Gathering all dance fans

New Plymouth Daily News, 20 December 2001

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BORED with unruly New Year's Eve entertainment?

You could join one the many thousands heading for The Gathering - New Zealand's most famous dance festival - in the Cobb Valley near Takaka (near Nelson).

This year's Gathering - the sixth - is in a site used for the first time successfully last year.

Although organiser Murray Kingi ran into money woes when returns from ticket sales didn't match up to what he'd been told had sold, the festival is still going strong.

Marketing manager Danny O'Donnell says this year's lineup is one the strongest so far, and with one of my favourite UK DJs John Digweed among them, I wish I was going myself. Digweed heads a cast of 14 international DJs, including Austin Leeds, Kasey Taylor, Gavin Martin, LAB4, Eamonn (Fevah UK) and Ian Mac.

But there are also 132 New Zealand DJs including some of our finest such as the Salmonella soundsystem, Ryan, Dannyboy, Filter, Flux, Callam, OB1, Downtown Brown and DLT.

There are 21 or so live acts including Salmonella Dub, Pitch Black, King Kapisi, Emma Paki, Blackseeds, Concord Dawn, Epsilon Blue, Freq and Rotor. The list goes on and on, and so will the music. There are seven different zones of dance music.

Danny O'Donnell says the shift of site was important, to give the old site a rest after four Gatherings. The new site has attracted some criticism, but Danny says it has its advantages, the main one being a sealed road right through the site which made logistics a breeze, instead of the muddy nightmare of the original location.

The local council is very happy to encourage the festival, he says, with the expected 10,000 plus people bringing in an estimated $2 million to $5 million to the local community.

One the factors behind the success of the Gatherings has been the attention to health and safety and security. Alcohol is banned and the health support for anyone getting ill or having drug trouble has made The Gathering the safest big festival in the country.

Put it this way - no one has died there and with 10,000 people enjoying themselves for three days, that's a pretty good track record.

The 72-hour party starts at noon December 31 (gates open noon Dec 30) and ends at midday on January 3. There are no gate sales and no passouts so you need to go prepared. There's a great little booklet available with heaps of advice if you haven't been before.

The toilet facilities keep on getting better - this year featuring eight flash container toilets which are a cut above the 183 portaloos they'll have on site. There's a general store, drinking water, pay showers, eftpos terminals, security lockups and rubbish recycling. The site has two river swimming holes which will have lifeguards on duty.

Food tents will offer a large variety from vegan to junk food, and there are two market places which will include healthy options like massage or the less-healthy like piercing.

There will even be an area full of play equipment for kids, staffed by supervisors (but not a baby-sitting service).

Tickets are selling fast, says Danny, and the crowd may well exceed 10,000.

Asked how they overcame last year's money woes, Danny said they got a creditors' resolution which means the creditors are quite happy to wait - and it looks as if they will all get their money back this year.

"It wasn't bad management," Danny was quick to stress, "we were ripped off." And this year they are using different ticket sellers, he says.

The Gathering is more than three days of music - it also becomes a gathering of people from all walks of life. It also incorporates many artists - with the art crew being second in size only to the technical crew which erect the sound equipment and lighting etc.

The music covers everything from trance to drum n bass, but this year for the first time includes jazz, classical, world music and even Chris Knox. Throw in a range of weird and wonderful costumes, shuffling furry creatures, stilt walkers and slime monsters, fire pois and jugglers, and you start to get the picture - not to mention the video DJs.

There are always a few who overdose on certain substances and make fools of themselves - like the guy last year who writhed around naked on the dance floor with a beer bottle up his backside, but this sort of performance is frowned upon, so try not to acts like pratts, it isn't a pretty sight.


Caption: GATHERING STEAM: The country's biggest dance festival, The Gathering, cranks up again on December 31 in the Cobb Valley.

Nigel Carter, New Plymouth Daily News, 20 December 2001

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