INTERVIEW: Tim Brown | Connections 40th Birthday Party
Connections Nightclub is getting ready to party. It’s turning 40, and in human years, that’s over-the-hill, but in nightclub years, it’s probably nothing short of a miracle. Amidst the final preparations for the Saturday night main event, Connies co-owner Tim Brown took a few minutes away from the noisy party prep to tell us a bit about what we can expect at the biggest 40th birthday bash in Northbridge. “It’s a bit mad. I’m in the furthest corner in the nightclub away from all the noise,” Tim begins. “People building and fixing and cleaning, and drag queens dancing,” he remarks.
The club isn’t just for dancing to fabulous DJs from Perth and beyond, though that’s it’s big draw. “Connections has always tried to do as much as we can in terms of theatre and performance. We’re very involved in Fringe, for instance. The last couple of years we did some serious theatre stuff, we’ve done burlesque, we did comedy, we did drag. Part of the background for it is it’s always been a home for the arts community as well, and there’s always been quite a good take-up from those customers. So when good things have come along and we could make them work, we put them into the nightclub as well.”
Brown goes on to say, “Certainly on Saturday, there are shows running all night, from 7:30/8:00, and it’s largely drag. There’s about 20 performers in all working. It starts with solo spots in amongst the crowd and culminates in the midnight show which has got, I think, about a dozen drag queens all up. Some of them are the ones that are working here now, but about half of them are performers that have worked here in the past. Some of them have come back from over east, one from Melbourne, one from Sydney, one from Brisbane, and a couple of whom haven’t danced for ten years or so, so they’re the ones rehearsing really hard out the back. Then there’s another late night spot that’s more high energy dance stuff that’s with the dancers rather than the drags.”
Connections recently hosted an evening for the transgender community called Transtastic, which featured a variety of performers from musicians to comedians and even a transgender illusionist. We asked Tim if she would make an appearance again, and he said, “She was so cool. I’ve got her details, we’ll look at booking her in in the new year. It’s something we’ve never had before, I don’t think we’ve ever had any magic, which is quite amazing because I think we’ve had nearly everything else.”
Transtastic was a new venture for Connections, and by all accounts it was a positive, successful event for the club. “I think that’s what we’ve always tried to do. It’s nice to see the trans community getting together like that and being so cohesive. And the support from the broader community, whether that be the broader gay and lesbian community or the broader community full stop. It was just really cool to see.”
After a 40-year history for the club, and a 24-year tenure for Brown, there there is much for the co-owner to be proud of. “We’re really proud of the new space we built, the new bar and roof terrace. I think it really adds something new to what we do and broadens our palette dramatically. I’m proud of witnessing the immense change in the community. Those forty years, we’ve really been witness to the greatest change in the gay and lesbian community ever. We’ve gone from being completely hidden and illegal to being out there and proud and everybody knowing about it. Being part of that has been really wonderful to see. It’s important to work out how to grow and change as a business, to keep hold of that wonderful history, but be relevant to people here and now.”
As for the future, Brown says “I’d like to think that those changes will continue at a similar pace. Touching on the trans community event, it shows that there’s another community that are finding a voice at last. It will be nice to be there for them more and welcome them as part of who we are. I’d like to continue to play great music, put on great shows, push the boundaries some. Sometimes that means pushing the boundaries of the gay community, you know? Being able to be commercially relevant while also pushing out and pushing forward has always been really important to me, and it’s always been really important to Connections. That will continue into the future as part of our M.O.”
In the near future, we can expect Connections to be a hub in Fringe World 2016. “We’ve got a dozen acts booked I think. We’re doing them both on the stage and in the round out on the terrace.” Brown and his partners are also still looking to keep up with the small bar trend and open Perth’s first gay small bar, X-Large. “It’s still in planning, but it’s been on hold much of this year, because we’ve just had so much else to concentrate on. The building that the new part is in goes all the way back down to the laneway of Chinatown, down to The Standard. At the back door of The Standard there’s a roller door opposite it, that’s where X-Large is to be, there’s actually space for two small bars down there. So with time and a bit of extra cash we’ll hopefully get to build those. We’ve got the license approved, it’s all ready to go. We’ve just had a lot on our plate with what we’ve done at Connections.”
Brown says there are too many wonderful memories and events to pinpoint specific highlights from his time at the club, but he says the things he has loved the most are the “wonderful DJs who have performed from all over the world, and wonderful people from here that have been incredible performers that have been doing all sorts of performance on that stage. But my abiding memory of all that is a whole bunch of people having a really good time with a bunch of people that maybe weren’t the same as them, but they kinda were comfortable with and that’s what Connections is about. That’s the highlight. And we’re going to do it all again this weekend!”
Online pre-sale tickets have sold out completely, but tickets will be available on the door from 9 pm on the night, so head down to Connections on Saturday, December 5, and celebrate with Tim and our diverse community!