So here we are in Australia, doofin’ away. Running around every other weekend, heading to a doof. How many of us have overheard someone say ‘Yeah man, he’s a mad doofer’?
If you’re not from Australia, you might be wondering just what the bloody hell is a doof? In our first post, we thought we might try to explain a little about what ‘doof’ is and how we think it’s a little bit more special than your average festival.
Let’s get started.
Doof is Aussie slang for ‘bush doof’. To ensure we get our definition absolutely spot on, Oxford Dictionaries refers to this as ‘A large outdoor party with dancing to electronic music, held at a remote or rural location’. See, simple isn’t it? Not quite.
According to our mates at Wikipedia, the term ‘bush doof’ originated in Australia and New Zealand in the early 90s. Their page references a pissed off neighbour arriving at a party in Newtown, NSW back in 1992, asking what all the ‘doof doof’ was and claimed it wasn’t music. Alas, the term ‘doof’ was coined. The term then gained true popularity in the late 90’s during the explosion of electronic music.
From humble beginnings as a term coined by a pissed off neighbour, the mighty ‘bush doof’ has now established itself as a major cultural influence with hundreds of thousands of hungry dance floor warriors now flocking to rural parts of Australia every summer.
But what really makes a ‘bush doof’ different to any other festival?
Well, the first and most obvious fact is the music. A bush doof will primarily only consist of electronic music and indeed, the roots of most of the original doofs are from the psychedelic and goa trance genres. In recent years, popularity of the bush doof has seen a move by many festivals towards incorporating slower-paced electronic genres such as house and techno. Although we must admit this is a chicken vs egg debate as a broader music policy quite likely attracted more people in the first place.
The core theme across music played at the modern-day doof is really ‘underground electronic music’. That is, new, exciting and fresh music that (generally) doesn’t get bashed out on commercial radio stations or mainstream night clubs.
However, in our opinion and as seasoned veterans of the doof, we really feel that the music played at these events is only a small component of what actually makes a doof special and so different from other more mainstream music festivals. Because really, anyone can bash out music on a PA, right?
Photo credit: Rabbits Eat Lettuce, NSW // Open Records
The beauty of the bush doof is really in the culture behind it. These events usually encourage open thought and freedom of expression. When attending your first doof, there is an overwhelming sense of community that goes with it. And while there are potentially a few bad eggs floating about, it’s usually pretty hard not to feel like everyone you meet is your new best friend.
Within the community are the artists and passionate business owners that make it happen, the vast majority do it for the love it. They kick they get out of seeing their audience have a good time and spreading good vibes.
Much of our experience has come from the music side of the scene, and there’s a stark contrast between club and doof culture. The former seems to induce ego-stroking, general arrogance and tall poppy syndrome, while on the other hand, doof culture generally encourages self-development as well as support and acceptance of others. To contrast the two cultures is made even more interesting by the fact that often the music being played is identical.
It’s worth noting that many of the original doofs in the early 1990s were not the 10,000+ person extravaganzas we see today. Many were small gatherings of often less than 100 people and were a revolt of mainstream rave culture. They were an incubator not only for experimental music and visual art but also for an alternative way of living and social experimentation, often pushing an environmental or political message.
If you want to read more of the academic side of underground electronic music culture, we highly suggest you check out Dance Cult.
So when we think about doof culture, is it really so different to the hippie movement of the 1960s? This 1960’s revolution was born in the states, hippies were part of a counterculture movement that wished to spread love not war, they were adamantly opposed to the deployment of troops to Vietnam and they pushed for shared civil rights. In a nutshell, they were largely lefties that would probably be branded socialists in modern-day America.
Interestingly, today if we jump on our flying magic carpet during the last weekend of August and head to the Nevada desert, we find the spectacle that is Burning Man. So what does this have to do with hippies and bush doofs?
As avid burners, we’ve headed stateside for this annual event on numerous occasions and there are striking similarities between doof and burner culture. Firstly, the event encourages radical participation, sharing of knowledge and self-expression (among its other 10 guiding principles), but interestingly, regardless of the fact Burning Man isn’t a music event per se, the primary music heard across the playa is electronic.
And there are more similarities. Anyone who has attended a major Australian doof such as Rainbow Serpent Festival or Earth Frequency Festival would instantly recognise that the crowd is incredibly diverse. There is a huge range of participants, from those in their early 20s through to those in in their 50s or 60s.
Earth Frequency Festival is a music, arts, lifestyle and environment festival in S.E.QLD, Australia, with a strong focus on performance, visionary art, healing and community spirit. Now entering it's second decade, Earth Frequency Festival has grown from it’s origins as a small landcare party to become one of Australia's foremost transformational gatherings. At Earth Frequency, you can always expect an amazing mixture of live and electronic music, performance, workshops and lectures, a family and kids space, and a fantastic food and markets area, and of course a positive community vibe all throughout the festival.
Burning Man is no different, and further still, the event has a robust community built around it that goes all year round. Burners by and large support one another, putting in everything they can to create an experience for others, spreading a message of acceptance and radical expression - they’re new-age hippies (well at least the non-millionaires).
Back in Australia, the heart of the doof, it’s not so different. Indeed, the regional Burning Man event called ‘Burning Seed’ is a festival that holds the same values as the main burn, but is attended by thousands of doofers from all over Australia. Theme camps are run by enthusiastic crews of dedicated party people that love creating a mad vibe… seriously, some of these camps are next level).
It doesn’t stop there either, most of the major doofs also have a fairly significant effort towards education and spreading knowledge (again, a striking feature of Burning Man). Speakers (often academics) talk about topics that are either not widely discussed in mainstream media, or have been long forgotten by the smartphone generation.
Back to the original point of this article, if you look at mainstream electronic music festivals that have occurred throughout Australia over recent years, we feel most are lacking the vital cultural element which we believe makes a doof so different and special. So aside from the fact that a doof plays electronic music and is generally held in remote bush areas, their most important aspect is actually the culture and community that is cultivated around them.
So as doofers, we’re essentially new-age hippies. We welcome those who wish to dress alternatively, experiment, learn more about themselves, learn more about the world around them and participate to become part of the festival they’re attending, not just a - part of the reason we’re so passionate about costumes!
While today’s doof has evolved to be a far cry from those small gatherings in the early 90s, we believe that the general ethos of doof culture has undoubtedly lived on. People new to the world of doofing generally enter under the pretence it’s just another music festival, once there and for those that stick around, end up realising that a doof is so so so much more.
We’d like to finish up by letting all you avid, diehard doofers know that we are massive supporters of our beloved doof community. The Doof Store is the first part of a multi-faceted project that aims to foster reinvestment into the scene we love so much and we can’t wait to share the rest of our journey with you!
Header photo credit:
Rainbow Serpent Festival, VIC // James Gilot Photography +
Stereosonic Festival, NSW