Say goodbye to the Hullabaloo! era|
Chris Frolic calls it quits at No. 44
last blow-out party this weekend
POP MUSIC CRITIC
Even if fun-fur finery, glo-sticks and happy hardcore
were never your thing, you can't be a raver past or present in
Toronto and not feel a twinge of sadness at the looming
retirement of the Hullabaloo! brand.
Although neither the largest nor the longest-lived of
the party-promotion outfits once so numerous in this city by
the close of the 1990s, Hullabaloo! — the brainchild of
cherubic happy-hardcore DJ Chris "Anabolic Frolic" Frolic
— has always staged the "raviest" of raves, colourful
nighttime playgrounds where the childlike whimsy, elaborate
costumes and unabashedly upbeat sounds that characterized the
scene's U.K. origins have never gone out of fashion.
Hullabaloo!'s singular brand of cultural idealism, not
to mention its championing of rip-roaring, 150 bpm hardcore
sounds, has earned it a faithful following that has endured
over the years while most of the other promoters who came up
alongside it have vanished. Yet late last year, Frolic
stunned the Hulla hordes by announcing that he would soon be
getting out of the party business and putting the Hullabaloo!
name to rest for good.
The moment of truth is upon us this weekend. Sometime
during the wee hours of Sunday morning, the lights will come
up on the 44th Hullabaloo! event and that will be it.
"It's gonna be rough," concedes Frolic, 30. "But
it's run its course. I sort of came to the hard conclusion
that brighter days weren't ahead, and Hulla is such a brand
that I sort of owed it to go out while it still meant
something rather than to beat it into the ground. Ever since I
made the decision, I've felt really good about it because it
sent shockwaves around the world. Literally everywhere."
Indeed, while hardcore parties have been a mainstay of
the European party scene since rave's inception (and are even
slightly resurgent these days), Hullabaloo! and Anabolic
Frolic have pretty much owned North America since the
franchise began in 1997.
Frolic, an Ottawa native first introduced to
electronic dance music via the University of Ottawa radio
station, started throwing parties for much the same reason he
stumbed into DJ-ing: "Out of necessity." He simply wasn't
hearing the music he liked — specifically, the pathologically
giddy, oft-maligned genre known as "happy hardcore." So he
took matters into his own hands, first as an importer of
hardcore vinyl, then as a DJ and finally as a promoter.
"I literally starved while I was doing this in the
beginning," Frolic says. "I knew if I had a job, I would
not be able to focus while working. So basically I couldn't
afford a place to live. I had an office that was 10 by 12
feet, no windows. I slept on the floor of this thing for two
years. When my wife, Robin, moved up here from L.A., we lived
in there together for three months until we got our own place.
It was trial by fire. If you can make it through that ..."
It has, of course, paid off. Anabolic Frolic and
Hullabaloo! have occupied a fairly unique niche in the North
American market ever since. And, thanks in part to
Frolic's hugely successful Happy 2 B Hardcore series for
the long-lost Moonshine Records (at 400,000 units moved, it's
the bestselling electronic-music series ever), the Hulla name
has gained notoriety amongst ravers around the world,
regularly drawing curious partiers from points as far afield
as the States, the U.K., Germany and Australian to Toronto.
But Hulla and Frolic wound up being in the wrong
place at the wrong time when one of three much-reported
Ecstasy deaths to occur in the city in 1999 happened at his "A
View to a Thrill" party that October.
Called before a public inquest into the unfortunate
death of 20-year-old Ryerson student Allan Ho, Frolic
wound up bearing the brunt of the media's anti-rave pillorying
when the city's rave hysteria hit full force in 2000. It's
still hard for him to talk about the time.
"Anybody who knows me knows I was very passionate about
what I did and I never messed around in anything bad. It was
just bad luck, I guess," he says.
Frolic — who suffered through another crisis a year
later when a Hullabaloo! partygoer was stabbed through the
heart — says the whole thing was an "eye-opening experience
about the media."
"I remember the morning after our party when the police
were giving their spin on the whole thing," he says. "They
were painting this terrible picture of, like, kids sleeping in
trash and stuff. And it turns out my mother was in Toronto
that weekend — it was Thanksgiving weekend — and I'd invited
her to our party because she'd never seen what I do. So she
came at 5 in the morning, she got up onstage and I introduced
her to the crowd and everybody went crazy. My wife, Robin,
gave her some glo-sticks and she danced onstage with
glo-sticks for my entire set, and afterwards some kids took it
upon themselves to escort her through the building and get her
"She was so impressed by the whole experience, it
reminded her a lot of things she did in her youth. She was
there, she saw it with her own eyes and all of a sudden we saw
what they were reporting."
In the midst of this dark period, Frolic
nevertheless resolved only to end Hullabaloo! on "my own
terms." And while the parties have grown smaller since the
heyday, but a stable core of fans has remained.
So why end it now? The way Frolic sees it, the
scene, now well into its 15th year in North America, is only
going to keep fragmenting and contracting, as the
infrastructure that allowed it to get so big in Toronto no
"For years and years and years, there wasn't a single
weekend in Toronto where there wasn't a big event going on.
I'd say with any given Hulla, there were 500 new kids
experiencing their very first rave. And if you think about
that going on every single weekend and just gaining momentum,
that doesn't exist anymore ... For the past two or three
years, I've sort of felt like I've been carrying the whole
scene on my shoulders."
Frolic, who recently became the proud father of a
baby boy, will continue to DJ "as long as Anabolic Frolic's
bookings do," while pursuing his curious second calling as a
trained stage hypnotist on the side. He's also working on a
book about his experiences.
But Hullabaloo!, he vows, is done. Following a
pre-party at the Marquee Event Theatre tomorrow night, then,
the final Hullabaloo! — fittingly called "All Good Things ..."
— goes down at the Opera House on Saturday, featuring a DJ
roster of Hulla residents and concluding with a two-hour
"history of Hulla" set from Anabolic Frolic.
"The sound and lighting budget exceeds anything we've
ever done, even in our biggest days," he laughs. And for a
place like the Opera House, it's totally overkill. On paper,
if you saw what we had planned, it's totally crazy. But I
think for a lot of people there, it's gonna be the last rave
they're ever going to be at. So I'd like Hulla to personify
what the rave scene is and was ...
"What people don't understand about raving is there was
such a community. They're the ones who made it what it was ...
Every Hulla was sort of this really creative celebration of
fashion and culture and music, and that came from within. That
came from the people who came to it."
articles by Ben Rayner
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