As the Uber arrived, there was a moment of uncertainty. Could this be it? Not the standard sedan, our ride into Bulli, a coastal town just over an hour south of Sydney, was a four door ute. Stepping down from the vehicle onto the gravel turning circle outside a utilitarian brick structure, the same thought returned: are we in the right place? One step inside and all those questions were gone. Just as when one rounds a dark corner and begins to hear the thumping bass that signals a non-descript corrugated iron warehouse has been converted into a home for ravers, the dance obsessed and those avoiding the over-bearing presence of nightclub security, we knew instantly that this was it. This was Last Dance.
A collaboration between Sydney crew Astral People and Wollongong legends Yours and Owls, Last Dance with its combination of beach-side serenity and industrial intensity had clearly captured the imagination of a generation of party-goers. Hundreds had turned the Bulli Showgrounds and race track into a free-flowing celebration of the jazz-inflected tones of contemporary house. Taking centre stage in this endeavour was headliner Motor City Drum Ensemble. Combining the historical origins of house in the autometropolis of Detroit with the genre’s current conventions in the similarly auto-focused German cities, Motor City Drum Ensemble brought a vibrant lyricism to house, including afrobeat samples during his Last Dance set.
While this action was being conducted in a cube of fluorescent lights within the giant hangar-like space, outside on the lawns that picked up the cool sea breeze, Nite Fleit was conducting a masterclass in the consistent thrust of techno. Originally a local, but now laying down beats on London-based wavelengths, Nite Fleit settled into a consistent groove that kept the denizens of the dance enraptured for her over an hour long set. Taking the audience over the midnight lurch, there was no break or singing of Auld Lang Syne; by this point we were all subsumed in the beat. Fellow Australia to London transplant Mall Grab continued the vibes until close, as revellers made plans for 2019 in the stand overlooking the race track, continued the party back in Wollongong or filtered out into the night and onto the beach to watch as the sun rose above the ocean.
Combining the familiar with the unexpected, if Last Dance is to continue, it should be as an inspiration to others. Between the stages and amid the flow of people, on lawn chairs and on the bleachers, human connections were being made. Last Dance was a reminder that in spaces outside of the norm, people can come together in ways that transcend any location.