Tim had his arms braced against the railing and a thoughtful look on his cherubic face as though he pondered, pondered the big questions, God and life, the unimaginables of the universe - though in reality, I knew, Tim likely pondered his plans for finally getting into Sandra’s pants at the festival.
I said, "Can you believe we're nearly there?"
"I know, Izz. It's about to get crayazzy."
Smug looks were exchanged. The sun streamed, the wind strained. A fierce joy jumped liquid-electric between us. For that morning Hawkes Lookout wasn’t just the gatekeeper to some wild valley.
That morning it was the gatekeeper to our generation's dream: one we’d waited for our entire lives: that Prince had shot to superstardom popping about.
New Year's Eve 1999 . . .
And the party that went along with it.
Except where we stood, what we were on the verge of now, wasn’t any old tinselled, tumbledown celebration. Not swaying shoulder to shoulder in some dilapidated club, not wine and cheese, families and fireworks.
No, ours was the most famous outdoor EDM festival in Aotearoa, world-renowned (at least we thought so) six dance arenas, three hundred DJs, ten thousand revellers all madly swirling around one lonesome, romantic hilltop for forty-eight continuous, wondrous hours.
The Gathering 2000.
It was a dream, this festival, even its website said so, telling us: The Gathering is a dream. A dream of hope that there is a place where we can exist without violence or hate, where our differences can unite instead of push us apart, where together we can create, experience, live, moments of perfection.
Moments of perfection. Needless to say my hazily-conceived but ardently-felt anticipation ran high, roaring through me like a river carving a canyon. It was my first year in the dance scene, when all was still bright with the compelling light of newness.
It was my first outdoor electronica festival - a sorcerous thing in my imaginings - an otherworldly place of all-day-and-night movement and music and jubilation under infinite, cheering skies.
And that's before the rumours. The rumours, my god!
It was said The Gathering was one of the safest places in the world if the Y2K bug struck. While missiles launched and planes came tumbling from the clouds, we would be off-the-grid and isolated, stomping it out.
It was said The Gathering had made Oprah’s top ten list of things to do for the millennium, and that it had sold out months in advance with tickets going as far afield as Brazil and Finland.
It was even said the local skinheads planned to descend en masse on the stroke of millennial midnight - anger in their hearts, violence on their minds - identifying all the loved up Gatherers in the dark, presumably, by the sheer number of sparkly things adorning their bodies.
Now, standing on that lookout, all this orbited me how I imagined a solar system might, like satellites. Curving and turning.
But even so, though I knew it all, every last rumour, had listened avidly to all of my friends’ stories and spent hours poring over the website and danced often in my mirror to the Gathering CD - look at the trees, these trees are wicked - but even so, even so, I still did not know what to expect, not really, not even then, standing next to Tim on that lookout, a few short kilometres away, the luminous morning of December the 30th 1999.
Except that it would suck, at the start of the grandest adventure of my life, if that taxi driver didn't come back with all of our stuff.
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