Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you’d know by now that this year the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade celebrated its 40th Anniversary, its parade held last Saturday along the usual trail of Oxford and Flinders Streets, Darlinghurst.
The tradition of Mardi Gras began in 1978 when a peaceful protest by a small group of LGBT activists turned into a riot, with police being brutal and the protest evolving into anything but peaceful. But that was 40 years ago, and in four decades, a lot can change.
That change, nay, those changes, were all evident in the Mardi Gras parade on its 40th birthday, Saturday 3rd March. An estimated 300,000 spectators watched 200 parading groups, 12,300 participants, 1,300 parade volunteers weave through Darlinghurst to present a spectacle of colour, celebration, protest and peace. Indeed, those 300k protestors helped set a record, being the biggest number of witnesses of Mardi Gras live.
“Beyond the glitter, flamboyance and satire,” said Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras CEO Terese Casu, “there were so many floats reminding us of the serious issues. Acceptance, inclusivity, diversity, respect. Among this year’s many floats were many paying tribute to the original Mardi Gras marchers, our 78ers.”
That said, considering the main event focused plenty on the wonderful people who helped kick it all off in 1978, it’s a pity the music at the party which followed didn’t include much nostalgia. Instead of having DJs play songs that might have reminded party-goers of 40 years of fabulousness on the dancefloor, most of the guys and girls behind the decks subjected us to a lot of techno drivel and relentless trance. Whether they were catering to a pent-up Gen-Y crowd (possibly assuming it was all on crystal meth) or simply trying to appear progressive and cool, the music in general did not sit well with much of the audience, a large contingency of which were well past 40 themselves.
A couple of vinyl-pushers (MP3 button pushers?) did try to appease the more mature amongst us with a few ‘remixes’ but these were limited to rehashes of Madonna’s Vogue and Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody that hardly went further than repeated choruses. Yes, we wanted to vogue and dance with somebody but to some decent music, please. If some DJs had played any retro tunes in the smaller venues, we weren’t lead in the appropriate direction (better signage next time, guys, you’ve had 40 years of practice!).
Mardi Gras did do the clever thing by releasing a compilation of songs that celebrated 40 years of music. Well, about 30 years. It included artists as diverse as Wham! and New Order, Gossip and Sia, Kylie and P!nk, J.Lo and Dua Lipa. Again, though, nothing from the late 1970s.
On a live note, Cher did make up for these musical faux pas, by delivering a four-song set of her biggest solo hits. Of course, Believe, Stronger and If I Could Turn Back Time were all in there, providing a big tick on plenty of bucket lists.
Now, if the DJs themselves could have just turned back time on the odd occasion, and played a few decent classic pop tracks in between all the drone-like noise, this party might have been an utterly memorable one. Antonino Tati
MARDI GRAS 2018 PHOTO GALLERY:
Photography by Nicholas Welinski & Antonino Tati.