Henry Johnstone, Sydney - Australia - on 9/3/12
Being the most isolated city in the world, we at Pulse thought it only proper to satisfy our curiosity and delve into what Perth has to offer in the way of clubbing. Speaking with four dance industry heads - a journalist and three of the city's promoters - we discovered a city rich in clubbing history that in many respects is no different from any other Australian city, facing the same industry dynamics and politics as the rest of the country. On the other hand, to say that Perth doesn't have it's own flavour would be flat out incorrect; having moved from a longtime 'mainstream' obsession with breaks and drum 'n' bass into a new found romance with dubstep. Dig a little deeper, though, and there's a number of other scenes and genres to be discovered.
We've also put together a social and nightlife guide to the city with reccomendations on some of the best pubs, clubs and restaurants that the city has to offer. It's time to plan that Perth clubbing weekend.
Aarom Wilson - Editor of The Drum Media, Perth
What's the Perth scene like at the moment? Healthy? Yeah definitely. It’s kind of expanded at a rapid pace over the last couple of years. It used to be a bit of a financial risk for promoters to tour big names to the west coast, but the fact that the Australian dollar is doing well overseas has made it beneficial for touring acts to be able to make it to Perth now.
Licensing has also become better, which hasn’t opened up more clubs per se, but rather more small venues like The Bird that are putting on electronic nights up to 3-4 times a week.
The proliferation of festivals has had quite an effect on clubbing in east coast cities. Is Perth the same? Yeah, I mean we do get a lot more festivals now that we didn’t used to get. We also used to get quite restricted or smaller versions of the bigger Australian festivals. Now, however, it’s pretty much almost on par with your ones over east. I guess it’s always been a problem in Perth because it’s such a small population, so promoters that are bringing over acts during festival weekends tend to struggle sometimes.
What do you think is the most predominant genre in Perth at the moment? We’ve always been a pretty diverse city, though I’ve felt we’ve sometimes been a little behind in some respects; we were a breaks state for way longer than anywhere else in the world. Breakfest over here has won the award for best festival for I think like 10 or 11 years running!
Dubstep has really taken hold in Perth now in a big way. I think that because we’ve always had such a strong drum ‘n’ bass scene –like one of the srtongest in the world – we’ve then latched onto dubstep pretty hard. And I mean everything from brostep to your more abstract and garagey stuff to more forward thinking beats.
"There is a really great community here in the dance music scene, especially across genres. Everyone knows everyone and a lot of us are all friends."
Flex of Habitat Inc
How and when did you start promoting parties in Perth? I started Habitat about 8 years ago as no one at that time was touring tech/prog/minimal artists over here. So the only chance I was going to get to see some of my favourite artists and to help build the scene was to tour them myself.
What would you say is the predominant or most popular genre in the city? The Drum & Bass scene is massive here, always has been. More recently Dubstep has started taking over everything as well. Both are much bigger than any other genre in Perth by a lot. There is a reasonably good breaks scene, but that has been shrinking quite a lot recently. The house, tech, prog and techno scenes here are pretty small at the moment unfortunately - numbers have dwindled a lot over the past 5 years.
What’s the best thing about clubbing in Perth? There is a really great community here in the dance music scene, especially across genres. Everyone knows everyone and a lot of us are all friends.
Worst thing? 'Tis a damn long way to go for anyone to get here!
Do music festivals have an impact on the club scene there? Yeah majorly. Perth has been punching above it’s weight for ages with festivals here pulling huge numbers, which really drained the club/pub scene. Things have changed a little this year with numbers to festivals dropping a lot, but unfortunately there is now a whole generation of kids now that have been musically educated through festivals and not by the club scene. 85% of these kids will only ever see the commercial acts on the main stage and that’s it, which is a little sad I think. The number of great underground clubs that have fallen by the way side in Australia in the last few years is terrible, but unfortunately commercial dance music is big business now.
What would you like to see more of in the clubbing scene in Perth? It is pretty hard time for the club scene over here at the moment, and I don’t think anyone has a quick fix for it. Commercial dance has just swallowed up everything at the moment. Hopefully the kids will get sick of it soon and start looking for something more interesting to listen too. We would all like a few more clubs playing decent music!
