficulty borne by simply increasing police presence, evident in the recent tragic deaths of attendees of Australia’s huge dance music event, Stereosonic. The failings of NSW Government’s social approach to drug education is epitomized in ‘stoner sloth’ publicity campaign, a bizarre and belittling indoctrination of teenagers to the risks of smoking weed. Those on the road face the risk of arrest for driving under the influence of drugs, in increased crackdowns with questionable results. In the face of this multifaceted attack on organic forms of cultural expression, the Blueprint Entertainment crew have devised a fascinating and ironic retaliatory move, that despite an unambitious tracklist kept the vibrant crowd moving until the early hours.

 

Tracks:

Maceo Plex - Stay High for me Baby

 

Patrick Topping: Forget

 

Moog Conspiracy 1010 (Dousk Remix)

 

Pele & Shawnecy - Better For My Brain (Original Mix) [Snatch! Records]