If you have found yourself loitering in the city recently, you’re sure to have seen the many rad posters containing the three numbers: 121, followed by a bold UNDERGROUND RAVE title. If you saw all of this and you were looking for a good time, you would’ve found yourself in the large basement under Ivy Bar last Saturday dancing up a storm to some local DJ’s, surrounded by the sick work of local artists. So how the hell did a rave end up in Wellington?
You can put that down to 19-year-old, Olly De Salis. A young guy bringing his friends and other local creatives together, expressing new sides of Wellington culture, and also just “giving the people something to fucking do.” From house gigs to skate comps, he’s done a lot of cool shit and no doubt there’s more coming soon. All I know is that you should definitely be keeping your eye out for those three numbers.
Oddly enough, this all began when Olly was kneed in the face during a rugby game. Olly was left with a shattered cheek that required facial reconstruction surgery and five metal plates in his face. During this time he had many weeks off from university where he’d been studying fine arts. He was now stuck in bed, taking medication to numb the pain, and was feeling as though he had hit rock bottom. But, Olly claims this was the best thing that ever happened to him.
“It made me realize how short time was. Literally I can put everything I’ve done now down to breaking my face.” One night after his recovery, Olly went out to a friend’s EP release party which was held in someone’s house rather than an established venue. Feeling ready to build himself back up after his time in hospital, he felt inspired to give house gigs a go. “When my parents went away I realized [his house] was a perfect set up… the kitchen bench, that’s a stage right here. We’ve got the dance floor and the smoking area too, so fuck yeah, I’m going to buy a PA and do it. I realized I was never gonna get this opportunity ever again in my life.”
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From there started the house parties. What was once a regular, suburban family home became a blank canvas for something new, and inspired a collage of bright murals and messages across the walls from the young, the creative, and the intoxicated. Friends, and fellow Wellington people expressed themselves with their own sounds. This was an active place, a place of collaboration, expression, and acceptance. This was 121.
By hosting these gigs, where he could get his friends and other local creatives involved, Olly was able to provide a platform that gave them exposure within the wider community. This is so important because many creatives often don’t have any outlet for their work if they don’t already fit in with niche collectives or established events.
“One of the main motivations behind starting 121 is Max Wollerman, he’s a talented musician but he had nowhere to play. So I was like fuck it, I’ll give him a physical platform to be able to do it. And then that expanded to photographers and artists so they actually had a 300-person crowd. Maybe people didn’t see the painting maybe they did, it doesn’t matter. It’s about the opportunity to try.”
Then in March came the boat party, held at the Boat Café, with musicians such as LMC and Name UL to keep the vibes up. This was the first gig Olly had held at a proper venue, which gave him the opportunity to bring in larger crowds with people outside his usual social circles. The success of the boat party let him fund the next day’s skate jam out at Newtown’s ‘tree tops’ basketball court. Unlike his other events, this was a chill time that brought skate culture into focus. With Five Boroughs on food, free iced tea from Lipton, and great New Zealand acts such as Totems and ROIDZ, the summer day provided a sober yet equally sociable and creative event.
Then Olly got ambitious. A rave? In Wellington? It’s definitely not your usual night out in the windy capital, or anywhere in New Zealand for that matter. It definitely posed a new challenge, but with a range of awesome posters designed by local artists to bring in attention, and a well-established social media from previous events, Olly ended up with a hyped crowd of over 1000 people.
This brought a mix of not just young, banger-loving hooligans, but also reached the older generation and foreigners who were ecstatic to find a space that played music they had gone without for so long. The place was filled with amazing UV art installations and talented DJs such as K2K, Max Worth, and Borrowed CS (just to name a few). To go from gigs out of his parent’s house to a packed, underground rave is a pretty awesome feat, and it will only continue to expand from here.
So what’s the secret behind the success for Olly and his friends at 121? Well I think it’s because Wellington really needed something like this. First off, we have a bunch of youth that are sick of heading to Courtney Place on a night out, with the same old bars and the same old drunk people you can’t relate to. Beforehand you might have gone to a decent house party, but it’s always your same group of friends and the same trap bangers. There is nothing interesting or creative about it, and it leaves us as consumers of other cultures rather than as people actively creating our own.
121 offers events that are new, interesting, and open to everyone, creating a culture that we all participate in and contribute to. During my discussions with Olly, he has constantly reiterated the importance of a “point of difference.” 121 is an ambiguous title that could represent many things. Who knows what we’ll see next.
These events are super important because they’re helping to showcase and define the Wellington scene. By hosting gigs that celebrate not just the local musician but the photographer, the painter, the skater, the designer, and anyone who just wants to create something cool, 121 is able to bring in a diverse audience that isn’t exclusive to a specific archetype.
Olly sums it up when he says, “I feel with music comes fashion comes art comes skateboarding. 121 has a lot of potential to grow because it isn’t just music specific, or just a single artist.”
When I looked back at the photos taken from one of the first 121 parties, it felt oddly like looking at cultural archives of movements of the past. By bringing all the creatives together, you could see the related values and ideas that make up our community. By continuing to bring like-minded individuals together, friendships will form, collaborations will be made, and culture will continue be built.
“A lot of people have been like ‘it’s like a movement starting’ and it’s cool, I want to see a bunch of other shit sparking off… a whole lot of things are happening now which is fucking awesome. I wasn’t anticipating that. I’m happy things are happening now.”
What’s next for the collective? According to Olly, absolutely everything he can. “Obviously more gigs. But we can also expand bigger than that with gallery shows and listening parties and markets and festivals and just expanding because there are opportunities to do it.”
That’s the honest truth, THERE IS SO MUCH OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE STUFF HAPPEN HERE. I can’t stress that enough. We’re a young country; we still have so much blank canvas to define a new generation of sounds and aesthetics. How about we be the ones to do that?
As Olly says, “why don’t we try put wellington and New Zealand on the map? Why don’t we get people wanting to come here for the culture?” That’s what 121 is trying to do. Get on board and don’t forget those three numbers any time soon.