Okay, fine, Detroit, Berlin. But don’t forget Melbourne raves: home of the Melbourne shuffle, Internet-loving cyberdelica, and apparently, Julian Assange raving hard back in the 90s.
In these dark days of social media, maybe it’s worth revisiting why the Internet held promise for rave culture, for partying that had some wider awareness. That’s particularly apt in 2018 the Internet has proven a way of binding together scenes in techno and experimental electronic music and even encouraging activism.
Writer Simon Leo Brown of Australia’s ABC sends us this piece he’s just finished, revisiting that early culture. It’s likely to arouse some nostalgia I suspect in our Australian readers, and intrigue for the rest of the world:
Remarkably, promoters offered up the novelty of Internet at raves, and even had text-based chat terminals. (Hmm, actually, IRC on some vintage terminals might be cool all over again. In New York we used to have a club called Remote Lounge next to CBGB’s that did this with closed circuit video cameras – but only locally.)
The Internet ethos was part of the ethos and aesthetic of the Melbourne 90s scene, says Paul Fleckney, author of Techno Shuffle: Rave Culture and the Melbourne Underground. And he points to the term “cyberdelic” – part cyberspace, part psychedelic:
“That was something that I think was very exciting, and so the internet just added another dimension to this kind of sensory overload that you already got at a rave.
“You’ve got lights, you’ve got sound, you’ve video visuals and then now we’ve got this global interface with the world.”
Perhaps now as we face the tensions of an over-connected world is an even better time to process this psychedelic quality of connected-ness. In any event, for an emblem of that tension, for the rave’s freedom and the power of the Internet and its dark side, we have … Julian Assange on the dancefloor. Assange evidently went by the alias “Prof” in the Melbourne scene, as a regular of Dream nightclub in Carlton, which Assange himself wired up for the net. We don’t have video of that, but at least we do get some footage of Julian dancing in Iceland:
I, uh, don’t know how I feel if there’s footage of me somewhere, but there you go. I’m not interesting or important. Please don’t look it up. 😉
There’s plenty more to explore for us non-Australians about what Melbourne did. Check out Simon’s story and interview with Fleckney about the book – the plot is familiar, including the shift from an open, no bouncer safe space for the marginalized to the velvet-rope scene later, to the dark side of drug use and mental health.
There are also a couple of documentaries available online, including one from Thump on Melbourne’s early days:
And for anyone who wanted over an hour of feature-length documentary on the Melbourne shuffle, a fast-paced rave dance step, there’s this (the rest of us can watch and practice):