The Gathering 96/97
Before The Gathering, there was Entrain
Entrain was a series of outdoor dance parties which were held in the Nelson region for the three New Year's Eves prior to the first Gathering.
In scientific terms when wave forms move in sympathetic vibration they are Entrained. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Entrain as "carry along in its flow and enthusiasm, animation." For many people this is what Entrain was about, it was about coming together for the first time, dancing together and growing together. Moving as one.
The Entrain concept grew out of the burgeoning home grown dance scene that was emerging up and down the country and also came from a generation of travellers who experienced the outdoor party scene in Europe and Asia and had seen the opportunity to bring the experience to Aotearoa. The initial party was put together mostly out of pure enthusiasm. The group of people who were involved in the very first Entrain was quite large, and the following festivals owe much to the efforts and inspiration of Mark Amoeba, Jhalmar, Wendy, Bluey, Fi, Ric, Annie, Kelly Twinkle, Justie, Dames, Rich Whitelight, Ian, Sarah, Stefan, Michelle, Leon, Fee, Ric, Jamie and many others.
The first Entrain which was held on New Years Eve 91/92 saw 600 or so enthusiastic revellers shaking their shingaling all night long, and for some of the people involved the overall experience was a revelation "This is what life is about, this is what I want to do". From that point on Entrain became an entity, the crew put on small parties during the year and each New Years Eve party was bigger than the last, but not necessarily better - there is something special about smaller groups of people. The first two parties were held on the top of Takaka Hill at the Stardust Bowl. By the third and last Entrain New Years Eve party (95/96) at Golden Downs, over 3,000 were in attendance.
The Entrain core crew of Stefan, Michelle, Uri, Leon, Fee, Ric and Jamie presented a wide range of musical styles at their parties, including dub, funk, house, tribal - and trance (which is what Entrain became most famous for); and had mixed these up on their main dancefloor and secondary dance areas. Entrain was known for its great vibe and relaxed atmosphere, the mixture of home-grown DJs and live acts who played on its stages, spectacular fire, juggling and acrobatics performances, and its beautifully complex black-light artwork and decorations.
It is probably fair to say that The Gathering would not have existed had it not been for the Entrain crew breaking new ground and encouraging the development of the outdoor party scene at the top of the South Island. Salmonella Dub played their first big festival gig at Entrain, and many of the crew who later worked on The Gathering learned their trade at the Entrain parties.
The birth of The Gathering
On the first day of 1996, on their way home from crewing at what would turn out to be the last Entrain (although no-one knew it at the time), Entrain tech crew members Murray Kingi, Tim Owens and Simon Kong began discussing plans for the following New Year. They had ideas for a new party that would build on what Entrain had created, and which would take the concept further.
The plan for The Gathering was to encourage and grow Entrain's mixture of dance music genres, but to present them simultaneously in five different dance zones, each one dedicated to a different genre - Trance, Drum&Bass, Hardcore, House, Ambient and Tribal. The party would last longer - two nights instead of Entrain's one - and would retain and hopefully develop Entrain's traditions of performance and dancefloor decorations.
A couple of months later, the Entrain crew left New Zealand to spend some time overseas in Europe, and the Gathering crew took the opportunity to introduce their concept to the wider dance party community in New Zealand. Having found a venue, they began to publicise the new event, which would be held at Canaan Downs on top of Takaka Hill over New Year 96/97. The core organisers for The Gathering 96/97 were Grant Smithies, Jose Cachemaille, Mel Rutherford-Dower, Murray Kingi and Tim Owens.
At this point, the Entrain crew were still planning to return to New Zealand later in the year, so The Gathering would be in direct competition with Entrain IV - both parties taking place in the Nelson region over New Year. After some serious thought, Uri, Leon, Fee, Rick and Jamie decided not to return, and to give up their long-term plans for parties stretching to the millennium - and The Gathering was left to carry the torch of the Nelson region outdoor party scene alone.
The Gathering crew intended to create a series of four New Year's parties that would culminate in a massive free party for the millennium - which would be funded by profits from the first three. The Gathering 96/97 was the first step along that path.
The party was threatened by Cyclone Fergus (which devastated much of the upper North island) in the days leading up to the event - but thankfully the cyclone turned away and headed out to sea before it reached the South Island. Between four and five thousand people came, which was an increase of at least a thousand over the biggest Entrain party.
The Gathering 96/97 was the only one of the four parties where tickets were sold on the gate as well as in advance, and although the hoped-for profit did not eventuate, the organisers only made a loss of $300 the first year. Pretty amazing, really.
This section of the website contains many "holes" - that is, gaps in information that we need to fill. If you find a gap, and you have the info to fill it, please get in touch!
Postscript: Not surprisingly, the separation of Nelson dance party people into two rival events caused a considerable amount of friction between the two groups - especially as it resulted in the decision by the Entrain core crew to give up their party altogether.
The tech crew members who broke away to create The Gathering had wanted more involvement in the Entrain core crew, because from their perspective it was they who were actually making the parties happen. The Entrain core crew themselves felt that, as the instigators and creators of Entrain, they were entitled to be part of the core crew in a way that the tech crew were not.
Over the years, different versions of events have been told and re-told - including an earlier, inaccurate version on this very page. It's important to us that The Gathering Archives website becomes the authoritative source of information on the history and background of The Gathering, which is why, with the help of Jamie Larnach from Entrain and Si Kong from The Gathering, we've substantially rewritten this page to present a more compete and accurate account of what went down.
It's also worth mentioning that the two crews "reunited" for G2000, the millennium party, when the whole of the Entrain core crew joined us up the hill to create decorations and to see what we'd achieved by standing on their (very substantial) shoulders. It was fantastic to see the circle completed in this way, and we were thrilled that they came.
In this section:
DJ and Live Act lists for each zone, and VJ and performer lists. We'll add timetables once we have them. Ditto for technical specifications (sound, lighting, visuals) for each zone. Can you help?
We started off small with our media coverage. Just a few pieces the first year. But more, much more was to come...
A nice collection of stuff here - the design of which set the tone for all the Gatherings to come. You'll find scans of the info sheet, poster, stickers and ticket here.
The Gathering 96/97 site map, which appeared on the ticket, was ultra-minimalist, and really quite cool. Icons for zones, big area marked "FOOD AREA" and another marked "PARKING & CAMPING" and that's about it. All you need, really!
Rare and precious things, photos of The Gathering 96/97. Do you have any you can add to our collection?
Even more rare and precious - video and film footage of The Gathering 96/97. Do you have any you can add to our collection?
What was it like being a pioneer amongst Gatherers? How did you feel when you arrived on the hill for the first time? Did it live up to your expectations, or maybe even exceed them? And what was it like being a member of the crew on that first ever Gathering?