It may be hard for younger members of Sydney’s LGBTI community to imagine given the fragmented nature of the gay scene nowadays, but in the late ’80s, the city’s queer clubbers would come together en masse at regular parties so large they had to be held at Moore Park’s expansive Hordern Pavilion.
Veteran DJ and promoter Paul Holden was the man behind the most popular of these, the Bacchanalia parties, which regularly attracted crowds of more than 6000.
“We went from 3000 people at our first party to a sold-out six and a half thousand people three parties later,” Holden told the Star Observer.
“Suddenly, every man and his dog wanted to be a dance party promoter and you couldn’t get a booking at the Hordern on a Saturday night.
“There was a heyday of about four and a half years there where the Hordern hosted a party every weekend.”
Its title derived from the wild and orgiastic ancient Greek festivals of the same name, Bacchanalia was primarily a showcase for an emerging sound that would go on to influence the modern musical landscape: house.
“I was very into excellence in sound and light production, rather than focusing on fancy decor,” Holden said. “The focus was the music. Disco had died, new wave came along in the early ’80s but from ’85 onwards you started to get the beginnings of house music.”
Hip house, acid house, Detroit house, Chicago house — all the permutations were covered. They’ll all be on show at a reunion party of sorts, Bacchanalia: The Dawn of House, to be held at the Imperial Hotel on July 7.
Holden will DJ for seven hours at the event, which he hopes will draw many of those who attended the original ’80s parties.
“There’s a real reunion aspect to the night. I know some people from that era have grown up, settled down and partnered up, but I hope they’ll come out for one night and relive the old times.”
Holden was also keen to stress his purist policy as a DJ — 100 percent vinyl all night.
“I’m quite disappointed, as a working DJ, the number of clubs that don’t even have turntables to use. A CD just does not have the warmth and the bass that vinyl does.
“I’m proud that I can state that the whole night will be vinyl, on turntables, being mixed — no CDs or computers.”
INFO: Bacchanalia: The Dawn of House, Imperial Hotel, July 7, 10pm-5am. $15 on the door.