There are two churches nestled together in the middle of Warner Street, Fortitude Valley, that hold a solemn air during the day. Come Friday and Saturday night, though, is the revelation that these are houses of worship to a totally different kind of religion: the devotion to music.
Located in the heart of Queenslandâ€™s largest entertainment district, Electric Playground and The Church are vibrant hubs of activity every weekend. The proprietor of these clubs is like the buildings he presides over: solid and firm in physique as in manner, worshiped in the scene for his steadfast resolve and eternally cheery disposition, an arbiter of Queenslandâ€™s music scene as he mixes big basslines to anthems with fists pumping from behind the decks - it is DJ Wahoo of Warner Street.
For Wahoo, being a good DJ means knowing how to read a crowd. â€œI can always tell Iâ€™m on the right track when I look to the bar,â€ he says, â€œand theyâ€™re standing there, bopping away to the beat.â€
But before there was a DJ Wahoo there was Wayne Wakefield, a Brisbane kid growing up in the suburb of Hendra. Music was in Wayneâ€™s blood, particularly with parents willing to throw a party most Saturday nights. He would hang out at Toombul Music trying to find the latest tracks and then on Saturday night, be delegated to sitting beside the twin tape decks and record player, dropping Michael Jackson and Donna Summer, while flicking the switch between phono and tape.
Then at 17, Wayne discovered cars. He was rebellious, saying no to following in his fatherâ€™s footsteps in the timber business at Caboolture; determined instead to be a racing car driver. Wayne was racing at Bathurst, once qualifying for pole position against Marcos Ambrose. This immense dedication remains an integral aspect to Wayneâ€™s character.
While racing, his love for music still held. Religiously each Thursday, he and his mate Macca would head to Central Station Records to grab the latest record from Harry K or Murray Brown.
â€œWe were vinyl thieves,â€ Wayne reminisces. â€œWe even knew what time the records would arrive.â€ After pilfering Central Station, they would then head to Sanity, and hit up Tim Stanton aka Karma for new arrivals. By 2002, Wayne would be hanging out at The Beat listening to Jen-E.
â€œIt was impossible to get gigs anywhere back then,â€ Wayne notes. On Sunday afternoons, Wayne and the lads would be playing on Technic 1200s with an old Pioneer mixer. â€œWeâ€™d be talking shit,â€ Wayne claims. â€œAnd Karma told me â€˜Youâ€™re good at thisâ€™.â€
With Morning Glory already a fixture on Ann Street, Wayne, Karma and Macca thought about owning their own day club. There was The Gig playing R&B and Top 40s, Monastery at the top of Ann Street playing house and Technomadiscotech was into indie. For Wayne, hard dance was king â€“ and he wanted a venue to play it in.
â€œIn those days, a day club was affordable,â€ Wayne states. â€œYou didnâ€™t have the issues with buying a license. We just needed a venue.â€
The venue presented itself at the right time: now the Thirsty Camel, Macca, Karma and Wayne took over the space and made it into Boom. With black plastic on the windows, and hard dance on the system, it was the place for everyone to go once the clubs had closed. Any interstate or international DJs passing through, including Nik Fish, Fergie and UKâ€™s Tin Tin, would end up behind the decks at Boom. But the good times at Boom on Wickham St soon saw the arrival of a letter of warning, giving Boom six months to vacate.
â€œI made it my mission to find a new place,â€ Wayne declares. It seemed an impossible dream, but everything that makes Wayne the person he is â€“ his resolve, his manner in being hands-on, and his constant question to ask why not? â€“ turned the impossible into reality. He probed, until the news emerged that blues and jazz club The Healer was up for sale. Wayne approached the owner, who believed in Wayne enough to give him the chance: Boom moved from Wickham St to Warner. Baby Gee and Karma were residents, with newcomer DJs tyDi and Syke cutting their teeth on the Boom decks. But then in 2005, government legislation imposing a 3am lockout tolled Boomâ€™s death knell.
â€œThe 3am lockout was the demise of the day club,â€ Wayne confirms. â€œWe were in dire straits. I burnt every favour I ever had with people in getting Planet off the ground. It was a leap of faith.â€
And so Planet rose with a raw, warehouse feel. A plaque proclaiming â€˜Itâ€™s All About The Musicâ€™ oversaw partygoers as they entered into a front room with side openings leading to the main part of the club itself. From out the front hung a massive disco ball, proclaiming to all and sundry the buildingâ€™s real purpose. Wayne laughs that Planet was a training ground for them all.
â€œWe knew how the music side of things went, we knew how to set up the atmosphere, with lasers, smoke machines and lights. But we were new to the nightclub business â€“ we had to learn everything.â€
Planet boomed. And then in 2008, the opportunity to take on The Church landed neatly in Wayneâ€™s lap. Having undergone so many different names including Heaven, Revolver and Mass, Wayne accepted the challenge, and The Churchâ€™s Magic City (a name synonymous to hard house) took off as an R&B club. With The Church established, Wayne - with Hollie Paterson onboard as partner - took a good look at Planet, and decided it was time for a rebrand. And so the stallion pierced by a streak of lighting replaced the massive disco ball, heralding the way for Electric Playground.
â€œWe loved the festival vibe and thought weâ€™d make something of it with EP,â€ Wayne says. â€œOur music policy is similar to Londonâ€™s Fabric while keeping to that festival vibe.â€
Electric Playground remains committed to their music policy, with dubstep, trance, prog or drum & bass found on any given Friday night, electro on Saturdays and a massive after party with each festival.
â€œThereâ€™s no better experience than going to a festival, and watching a DJ playing to thousands of people going off,â€ Wayne says. â€œBut the after party keeps that festival vibe going. Itâ€™s just as amazing when a big name DJ can make eye contact with everyone in the room.â€
It has been a year since the doors opened to reveal the new, shiny nightclub, with a dancefloor overseeing a raised DJ box engulfed by an enormous LED screen. And come this Saturday, Electric Playground will celebrate the year by bringing Mobin Master, Ryan Riback and Baby Gee to the party, with residents Murray Brown, Karma and Wahoo also in attendance.
â€œItâ€™s definitely going to be a good night,â€ Wayne promises. â€œWeâ€™ll have the tent out the back and it will be going off! We grew up in front of the Valley,â€ Wayne proclaims. â€œWe tripped, stumbled and fell here. Planet was our apprenticeship, and weâ€™re very proud of what weâ€™ve achieved with Electric Playground. Itâ€™s all for the love of music.â€
Electric Playgroundâ€™s 1st Birthday celebrations hapens this Saturday, July 2.