Monday, July 8, 2013


Under our Desert Storm tag you'll find a post with an interesting article published by MixMag on who is Desert Storm and what is their mission. We also included a list of the ten free parties that changed the world probably published in the same issue. Since the MixMag online archive is limited I was not able to confirm this.

Instead of just reposting the image and tell you to read it I decided to make it more blog friendly by slicing up the article. Originally I planned on posting the list of 10 in one post with a little extra information. But somehow I made a whole post out of the first one. The rest will follow. The subject has changed from "TEN FREE PARTIES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD" to "FREE PARTIES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD #1".

Written by: Luke Black
Pictures: Matt Smith, Derek Ridger/PYMCA, Tash, Darling Dept, Rex

ONE: Desert Storm, Tusla, Bosnia, New Year's Eve, 1994

During the Criminal Justice Bill protest in the summer of 1994 the crew was  approached by a “Workers Aid for Bosnia” member. He asked if they were willing to travel to a war zone and host a morale boosting NYE gig. They accepted the adventurous mission to aid those in need and bring joy to people who have been lacking any happiness in a very long time. By December '94 they raised enough fund to buy a truck, aid supplies and finance the fuel needed to make the trip. A dangerous trip to Tuzla (Bosnia) at that time home to thousands of refugees who fled from the Serbian army. Although the area was declared save by the United Nations, it was still a very dangerous place to be.

Willing to take the risk they set of 2 weeks before NYE not knowing what to expect. Loaded with their tunes, sound and aid supplies such as clothing, food, medicine and other basic supplies for such as pens and books. Even before arriving at their first stop at a UN compound in Split (Croatia) they already witnessed a near fatal road accident involving Croatian soldiers. The impaled vehicle was leaking fuel yet the soldiers kept trying to get their motor back alive. They didn't hesitate to drag the soldiers out of the wreck because the soldiers couldn't care less about the whole situation. For the first time was confronted with the fact that due to the ongoing war these soldiers were involved in they became careless about these situations since they happened every day. Custom to misery.
Back on the road they had to deal with coastal winds which were lifting their truck. At risk of being tipped over or falling of a cliff they loaded 2 tons of pineapple slices to keep the 7.5 ton truck on it's four wheels.

Eventually they arrived at Split around Christmas day. Upon arrival they decided to cheer up the stationed UN soldiers and built an improvised nightclub out of pallets and trucks. And distributed some makeshift flyers to the UN soldiers and locals in town. That night locals and soldiers were able to dance all night for the first time in years. Their initiative was eventually stopped by the Military Police.

They still had a long way to go so the next day the crew left for Mostar (Bosnia). A city know for the iconic bridge Stari Most which became the symbol of ethnic unity in Bosnia after the war. The bridge itself was destroyed one month before their arrival. A temporary bridge was built next to it's ruins for the time being. Reconstruction started in 2001 and eventually reopened in 2004.

"Stari Most ruins"

The road to Mostar was again everything but safe. Off-road trough makeshift tunnels, plowing trough snow on uphill farm tracks and edging their way up the mountains. Passing by the besieged city of Sarajevo and the front line edge. As if that isn't nerve wrecking enough they learned about 'sniper alley'. Upon approaching a straight valley road the UN soldiers, escorting their convoy, explained that they had to wait until dark before traveling trough the valley. The trucks were instructed to dim their lights and drive as fast as possible until they reached a checkpoint 3 km ahead. This was as close to the front line as they could get. Under hostile sniper surveillance and anti-tank gun batteries nested in the hills they. Apart from one vehicle having it's chassis destroyed they made it to the checkpoint. 

