Checkpoint Charlie, Wairarapa, January 2000
When I moved to Wellington back in the early-90s my first flat was a big warehouse full of boys, and a few of them had connections to the audio-visual industry in town. These crew & riggers worked hard, late nights, so when they threw parties, the thought B-I-G, and this culminated in the legendary Mu Mu Land nights that used to take place out in the Manukau forest. (A You Tube vid of an old the 1997 Mu Mu is here) In many ways these rave-ish sorts of things were the predecessors to the Gathering and other big outdoor parties here in NZ, where ravers, bogans, hippies, druggies, rockers & party people got together for a mad, genre-bending mix of music… with huge bloody lasers. Lasers so big they had a Para Pool of water on hand to cool them. By the new millenium, Mu Mu Land had morphed into Checkpoint Charlie, and shifted over the hill to a forest glade by Lake Wairarapa, and it’s ambitions climbed as well. It all began, as the back of the ticket/badge says at “8pm, 21st day of the 21st century”. The production efforts and resulting decoration of the bush were amazing - come nightfall, with all the flouro banners and sculptures, with the lasers bouncing & spinning off the tree canopy you would swear you were in a super club, albeit with a slightly muddy floor. Forget Ibiza; this was the real thing. There were DJs dropping techno, trance, ambient house, splicing in Nirvana, Echo & the Bunnymen, Dire Straits, there was even live opera singing at earlier nights. In 2000 the line-up included two great overseas acts - UK trance & laser-fiend K-90, and the astounding live performance of Rabbit in the Moon. These guys were simply nuts. Fully fluoro'd dancers like scarecrows made out of glow sticks instead of straw, flinging arm loads of them out into the glade. Spraying sparks from angle grinders on stage - at one point they got a punter up there, put a metal face mask on him, and ground away on that, spryiong sparks from the guys head. Mental. Utterly top shelf events, and credit to all the work the organisers used to put in. Come sun up you really wondering what went on in that forest just earlier, and did I imagine some of that? I am not sure what happened to these nights later on - probably crushed under financing I bet. No other artist could sum up the bonkers attitude behind these nights better than The KLF, so here’s ‘Last Train To Trancentral’.