Monday, January 22, 2007

Canaan Uprising 2007: This Place Loves Parties

Time to weigh in on my New Year's, not least because I feel obligated to spread the word. Uprising is the place to be for New Year's 2008. Consider yourself informed.

I've been involved in New Year's parties in Golden Bay for several years now, but never at the Canaan Downs site. Dancing outdoors serves something primal inside me. The party experience forces me to face my demons, but rewards me richly if I persevere. I couldn't imagine never opening myself to the experience ever again.

My 'dancing barefoot outdoors' story began less than favourably, with the last Gathering at the Cobb Valley site. Enough has been said about that. Following that there were several years of Visionz parties at Pakawau. The Pakawau site was soft and gentle, fringed by Kahurangi National Park and across the road from a warm, shallow beach. However eventually the land was sold, and Visionz put on hold.

Visionz was followed by the challenging experience that was Full Circle, again at the Cobb Valley site. After a year off in Wellington to recover, it was time to take on a Golden Bay New Year's once again.

Hamish and I arrived at Canaan on the 30th, so that Hamish could set up his VJ gear in the Chill Zone. In the end he also spent quite a bit of time helping in the main zone. For once Hamish was there as a paid performer, and I was there as his 'plus one'. It was odd for me to sit around with nothing to do while everything laboured to pull the party together. It's not an experience I'm keen to repeat.

Canaan is a beautiful site - flat, covered in long grass, gorseless, thistleless, and edged by mature, shady trees. However the first inkling I had that this was going to be something special hit when the PA powered up for the first time in the main zone. It's difficult to describe exactly what happened, however it seemed like the earth both expanded and curved upwards the instant the music kicked in. I felt that the land was opening up and then embracing us - stretching and awakening in pleasure.

From the pyramids placed around the site in accordance with sacred geometry to the opening ceremony, this seemed like a conscious party. In the time I was there I saw not one voice raised in anger, no aggression, no anguish - only happiness, excitement and energy. There was silence and calm for those that wanted it, and there was loud banging noise for those who could not contain themselves any longer.

If there was one thing I would have changed, it would have been for the weather to have been better. On top of Takaka Hill it can be both cold and wet, and it was both of those things intermittently. However Adham Sheikh played beats that parted the clouds, and there was, as there always is, sun on the last day to dry out the mud.

So the music? Paddy Free was brilliant, with his increasingly earthy and spiritual beats proving a favourite with the crowd. However, all the live acts on the main stage during the day were fantastic. The glockenspeils in particular were a hit, and AJ never seemed to leave the stage.

At night the beats were appropriately hard, deep and loud. The Nomad played in the New Year with style. Aviel did what Aviel does best. I remember giving into the cold and lying in the warm of our tent listening to Vinyl Bitch sending shockwaves pouring across the sky. While it wasn't the kind of music I would normally choose to listen to, I had immense respect for the power of it all.

At some point on New Year's Eve, sitting around a fire at the back of the main zone while Hamish performed, I felt an intense need for a hug. I wandered around looking for a familiar face. The first person I came across was Keith - smelly feral hippy par excellence. Keith was more than happy to engage in some lengthy hugging, bless him.

In the Chill zone there were small moments of exquisite beauty. I remember standing beside the VJ booth smiling inanely for a significant period of time. I remember Hallelujah Song, and Naomi's lush visuals.

Hamish VJed in both the main zone and Chill. I sat next to him on the main stage while Aviel mixed, looking out at the mad crowd. I felt immensely proud of him and happy to be here, now, in this place.

All of those things that go towards creating a good party were there. There were workshops, Olliebollen, bacon sandwiches, and cheap and appealing locally made clothing stalls. The usual Golden Bay crowd were there, with the usual annual catch-up conversations to be had. When I wanted to talk, I talked. When I wanted to dance I did so. I explored, ate, lay in the sun, sheltered from the rain. I slept like the cliched baby in our little tent under the trees, to the sound of progressive trance, a few minutes' walk from the main zone.

On the last day children made mud sculptures at the front of the main zone and played around on a huge blue ball. Adham Sheikh played out the last official set. It had all seemed so short and we were keen to continue, so there was an open decks session that lasted for a good couple of hours. In the end the rain came down, and at a certain point there was a universal feeling that things were coming to their natural end. The taiko drums played, and the party came to a close.

Hamish and I had expected to stay another night, as there are always afterparties to be had. However come 4 o'clock, Hamish having been paid, we were sitting in our car watching the rain, and it occured to us that we could still pack up and be at a campground with access to showers and hot water that night. Besides - Cornerstone Roots were playing at The Mussel Inn.

We succumbed to the feeling that, for us, the party had reached its natural conclusion. We spent that night drinking cider and dancing to Cornerstone. All in all this had been a great party. Next year, with ownership of the land secured, and a smaller-scale party successfully managed, will be HUGE. The spirit of the old Canaan parties is surely awakened.

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