How Disappointing Clubs Fuel Sydney’s Secret Rave Scene

“If I was half-way satisfied with the clubs in Sydney, I wouldn’t have ever started this journey”:

Transport is a series of monthly, outdoor raves, started by a group of Sydneysiders keen to create a space for the harder, darker end of the techno spectrum.

Nestling somewhere between a bush doof and a warehouse party, these gatherings exemplify the underground, grassroots resistance to Sydney’s lock-out laws. By combining cheap tickets, good will and a healthy dose of street-smarts, Transport offers a sonic journey through acid techno, industrial hardcore and gabber against gritty, urban backdrops.

This week, I sat down with Max, the man behind Transport Group Sydney.

What are some of the difficulties you’ve faced in hosting public raves?

Logistically, it’s difficult to find isolated places where we won’t disturb local residents who can cause events to be shut down. This means we have to be far away from main roads. We often carry gear large distances into the bush. We have to keep things under the radar in terms of advertising and we have to get information to the right people and not the wrong people. But that difficulty exists in a lot of places – not just in Sydney. Things have gone smoothly so far.

Do you think the kind of music that you’re trying to provide a platform for is something that is neglected in Sydney at the moment?

It’s very dark music. Most [dance] music in Sydney is upbeat and light.

What kind of lessons have you learnt from hosting the Transport parties and what advice would you give others considering throwing similar parties?

It made me learn more about myself. There are a lot of lessons in that. Any pop-up party in a chaotic environment in the bush is logistically difficult. Over the last couple of parties, I’ve realised that I really need to plan things to the T. Even the simplest things become big challenges in the moment. Maybe it’s winter and it’s cold and you need to put a light a decent distance away from the generator. You realise your extension cord isn’t long enough and now everything looks whack because the lighting is bad.

From the outside, these DIY parties seem easy to organise because they have a DIY spirit and aesthetic but they are also logistically difficult no doubt.

I feel like with these parties, you get there and the end result is usually not what the organisers envisioned. People might think it’s a bit shoddy or slapdash but the very fact that the organisers got there is indicative of the elbow-grease.

Do you think there’s even something attractive about the DIY aesthetic and the adventure that is entwined with these parties? Even when the parties are shut down, sometimes they can be enjoyable.

That’s what separates these parties from club events. Clubs are very impersonal. They are often run by people you never see or you’re never going to meet. You’re never going to meet the Justin Hemmes of the world. But when you go to these DIY things, you’re right next to the person who created that world. I love that when I go to other peoples’ [rave] events. It really feels like a grassroots creation. That’s so intoxicating and it’s a very underrated attraction of the DIY party. That party was made by someone not so different from you.

Have you found that organising the Transport parties is a time-consuming venture? Do you feel that you invest a lot of mental energy in that project?

I do find it quite stressful but also, especially after the party has finished, you feel good. That elation balances out the stress. The energy is here in Australia. If there were more warehouses and more predictable areas you could use [in Sydney], and if we can shape and guide the energy in a positive direction, organisers can spend more time booking better acts and realising their creative vision, rather than bumming around in the bush.

It can be healthy for Sydney nightlife having new people with new ideas curating new parties. Do you think the underground, rave scene is too exclusive?

I have no idea how to answer that. By and large, the scene tends to concentrate on a small subset of genres. So you see the same DJs popping up again and again.

It could be a question of whether the scene is intentionally exclusive. I feel like it’s not intentionally exclusive. Maybe it’s a matter of the size of the community in Sydney.

I do feel like the underground music scene in Sydney could do with more depth and diversity. Often it seems there is a predominance of house, light techno, psytrance and other genres are rarer and more one-off. This is why I was so excited after I attended a rave back in February called Grip. It was very experimental. It remains the best rave I’ve been to in Sydney. In smaller communities, there is always the possibility that performers and punters will self-exclude if they don’t fit the musical mould. In that sense, it can be a bit exclusive. But it’s not exclusive on an interpersonal level. Everyone in the community is extraordinarily friendly, and that is the most important thing.

I feel that at Transport parties there have been diverse crowds. You have people fire-twirling – a classic bush doof image – but also club attendees and then of course your techno fiends.

The attendees at my parties have been hugely varied. I’ve met so many people who have never been to a rave before. Probably because most of my friends are not ravers. They’ve only been clubbing. I’m quite proud of this.

Can you summarise what the Transport parties represent or is it too early for a distinctive ethos to solidify?

I’ve always wanted them to represent a different space to what I was seeing in Sydney. If I can show people something outside of their usual experience, I will consider the party a success.

I think Sydney raves define themselves in opposition to what Sydney is at the moment. They make something positive out of that. I feel like that’s something that is unique to Sydney with our laws.

Definitely. If I was half-way satisfied with the clubs in Sydney, I wouldn’t have ever started this journey.

This article was written by Robbie Mason, a history honours student at the University of Sydney. When he’s not exploring Sydney’s nightlife, you’ll find Robbie ranting in the pages of Honi Soit.

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