Which are some of your favourite parties that you've put on? Have had so many great nights, but the two that stand out the most are Stacey Pullen’s epic five hour set at Shape for us in 2009, where I had to drag him out of the console at closing time as we still had packed house.
Stephan Bodzin’s epic live performance, also at Shape, in 2009. Never had anyone work a crowd into such a frenzy as that night. Brilliant!
What have you got coming up? I have Anthony Pappa & Rollin Connection at Geisha on Sat 10th March; MANDY & Stacey Pullen at Shape on Thurs 5th April and Guy J at Geisha in June.
"We have had Emerson Todd play for over 5 hours, Seth Troxler the same and he even put on a BBQ with his secret rib sauce."
Aarin Fraser of Lucid Dreaming Productions
How and when did you start promoting parties in Perth? I started promoting parties in Perth around March 2008. I came up with the idea and was just bouncing the name and concept off a few friends, when one of them said his mate (Reece Polain) was a graphic designer and could do the posters and another friend knew a club manager. I was set. Well, kind of…
What is the predominant or most popular genre in the city? Breaks, DnB, Electro and Dubstep. Pretty much all the genres we don’t promote haha! There are plenty of different genre scenes in the city, but some get more support than others.
What’s the best thing about clubbing in Perth? The tight community of music lovers that are always together at most events. Being able to stand on the dance floor and smile at just about anyone because we know we are lucky to have this music being played in the most isolated city in the world. The openness of the community to let new people in and welcome them and the extremely diverse and talented pool of artists we have playing over here.
Worst thing? The lack of help and support given to promoters from most clubs.
Do music festivals have an impact on the club scene there? Yes, I think they definitely do as they would all over the world. But it seems in the past few years there has been an increasingly more festivals and it clearly has impacted our club scene.
What would you like to see more of in the clubbing scene in Perth? Better working relationships between clubs and promoters to help the scene grow. A few of us have invested many hours and dollars trying to promote, without much in return. Better sound systems and more money spent on décor and decorating clubs.
Which are some of your favourite parties that you've put on? Chris Liebing would have to be one of them. We heard he was in Australia and as I was a huge fan at the time. We hunted down his agent and managed to book him. With only 2 weeks to promo the gig and find a venue, we pulled it together and we managed to sell the show out. Chris played an amazing set!
Our Boat Parties are always a highlight for us; they always end up getting pretty erratic! Nothing beats partying out on the ocean with over 100 people in the sun!
One of my most memorable gigs would also have to be Kollektiv Turmstrasse. I am again a massive fan of these guys and when the opportunity came up to be able to book them I jumped at the chance! We went all out for the gig and hired a massive sound system and got our Visual guy (VJ MARTINO) to put together an amazing light show which consisted of 3 projectors all in the one room. It looked stunning. Besides a few power outs on the actual night of the gig they played a magical set that I will never forget. I cannot wait for their return.
Last but not least, our Garden after parties. Although these are never ‘official’ events, they are always organised by the LD crew and myself. We all pitch in to help throw them. We have had Emerson Todd play for over 5 hours, Seth Troxler the same and he even put on a BBQ with his secret rib sauce for up to 30 of us and the now infamous Sven Vath after parties where he has played to over 80 people including headlining acts from Future for the past few years. These are always a lot of fun and everyone just gets loose as!
What have you got coming up? We have our 4th Birthday featuring UK's Lee M Kelsall on 10th March (Who is releasing an EP on Lucid Dreaming Recordings along with remixes from Hot Creation’s B.U.B.B.A of Nervous Recordings, Clinton Houlker and our own Brenton Catt). Our last Boat Party for the season that will be a Day/Nighter with a secret after party on 31st March and a collaboration with fellow promoters Habitat, where we are hosting M.A.N.D.Y and Stacey Pullen, on 5th April.
