20 years ago this month, Sydney’s clubbers were in the grip of a golden era. The year 2001 had begun at any number of New Year’s Eve parties, from Mobile Home with Sasha at Bondi Pavilion to Welcome 2001 at Homebush with Deep Dish and John Digweed. (Despite all the millennium hubbub the previous year, 2000-into-2001 was the true start of the 21st Century.)
From January through to June of 2001, you had your pick of Sublime every Friday at Sydney’s shiny new superclub Home, events like Vibes On A Summer’s Day or Renaissance at the Metro Theatre and the many club nights across the city that spirited the party-hardy from Thursday to Monday morning.
That rose-tinted summer built on the ‘Olympic fever’ that took over Sydney in September and October of 2000. Over a few whirlwind weeks, the Sydney Olympic Games and Paralympic Games brought over 11,000 athletes and millions of spectators to the city. With Australia’s winning bid announced way back in September 1993, Sydney had seven years to rise to the occasion as a ‘global city’. After building excitement (and a few scandals familiar to any Olympic year), the Games got off to a spectacular start at an Opening Ceremony featuring music by Sydney rave veteran Peewee Ferris. With tourism booming, the city stayed open around the clock.
The buzz surrounding the Olympics reflected a wider optimism in the city at the time. As we partied out of 1999 free from Y2K bug havoc, Sydney was experiencing its own dance music renaissance. With outdoor festival culture not yet at its mid-2000s boom, clubs and multi-room parties were abundant, with techno, breaks, trance, funky house, prog and hard dance all in full stride.
Following on from the legendary Hordern Pavilion parties, warehouse raves and bush doofs of the ‘90s, the year 2000 marked a shift in the scene, with slicker club promotion and a growing value placed on big-name internationals. Still, local DJs set the pulse of the city, whether it was deep in the morning at Kinselas, Club 77 and The Globe or out with the ravers at Homebush. While this robust scene earned Sydney an international reputation, the new millennium also set the stage for the police pressure and anti-nightlife legislation to come.
This oral history of the 2000/2001 period is told by nine of the DJs who defined Sydney at the time. (Needless to say, there were many, many more.) These accounts, some foggier than others, recall a time when DJs hopped between multiple clubs each weekend with record bags in tow.
The interviews, conducted via phone and email, went beyond nostalgia to a serious consideration of the city then versus the one now finding its feet after lockouts and the lockdown of 2020. This is the story of a scene on the up and up, as told by the people who lived it.
A renowned DJ and producer in the harder styles of dance music, Bexta now balances music with completing a PhD in neuroscience. In 2000/2001, BeXta was a regular at Sydney club nights like Plastic and Sublime in between frequent interstate tours to promote her Mixology CD series.
One of Australia’s most respected house DJs, Simon Caldwell continues to play around Sydney and hosts Sunset every Monday on FBi Radio. In 2000/2001, Caldwell DJed all around the city and at the budding Mad Racket parties he started with Ken Cloud, Zootie and Jimmi James.
A lifelong DJ, producer and composer, Peewee Ferris has also served as music director for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the Women's T20 World Cup. In 2000/2001, Ferris was a resident of Sublime at Home and played a mix of bars, clubs and raves every weekend. He also composed music for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2000 Olympics.
With a presence on the Australian scene that dates back to his Musiquarium radio show in the ‘90s, Nik Fish remains an active DJ and producer. In 2000/2001, he was one of Sydney’s busiest hard dance DJs, from Sublime at Home to large-scale events like Utopia and Godspeed.
A respected DJ across house, techno and far beyond since the early '90s, Annabelle Gaspar is also an in-demand photographer and art director. In 2000/2001, Gaspar was a regular at clubs like Kinselas and The Exchange Hotel. She also co-founded alternative queer party Bad Dog and mixed disc two of the Out There: 2001 Mardi Gras CD alongside Frankie Knuckles.
Long regarded as Sydney’s top breaks DJ, Kid Kenobi continues to DJ and produce across a range of genres and aliases like Sekond Skin and Original Rude Boy. In 2000/2001, Kenobi was a fast-rising newcomer with slots at The Globe, Chinese Laundry, Sublime and the Fuzzy Breaks parties.
