I was actually asked not to write about this topic so in order to stay in good books with certain peers but also write what I want to, I have used no real names. Things have been left deliberately vague where need be.
Carl had been talking about it for weeks. We were going to a doof.
You drive in on an old dirt road, wide enough for one and a half cars. On either side of the road, vehicles are parked bumper to bumper for the better part of 800 metres. As you go up the trail, amongst the eucalyptus trees that surround you; blue, green, purple and yellow lasers shoot through the fog and into the treetops as you roll past the epicentre. A large fire feasts on a large heap of firewood. Twenty something silhouettes sit around it.
Beyond them, a dancefloor where other dark shapes move their limbs in hypnosis with the heavy sounds. A smoke machine shrouds them from underneath the scaffolding construct that supports the sound deck and DJ. An old generator powers the stage and a projector, which throws psychedelic visuals upon a fabric screen erected between two trees. The bass rattles the car and fills you as you enter the party beneath the stars.
The adventure started late.
I had to attend dinner at a Chinese restaurant for my Mother’s birthday earlier in the evening. In retrospect, this episode of familial four star dining was starkly juxtaposed with the vaguely legal rave in the middle of the West Australian bush I attended only hours later.
For those unaware, a doof is a rave that is held in the bush. That is the easiest way to put it. They are held all over Australia, and it’s by no means a Perth thing. Due to their nature I can only give anecdotal evidence but it is my knowledge that the eastern states host a bigger scene. But what is incredibly interesting is the consistent prevalence of ‘underground’ communities on which these events survive. As luck would have it, a handful of my friends are part of said community.
We drove out of the city for $18 worth of fuel, down a narrow dirt track coming off a main road, and into the shrubs and darkness of some part of the State forests.
Often, these events have no Facebook pages. In our modern age, it’s impressive that gatherings of these sizes – easily 250 attended this particular doof I’m recalling – can still be thrown and attended entirely without social media presence. In fact, it seems to be unanimously accepted by all members of the doof community that social media presence is what most endangers it.
Instead, directions to almost impossible locations in the wilderness are sent by the organizers out to trusted close friends and regulars, whom only share those details via text with other close friends and regulars, and so on and so forth. In this way, a half-secret communications network is created.
I remember at about two thirty I was on the dancefloor, a wide clearing of dirt populated by about thirty others, moving their bodies to the deep kicks of bass projecting from the sound system. A guy in a woollen jumper approached me.
“Hey man,” he said with a perfectly relaxed demeanour.
“Do you want some acid?”
While everyone is feeling it, small micro-economies come into existence when a doof is on. A free market where everything is up for trade, from lantern oil and spare sleeping bags to high-quality psychedelics.
I started to explain that I’d love to but I have no money, and he hushed me instead.
“Put your tongue out,” he told me.
It was about an hour later I was gazing into one of two large communal bonfires. I was surrounded by just short of two dozen others trying to keep warm and I stared into the fire, fixated, for a good twenty five minutes.
Doofs run on two things: portable generators and close knit communities. Publicity is not wanted, and a good majority of doofers are regulars, most of whom will not be far separated from one another. Through certain spots around Fremantle, many backpackers become clued into the events, and you can usually spot a group of French or Dutch travellers in a van.
When I asked Carl if it would be cool to write something about the doof, he told me: “probably not.”
Earlier this year (read here) a man went missing at a doof after he wandered off into the bush and got lost for two days. There was a search party called and after that a brief media spotlight shone it’s eyes on the doofing scene once again (read here). There is a bigger threat to organizers than the police, however, and that is local councils and rangers. It goes without saying that legitimate land permits are uncommon. One event had to be shut down shortly after rangers caught on, which happened shortly after the aforementioned man went missing. Most ‘regulars’ blame media attention and uninformed newcomers to the scene for negative events.
A large part of their romantic allure are the often obscure locations selected, and the journeys to get there.
We got lost.
There’s a distinct memory I have of stopping the car on the way there in the middle of the wild bush. When the headlights went off, we were submerged in complete darkness. Inside the car, Carl and Pete both worked together to decipher the cryptic directions sent to them via SMS.
Sitting out there away from light pollution; under the mind-bending, cosmic beauty of the Milky Way in all its glory, we racked lines of speed off an old Thee Oh Sees CD.
It is these kind of strange and fringe experiences which make doofs so memorable and unique.
No matter how jaded you are, no matter your opinions on the EDM genre psytrance, no matter your opinion on drug use or environmental conservation or the law in general, one thing cannot be ignored or denied at a doof:
Community spirit is alive and well.
At least, until the sun comes up.
To attend a doof, you need to know someone, assuming you aren’t one of the people running it. For doofs, there are an entire plethora of local ‘non-mainstream’ DJ’s working all over Perth. They gain popularity over soundcloud and other file sharing websites, often picked up by other tech-savvy doofers.
On tech savviness, it’s interesting to note that the age demographic which doofs attract seems to have no definitions. Some doofs run for 72 hours. That’s why it’s surprising to see that, putting it bluntly:
There are heaps of old hippies still going strong.
It’s comforting to know that the rabbit hole can still be found.