Saturday, June 08, 2013

The 1990s Anarcho-Punk Doof Scene in Sydney

In 1991 I traveled to Sydney from my home range of The Darling Downs (think rural right-wing Christian). I spent a week in Sydney, saw my favorite band The Butthole Surfers at the St Georges Hall in Newtown, went to parties in collective houses, spent a Saturday at The Glebe Markets. Basically the experience changed my life. I moved to Sydney the following year to live and made the city my base in the world from then until 1999.

The Butthole Surfers in 1991, the year I saw them and they smeared my mind around the backstreets of inner-city Sydney.

From the end of 1993 I started going to rave parties ('doofs' as they are called in Australia) in and around Sydney, mostly put on by The Vibe Tribe. I have written about my experiences as an anarchist raver in the mid-1990s elsewhere. Here I just want to say a few things about the anarcho-punk scene around a particular sound system in Sydney at the time, the mighty Non-Bossy Posse.
We didn’t dig the oppressive nature of the state or some nightclubs. Many mainstream clubs often exist to sell alcohol, make loads of money, enforce style conformity and are generally inaccessible to lots of people. We are now in a position of overflowing our warehouses beaches etc with a totally awesome array of raver/freak-hybrid geek humanoids who have come to expect nothing less than a wild frolik-razzamatazzical glitter infested cabaret – from sequins to sequencers.  - Vibe Tribe Statement
This post opens with the most famous work of the Non-Bossy Posse, a cassette that passed around from hand to hand at the time, Saboteurs Of The Big Daddy Mind Fuck (1993). The cassette opens with a fast track that states "Revolution has to include all people". This statement indicates precisely why I was drawn to the rave scene in Sydney at the time. It was very inclusive with an openness towards LBGT people, no age requirements or restrictions, few rules apart from respect and cooperation.
"In an inner city area where public space is almost non-existent and young people excluded from notions of "the community", the free parties in Sydney Park were a vibrant, peaceful and joyous reclamation of space. More open-ended than the concurrent rave scene, they drew a more diverse crowd many of whom would otherwise never had the inclination or opportunity to hear and dance to such strange music. Sydney Park was the ideal location being close to transport, open-air, and most importantly it was uniquely acoustically shaped so as to direct all the sound of the party over the industrial areas of Alexandria and away from residential properties. With a few hundred dollars a party could be quickly and communally organised, word circulated through the local community by word-of-mouth and a few photocopied flyers, and then a bucket passed around on the night to recoup some costs" - The Cops are Jammin the Frequency.
The next vocal sample on Saboteurs Of The Big Daddy Mind Fuck - "Its going to bring the whole world looking in" refers to what in my mind destroyed the best of the Sydney scene, the 2000 Olympic Games. The Posse knew this already in 1993 that the Olympics would spell the end for the cooperative, community culture that thrived in inner-city Sydney until the end of the 1990s. Next up is a sample from then Prime Minister Paul Keating's Redfern address; "we committed the murders. we took the children." -
"It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion."
Just a few minutes into the first track and we already have a clear political and social trajectory that can be termed confrontational anarchist.

Making a Noise – Making a Difference: Techno-Punk and Terra-ism by Graham St John (University of Queensland) takes up many of the political and social concerns of the movement around the anarchist rave scene in Sydney in the early 1990s.

In Sydney at the time there were two anarchist book shops. Black Rose Books and Jura Books were the sources for much literature that fueled the cooperative culture of inner-city Sydney in the 1990s. Both shops continue today.
"Pour sugar into the petrol tanks of expensive cars, Burn the flag, Destroy the pig nation, Steal goods from your boss and give them to your friends" -  Non-Bossy Possy, Anarchy.
The anarchy of Australia comes with a strong DIY flavor that is influenced by the bush and a lot of disrespect for authority that is part of the traditions of a country founded as a penal colony.

"Consumption the drug. Consume. Be Silent. Die." is the sample on a latter track of Saboteurs Of The Big Daddy Mind Fuck. By 1995 the music of the rave scene was becoming popular enough to have clubs on Oxford Street hosting all night parties. This coincided with a media frenzy around the death of Anna Wood from water intoxication at a rave. The police began seriously prosecuting rave parties at this time as well. Big money followed the move into the clubs and soon the energy of the anarcho-punk doof scene was but a memory. Of course the politics did not survive long on the well lit dance floors. As the Non-Bossy Possy Facebook page states today, most members of the scene from this time are now scattered all over the globe. 

'Frequency' 8th April 1995 - The dark head in the bottom right corner is me. I have no other photos from the time. No camera and no time at the time. I was arrested shortly after this way taken and spent some hours in a police van in an underground car park. All for dancing without a permit.

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