A stalwart of Sydney’s progressive house scene, Robbie Lowe splits his time between DJing in Sydney and interstate gigs. In 2000/2001, Lowe was just getting a foothold in the Sydney scene as a DJ of note, landing regular slots at Sounds On Sunday and the then-emerging prog institution Sweetchilli.
With decades of experience as a house and techno DJ, Phil Smart juggles production work with regular slots in Brisbane, Byron Bay and Sydney. In 2000/2001, he co-ran nights like Tweekin at Club 77, The Project at The Globe and the occasional Sabotage parties around the city.
From her long-running radio show on 2SER-FM to her work with cultural institutions like Mardi Gras and Vivid Live, Sveta is a tireless ambassador for dance culture and Sydney’s queer scene. In 2000/2001, the DJ and producer played everywhere from The Sydney Hellfire Club to Home nightclub, with a sound that spanned house, disco, techno and tribal.
The Build-Up to 2000
Throughout the 1990s, Sydney’s party scene rivalled any in the world. The RAT parties, which moved between venues but thrived at the Hordern Pavilion, carried on from their ‘80s peak into the early ‘90s.
A wave of UK expats and locals fashioned musically eclectic raves with locations revealed by calling a 0055 number, while Mardi Gras, Sleaze Ball and Oxford Street clubs like Patchs and The Exchange defined Sydney’s thriving gay scene. (Stephen Allkins covered all that and more in his account of Sydney’s gay clubbing history.) Most of the DJs who went on to define the early 2000s got their start during this ‘90s coming of age.
The announcement of Sydney’s winning Olympics bid in 1993 seemed to have little to do with the city’s ascendent rave scene - that is, until Nik Fish and local electronic band Southend got the idea to spin the audio into a zippy 150-BPM tune.
Nik Fish: I connected with Southend by doing a ravey breakbeat remix of one of their tunes called ‘Take Me Up’. We had a bit of free time, and it’d just been announced that we’d got the Olympics. I suggested maybe we could make something a bit tongue in cheek that sampled the announcement. I think they just looked at me like, “Ah, what do you mean?”
We made it poppy, happy and exciting -- we wanted to embody the rave sound, but put the focus on our city winning something really big. It got rejected by the record label at first, but lo and behold, DJs started to play this random rave song in clubs. People went crazy because they heard the sample. Then 2Day FM picked it up and played it. It kind of launched me away from raves. I got a lot of gigs at random places that no rave DJ would ever play.
BeXta: I started producing before DJing. My first gig was live in ‘94, and my first DJ gig was ‘97. After carrying around, I don’t know, a hundred kilos of equipment to gigs, I was like, I’m going to have to start DJing. Back then, lugging 30 kilos of vinyl seemed easy to do. By ‘99, I had my first residency at [hard dance club] Plastic and I was touring an awful lot.
Sveta: I got hooked into club culture very young - underage, actually. I went to school at Sydney Girls High, and literally across the street was the Hordern Pavilion with all the big dance parties. I think I went to my first one at 15.
I got a weekly three-hour morning show on 2SER and did it for six years before I started club DJing. People would constantly call up to ask what club they could hear me play in. I would be turning down DJ slots from promoters, because the DJs who I admired were like Stephen Allkins, who was like Sydney’s Larry Levan. He was basically a god to every DJ in Sydney. I just assumed that was the level a DJ should be.
Kid Kenobi: Everyone had high expectations going from the ‘90s into the 2000s. Around 1999, Ajax and I were both being adopted by other DJs like Phil [Smart] and [Sugar] Ray at their Sabotage, Love and Tweekin’ parties. I was more mainstream or party-ish, with slightly more popular tunes, whereas Ajax preferred the quirkier, unknown stuff.
Back then, I had the Green & Jazzy events with Q45, Ritual and Goodwill. We tended to play quite a variety of genres at our own parties and we moved between drum & bass, deep house and breaks nights. It was a transitional period. Everyone was like, “Oh my god, 2000! Are all the computer systems going to crash with the Olympics coming up?”