"Front line - Sarajevo"
On December 31st 1994 the crew finally reached their destination. Arriving in Tuzla on New Years eve they discovered that the stadium they were supposed to host their gig in had collapsed due to a mortar strike two weeks earlier. With time running out a new plan was made. The loaded all speakers onto one lorry and used it as a mobile sound system to cruise around the city. A crowd of all ages gathered behind the truck and danced their way trough town. When a cop approached the truck they feared for being arrested or shut down. "Turn the music up! But turn your lights off!" he shouted. Confused by his request to turn the music up, they confirmed that he didn't mean otherwise. Turns out he actually wanted the music to be louder, as requested by his commander. Dimming their lights was for their own safety since the Serbs were still eager to strike with mortars. Without hesitation they turned up the music and killed the lights. The cop joined the mobile dance party, shared his drink with the DJ and started dancing with soldiers who came out running from apartment with their AK47's blazing in the air. Not to fight, but out of pure excitement and joy.
They came past the local police station and every cop embraced the vibe, started dancing on their patrol cars while shooting their pistols in the air. And lit their blue emergency lighting. I guess they were out of mortar reach by then or they just didn't care anymore at that point. More people joined in each time the reached an housing estate. Kids, soldiers or even a couple or grannies.. that New Years eve the city of Tuzla was relieved of it's curfew for the first time in 3 years. The crew just let it happen and let people go crazy. Naturally they were a wee bit concerned about the guns and alcohol mixture, but in the end nobody got shot.
It must have been a surreal experience. Especially when a little girl came up to one of the crew and pointed at a dark spot on the ground when they were approaching a square. She pointed and said "Look this is my brother!". Apparently a mortar killed 40 people 2 weeks earlier and one of the was her brother. Unsure how to react the were about to leave the square until she responded "No, I want to dance for my brother". That is when reality checks in.

"Mortar strike - Bosnia"
The crew returned home, again risking their life from checkpoint to check.. yet they wanted to do more. Spreading hope in a city that is on verge of being besieged. Showing that if a bunch of wacky musicians can make it all the way to their city, that they may have a chance to survive this war. That is why they returned to provide more aid trough supplies and culture. Connecting with people trough music who have been cut off from genuine fun for ages. A temporary relieve of the nightmare that is war.

During the summer of 1995 Desert Storm returned to Bosnia and entered Sarajevo just one week after the final cease-fire. The first foreign artists to enter the city in 5 years. They discovered an active alternative scene that survived during the longest siege of a capital city, the Siege of Sarajevo. An discovered a local independent radio station called ZID committed to a cultural theme. Their programming was created to let it's listeners escape from the harsh reality of life in Sarajevo. Utilizing culture to show underneath the inhuman and dangerous conditions there is a normal modern city called Sarajevo. Local alternative bands were heavily promoted by ZID by playing their music, doing interviews and announcing gigs. During the siege bands played around 50 concerts under constant threat and risk of being shot. One of the most famous underground venues was Club Obala. The only club to be open during the whole war. It was located near the notorious Sniper Alley, so the risk of being shot while visiting the club was very high. 

Desert Storm collaborated with ZID to host a gig at Club Obala and played for 5 hours on the pirate station. After the radio session playing their music and promoting their night at Club Obala they hit the streets. They cruised up and down the Sniper Alley with an open truck blasting their music just as they did in Tuzla. With the exception of an additional Kevlar helmet for the lucky crew member behind the decks.

"Warning Sniper"
Despite the threat of snipers they completed a successful mission in Sarajevo and gave locals a glimpse of a happy future. Eventually they linked up with Spiral Tribe and played around 20 gigs all over Bosnia. Inspiring, boosting moral and re-introduce people to the joy of life.

The trips Bosnia were documented in World Traveller Adventures under the title "STORMING SARAJEVO". World Traveller Adventures is a collection of travel stories and interviews of new age rave travellers such as members of Spiral Tribe. You can either buy or download the DVD. I'll update that post with extra sources this week. If both of these are not an option for you then you can watch it on YouTube below.

If you are interested in the cultural development of the alternative scene in Sarajevo during it's siege then I can suggest "Paradoxes of Wartime "Freedom": Alternative Culture during the Siege of Sarajevo"

Next up in the list of  "TEN FREE PARTIES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD". Probably a lot shorter.. most likely actually.

TWO: The Berlin Wall, November 9th, 1989