On Friday, I was parked up at a local wateringhole making short work of their aperol spritz happy hour. My friends and I were complaining: in a city like Sydney, that already has a pretty dire nightlife, the extension of the no-dancing pandemic restrictions has really taken a toll on our joie de vivre.
And I guess someone was listening, or in a much more likely take, we were not the only people in the city feeling this way.
The next day, when I asked my hairdresser to shear my locks in an effort to feel something new and exciting, he told me about a rumoured rave that night. Soon, an Instagram story from a local up-and-coming party collective confirmed it. The words Secret Inner West Location sung out over Sydney like a mating call.
Turns out I didn’t need to spontaneously cut off all my hair in an effort to feel something. I just needed to situate myself in a sweaty mass of bodies.
THE GETTING THERE
The link on the Instagram story provided us with a set of coordinates. We followed them through a park, by a pond and up a hill, pretending we were searching for buried treasure. I had a 6-pack of Moon Dog threaded onto the strap of my bumbag like a bandolier.
Walking off the pavement, through a gap in the trees, onto a worn path that snaked into a clearing, we had arrived. The bass pulsed through the ground and, only just, I thought I could make out the beginning tones of “To Rave” by Stones Taro.
THE SET UP
The clearing was situated in a grove of trees, deceptively tight and deceptively packed. The air quality: thick, heavy and tropical, convinced me that behind one of the lines of trees there would be some sort of dank river, teaming with mosquitos. A red light sat in a palm tree, illuminating the DJ. It felt like dancing in a reptile tank.
The rave itself was nestled into the side of a hill, and you could climb up through long grass if you wanted to look out at the midnight sky, a lavender shade of deep purple painted around Sydney’s city skyline.
But the hill proved hazardous on the way up for most people. My housemate's smooth-soled Doc Martins made her slip up the hill like a duckling on ice. We told her to hurry up. The gag was getting old.
On the way down it was the same again and, after a chat and a ciggie, people seemed to only be able to make it halfway on sea legs before falling.
Throughout the night, flashes of familiar faces cropped up in front of me like cameos, or photos from a night that I was already remembering. Images of gormless boys that had taken probably a bit too much of whatever, eyes like sinkholes. The open mouth and pinched eyes of a friend that you’d just ran into. My housemate smoking with a deep satisfaction, a smirk on her lips.
The music was high octane exuberance – a jazzy mix of breaks, trance and garage. The DJs were laughing and hugging each other, nailing the vibe. That feeling when a song you adore comes on and you grab your friend and scream: “Are you fucking hearing this right now??!” If you know, you know.
Coming back from a bush wee there was one disorientating moment: Someone had begun to play “Pink Panther”, and in front of me, a woman walked through the trees with her greyhound. My friend and I turned to look at each other, an eyebrow raised, and continued on.
The crowd, like almost any event, was mostly hit, but there were some definite misses. People on shoulders, people in trees. I talked to beautiful friends and strangers and some dickhead made lewd comments to people I love.
Sitting on the hill at one point, a drunk girl and friend plonked down next to us. It’s hard to not listen to those conversations, a classic 3 a.m. confessional. One of those ones that feels infinitely profound at the time, but a transcript of it the next day would make you keel over with embarrassment.
Lying with us, the organisers told us they pulled together the rave in 5 hours. We told them that was an absolute achievement.
At a bit before 4 a.m., my housemates and I decided we were done. We were thirsty and our legs were sore from lack of party practice. We didn’t make it far, just to a bench by the pond where we could still hear the music. We danced on the grass, ecstatic. A collective feeling that we’d gotten away with something. That we’d made it.
11/10. Again, again, again.