Thursday, September 13, 2007

Canaan Downs revisited

It's all about the timing sometimes, isn't it?

I joined Facebook very recently, for the simple (and very silly) reason that I thought it would be cute to create a page for each of my cats, so that they could have some online friends. Heh. I am SO losing the plot...

Anyway, I have noticed that my little group of Facebook friends is made up almost entirely of two completely wonderful and very different sub-groups - the Shifties and the Dance Party People (or, more precisely, The Gathering Crew).

A couple of weeks ago I got a message on Facebook from the very wonderful Simon K, one of the original Gathering crew, and one of my very favourite people. I haven't seen Simon in such a long time, but I often get to read his musings on the Obscure weekly updates mailing list. You always know when it's Simon doing the writing... he has such a unique and lovely way with words.

Canaan Downs Festival poster. Simon wanted to tell me about the Canaan Downs Festival, which is being held over New Year at - you've guessed it - the only place one should ever spend NYE - Canaan Downs.

God I miss Canaan Downs. I miss dancing in a field with a great stupid grin on my face. I miss rushing around organising stuff and setting things up and making things happen and being part of an incredible group of people making magic on top of a mountain. I miss doing the impossible. I miss creating moments of power (in a good way!). I miss woohooing through the beech forest.

I miss the moments of calm before the perfect storm (hah! Memories of G2000 come flooding back!). I miss opening my eyes on the dance floor and meeting the eyes of a fellow traveller dancing nearby. I miss sharing the big smile that inevitably follows. I miss being part of The Gathering crew. Did I mention I miss dancing in a field with a great stupid grin on my face? God help me, occasionally I even miss the stress, the angst and the trauma. OK, I don't miss those last three things very much - but you get the idea...

Tonight I had dinner with the lovely Matthew A, who's working with Simon K on a special little something at Canaan Downs called the 3rd resistance. "And what is this 3rd resistance of which you speak?" I hear you cry...

Let me explain in a roundabout way, because that seems to be how my words are crystallising tonight...

I'm pretty sure it was Simon who wrote the following on the Obscure mailing list a couple of weeks ago - hopefully he won't mind me borrowing it:

Generation Dance

You're either on the bus... or off the bus. Has anyone read the 'The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test' by Tom Wolfe.

When I first read this book I was heavily into raving. I identified myself as a Raver and I thought I was involved in the most cutting edge activity ever know to man! Little did I know.

That was years ago now, but the book opened my mind to a generation before us who had travelled the same path. Telling a story about people who looked down the rabbit hole to see what was there. Some of the things that I read about like the 'Merry Pranksters' and the ideas of 'subjective reality' are still inspiring me and influencing my ideas of dance music and culture.

Part of me is upset that WE did not discover raving and all those freaky little things that happen when you dance all night to a pulsating beat. A bigger part of me is actually relived that rave, dance, trance and all the processes of social reality that surrounds dance culture is not something new at all.

It's old, like really old. As old as time itself. And it is a relief to know this because it means that no matter what people do to the dance, like: sponsor it with multi national corporations, or shove it into little boxes and intensify it, or attempt to bleed it dry of anything good. You just can't change the fundamentals.

I think it's important to remember in this day and age when our dance culture has settled into a sustained period of commercial activity that dancing to rhythm does not belong to anyone. There is no correct way to do it or to implement it.

Headline acts, sponsors, posters, promotion, hype does not guarantee anything. It's the people that dance to the music that plays. And when the time is right the people know where to go and know what to do.

To me, having talked at length with Matthew tonight, this is what 3rd resistance - and to a greater extent the Canaan Downs Festival - is all about.

As the Merry Pranksters used to say, "You're either on the bus... or off the bus."

Matthew and Simon are literally revisiting some of the mind-bending technology-type stuff that the Pranksters used to do - both at the acid tests and on their bus, Further, when they were doing their road trip across the country...

...and the party itself - well I think it's about getting out there and remembering why we all started doing The Gathering in the first place. All that stuff about "be nice humans" that I believed in wholeheartedly then, and believe in wholeheartedly now.

As Simon says on the Facebook Canaan Downs Festival group:
I think its all the best bits from parties combined with all the hardest learned lessons.

It's actually an amazing collection of people involved. Representing most of the old school south island dance collectives once again.

To name a few crews there a people from :

Canaan Downs sculpture. Stardust
Alpine Unity
Clear Light

plus lots of smaller crews, sound systems and party promoters.. There is Psy Trance group bringing a whole zone .. not sure of their name.

It's quite amazing getting involved and discovering all the connections again. Find the people who are still there/here !!

Suffice to say it is the majority of heart'core dance people helping with this event.

When I say heart'core I mean people who have a real affinity for dance culture beyond the uber-rave phenomenon. All the dance crews mentioned expose a similar thread, a logical ethos of being open and aware, conscious people who love to be creative and interactive.

There is an active sense of 'creating a vibe' when putting on parties, of pooling collective energy for a shared experience. Participation is universal.

Some people call it hippy, but I think it is more evolved than that now. Most crews have been dancing for over 10 years. So it is defiantly a lifestyle, a focused activity, a developed social ritual that has lots of history and tradition.

It will be a very NZ festival. Which is what will make it unique.

I know where I'm going to spend this New Year. It'll be 10 years since my first Gathering. I'm 10 years older, 10 years wrinklier, 10 years wiser (haha!) and I still think dancing in a field with like-minded people is one of the best experiences in the world.

Anyone else feel like joining me?

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .