Photography / Charles Buenconsejo
Morning raves are all the rage in Europe. Now, Auckland’s started getting up early too.
Stiletto-clad revellers, barely-awake early commuters and shop owners sluggishly dusting the previous night’s debris from their doorsteps are common sights on Karangahape Road on any given morning. At 6.30am, languor sits heavy in the air, and businesses here embrace a later start time than the rest of the city. If I hadn’t known about the morning rave, I would have barely noticed the people in leggings trickling one by one into St Kevin’s Arcade.
Rather sheepishly, I followed, ignoring the memo about wearing exercise gear and opting for a stifling turtleneck because I hadn’t planned on actually dancing. The electronic music blared out of the stairwell and echoed into the otherwise peaceful arcade. I climbed down the candlelit stairs to Whammy Backroom. A rather excitable man met me at the door, still jigging as he introduced himself. It was Jamie Newman, one-half of the duo behind Morning People, a fortnightly morning rave that began last year.
“Would you like a coffee?” he practically shouted at me. It was barely past seven, there were about 30 people in the room, and the DJ was already very involved in his set. A girl dropped it low nearby, another person headbanged, and others kept their eyes closed, swaying and tapping their feet to the deep bass. Yes. Yes, I would need a coffee.
Clasping the vessel I was given – a bizarre Princess Diana and Prince Charles special anniversary cup-and-saucer set – I shuffled toward the back of the room and sat down to watch. After a short time, my brow felt sweaty and I figured I may as well join in. Up and bobbing to the electronic beats, I shuffled out of Newman’s way, as he strategically manoeuvred a platter of mandarins about the room. The multi-coloured disco lights and bunting and hot, muggy air tricked my body clock into thinking it was night, so I melted into the mass of pre-work party people, all of us encouraged by Newman, leading the pack with a ferocious rhythm.
Post-rave, I met Newman and creative partner Vanessa Scott for another coffee, but this time in the light of day. Sans sweat, I realised they weren’t the grungy, dishevelled party-hard people I imagined, but clean-cut, both dressed in white shirts and meeting me on their respective lunch breaks. Newman’s been working in the music industry for 20 years, and Scott’s a self-professed “mum-preneur”. They simply just love to dance. The Grey Lynn arm of No Lights No Lycra, a pitch-black Monday night dance party, was their first venture. After realising its success, partying in the early hours on a weekday seemed a natural next step. Popular early-morning raves in cities such as Berlin and London inspired them, and so they began Morning People, Whammy Backroom’s fortnightly morning rave, open to everyone, with just a $10 price tag.
Scott tired of late nights out – the taxi fares, hangovers and money spent on alcohol – so they’ve stripped back the substances and made the event a sober zone, serving fresh fruit and coffee instead. “We keep the best 90 minutes of the DJ set and take away all the extraneous stuff and just focus on the best part, which for me is the music, the dancing and the people,” she says. She also sees the early morning as a special time of day: “People are really impressionable, you’re in quite a raw state. It’s an innocent part of the day and if you create something very positive at that time, it’s going to take you through the rest of the day in a better frame of mind.” Adds Newman: “We’re finding that a lot of people surprise themselves, and they don’t actually have to get up that much earlier. It’s just about adjusting their schedule to fit it in.”
And its popularity is growing. An event featuring electronic band Yoko-Zuna, who treated ravers to Daft Punk covers, attracted around 100 people. The pair says they feel there’s a lot of room for growth, and the eventual goal is to get morning raves happening across the city. “We’ve thought really hard about creating an experience that people really love, and that’s why it’s exciting, because it’s really starting to take off,” says Newman.