Peewee Ferris: Once we won the Olympics bid, there was much more friendliness to the idea of us becoming a global city. The people in the nightclub world always thought London or New York was the centre [even though] Sydney would have 5000 people at a party. London had the record labels and magazines, so they had all the power and could present a front. Sydney got a lot of young tourists on a tour of the world. It was always on the list as a party city.
When Clubs Were King
At the turn of the millennium, the choice of outdoor dance festivals was relatively small. Vibes On A Summer’s Day was settled at Bondi Pavilion since 1994, while 2000 saw a crew of go-getters called Fuzzy convince Centennial Parklands to host the first Parklife. (Their New Year’s Day recovery Field Day followed in 2002 with Bob Sinclar and ‘The Fingerlickin’ Massive’.)
Then there was the multi-genre juggernaut Big Day Out, which upgraded from the Hordern and surrounds to the new Olympics-ready Sydney Showgrounds in Homebush in 1999. This took the Boiler Room from the relatively intimate Dome at Moore Park to a much larger space fit for the likes of Fatboy Slim and Underworld.
In this moment before the true festival glut, clubs and parties ruled the city. Club 77, Kinselas, Slip Inn, Icebox, The Globe and Q Bar were just a small sample of the clubs on a typical weekend circuit. This embarrassment of riches also coincided with the founding of Sydney-based dance site inthemix, whose forums quickly became a hive of club chat. For the DJs out there every weekend doing the work, the memories still burn bright.
Robbie Lowe: There was so much on every week. If you were still standing on Sunday night you were doing well.
Peewee Ferris: I’d do a double or triple shift on a weekend - I’d do a bar in the city, then go play a rave. The city clubs didn’t want to know about the rave music; they wanted vocals and slower house. At Kinselas, I’d play music that sounded like my big hit, ‘I Feel It’ [from 1996].
Simon Caldwell: Mad Racket started at the Bowlo in 1999 [after moving from Waverley Squash Club]. The main reason we started was to get away from normal club nights with "music policy" vibes, usually interpreted by club managers who had little knowledge of music, which was sometimes kinda frustrating. We just wanted to do something that was fun and where we could play exactly what we wanted to. The NYE 2000/2001 party with Herbert was a favourite. Everyone got all dressed up, came early for some jazz and then danced until dawn.
Robbie Lowe: Sweetchilli always had two rooms running: house and breaks in one, and progressive house in the other. Everyone loved [Sweetchilli venue] the Dendy; it had loads of character. The Sweetchilli crowd were super in touch with the music. I was playing a lot of early sets so I learnt to be patient, build a steady groove and not unleash my big tunes at once. A formula that still works today.
Phil Smart: We [Smart and Sugar Ray] did our Sabotage parties at Skygarden and bigger ones at the Metro. A lot of the techno acts would come through promoters in Melbourne - or in the case of someone like Adam Freeland, we knew him and he liked playing little parties for us. Tweekin’ [Smart and Ray’s Friday residency at Club 77] closed in April 2001, and it’d been going for five years. The decision was to close on a high and move on. I used to go and play overseas and I couldn’t wait to get home to play at Tweekin’.
Kid Kenobi: It was such an incredibly healthy scene. It was something you were a part of -- a community. You could do six or seven club gigs between Friday and Sunday. You could triple book yourself on a Saturday, play early somewhere, do the main floor next and the late slot somewhere else.
Annabelle Gaspar: I was full-time DJing by . I had residencies at Q Bar, Phoenix/Exchange Hotel, The Oxford, Sublime and Kinselas, plus I would play the odd party in-between. There was so much happening you could go from gig to gig all weekend, sometimes playing three gigs in one night. It was enough so that I could make a living from DJing full-time, which you can’t compare to right now. And I wasn’t a commercial DJ either. I didn’t get caught up in being a gay DJ or a lesbian DJ; I didn’t like that. I played music parties. I started getting more selective about where I’d play, because I’d have two boxes of records, that was it. I didn’t have thousands of tracks on a USB.
BeXta: There was no social media, but the inthemix forums were very much alive at that time. You’d get good and bad feedback.
