Sometimes you’ve just got to do it yourself: a peek into Sydney’s DIY party scene

It’s just gone past midnight. I’m standing on the edge of the park, aware there’s some sort of DIY party happening in the bushes of the vast field in front of me, but of course, these rural raves don’t often go by a street address. A cheap bottle of wine in my left hand, a smoke in the other, and somewhere ahead of me, I can hear the thumping of subs.

A steady and consistent, up-tempo tune. Probably another tech/house party. Better lock up the bike – the most versatile mode of transport deep into your typical Sydney park rave – somewhere in the bushes nearby.

As many Sydney-Siders have felt by now, the introduction of lockout laws, increases in security intervention in venues, and a complete lockdown on substance limitations and drug use have left many young punters wondering ‘where’s the party at?’ Or more specifically, ‘where’s the party gone?’

But rather than beating the usual drum over how much of a nanny state NSW is, or about how Sydney’s nightlife is dead, I’d like to point out the unlikely positives of the suffocating legal controls placed on our party scene.

sydney diy party scene article happy mag
Photos: Jack and Toby

A stimulant for growth in the underground: take a peek inside the sub-legal framework of Sydney’s DIY party scene.

I keep walking down the path, straining my ears for the source of sound. Over the hill, maybe? I cut across the grass and into the patch of trees and bush. It’s getting louder now. Just behind the hill’s peak I think I can see some blue and purple light, catching on the tips of the taller trees.

Yep, the DJ has definitely lined up some thick, juicy house bangers. I wonder if it’s a vinyl or just an mp3 setup…

It’s a difficult topic to discuss. Mostly because to reveal too much about the organisers and whereabouts of many of these ‘secret location’ parties would be to grab the underground by its shady neck and throw it into the spotlight. This of course leaves the scene vulnerable to all sorts of grotesque police party-hunters, senior sceptics, or raged up fight-starters who come and piss all over everything.

It’s also hard not to be too general, as the DIY party scene can often spontaneously erupt out of any small to medium capacity, somewhat isolated space. This can include parks, industrial districts, tunnels, bunkers, bridges, highways, laneways, or even the lounge room and backyard.

Many upcoming or undiscovered Sydney artists are finding their way around these gigs and parties more and more, showcasing the less conventional sounds of their musical repertoire and reproducing the ‘screw it, I’ll do it myself’ attitude which allows the scene to flourish and expand even further.

Sick. I’ve made it. 30 or so punters are surrounding me on the rural dance floor, challenging me to invent new modes of dance to accomodate the stoney, sloped surface upon which the party has been laid. The DJs have done well to set up a skimpy fold-up table amongst the stones and other party debris. At least they’ve got some weather protection beneath the wobbly square gazebo, which looks about as drunk as I feel.

But no one really notices. The par-cans and fairy lights, which climb up and shoot against the trees, transform the rural space into some sci-fi looking, off-planet wilderness. The speakers and subs, although quite small, do justice to the track spinning on the right-most deck.

And somewhere in the background, a little away from it all, chugs the generator which keeps the whole thing going. The setup is simple, minimalist, and relatively cheap, but the turnout and response to such a spontaneous, open and raw party option? Massive.

As someone who has attended and played many of these sub-legal parties, I hold the scene very close to heart and recognise that some things should be left unsaid, or preferably to be discovered in person. In saying that, these parties are special places for peculiar people to meet and express themselves without fear of judgement, or anxiety over behavioural regulations which are commonplace in legitimate venues.

Sydney’s underground should be recognised as one the most forthcoming and thriving music scenes Australia has right now. Which is why I feel it must be documented, however delicate a task that may be.