Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Zurich Street Parade

In early August of every year, Zurich hosts a massive-street-party-freak-show-techno-extravaganza, called the Street Parade. Hundreds of thousands of revelers come to the Street Parade, dressed in their most outlandish costumes. The parade itself winds around the top of Lake Zurich, starting on the east side of the lake in Seefeld and ending on the western side in Enge. There are huge dance floors pulled by semi-trailers ("Love Machines") that compose the parade itself, full of writhing costumed young people and blasting 80,000 watts of techno into the crowd. Stages are set up in 6 spots around the lake with "international superstar DJ's" like Paul van Dyk and less well-known DJ's such as "Turntablerocker" and "Smash FX." The dance floors continue to troll the road around the lake throughout the day. The brochure for the event (available on the trams and in the train stations) is an interesting mix of languages and content. Descriptions of the event and the DJ's are mainly in English, with a few German descriptions smattered around. There is a half-page of "tips and information" in French, and a full page in German. The French side warns about dehydration and protecting your ears. The German side gets a full page, adding warnings such as "No waterpistols!" and "No camping." But to be fair, the French side does add, "Ne jouez pas aux Tarzans!" My colleague, Jana, and I ventured down to the festivities around 7 p.m., long after the parade itself had ended. Half a mile up from the lake, Zurich was serenely quiet. Three blocks away, we began to hear a dull bass thump. Two blocks away, we turned the corner and saw masses of humans lined along the lakefront road. Jana and I dive into the crowd. A love machine is driving by, and the crowd waves. They are mostly teen-agers and twenty-somethings, with a few children, ear plugs crammed in their ears, tugged along by their parents, and a few older people like me, there to take in the scene. Despite the loud thumping music, hardly anyone seems to be grooving. Maybe when night comes things will liven up. There are men in leiderhosen, women in a wide variety of semi-dress, a man dressed as a nurse, and fluorescent pink, green and blue clothes, hair and body paint. Jana and I make our way up the street and through the crowd, which is centered at the main stage at Burkliplatz. When we get there (are forced there by the moving part of the crowd), jam-packed bodies fill a space narrowed by the tram stop walls and the main stage. People begin to push and shove us. One young man grabs Jana by the shoulder and turns her roughly, then smiles and shrugs as he and his girlfriend slide past. We follow a king in a tall crown, orange polka dot cape and no pants. The crowd seems to part before him (is it his royalty or lack of pants?), and we start to move again. There are broken bottles and beer cans everywhere on the ground, and it is slippery. I hear a scream directly behind me. The dangling part of a young woman's hanging body attachment has become attached to my camera strap, and I am dragging her along behind me. I stop. She disengages and smiles. Finally we break from the main crowd and find ourselves with breathing room. A young man steps out from the crowd. He stands for a moment, his back turned to the throbbing stage behind him, breathes a heavy sigh, and falls asleep.

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