Sveta: I had to develop a thick skin with messageboards. I got booked to play the millennium party at the Sydney Opera House and the Metro after, and someone on a messageboard said 'Sveta’s so shit she shouldn’t even play at the Marrickville Metro'. I’m probably talking about three or four people [on the messageboards]. I never had any issues with being a woman, because you would only get those gigs once you proved yourself as a DJ. Once you’d done that, you were just another DJ. I’m not saying sexism didn’t exist, of course it did, but not like it did once festivals became big in Australia.
Phil Smart: DJs loved coming to Australia in summer when it was all grey and dark in Europe. Australia was one of the first places outside of Europe that had a viable scene that was worth these DJs coming to. This is before South America and Asia really took off - back then, there weren’t really places outside of Europe and the US they could come to. I remember the first time Sasha and Orbital came out - they were heroes to us, and they seemed to be having just as good a time as us.
Sveta: I think we felt in Australia, because we weren’t so much on an international stage, that we must be less good than the internationals. But really our standards in Australia were far higher, which I realised when I went overseas and played with the well-known producers who made the tracks we would play. They could barely mix two records together.
Annabelle Gaspar: We started Bad Dog in 2000 to get away from the mainstream club vibe, as the newer, bigger, polished clubs didn't have the intimate 'get on down and let go' vibe we were craving. As DJs, we didn't want to be a spectacle and have everyone facing us, which was starting to happen. We wanted folks to dance with each other, get lost in the music and feel safe to express themselves. Not all face the front like a classroom.
Nik Fish: The day/night thing at Sounds On Sunday [at North Sydney’s Greenwood Hotel] was a new concept for us. You’d have clubs that would go all night, but you didn’t have events that started at midday and went until 10pm. This pretty basic old church with a beer garden that no one had much interest in suddenly became an institution. You had the weekend starting on Friday at Sublime and ending at Sounds On Sunday, with whatever else came up in between on Saturday.
Phil Smart: We also did The Project at The Globe, where me, Ray and Ken Cloud would play downstairs and upstairs would be a crew like Green & Jazzy, which was hip-hop to funk to drum & bass. You had to catch the lift up between the levels, which was always fun. Upstairs was more of a loose, eclectic bar vibe, and downstairs was a basic square box with a good sound system. Two very different worlds, aesthetically and musically.
Kid Kenobi: The Globe was quite debaucherous. People would be going nuts over this music we would be into. It was a club, in the sense of something you felt a part of. You’d be stinging to have new music to play and it was very competitive with the other DJs. Lots of passion on both sides of the decks. There were no lockout laws, obviously, and things could go as late as they went.
The Two Lives of Sublime
Before the era of Home nightclub, there was Sublime at Pitt Street. The club, which opened in the basement of the Brashs building in 1996, had three main nights: Beatfix on Thursdays for breakbeat, Voodoo on Fridays for trance and harder sounds, and Cargo on Saturdays for house.
After a life-changing night dancing to Frankie Knuckles at Tokyo nightclub Gold, UK expat Simon Page ditched his corporate job to open Sublime. Sublime at Pitt Street became a spot revered by both clubbers and DJs. It was also the spot where the trio behind Fuzzy -- John Wall, Ming Gan and Adelle Robinson -- cut their teeth, week in, week out.
After four years at Pitt Street, Page and his wife and business partner Susanah decided Sublime needed bigger digs. While on the search for a new venue (the hope was to acquire a liquor license for a warehouse outside the CBD), Page got talking to Home owner Ron McCulloch. The slick new superclub, which had opened at Cockle Bay in 1998, needed a night like Sublime.
The move combined Voodoo, Beatfix and Cargo under one roof on Friday nights, bringing residents like Nik Fish, Peewee Ferris, Jumping Jack and Kate Monroe into a new phase. This is how the DJs remember Sublime at Pitt Street and at Home.
