Welcome to Haarp Media’s new series – NNSW Dance Music/Doof History.
We will attempt to track the scene’s history from inception to peak to entropy, along with its various locales, sounds, people, splinter movements and various moving parts.
The Northern NSW doof scene – originating from the Byron Bay and Northern Rivers area – was potentially the third-largest originating movement of what has created the current climate for electronic music festivals and scenes in Australia. It had an exciting and dynamic scene with a 25-year history…then collapsed into virtual non-existence. Why?
We will try our best to track an impartial history of the area, but please be aware of the difficulty in this and we may be missing out on possibly major parts of this picture or have our facts wrong. Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (ask for Kristian) if you have any valuable information or assistance in helping us round out the picture some more.
Photo credit: Rabbits Eat Lettuce, NSW // Open Records
The ecology of northern NSW dance music events has been chaotic at best and for the main part wasn’t organised sustainably outside of 3-4 year cycles, which makes it difficult to track historically. Dozens of splinter movements and crews have come, gone and have been forgotten about.
Outdoor events used to occur sporadically in the area, although occasionally some movements would pick up steam and popularity for a couple of years before dissipating for one reason. Movement of Doof-style or niche dance music parties radiated from Byron Bay and its clubs, to small halls and nearby bushland in NNSW, to other areas of NNSW outside of the immediate Byron Bay/Northern Rivers area including Bellingen, Bonalbo, New Italy and Tenterfield.
Some bigger regular underground events and crews include Beyond The Brain, Every Picture Tells A Story, Earthdance, Rabbits Eat Lettuce, Om Studios, Tits On Fire, Mind Over Matter (a one-off, but important), Earth Frequency, Looney Tunez, Alien Gossip Events, Deliverance and Superfreak.
Places where splinter movements have occurred include The Epicentre, Hells Hole, The Carpark/Verve/C-Moog (Byron Bay), Rover Park (Tenterfield), Bald Rock Bush retreat (Tenterfield – Exodus), Corndale Hall, Coorabell Hall, Pekapine State Forest, The Castle Theme Restaurant (Gold Coast), Winsome Hotel (Lismore), Wytaliba community, Tyagarah Airport Hanger, Tatts Hotel (Lismore), Nomads Clubhouse, Mardi Grass Festival (Nimbin), Chillingham (Murwillumbah), The Tunnel (near Billinudgel), Gorge Station (Bonalbo) and New Italy, as well as countless other private properties, country homes, bush pockets and rural paddocks dotted around the NNSW area and too numerous to mention.
To gain a full appreciation for the NNSW dance music movement, we must also discuss factors that have contributed to the decimation and decline of the scene, such as security factors at events, and more notably interference by police and council when promoters have attempted to work alongside requirements set down in state legislation for events. Of note in terms of interesting and occasionally disruptive scene influences (apart from police) , are previous episodes of organised gang violence from splinter groups and the advent of “psy-boganism”.
We will also observe the impact of doof promotion and movement out of the “underground”, which also contributed to the publicity, eventual closure and entropy of the doof scene, stemming from PHP bulletin boards to press to social media. We will also look at specific music labels and producers who emerged from the NNSW scenes, and view how managing labels and production differed in pre-internet-popularity times.
As just mentioned, the area and outdoor scene have unfortunately come to somewhat of a demise in recent times. The only major electronic music events from NNSW now still occurring with regularity are Earth Frequency and Rabbits Eat Lettuce. However, due to police interference and location reasons, these events have moved to Queensland, located around a hundred kilometres north of the NNSW area. In the actual area, there are now only tiny techno/house events and occasional bass music parties still operating around the Byron Bay/Lismore area. We will examine the area’s present standings with electronic music in more depth with the last part of this series.
It is generally recognised and agreed upon by the broader group of punters and scene activists that Byron Bay was the birth of organised niche dance music in the NNSW area, which we will discuss in our first part next week of NNSW: A history of Doof Music and Scenes. Stay tuned!
Chapters to come in our series…
- From Goa to Byron Bay: The Epicentre, Byron Clubs, Hell’s Hole and Hall Parties
- Going West: Exodus and the advent of Psytrance
- The Bulletin Board Days: NNSW goes online
- Demon Tea and Sundance Recordings: Melodic Subversion
- Outdoor Alternatives in NNSW: Tits On Fire, Earth Frequency and Deliverance
- Southern Northern NSW: Bellingen and Coffs Harbour
- The Death of NNSW Doof: Cops, Councils and Psy-bogans
- Current Movements in NNSW
- Current Producers, Parties and Labels from NNSW