When Sydney’s dance floors shut down early last year, it was a particularly heavy blow for the city’s LGBTQI+ community, for which queer venues and dance floors have traditionally been safe, welcoming gathering spaces. But now, venues are reopening and Sydney’s queer community is getting back into the swing of things.
The city’s diverse parties, dance floors and people are the focus of If These Walls Could Talk, a new five-part podcast presented by Red Bull. Hosted by FBI radio host and Palms frontman Al Grigg, it tracks the stories of Sydney’s legendary nightlife scene. Grigg chats with local legends including Robyn Kennedy, a founding member of Mardi Gras antecedent Camp; drag stars Craig “Polly” Petrie and Farren Heit, who chat through the early years of Oxford Street’s gay scene; and Sissy Ball founder Bhenji Ra.
He also speaks with Kat Dopper, the founder of queer-party organisation and platform Heaps Gay, about the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to venues, and how queer parties will look in the years to come in a gentrifying Sydney.
“Covid-19 has been a bitch – Sydney has lost venues, lockouts killed our nightlife, but it’s on the up and it’s coming back with a bang,” she tells Broadsheet. “I can feel it in the air and it feels good. There are so many epic crews and collectives doing good things outside of the traditional bricks and mortar: warehouse parties, park raves, car parks, pop-up spaces – go find them on social media. If you dig deep you’ll find them. And that’s all part of the fun.”
If you prefer an easier-to-find, but no less inclusive dance floor, Dopper has given us her top five. From a dingy inner-west basement nightclub to warehouse parties, an Oxford Street staple and more, here are five spots where everyone can have a good time.
(“Now go and play this track really loud in your lounge room and get ready for the boogie,” says Dopper.)
The Bearded Tit, Redfern
The local neighbourhood loungeroom dance floor that is the place to have a boogie. This unassuming hole-in-the-wall bar is full of random knick-knacks, nanna’s ornaments and colourful queers who welcome everyone with open arms. Their motto is “Free hugs not free beers”, so get ready to get close to a stranger under the mirror ball. You might leave with a lover or make a new mate. Hot tip: check out Queerbourhood, every Wednesday night.
Since it was renamed from The Midnight Shift in 2018, and prior to Covid-19, Universal had been dishing out weekly dance floors. It provided a safe space for punters to come together for a boogie – from hosting techno nights to pop-banger parties, its open doors welcome all. Hot tip: shows are ticketed so keep an eye out for what’s on across its socials. Skip the bar and head straight upstairs for the laser and light show, and killer sound system.
Tokyo Sing Song, Newtown
Everyone loves a dodgy basement bar. If you find yourself on King Street, Newtown, and in need of a dance, head downstairs to this dark and dingy basement for music curated by disco sound selectors Picnic. It’s free, and it’s every weekend. Oh – and late-night licence, too.
Palms on Oxford , Darlinghurst
If you want to dance like no one is watching and scream the words to I Will Always Love You with your BFFs on a Friday night after a boozy dinner, then head along to Palms. It’s an RSL-style blue-light disco crossed with your third cousin’s wedding and will have you dancing with your heels off in no time. It’s actually the best.
The Great Club, Marrickville
In Marrickville you’ll find The Great Club. This former Greek club and brand-new live-music venue is home to some incredible bands on the regular. Walking into this venue is like stepping back into the ’80s, with trophies and items from its original owners. The club is run by two female powerhouses who are so passionate about live music and culture in this city, so you know you’re getting the goods. You can catch secret acts, special guests and local talent.
Listen to If These Walls Could Talk here.