Nik Fish: After raves, the club era for me kicked off around 1996 playing at Sublime in Pitt Street. I’d play the little back room that became an institution from ‘96 to 2000 -- this dark room of intense music where I’d play the hard trance sound I’d tapped into that was emanating out of Frankfurt and Berlin. The main room [on Voodoo nights] would have guys like Peewee [Ferris] and Andrew James and Mark Dynamix, and Jumping Jack and I had our own thing going in the back.
[Owner Simon Page] managed to open the space up inside with renovations and built this foldable wall to section off about a third of the club. People would just wander in and discover this back room with a red strobe light and massive speaker stack. You’re in this condensed space behind a false wall and it’s almost pitch black with this insanely throbbing music. The wall was soundproofed, so the two rooms didn’t clash.
BeXta: I used to go to Sublime at Pitt Street before I’d ever played there. I would go to see Nik [Fish] and Jumping Jack play at the end, when they’d open up the doors and the whole club would be listening to those two. I remember being so nervous when I played there the first time. It was such an iconic place - it was the place to be for the harder styles. It was that hot, sweaty, crowded vibe, with everybody enjoying themselves.
Nik Fish: When we finished out the back - whatever time it was, it was late - they’d open up the wall. The 3am crowd would go home, it’d get a bit more sparse and we’d go to 6am as one big club. It was a very clever, innovative room - and somehow they had a gaming room too, which people would wander into and use the pokies as a chillout space.
Annabelle Gaspar: I loved the Sublime at Pitt Street. The sound system was the best. For sound, vibe and atmosphere, Body & Soul in New York and Sublime pop in my head together. I remember hearing Frankie Knuckles there all night and it was beautiful. It was just, well, sublime.
Kid Kenobi: That first Sublime was awesome and perfect-sized, with an amazing sound system. The funny thing about Home opening was all the people being like, “Oh my god, Sydney’s getting a superclub, this will be the end of the clubbing era!” People were used to going to Club 77 and dingy pop-ups, and now there’s this purpose-built superclub.
Nik Fish: We were really sad to be packing down at Pitt Street [in 2000], but then we got to move into this huge space.
Peewee Ferris: When Home opened, it was a game-changer. At the beginning, we had the Twilo sound system from New York by Steve Dash. It was phenomenal. You could mix panoramically around the room from the different channels. It was hard enough just mixing in there on vinyl because it was a huge system and everything moved. A lot of the Oxford Street clubs had good sound systems, but they didn’t have the same height. The lights and the smoke and the sound were really different in a big open space. Smaller intimate rooms are a lot easier to DJ. When you’re in a big room, you have to work a lot harder to keep that intensity.
Simon Caldwell: Home had the most amazing sound system back then.
BeXta: Long term, it was a good move to Home. It’s not that sort of underground vibe that Pitt Street had, but the energy levels you could get in that place were amazing, because it was always pretty full.
Kid Kenobi: I became a resident in the breaks room. That was part of breaks reaching a wider audience. You’d get people from the trance room, a different demographic, stumbling into the breaks room. It’d be 2000 people almost every Friday - that was ridiculous.
Peewee Ferris: That was the period when the European trance market hit. The Dutch and Belgian trance sound really came in. When you had a breakdown with big synth chords, it sounded phenomenal, because you had that air around the sound. Home became very much a trance venue for that reason. And we just got jammed for a long time.
September 2000: Welcome to the Olympics
The arrival of the Olympics lit up Sydney. Thousands of locals and tourists crowded around communal screens to watch the Opening Ceremony broadcast, which prominently featured music by Sydney’s own Peewee Ferris. The festive mood spilled over into street parties, pop-up bars and packed gigs from the CBD to Parramatta. It was a good time to be a working DJ.
Nik Fish: In 2000, Sony Music got every frickin’ DJ from Peewee Ferris to Captain Kirk to BeXta to remix ‘The Winner Is…’ They called it the 2000 remixes. Even though the Olympics were on, that shit was from the early ‘90s. It was a bit been there, done that. It got a little bit of airplay, but it wasn’t this crazy resurgence of the song.
BeXta: That month when the Olympics were on, I had 14 gigs straight. 14 nights in a row, gig after gig, it didn’t matter what night of the week. Sydney really came alive. It was not just in the city; it was Penrith, Parramatta and outer suburbs too.
