with Ryan Papa

Lot 33, Canberra, Australia • December 31, 2002

I don’t think I’m ever really going to see the point behind western New Year’s revelry. For me, the holiday’s appeal is diminished by the fact that we’re celebrating a Roman calendar that’s out of sync with nature and needs adjusting every four years; my disillusion is compounded by the abundance of Abba and the hideously extroverted outfits. Take everything I hate about New Year’s, make it twice as lame, and you invariably have the state of Canberra when December 31st rolls around. What a wonderful backdrop against which to take in the mixing talents of Cass!

I was driven to Lot 33 by a taxi driver with a vaguely bizarre demeanor — he half-grumbled about nothing in particular and went off on a little spiel about the lack of distinction the females we were driving past possessed (I toyed with the idea of letting him know that I was gay, but decided against it, making non-committal monosyllabic noises instead). Arriving at the club a little after eleven, I soaked up the drizzle out on the pavement for a moment, then put on my best casual “I’m on the doorlist” voice and walked in. I stared. A lot of unfamiliar faces stared back at me. I felt like a stranger in the truest sense; this wasn’t a crowd I knew or felt even mildly at home with. A little daunted, I sat down on a squat cushion chair and tried to adjust my camera in order to take some decent photos. After a minute or so I felt the seat being kicked. I looked up to find a guy glaring at me, drinks in each hand and one foot extended to render more blows to the cushion. Evidently, speaking was too great an effort for him, but no matter — his expression and protruding limbs said “get the fuck out of the way” more eloquently than he ever could have. I moved.

Okay. This was not a good start. I felt like curling up in a ball and wallowing in my apparent lack of “cool”, or at the very least finding a chair that wasn’t going to be attacked. I can see why I must have stuck out a little, at that hour especially — I was the youngest guy in the whole place; I seemed to be basically the only raver who’d arrived; and, unlike a good chunk of those around me, I wasn’t dressed like I’d just been hanging at the mall with my other fourteen year old buddies (there’s nothing funnier than twentysomethings trying to be kids, I assure you). Still, feeling unwelcome in a club isn’t exactly conducive to a good evening.

I got some orange juice and found another seat, double and triple checking that I wasn’t encroaching on another man’s territory this time. From here I had a pretty good view of Ryan Papa, who, to his credit, was spinning an up-tempo but mercifully uncheesy set that seemed to rightfully impress those who were actually listening to him. My vantage point also allowed me to scrutinize the dance floor — or, as it was at the time, the ‘stand around and smoke’-floor, which doubled for the ‘wear tight white pants and simulate sex with your other female friends’-floor. Oh, the joys of being back at a high school disco. I decided to focus on the music and wait out the New Year, the clock moving a tad slower than I would have liked.

In true Canberra style, Lot 33 had two “Happy New Year!” outbursts, one pre-empting 2003 by a couple of minutes. With the second disruption out of the way, Cass got up to the decks. Demonstrating uncanny precision, ravers slowly began to come out of hiding; but I wasn’t really paying attention by that stage — I forgot where I was in ten minutes flat. Perhaps it was just an instinctive case of withdrawing into oneself to lessen the impact of an intimidating environment, but I doubt it. Cass, you see, is someone who can really mix. He weaved his tracks over five mesmerizing hours, building a picture both stunningly intricate and utterly simple. It was forward thinking, un-pigeonhole-able DJing at its best. And who cares if half the punters didn’t appreciate what they were hearing? Cass got through to some of us, proving that the art of spinning is one not dependent on the venue or even, when it comes down to it, the crowd. The communication here was one-on-one, and I have a feeling that even if he’d been playing to nobody, Cass still would have produced something beautiful. That fact that he managed to do it in Canberra just makes it all the more impressive.

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