Vortex Eclipse oldschool psytrance

And the beat goes on: Celebrating 21 years of Vortex with Grant Dreyer

The legendary Vortex celebrates 21 years of pure psychedelic bliss this year at the iconic Circle of Dreams. With more than two decades in the running, the Vortex name has become synonymous with psytrance not only locally but on a global spectrum. In this exclusive interview, we chat to the one and only Grant Dreyer – the man behind the magic.

Vortex Eclipse oldschool psytrance
Eclipse 2002

Throughout his evolutionary journey, Grant has continued to live out his dream, spread the love and rally the troops for one of Cape Town’s most celebrated occasions; his dedication to the dance and his belief in the perfect party is clearly reflected in the alchemy of every seamless Vortex event. But what does it take to plan the perfect Vortex party remaining true to one’s own philosophy and having fun to boot? Let’s take a look behind the scenes.

Easter 2004 03 (Medium)
Easter Vortex 2004

With special thanks to Louise Harford.

Thank you for joining us Grant and congratulations on the 21st anniversary of Vortex Trance Adventures. Wow. 21 years is a long time! Tell us a bit about the first ever Vortex Party; what was it like and how did it come about?

Hi! Thank you very much for doing this. 21 Years, it’s been a pretty wild ride! The first Vortex party was Essence of Fluorescence, and it was held in a warehouse in Woodstock, 21 years ago. Vortex originally came about as an attempt to be the first Electronic Dance Music nightclub in South Africa. When friends of ours came back from the UK and told us about the warehouse parties that they had been going to on that side, we decided to start it up in South Africa.

South African Psytrance Hippies by Hippie Van Minibus
“The gang.” Est: 1998

Did you ever imagine that 21 years later you’d still be living the dream and sharing the magic, or that Vortex would have evolved into what it is today? Can you explain, as you have experienced it, the growth of trance scene from its humble beginnings as a small and select underground sub-culture to the massive scene it is today?

Yes, I did imagine that 21 years later I’d STILL be living the dream and sharing the magic; this thing hooked me from the beginning and the way of life that it teaches. But I could never imagine that it would have evolved into what it has today from those very small beginnings. The growth of the trance scene in Cape Town has been quite unbelievable and it is taking the underground to the over-ground which is the purpose of a good sub-culture.

Vortex Outdoor Trance Party Old School South Africa
Easter Vortex 2004

There’s a lot more to an epic event than just the dance floor and the lineup. Behind the scenes, what goes in to planning the perfect party? From safety and security to good vibes and just plain logistics – how much hard work and effort does an event of this magnitude take?

Yes, there is a lot more to an epic event than just the dance floor and the lineup. What goes on behind the scenes at Vortex? We put about six months of logistical planning into each one of our events and that includes about four months on the ground, at the venue. We try and cover all the bases and our theory is that this is our home and we are inviting you into our home and anyone who is invited into your home, you should be responsible for their safety, security and comfort and their good vibes so that is what we try and do.

Easter Vortex Psytrance Party 2002
Eclipse 2002

Keeping it local, can you share with us the more memorable moments or events that have taken place over the years?

I have to say that the Millennium Party was an epic experience for South Africa, and for the world. For the first time, on one stage, we were able to bring twenty of the foremost artists of our scene – the musicians that created the music that we experience today. They were the pioneers of what we listen to today so to have them all on one stage, over five days, was pretty amazing. It was also the first and only exclusive live event; there were no DJ’s at the event, only live artists and they all did two hour sets.

Trance DJ Ben Third Eye and Andre T.I.P
DJ Ben Third Eye and Andre T.I.P

oldschool trance poster

It was the first time that Infected Mushroom played, Psydonia, Extreme, Tim Schuldt, Bamboo Forest, Tristan – a pretty amazing lineup. The second one in South Africa was, without a doubt, the 2002 Total Solar Eclipse which was two years in the planning, nine months on site in The Limpopo Province, on the border of The Kruger National Park with just over 2000 travelers from outside South Africa attending. The party ran for five days and also had an unbelievable lineup of over sixty musicians from outside South Africa.

Total Solar Eclipse Vortex Alien Safari Trance Party

You’ve brought us the greatest lineups with some of the best known trance producers and entertainers included in your repertoire at every event. What goes into selecting the artists for these iconic parties? How do you construct the perfect lineup? 

In terms of lineups, we’ve pretty much had everyone over the last 21 years. Most definitely those that have that have a certain sound… What gets you into a Vortex lineup? Ah, a little bit of mystery, magic – the feeling that goes into it but generally, we are looking for a psytrance sound. One that follows a psytrance format. We’ve tried to move away from excessive use of the different genres that have fragmented our scene. We do believe that over the five days there is a time and a place for all the different genres of music and if you put your lineups together, you should be able to take people in the flow of music using BPM.

Flying Rhino Dominic and George Slinky Wizard Psytrance DJ Oldschool
Flying Rhino Dominic and George Slinky Wizard

How do I select artists for these lineups? Hmm, that’s a very good question! I don’t know. We generally try to look at what is popular in the crowd at the moment and which artists are actually doing it for people in South Africa. I also look at what the various South African DJs are playing and what result they are getting on the dance floor from those artists’ tracks – that is a big factor.

Easter Vortex 2001 in South Africa trance party
Easter Vortex 2001
Vortex Psytrance Party Oldschool Hippies
Left: Eclipse 2002. Right: Dara Lee 1996

The biggest factor for me personally is the ability of the artist to DJ. I am of the strong belief that electronic music is designed to be mixed by DJs in the moment and to the crowd in front of them. In spite of having done The Millennium Live Concert, I kind of feel that DJs are the way to go with trance parties – definitely longer sets and less breaks in the music. After all, we are trying to put people in a trance; breaking the music every 60 minutes for a round of applause kind of shoots that down in flames!

Vortex Trance Adventures Millenium Party
Millenium Party

There are thousands, I’m sure, who have been to Vortex who sense that that special something, the intrinsic alchemy of your gatherings; what is the secret? The force that drives you to keep on making the magic come alive? Can you explain the philosophy behind the dream that is Vortex?

I think it is a true and intrinsic belief in the nature of trance and what it teaches people and an absolute desire from us at Vortex to maintain those beliefs, regardless of the outcome. So, it’s never been about making money for us or numbers for us, it’s about spreading the word of what we do. The philosophy of Vortex is pretty simple, to coin one of my phrases: “Trance is a way of life that teaches us about nature and our relationship to it.” See you in the circle!

vortex open source

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