Simon Caldwell: The Olympics achieved a 24/7 vibe in the city. Sussex Lane was a particularly notorious spot during the Olympics, where shenanigans were had on pretty much any night of the week, and it seemed that most venues were packed. On the downside, bunches of people singing "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi” became a regular sight and getting between gigs with two boxes of records was a real mission sometimes.
The Olympics achieved a 24/7 vibe in the city
Nik Fish: Sublime hit the ground running at Home -- then we had to move out for the Olympics so it could be used as an official venue called The Last Lap. It became the official athletes and sponsors venue; a space that was away from the general public. We actually moved Sublime temporarily to Sydney Uni and had this pop-up Sublime nightclub where the vibe and DJs was the same.
Peewee Ferris: I did 42 minutes [of music] across the opening and closing ceremonies. They had this section where they wanted to incorporate music from all the continents, and they asked me to produce a demo in two days. This was in May, and the Olympics were in September. Suddenly I had to write a 15-minute piece covering all the continents. It wasn’t as easy as going online to find an Asian drum pattern; you had to source the legit thing and get people in to play it. I got lots of jobs afterwards that I wouldn’t have gotten normally as a DJ.
The Sounds of the New Millennium
As the ‘90s turned over to a new millennium, electronic music was shifting gears. The Avalanches broke out with Since I Left You in 2000, followed in 2001 by Daft Punk’s pop odyssey Discovery, Royksopp’s debut Melody A.M. and Basement Jazz’s genre-bending Rooty. Mix-CDs were also booming, from British brands like Fabric/FabricLive and Global Underground to the Melbourne-born Balance series, which launched in 2001 with a volume mixed by Sean Quinn.
For Sydney’s DJs, styles could blur freely across the course of multiple club nights, while other parties became known for a particular sound. While the likes of Sweetchilli and Fuzzy Breaks drew prog and breakbeat diehards, Sounds On Sunday brought the tribes together to wake up the weekend ghost town of North Sydney.
Simon Caldwell: The late ‘90s and early 2000s were fairly open-minded in terms of music. Breaks merged into progressive house sets, techno and house were played together, tempos were varied. Personally I was playing a mixture of UK tech-house, US house (lots of Chicago stuff which was a bit more abstract) and I was playing quite a lot of booty house from Dance Mania and so on.
Phil Smart: I definitely floated between styles. Part of it was just necessity to earn a living as you had to play bars, which I always loved. I loved playing breaks, house, techno, ambient, Balearic, whatever. It was all just interesting to me.
BeXta: Generally I was known as a hard trance DJ, but I would start with quite light trance and move through to hard dance within a two-hour period. I’d try to push the boundaries of what people had heard before, and I think the music was expanding too in that period. The genres were developing. At first it was just trance, and we have about 300 genres of trance now.
Robbie Lowe: I was drawn to deeper sounds and warm groovy basslines. CD one of Danny Howells’ Global Underground: Nubreed mix and his Renaissance: Revelation disc are perfect examples. The ‘Circulation’ vinyl series was another. Add to that the records some of the UK tech-house DJs like Terry Francis, Eddie Richards and Nathan Coles were releasing.
Sveta: In the late 90s, I became a resident at Hellfire Club and a lot of what I was playing was techno. I went on like that until there weren’t any opportunities to play techno in Australia. In 2000, I mixed the Millennium CD for Mardi Gras, and it wasn’t a gay anthems anthology. I did the Hordern mix, which was techno. Every style and sound in dance music was developed by producers in the gay underground, but in the mainstream, gay music started to be known as Kylie. Only the cheesy stuff. In the Hordern and Dome, nothing of that sort was getting played.
Every style and sound in dance music was developed by producers in the gay underground, but in the mainstream, gay music started to be known as Kylie
Kid Kenobi: Musically, it was just the perfect point in the evolution of dance music. It was coming from being underground and alternative to crossing over to the mainstream, but it didn’t really have commercial airplay. You had to go to the clubs to hear those tunes.
