Between four walls


BlissMy love for psy-trance was born in the outdoors. It was something about dancing under the stars, flailing my arms wildly with my inhibitions left far behind in the city. It was something about the smell of the cool earth beneath my feet and that magic time just before the sun dipped behind the hills on a beautiful farm somewhere in the Western Cape when the fluorescent décor started to glow ominously and people slowly started stomping their feet to the beat – the start of a dance ritual lasting up to four solid days.

It was these things and much more that first attracted me to a scene that has evolved rapidly and is today widely accepted as the ‘trance way of life’ nearly twenty years after a French man who went by the DJ name of Dhya first brought psy vinyls from his home country and started spinning them at outdoor venues around Cape Town. Grant and Colin, owners of Vortex and Alien Safari respectively then went on to wholly export this weird and wonderful brand of dance music to Cape Town, starting their project indoors with a small and separate dancefloor exclusively playing psy-trance at the annual new year’s eve Synergy ‘rave’ parties.

But before I bore you with all my “Before trance became commercial… and “You lighties don’t know how it used to be…” and “Where’s all the love gone…” bullshit, let me assure you that this long introduction is all for good reason. The main one being that before this weekend I hadn’t been to an indoor party since Skazi played at Thunder City – an airplane hanger at Cape Town airport that used to be where an company called Transgression hosted winter parties for a couple years.

I have always found indoor parties to be in contradiction to what I feel the very essence of the psy-trance experience is all about – music, nature and wild abandon, not gloves, glowsticks and tiger balm. Well, when a colleague offered me a freebie and it happened to be a friend’s birthday on the same night, I could hardly think of a reason why not to suck it up and revisit the indoor scene, which I had always looked down upon as the outdoor version’s slightly retarded and annoying cousin.

On Saturday I attended “Aurora presents Bliss” at the Side Show in Cape Town. I had twice seen Bliss before – once at an Easter Vortex at the infamous apple farm in Grabouw and then more recently at a Resonance new years party.

When we arrived at around 21h30 the venue was already filling up quickly. After getting in a few drinks at the main bar we took a walk around and I noticed that the venue was quite a lot bigger than I had anticipated. With two dancefloors, lots of indoor and outdoor chill areas, three or four bars and a deck on the roof for trancers wanting some fresh air, Side Show is a pretty awesome place to throw an outdoor party.

But you’re probably more interested in hearing about the music, so here goes. Hektek Elektrek and Gokon Rave played the first two sets on the main floor and nothing I heard during this time really excited me. Perhaps I’m a fogey because I think most of the psy played these days is too ‘ravey’ – building and breaking very unimaginatively – but in my opinion, this music wasn’t in its very nature at all psychedelic and instead of feeling like I could let go of myself  to the music, I felt more like I was being given marching orders by the music, and very fast ones at that.

Later on Headroom played his brand of deep, pulsing psy, which made me feel more at home. Having always been a fan of his sets at outdoor parties, Headroom had a visible impact on the dancefloor: Eyes began to close and heads tilted back.

About halfway through Headroom’s set I went to see what the DJ upstairs was up to, and was really happy to bounce around to the more minimal trance that Plusminus was spitting out. I found a roomy spot at the back of the floor near the bar and jumped around until I could hear Bliss announcing his arrival downstairs. I’ll admit, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the upstairs dancefloor I was so enjoying right away, but Bliss was the act we had all come to see, so I made my way to the main dancefloor downstairs.

The best way I can think to describe the trance that Bliss plays, is fun. Hard, groovy and fun. Although the dancefloor was absolutely jam-packed, I managed to jump up and down (there was no space for elbows) to his beats and I most definitely enjoyed his set a great deal. When I couldn’t bare to bounce up and down anymore with the tiny amount of space around me, I sat on one of the couches right next to the floor and ended up in a really awesome conversation with a stranger. It wasn’t necessarily what we discussed or how we came to get talking, but it turned out that we shared very similar ideologies towards life and we were both glad to be out having a good time on a Saturday night. Nothing profound really, is it!?

“Thanks man, you made my night!” he said before disappearing into the throbbing crowd. It was at that point I realised something. For the most part it’s the people that make the party. Sure, outdoor parties offer something that indoors simply cannot.

Replicating the outdoor experience between four walls is impossible. The magic of an outdoor party is something truly unique but it’s only one expression of psy-trance culture. The spirit of what psy-trance is about is not all lost indoors and this was about the best it was ever going to get between four walls.

Article contributed by Simon Capstick-Dale // @psymanz