At The Gathering

Nelson Mail special feature 1 January 1999

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Walls of pulse-stopping techno sound, spectacular fireworks and a multitude of fire jugglers kept the 9000-strong Gathering crowd on their feet partying into the New Year.

An interior car fire at 3.15am today was the only incident to mar the night at Canaan Downs on the top of Takaka Hill. No one was injured in the fire, which destroyed the interior of a Landcruiser. Fire crew stationed nearby quickly got the blaze under control.

Traffic was already slowly leaving the site this morning.

The 48-hour dance party launched into life yesterday afternoon with a powerful taiko drumming display. It peaked at midnight when an estimated 6000 partygoers gathered in the main trance zone to wildly greet the New Year. Co-organiser Greg Shaw said the crowd was well-behaved and there were no reported incidents of theft, drug problems or assaults.

Mr Shaw said The Gathering had broken even, with more than 8000 ticket sales. More than 1000 site crew boosted the numbers present to more than that of last year's event. "We'll be able to pay the bills and buy the best dance party we could," said Mr Shaw.

He said that everything had gone according to plan so far. "We've had no major drug incidents or blocks on the road and only a few accidental cuts and grazes." Mr Shaw said tickets to The Gathering would remain on sale in Motueka today.

When asked as to the possibility of a similar event next year, he said "Ask me in two days when this is over."

The dance party with its seven zones, some of which have been set up in huge tents, attracted people from around the country and artists from overseas. Huge amounts of work have made each zone a totally different sound and visual experience.

The packed, hot black plastic-lined hardcore tent was lit by the synchronised pulse of strobe lights, while the ambient zone had been set up in a peaceful natural amphitheatre in the ground, with coloured lights and art works.

A huge projection screen flashed images over the crowd in the large trance zone which was half circled by beech trees. Huge silver balls spun overhead and strobes and coloured lights pulsed. The alien starship installation seemed to hover over the crowd which danced amid the sound, pumped out from huge speaker stacks decorated to look like giant trumpets.

Layers of colourful clothes, individual hairstyles and painted faces bedecked the raving crowd. The occasional whiff of marijuana passed on the breeze, very little alcohol was visible. A security guard said last night that guards had confiscated 3000 cans of beer and "hundreds" of bottles of spirits from partygoers who were searched at the gates as they entered the site. He said people had made $46,000 worth of EFTPOS transactions through an EFTPOS operator working out of a van on the site.

Mr Shaw said most of the partygoers were expected to rest today and surge back into life tonight. The reaction from partygoers was enthusiastic.

Brett Davies of Dunedin said it was an "excellent" party. "Basically it is what you make it, but everyone is throwing themselves into it this year," he said.

Cameron Axis of Wellington described it as a "sensory overload beyond recognition", while a somewhat dazed Rob Wilson of Wellington said: "So many people, so many things to do - it's been an excellent time".

The party is due to close down at noon tomorrow.


Caption: Photo HELEN MURDOCH Taiko drummers beat out a rhythm to mark the start of the Gathering. Photos MARTIN DE RUYTER The start of the New Year was marked with a fire show, including the burning of a heart-shaped design at this year's Gathering. Under the light of the moon, dancers pack the Trace-Techno zone at the Gathering last night. The packed Gathering site at Canaan Downs at the top of Takaka Hill. The main camping area is to the right, with the stalls and dance zones to the left. Photo taken yesterday. Rachel Taylor of Christchurch had plenty of energy for her second Gathering. Crew member Marz of Wellington puts the finishing touches to the Star Gate at the entrance to the Trance- Techno zone of the Gathering yesterday. Vanessa Patea played the part of Potini the Taniwha during a performance by the Nelson group, Mystery at the Gathering. Performer Cathy Mish-Wills of Wellington entertains the Gathering crowd on New Year's Eve.

Helen Murdoch, Nelson Mail special feature, 1 January 1999

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