Karl Pownall of The Likes of You
How and when did you start promoting parties in Perth? About 1991. It was never a conscious choice to promote, I had a good friend I’d grown up with in the UK who wanted to be a DJ, and full of youthful exuberance, blagged himself a few gigs before he could actually mix, which of course hampered his chances of getting rebooked! So we took matters into our own hands and started throwing parties. At the start we were breaking into vacant warehouses and it kinda grew from there. Back then it was so fresh and full of promise - it felt like we were inventing the future and I got addicted.
What is the predominant or most popular genre in the city? DnB is the only real scene here; lots of great DJs, producers and clubnights. It's really thriving.
What’s the best thing about clubbing in Perth? If I am to be honest I would have to say nothing. In 22 years of clubbing I have never seen such a sorry state of affairs. If I just consider the types that try and play underground music, things are moving too fast for them and they don’t know which direction to go in and they are floundering instead of stamping their mark on it.
Worst thing? Brostep
What would you like to see more of in the clubbing scene in Perth? The problems here are really structural; two companies own most of the nightclubs and they are mostly “beerbarn” types. So more independently owned nightclubs by owners who actually care about music and their punters would be a good start.
Which are some of your favourite parties that you've put on? John Digweed in 1993 was a watershed moment for me. We were doing raves and everything had gone very cheesey and hardcore and we weren’t really feeling it, so we decided to book a DJ that wasn’t the kind of music generally getting played at warehouse parties. I had a couple of cassettes of his that were killer, so we contacted his agency and he was very keen as he hadn’t played outside the UK before and he flew over for a week, played 6 or 7 hours and after that night everything changed. Obviously raves still happened but it was different after that; that was our last “rave” party and we moved back to the clubs.
Recently, DJ Pierre. He really is the quintessential DJ. I would hazard a guess there was only maybe 5 people in the room who knew who he was and he tore the place apart. It was a virtuoso performance.
What have you got coming up? Lots of stuff in the pipeline, but Derrick May is next
The Perth Social Guide
Best club, past?
Aarin: For me Globe nightclub! I have seen so many great acts in that venue it holds a pretty special place in my heart.
Karl: Limbo, it was a time when DJ’s took risks and the crowd appreciated it.
Flex: DC’s; was the craziest club in town where anything could and did happen.
Best club, present?
Aarin: For me Shape nightclub, it has an awesome layout, an amazing booth, great sound, is far away from the rest of the clubs and it’s run very professionally.
Karl: Ambar, it’s a great room with a good sound system.
Flex: Shape is a great venue for bigger events, with two levels and an outdoor area, plus a killer sound system upstairs. Geisha is brilliant for more intimate events. Both clubs tend to get a lot of punters that are there just for the music.
Best local DJ?
Aarin: This would have to be one of the hardest questions to answer as we have so many talented guys who play for us.
Best Party DJ: Kid Deep
Best Warm Up DJ: Cam Duff
Most Underrated DJ: Aaron Richards
Best Fewtch DJ: Dan McNab
Most Versatile/Technical DJ: James Francis
Best Female: Nina Van Dyke
Best Serb DJ: Rocko House Mafia + Marko D
Best of the old school: Massiv Trav, James A, Puff, J Dubbs
Favourite thing to do in Perth outside of clubbing?
Aarin: Eating out with mates, hitting the beach, backyard get togethers and parties!
Karl: I live for the night, but we have some great beaches.
Flex: Definitely chillin' down the beach. Weather is always good here!
Favourite...restaurant and dish?
Aarin: Amuse - the Pork Belly!
...take away joint?
Aarin: Little Caesar’s in the hills! Jane’s Addiction pizza – try the Pesto, Prawns, Prosciutto.
Karl: The Prophet in Victoria Park. It's Lebanese with a small menu and it's all good.
Aarin: Defectors in Mt. Lawley. Amazing cocktail list, great staff and they play cool music on a Saturday. Also Ezra Pound and Helvetica need a mention.
Karl: Ezra Pound. It has ye old world charm and they serve longnecks in a brown paper bag.
Flex: Luxe. Stylish, nice crowd, good tunes.
Aarin: The Scotto! Cause they let me throw parties there.
Karl: Paddie McGuires. I’ve been going there for years to watch England lose in the world cup.
Flex: The Brisbane; nice chilled atmosphere with a great outdoor beergarden.
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