Think dirty. Think dark. Think downstairs, the Phoenix, hot and heavy music, a bit of leather or latex, uniforms, skin. Think a mix of women and men, mostly gay and occasionally straight. Think Schmutzig.

Schmutzig: sordid, smutty, filthy, dirty, black. When Sarah Harris and her friends sat down more than a year ago and worked out a name for their new club night, the German word schmutzig said everything they wanted the night to be.

We were trying to find a name that encompassed the atmosphere and d?r already existing at the Phoenix, Harris says.

The Phoenix is underground literally. It’s fondly referred to as -˜the pit’, it’s dark, it’s dirty. Schmutzig is a German word, which translates into English as filthy, or disgustingly dirty. It’s quite in keeping with the general theme of things.

Name decided, the girls set about making their own way in the Sydney dyke scene -“ away from the drag kings and beer-fuelled pub nights happening almost every other night of the month. Schmutzig is catering to a non-conformist crowd that shows up to dance, and dance all night, Harris says.

That was the whole point from the beginning -“ a comfortable place for playing shit-hot music.

Shit-hot indeed. Every DJ playing at Schmutzig is hand-picked by Harris, after she’s spent significant time listening to them play.

DJ selection is crucial for Schmutzig because we’re trying to offer a different, non-commercial, dark and dirty sound. I book DJs that I’ve heard before and can trust to deliver this -“ the regular DJs at Schmutzig, Sveta, Kelly Lynch and Feisty, have worked with me before. I trust them to understand the crowd and create a good sound.

A year is a long time in gay-venue-land, especially for those smaller nights with less interest in getting money from buffed tits-out Oxford Street boys. The most regularly girlie night in Phoenix’s rotating monthly calendar is not aiming for a mainstream audience. It’s mostly women, for a start. While the boys do come, and they do sometimes get their tits out, Schmutzig is not the Midnight Shift.

It’s a pretty cool, pretty friendly crowd down there, mostly girls, but -“ we’re a bit like a bag of liquorice allsorts really, Harris says.

I guess the thing that they all have in common is that they love to dance, they’re into the music, and they don’t mind getting a bit trashy! Since we’ve started I’ve noticed a lot of regulars, plus a lot of young new faces. We’ve even been getting girls from out of town -“ Melbourne, Adelaide, Newcastle and even Brisbane -“ saying Schmutzig was recommended to them by friends who’ve visited us in the past.

After a year of hot and sweaty Phoenix nights, Schmutzig is celebrating its first anniversary on Halloween, an appropriately dark night. Regular DJs Sveta and Feisty will be joined by Mandy Rollins, and more than $1,000 worth of prizes and giveaways will be handed on to punters.

Schmutzig celebrates its first birthday next Friday 31 October at the Phoenix, downstairs at the Exchange Hotel, 34 Oxford St, Darlinghurst. Tickets are $5 before midnight and $10 after. Email for more information.

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