Arts & Entertainment

THE NAKED CITY – MURDER ON THE DANCE FLOOR

So called ‘long-COVID’ is not just a malaise confined to bodily health and mental well being. The effects of the pandemic and various lockdowns will be felt for years if not decades to come, despite the appearance of a somewhat superficial return to normality. One of the hardest areas hit has been the entertainment and nightclub industry which is currently battling against a welter of negative forces. 

A few weeks ago the State Government instigated a rather extraordinary pilot program in which they paid a dozen Sydney nightclubs, bars and restaurants to stay open later each night during Vivid. A total of $100,000 was dished out with restaurants obliged to keep trading until midnight and bars and clubs until 2am. The money was given towards extra labour and goods costs and to assist the venues with a leg up in general.

On the surface it looks like a rather desperate measure, designed to breath at least some life into Sydney’s late night moribund economy. The problem of course is persuading punters to stay out late, with the government’s thinking that if the venues are open, the patrons will come. The reality unfortunately is that the whole post-pandemic paradigm of the way people spend their leisure hours has changed. You might as well distribute free packets of No-Doz tablets at Circular Quay station to keep the Vivid audience in the CBD.

Hand in hand with the struggle of restaurants and small bars to get back on their feet, is the apparent decline of Sydney’s once dynamic nightclub culture. In the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, Sydney was alive with clubs, live music venues and clandestine warehouse parties. Many traded through until 3am or even later with the notorious ‘day’ clubs taking over at sunrise to keep chemically fuelled party people bouncing on the dance floor.

The late night entertainment culture generated a thriving post midnight economy, a boon for takeaways, coffee shops and taxi drivers, not to mention drug dealers and even sex workers. You could sit in the Piccolo Bar in Kings Cross on a couple of coffees until dawn and you never went hungry in Oxford Street. The lockout laws which dramatically affected Kings Cross and the CBD from 2014 onwards are seen by some as the beginning of the nocturnal demise but today it seems many other factors have come into play.

It’s argued in some quarters that the current generation of young Australians are less interested in clubbing, in staying out late and getting inebriated and now use their dating apps to meet their girlfriends and boyfriends. Added to this is a worldwide decline in the number of nightclubs, many of them plagued by decreasing numbers and excessive costs. The thriving culture of live music and djs that many of these clubs hosted and nurtured has now moved to the somewhat sterile world of the internet through YouTube and Tik Tok. The audience may be much larger but the person to person social interaction of performers and a packed dance floor cannot be duplicated on a digital device.

So what then is the future of nightclubs and a rejuvenated late night culture in a now comatose Sydney. I put the question to long time club promoters, djs and cultural entrepreneurs Miss Death and Jay Katz. The duo are best known for their outrageously successful ‘Sounds Of Seduction’ club nights and their ‘Naked World’ podcast. They currently host ‘Seductive Sounds’, every Friday night in the Judgement Bar at the Courthouse Hotel in Oxford Street.

Miss Death was sceptical of government handouts to established clubs and venues and would like to see any largesse go directly to the grass roots. She believes that a rebirth of Sydney night life needs to be organic, with a lot less compliance and sniffer dogs disrupting people out to have an enjoyable night. Not one to mince words she stated, “Sydney night life, they tried to kill it, they choked it with the lock out laws, they stabbed it with the light rail then they ran a stake through its heart with the pandemic – and now they want to resurrect it. Haven’t they seen Pet Cemetery?”

Jay Katz is perhaps more optimistic about the future noting, “these are truly revolutionary times and yet again those that have been most neglected, the grass roots artists that are the heart of the city’s cultural night life, will be the instigators of the resurrection.”

Let the rebirth begin!

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