Moorabbin, March 2015. I’m sitting with Emmy Boudry in her garden on a warm autumn afternoon, listening to her stories, flicking through a photo album and swatting half-heartedly at a wasp that won’t leave us alone. “Street rave gave ordinary people a chance to view rave culture,” she says. “People got to experience the culture firsthand who wouldn’t normally see it except for the negative, distorted view from the media, i.e., dingy warehouse, everyone’s on drugs. Instead they saw the proper version of it.” I ask what she means by “proper”. She replies without hesitation: “A street full of ravers in broad daylight, loud and proud going, ‘We’re here, we’re loving it, this is it’.”
In 1991, Emmy and her boyfriend Mark Hogan shared a dilapidated Edwardian terrace on Moor Street, Fitzroy with four housemates. I imagine their living conditions as somewhere between Dogs in Space and The Young Ones, perhaps with less blood and more bass. After one too many house parties, Emmy proposed to take the party out onto the street. She secured the support of her housemates and friends across the road and then put it to her neighbours. Amazingly, the whole street signed up. Clearly, the latte-sipping gentrifiers had yet to colonise this well located if somewhat decrepit pocket of inner city Melbourne. Emmy presented her petition to the Fitzroy City Council and the officers granted her permission to close off the street. I can’t believe this would happen now. Street closures aren’t unprecedented in Melbourne, but for a rave?
Emmy set up a DJ rig in her front garden and hung a strobe in the upstairs bedroom. “We put flyers out at all the raves and about fifty people came down … we had Will E Tell and Hess and I think Richie Rich might have played. Mark played. Charm played. That was Street Rave 1 in a residential street.”
The following year, Emmy successfully lobbied the organisers of the Melbourne Fringe Festival to bring street rave into their program. Initially occupying just one block of Brunswick Street, by the end of the decade, the rave stretched from Alexandra Parade to Johnston Street, a distance of 500 metres. “Street rave thrived on the honest energy of ravers celebrating being a raver in full daylight,” Emmy says. “We had old people rocking out to techno and children watching the ravers … everyone’s happy, everyone’s smiling, there’s never any violence. The only thing was sometimes people got too excited and tried to dance on the shop rooves so we’d have to turn off the music and get the DJs to ask them to come down.”
In 1999, Mark and Emmy began a second street rave as part of the St Kilda Festival. They cordoned off Cavell Street, sandwiched between Luna Park and the Palais theatre. As the crowds swelled under the palm trees, the rave spilled out onto The Esplanade and stopped the traffic.
In the early days, the scene basked in a spirit of cooperation and unity. DJ Brewster B. tells me promoters wouldn’t usually put on a party on the same night as a competitor: Between 1990 and 1993, there was very little animosity within the scene. You didn’t have any harshness. Sure, there was always a little conflict here and there but the general vibe was everyone just got along. There was a harmony, a oneness. This oneness reached its zenith on Saturday 15 August 1992. The “Sydney cartel”, so the story goes, wanted to throw a party in Melbourne on the same night as Richard and Heidi. Mark James, Mark and Emmy and Richie Rich – at that time Melbourne’s biggest promoters – united with the Johns to put on Harmony at Footscray’s TVU Warehouse. “We all joined forces to show these Sydney promoters they couldn’t come to Melbourne and do a rave on our turf,” Emmy tells me. The Sydney crew got the message, packed up and went home. But they didn’t forget.
Years later, Richard John tried to hire Homebush stadium for a New Year’s Eve party and arranged to meet a promoter he knew at Sydney’s Central station. “I called up my contact and within half an hour eight of them came down the station and threatened and verbally abused me: ‘Who the fuck are you? You fucking Melbourne promoters. Coming up here, hiring Homebush to do New Year’s’. And I said, ‘No, I want to do it with you guys, I want us to work together’. But they weren’t interested, they wanted to beat the shit out of me.”
This is an edited extract from Techno Shuffle, a history of Melbourne’s rave and dance music culture, starting from 1976. Available now at melbournebooks.com.au and other local retailers.
This story originally appeared in Melbourne Print Issue 25.