This Australian outdoor rave phenomenon, named after the ‘doof-doof-doof’ sound that can be heard from a distance, has entranced many in the alternative music scene.
On first glance, the bushdoof – an outdoor EDM party native to Australia – seems to mimic the format of any festival. It bears the vital ingredients of a music festival: loud music, colourfully adorned punters, and a field to camp in. Its most apparent distinction from other raves is its location as the doof’s natural habitat is the Australian countryside known as the bush. Only those who seek them out can find these raves, and they have limited mainstream publicity – information is spread instead by word of mouth and social media.
The reason for this is that bushdoofs maintain their ideologies and key characteristics by staying small and out of the public eye. Doofs are celebrated in their keenness to resist corporate commercialisation; veteran doofer Nick Wallis identifies this as the key distinction between bushdoofs and festivals.
“A festival is more like going to a shopping centre, while a doof feels more like going to a market,” Nick tells me. “A city festival feels very top-down. It’s polished and controlled, with a focus on capitalising on their product – the music. Doofs feel more bottom-up. It seems that members of a wide community work more collaboratively to bring the doof to life, with less focus on delivering a polished, consumable product to capitalise on.”
Doofs are also eager for vendors to only sell products that align with the values of the institution. For example, this might permit handcrafted jewellery to be sold but exclude alcoholic drinks manufactured by conglomerate companies.
What is the ideology of the doof, then? Doofs, aside from giving attendees an excuse to party and get ‘gacked’ on drugs, provide members of the spiritual community a place to gather. Many bushdoofs will have indigenous-led opening ceremonies that bless the land, and offer spiritual healing-focused workshops such as meditation and yoga classes. They present the pinnacle of hippie culture: love and peace are high on the agenda, with values of kinship interwoven to emotionally support doofers on their path to enlightenment.
One of the doof’s most notable qualities is how it creates a feeling of family. One friend told me a partygoer even reproached another guy who was hitting on her, because making unwanted sexual advances on fellow doofers goes against the spirit of freedom that lies at the heart of the doof. Environmentalism is another priority: when leaving Esoteric, my induction into Australia’s bushdoof culture, I was pleasantly surprised to see I wasn’t the only doofer to collect rubbish lying on the ground and bring it to the recycling bins provided. In fact, when we left the site, it has already been cleaned up to a higher standard than any festival I’ve previously witnessed.
This could be due in part to the fact that Esoteric was a much smaller festival than any I’ve been to as it was the first year it had been put on. But it seems it still managed to epitomise what doof culture is about: creative counter-culture, expressed through psychedelic art and music, and community spirit. There was a perceptible openness and friendliness; a culture evidently accepting of people dancing alone and approaching one another to say hi. Before doofs are dismissed for being merely playgrounds where hippies take drugs – although that was also clearly part of the experience for many – there is more to these gatherings than what might meet the ‘third’ eye.