: A spiralling shape, a whirlpool, a vacuum that spins things inwards. A Cape Town
rave crew/music production/outdoor entertainment company.
The Rave scene became significant in Cape Town around 1994 (this is reconstructed from memory: I remember returning from London in early 1993 all fired up and ready to Rave, and having to wait a while until the local scene got going.)
At the time it was mostly warehouse parties: a few hundred kids trying out the latest music, the latest clothes, the latest drugs, all Saturday night long. Two crews were the mainstays of the scene: Vortex and Pharcyde. About that time "rave music" was splitting into identifiable sub-genres: Jungle, House and trance. Pharcyde were bigger and housier, so naturally Vortex became trancier.
Vortex is largely run by Grant, Heather and Clyde, though Clyde is mostly the silent partner these days. Grant and Heather have a kid now. It's more like a family business than fun to them.
Pharcyde faded after a few years. I can't really blame them – from being teens doing what they loved for a few hundred friends, they found themselves in their early 20s, raking in big piles of money for entertaining thousands of people. It's hard work, dirty and sleazy, at all hours of the weekend, and I don’t blame them for cashing out.
But before all that happened, another influence came along. The music of goa trance. The Cape Town crowd liked it a lot, or some of them did, and the rest stayed in clubs, dancing to house music. Soon Vortex was the place to get goa vibes. Conscious Dreams, who later mutated into Alien Safari, may have been the first to play goa, but Vortex did it on a larger scale, more often and with more predictable quality
Then came another assimilation: Goa trance was born out of doors, on the beaches and in the forests of Goa. Cape Town in summer is dry and balmy, ideal for this. After the first outdoor experiment, down by Cape Point, there was no turning back. Vortex had left the house.
Goa trance has turned into Psychedelic trance and contues to mutate, a subculture hermetically sealed in its own contiunuum. There are parallels with the deadheads
Vortex now usually throws four parties a year, with their first party in early December, then at New Year, then in late Janaury, and the last one at Easter, covering the summer season.
Vortex's finest moment was almost certainly the Millennium party, which went for four days, featured a host of Trance acts for all over the world, and hosted about 5 thousand people, many of them visitors to the country.
Vortex is actually recognised as a tourist attraction these days, which just shows that this whole underground-mainstream dichotomy thing is not as simple as it appears. Never mind that many of these tourists are long-haired youths lured by cheap African Marijuana, and a trance party without any people using substances is a frankly ludicrous idea.
Vortex continues, and has become a fixture. They don’t own or rule the Cape Town outdoor summer party scene, but they are its backbone. They got there by persistence and
consistency. Slowly, the counterculture youth becomes middle-aged mainstream. Red bull and Camel set up shop.