There aren’t many certainties in life but at Geisha there are a few. A friendly crowd, pumping dance floor and house music. Throughout the Northbridge club’s 18-year history, different owners have all adhered to and maintained this standard. Current custodians Warwick Clancy and Craig Shorthill are determined to uphold this legacy.
“There is always that thought, ‘Can we do better?’” says Shorthill. “We will always hold on to what we are. People know they can come to Geisha and it will always be playing the music they like.”
“For a club to still be going with the same genre of music for 18 years is a miracle,” adds Clancy. “Dance music is a niche market but house is accessible music.”
The club has not only remained staunch on its music policy but its long-held door policy is something Clancy and Shorthill are unapologetic about, too (to quote the sign outside the club: “Geisha is female friendly and gay friendly. Sleazy, homophobic men aren’t welcome.”) It’s all about creating a friendly atmosphere where there is rarely trouble.
“The group mentality is a different,” says Clancy. “We’re more likely to let in a group of guys if there is a girl with them.”
The advantage of a small, intimate club filled with people there for the music or the opulent Geisha experience is that the room self polices.
“We rarely have to get a security guard to go over and tap someone on the shoulder,” says Shorthill. “We find the regular punters will pull the person up and say ‘hey, that’s not accepted here’.”
The rise of small bars has indelibly changed Perth’s nightlife. Friday-night business is especially hard. Geisha relies on its loyal regulars instead of the (now rare) walk-up patronage. After-work drinkers aren’t moving onto clubs anymore.
“The small bars cater to that now,” says Clancy. “Clubs have to adapt.”
“There aren’t many dance floors around anymore, either. People don’t waste rent on dance floors,” adds Shorthill. “We are like a small bar but with a dance floor.”
The DJ booth at Geisha has hosted some of the biggest international names in EDM, including Derrick Carter, Hernan Cattaneo, Deetron, Nick Warren and Jeff Mills, aka The Wizard. Mills commented that Geisha was cleanest and most organised club he had been to and didn’t need to do a sound check before he played.
“That was a big thing for us when he said that. We felt really proud,” says Shorthill. “He’s played at clubs with a lot more money than us.”
Occasionally surprise international acts turn up at the club after playing at a big festival. (Shortill: “The DJs want that closer intimacy with the crowd at the club.”)
While international headliners are impressive, it is the support of local DJs that has allowed Geisha to remain a major player in the nightclub scene for the past 18 years.
“Perth has a love for house music with strong local DJs,” says Clancy. “We have a good mix of DJs who have been with us for years as well as the new guys. They all bring different crowds.”
To celebrate Geisha’s 18th birthday, we asked some of its resident DJs what they love about the club.
“I’ve been coming to Geisha since it opened all those years ago. It is like my home. A place where I feel surrounded by people that share a similar love and passion for music as I do. It’s not just another club, it’s a community of friends. I feel very blessed to have found a place to play the music I love and meet a lot of like-minded people in the process.
“There have been so many classic tunes, but for the last few years the two tunes that sum up everything good about Geisha are No Worries by Butch and Doin' Ya Thang by Oliver Dollar.”
“Having a club like Geisha means a hell of a lot to me. The staff, the management and the regulars are like one big family and I always feel welcome there. The installation of the new Funktion One sound system has taken the club to the next level. All of the international DJs who come to play in the club always comment on how good the vibe is. I’m honoured to be considered part of it.
“My definitive Geisha track is the original mix of Estafette by Rene Amesz. It’s got a great groove but also has a hefty bass line. It always goes down well when I play it.”
“To have a quality nightclub like Geisha where you can push your sound to people without holding back means everything. Not only that, but I've made friendships at the venue with regulars, staff members and other DJs which I'll no doubt have for the rest of my life. There's no place I'd rather be at 2am on a Saturday night than in that DJ booth or on the dance floor at Geisha.
“A track that defines Geisha to me is Paride Saraceni’s Liberty. It has a subtle vocal hook; a driving, energetic bassline; and an amazing build-up that makes for a real hands-in-the-air moment. I have so many great memories playing this one.”
“I celebrated my 20-year anniversary of DJing in Perth in November 2016 at Geisha. The venue is like a second home. Current owners and staff are great to work with and the venue has maintained a high standard of music and a quality crowd over the years. The new Funktion One sound system has made a huge difference to the dance-floor experience.
“My definitive ‘Geisha’ tracks are To be in Love by Masters at Work and Dennis Ferrer’s remix of London Grammar’s Sights.”
Geisha celebrates its 18th birthday on Friday January 20 with an event featuring German outfit Monkey Safari and local support from SnB, James A, Green George, JimiJ, Tachee, Esobe, Jaydream and Baux.
Entry between 10pm and 11pm is free for members and includes VIP drinks. General admission opens at 11pm with entry $20 ($30 after midnight).
135 James Street, Northbridge
(08) 9328 9808