A Night in Sydney with Nina Las Vegas

Tue, 5 May 2015
Nina Las VegasPhoto of Nina Las Vegas by Emily Ames

Last month, we published our Sydney guide on where to eat, drink, dance and shop in the Australian capital. But with the lockout law (you can no longer enter a club past 1:30AM) dampening the nightlife scene in the centre of the city we turned to DJ Nina Las Vegas for guidance on a night out. This is Nina Las Vegas’ guide to late night Sydney, which naturally includes warehouse parties, dorky white dudes and 24-hour Chinese food.

Eleven years ago, Nina was just 19-year-old Nina Agzarian, born and raised in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, and completely new to Sydney. She was DJing for the first time at at friends party at The Claire, a pub in central Sydney, and it was going horribly: “I pre-mixed the entire thing. I brought whole CDs with me and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It was such a mess I still think about it now. I remember thinking ‘I have no idea how this works’ and I just pressed play.”

Fast forward to the present and I’m sitting across from the woman now known as Nina Las Vegas. She is currently touring the world with her well established show Nina Las Vegas presents – the first to showcase talent such as Flume, Cassian, Wave Racer and Carmada and responsible for bringing the likes of Eclair Fifi and Sam Timi ‘down under’ for the first time – and is one of the most famous radio presenters in Australia. She is an authority on dance music and a paramount voice in the ever expanding music scene in Australia with backing from the likes of Diplo and A Trak. Every Saturday night thousands of Aussies tune in to her show ‘Exclusive Mixes’ on the government-funded radio station triple j, to listen to four hours of her carefully curated dance music. This is a lady who presses play with a whole lot more authority today than when she first did eleven years ago at The Claire.

I’m the perfect Australian.

We’re in London but we’re talking Sydney, the place where Nina honed her talents as a DJ and radio presenter. When she first arrived in Sydney she joined a community radio station where she met some of her closest friends. She started putting on nights in Sydney, using the platform Hollerboard (the go-to website in the 2000s for producers, DJs and party kids to link up, chat and share music) to connect with DJs like Diplo and Skrillex who would play their parties after opening for M.I.A or Kanye. She was simultaneously presenting on radio, on air for seven years before landing the Exclusive Mix show at triple j radio station.

“I’m the perfect Australian,” Nina tells me laughing, “My dad is an immigrant, my mum is Anglo-Saxon, I grew up in a country town, went to university and now I work for the government. I tick all the boxes.” But despite technically working for the government, Nina is still a DJ who grew up in the heyday of Sydney’s underground nightlife scene, which means she has a few things to say about the lockout law put in place in February 2014. The law was passed after a young drunk man killed an 18-year-old boy with a single punch to the head at 10PM on a Saturday night. You can now no longer enter a club past 1:30AM, bottle shops are banned from selling alcohol after 10PM and drinks at licensed premises stop flowing at 3AM.

“Obviously it was terrible, but this was an accident that happened at 10PM at night,” she tells me. From a business perspective, she says, “It has really shifted the scene. You can’t have a drink and go out at 1AM. You have to know where you’re going, you have to plan it, and you can only really go to one thing. I grew up in the club scene putting on nights, running parties and DJing religiously from 10 at night to 4 in the  morning because we had to. The new generation of music makers are cool but they have no concept of that. They play their sets and freak out after 15 minutes. The rave culture in Sydney is gone.”

The law covers the city’s central areas – Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Cockle Bay, the Rocks and Haymarket – although Nina is quick to point out that the law does not apply to the area with all of the casinos. “Money talks,” she says.

The law is having a negative effect on taxi drivers, little restaurants in the area, convenience stores and club owners. It’s not all doom and gloom though, she assures us. New clubs and bars are opening outside of the lockout zone in the Inner West and the lockout has caused a resurgence of warehouse parties in Sydney. Nina still knows where the party is at and here gives SUITCASE her guide to a night out in Sydney.

To Start Your Night Listen to…

My latest mix with Deadboy, Dressin Red, Tyler the Creator, Bauuer and Jamie XX

For Live Music…

GoodGod Small Club is a really cool venue owned by a young couple. It’s where Lorde played her first show. It’s got the best sound system, with a small 200-person capacity.

Enmore Theatre is an amazing space for about 2,000 people, and if you see a show here it means it’s a big deal. It’s not stadium size, but an amazing middle ground in the most beautiful building.

To Fuel Up…

The Darlo bar is my local and I love to go there for a drink.

The Cricketer’s Arms is a great pub in Surrey Hills. We had a whole explosion of cool kids opening pubs in Sydney. A lot of them went up and down but the Cricketers has remained constant.

My friends have just started a place called Acme in Rushcutter’s Bay and they do really great drinks and good food. It’s a really cool space.

To Dance…

Halfway Crooks is a rap night which has been around for a while now and happens the first Saturday of the month at Good God Small Club. It’s run by two dorky white dudes and then a rotating roster of other dorky dudes that play some of the best rap music you’ll ever here.

Motorik do warehouse parties. It’s a younger raver scene, but it’s super cool.  I walk in and I’m spun out that so many people are there who love underground techno. I love it! Generally, I love when people have a thing, a scene or a style – you’ll never catch me bitching about a crowd. Everyone always talks about Australian audiences being bogans, I love it. Who cares if they’re nerdy or big and meaty guys – it’s amazing!

Once a year I put on a club tour called NLV Presents.  I curate the lineup and head to each capital city within the one run. It’s not about booking the biggest acts in the world, more DJs and Producers that I love and want people to see play. I booked Eclair Fifi, I booked Sam Tibe from Club Cheval… people that I knew probably wouldn’t come to Australia without someone like me grouping us together.

Astral People is a collective that manage quality Australian act ands and put on really good parties with amazing acts, both local and international.

 For Late Night Grub…

We have amazing Asian cuisine in Sydney. I love Wagaya, a Japanese restaurant in the city and in New Tong which is open until 2AM and has touch screen menus.

Golden Century is an amazing Chinese restaurant open until 4AM. It’s where all the chefs go in Sydney for Chinese food. One of those lazy susan, order everything type of joints.

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