Peewee Ferris: There were really good, catchy melodies at that point. For 20 years after that, trance tracks are still repeating them. The sound really hasn’t changed much since those days. It was a peak in club culture.
Sveta: Overnight, trance just came in and took over the world. It was everywhere. It was a challenge for me, who could find something to like in pretty much every style, to find anything I liked in trance. I like to have a heavy bass presence. That started at those early Hordern parties, hearing the bass come in and feeling your heart connect to it. Trance was all up in the air, with these DJs acting like conductors.
Kid Kenobi: A lot of clubs were very funky, upbeat and ravey -- it was feelgood. The mentality of the rave scene, where it was about the uplifted vibe and a dancefloor of everyone sharing a moment together, was still there. But it had moved into clubs and become more commercially packaged.
What Came Next
The 2000/2001 period was critical in shaping the two decades to come. After the financial flop of Apollo in 1998 and the late cancellation of Homelands in 2000, Australia got a true ‘European style’ multi-stage dance tour with Gatecrasher Summer Sound System in December 2001. (Like many other large-scale dance parties, the Sydney leg was held at Sydney Olympic Park.) With Two Tribes and Fuzzy’s Field Day and Harbourlife leading the next wave, festivals became Sydney’s new hot property.
Following the 2000 Olympics, sniffer dogs became a controversial presence in Sydney nightlife. According to a 2016 report by researchers at UNSW, 14 specially trained drug dogs began operational duties in 2001. These dogs were used in clubs, licensed venues and in public spaces, with an early focus on areas with a thriving gay scene like Darlinghurst and Oxford Street.
Following public outcry, the NSW Ombudsman released an exhaustive review of the police use of drug detection drugs in 2006. Their findings led the watchdog group to question whether the Drug Dogs Act of 2001 will “ever provide a fair, efficacious and cost-effective tool to target drug supply”. Despite these concerns, NSW Police’s use of sniffer dogs at festivals and nightlife venues has only intensified since the report.
With its promise of new money and international status, the Olympics ushered in a changed Sydney. Some DJs see a direct line from that boom time to the lockouts and the NSW Government’s crackdown on “high-risk” festivals. In a city that’s always on the move, not all momentum is progress.
Nik Fish: Sydney went through a bit of a Olympics withdrawal and comedown. It put us on the map, and we’re always going to be the country with boxing kangaroos either way.
BeXta: There was a definite dip in maybe 2002. You can’t sustain that crazy energy forever. But it didn’t take long for everything to go back to normal.
Robbie Lowe: Everyone wanted a piece of the pie. In flew the internationals and festivals started popping up everywhere.
BeXta: Clubs had budgets to bring in national DJs. There was support for the local artists as well as internationals then. Fast forward ten years, and the budgets were mainly focused on internationals.
Peewee Ferris: Without the Olympics venues, it’d be interesting to see what would’ve happened with [large-scale raves]. Because they couldn’t afford to go to a venue like the Entertainment Centre.
Phil Smart: Sydney is funny, man. There’s this culture war that’s been going on for a really long time. In the late ‘80s, the new pokie laws came in, and a lot of pubs had to close their bandrooms so they could make more money. It’s all driven by money, and more often than not connected to gambling.
Sveta: A lot of people talk about progress being made into the ‘now’. My observation as a DJ and a person who looks at culture is that we started in a great place and have gone progressively backwards.
Phil Smart: All the money that swept in for the Olympics creates a more conservative mindset, which has carried on into the 2000s. I think that conservatism was the big thing of the lockout laws - the fact that the casino remained open tells you where they really think the culture lies. Sydney doesn’t value its culture in the same way that Melbourne does.
BeXta: The last 18 months have taught us, in a very harsh way, that you can’t always be ‘up’. In the moment it’s worrying, because we all think the music scene is going to die forever, but it never does.
Kid Kenobi: Until about five years ago, I have been very resistant to embracing my history. I always wanted to be the new kid, always reinventing. I got to the anniversary of 20 years of DJing and could’ve pretended it wasn’t happening, but I embraced it. I’m very sentimental, so I have all the vinyl from that 2000/2001 period. Those records are not going anywhere.