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Something Good

Music | Friday, July 21st, 2006 | 10 years, 10 months ago

The Hullabaloo website is giving away MP3 versions of every DJ mix ever recorded at a Hullabaloo rave at a rate of one per week. What is Hullabaloo and why should you care?

I attended my first rave in October of 1996 – Destiny 16 in an abandoned supermarket on Jane street. I instantly fell in love. The place was huge with 2 gigantic “rooms” separated by a curtain, each featuring a stage with a lone DJ behind record decks playing electronic music. In the shells of storefronts were little chillout areas with projectors showing psychedelic animations and vendors selling funky shirts and mixtapes.

Having been to a couple of nightclubs it struck me as very odd to see thousands of people dancing facing the DJ at the front. Nobody was checking eachother out. No slimeball assholes were cruising sluttily clad young women with low self esteem. People were dressed colourfully, were smiling and laughing and carrying on, and sitting down at random to talk with strangers.

But it was the dancers that mesmerised me so. This rolling sea of heads and hands like cilia waving on a hardwood membrane. All in unison.

My friend Joel and I frequented a rave club called The SpacE! at 28 Gunns Road for maybe 100 consecutive Fridays. This little place was the epitome of underground. I adored every square inch of that place. It had a largeish undecorated main room with towering stacks of speakers on either side of a DJ table. A pillar in front of the decks sported a florescent orange sign reminding DJs that “Louder isn’t better, better is better.” A neon-striped hallway led to the second room surrounded by oversoft couches which remained quieter and void of DJs except for on special events.

One such special event was Hullabaloo, a rave featuring a variety of musical styles but primarily highlighting happy hardcore techno. DJ Hixxy was booked that night but supposedly was held up at the airport and could not attend. It didn’t matter. In terms of organization it may have been little more than an ordinary night at The SpacE!, but this thin, intangible sizzling electricity filled the air. A certain breed of raver was drawn to this party for some reason – decent people who didn’t have to know eachother to be happy to see eachother. This was a somewhat foreign concept to me as an 18-year-old dabbling in goth and grunge culture, but it was impossible not to get caught up in the flow. Hardcore, breakbeats, and jungle made my feet move for hours and hours.

In truth it was one of the tamer, less eventful raves I’ve been to, but I’ll never ever forget it.

I braved an inconceivably packed and sweaty bottom floor to see DJ Vinylgroover and MC Ruff at the second Hulla. I reclined against a wall and hogged one of few fans as I watched the enormous and intimidating MC Ruff singing and dancing like an elated 6 year old on his birthday, revving up everyone in the room with every lyric. I couldn’t stand the heat any longer than the span of that one DJ set so I enjoyed the thumpy goodness of the upstairs trance room until the early hours of morning; rectangular sunbeams sweeping slowly over a never-resting crowd.

The third Hulla is the scene of one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I’d been enjoying the night very much and was walking through a wide hall on the way to another room for another adventure when a many-necklaced girl stopped me, smiling. “Would you like a bracelet?” she trilled happily. I asked “How much?” “Nothing! Please have this!” She slipped a thick wooden bead bracelet over my wrist, gazed softly deep into my eyes, planting flowers in my brain with her pupils, and skipped away to give a present to someone else. I stood there for about 30 seconds drinking in the enormity of her action. It would change me forever. I gave the bracelet away to a friend a year later but I kept a few beads to remind me of the goodness of giving. That single act by a stranger saved my life time and again in my darkest hours when I had little faith in the world.

I met my friend Max at Hullabaloo 4 at The Warehouse. I also met my friend Ebineezer Goode that night. Max and I are still friends after these 9-odd years. I’m seeing him this weekend. Our chance meeting was so infinitesimally unlikely and we’ve remained in touch all this time. Mind boggling.

I met my very good friend Jules at another Hulla (7?). I was getting antsy sitting in one of few couches for hours (once you’re lucky enough to get one you guard it with your life) and my attention was wandering from my friends. Near me sat Jules, a lovely girl a bit older than me, who was bummed out because she couldn’t her friend she came with. We chatted and chatted and chatted, finally exchanging numbers. She’s now one of my best friends and we’ll be chums forever. Another insanely unlikely meeting – if her friend hadn’t gotten lost we’d both just be specks in the crowd. The power of the unlikely.

And that’s the significance of Hullabaloo. A Hulla-day was a holiday. I’d think of little else in the closing weeks before a party. I’d bring notebooks for my new friends to sign and stickers to put in theirs. I’d make copies of my favourite tapes and hand them to strangers. I’d buy people water, help friends find lost mates, and I’d be helped by others more times than I can count.

The “real time” of these 10-hour marathons was so tangible you could cut it with a knife. Sometimes I’d find a night dragging on, sometimes I’d blink and it would be over, and by the end of the night my head would be swimming with all the fun and people and activities and music and all-round pleasantness I’d enjoyed that whole night.

The drive home was always a quiet and intraspective conclusion. Toronto sleeps Sunday mornings and on my way home from a Hulla party the city was mine. I’d drive right on the speed limit just to prolong the silent stillness of the otherwise bustling metropolis. I’d think up poetry, I’d mentally adlib with the music I was listening to on my car stereo, I’d plan the rest of my week… the 30 minutes it took me to get home from Hulla parties were probably the most productive for years.

I attended the first 17 consecutive Hullas, and one or two after that. In the end there would be 41 Hullabaloo raves. I outgrew what the scene had become but I’ll never outgrow its legacy. I truly feel powerful knowing I was part of something so underground yet so important. Raving was a movement, but an apolitical movement. We did it because we were free to, and we clung to that freedom with our lives. We really accomplished something by accomplishing nothing.

And so I am ecstatic that DJ Anabolic Frolic, world famous hardcore DJ and Hullabaloo founder, is releasing his huge archive of Hullabaloo mixtapes one week at a time. For a look into the inner workings of my demodulator, be sure to check the site from time to time.

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