The location for the rave was announced online about two hours before doors opened. (Supplied)
The balloons come out at 1am, and the crowd can’t get enough.
What is a ‘nang’?
- A “nang” is the street name given to a small canister of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas
- It is available over the counter, and has various uses including in medicine and hospitality
- However, selling it for non-medical human consumption is illegal in NSW
- It can cause brain damage, memory loss, a weakened immune system and incontinence
They are served over a non-descript bar, in a non-descript warehouse, in a non-descript street.
First the partygoers pay $5, then they take the balloons and wrap their lips around them.
Then they take a long, deep breath and enjoy the high.
This is raving — Sydney style — where an all-night party subculture is celebrated with this one-part above-board, two-parts clandestine playground.
Being served over the bar is nitrous oxide — known on the street as “nangs”.
It’s a chemical sold in small silver canisters at supermarkets and used by restaurants to whip cream, in aerosol sprays and as an anaesthetic.
Nangs affect people differently and can cause brain damage, memory loss, incontinence and ringing or buzzing in the ears.
The nang bar at this rave — put on by “Motorik”, an electronic music label based in Sydney — is so popular, patrons are told to bring back balloons if they want more.
As the night wears on, balloons are in short supply.
“Basically, it just makes you feel super floaty,” says Michael*, who was at the rave.
People can also BYO alcohol to Motorik’s party, but its not the main attraction tonight.
‘Get ready to fly’
Secrecy is a selling point. The parties are promoted on Facebook and people buy tickets for up to $50. The venue is billed as a “TBA warehouse”.
“Get ready to fly away on a single red luft-balloon, because we’re here to play,” it says on the invite.
“Love is love and rave is rave, let’s join our favourite things together and sweat the night away.”
Partygoers find out where they will be going two hours before it starts via an email which reminds the attendees: “Arrive and leave discreetly — don’t hang around on the surrounding streets.”
“The secretiveness of the venue, does make you feel special as not just anyone can attend,” says Tom*, who started getting into raving only recently.
The only external mark that sets the Marrickville warehouse apart from the neighbouring buildings is the faint music and a blue door with a security guard standing in front of it.
Tom does not think it is dangerous.
“There are no fights or anything,” he said.
“Also the fact there are minimal security and police presence, which are very rarely needed anyway as everyone respects the venue and each other.”
Claire* goes to raves regularly and said she felt safer at a Motorik party than a nightclub.
“As a girl in clubs often guys are creepy and will hit on you, whereas in the underground scene I don’t feel it’s like that at all,” she said.
Avoiding sleazy men is also part of the appeal for Laura*, who works for a government organisation.
“Clubs these days have somehow become more about hooking up than having a fun time with your friends, so I find raves a much better party environment,” she said.
Motorik has an ABN and lists Angus Gruzman, Timothy O’Driscoll and brothers Patrick and Andrew Santamaria as its equal owners.
Gruzman, and the Santamarias, were staples of the electronic scene 10 years ago.
In response to specific questions about the nangs and how the event is organised, Gruzman said: “Have a nice life you loser.”
‘It’s a bit of a secret’
Most of the men are shirtless and many of the ravers are smoking cigarettes indoors.
Veronica* also comes to the warehouse for Motorik’s environment.
“You can dance all night in a sick venue and it all feels extra special when it’s a bit of a secret,” she says.
Within the warehouse, there are several rooms for ravers to explore.
The first room contains three staff who tick off names, to check they’ve pre-paid for a ticket.
Another room is dark and hosts the DJ, the dance floor and the nang bar.
A third room contains a bright red skate ramp, shoulder height, where people are playing.
At 4am the music stops, and people put their shirts back on.