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August 13, 2020

Adelaide deejays are homesick for the dance floor (Part I)

With club nights currently out of the question, CityMag is checking in with some local deejays to see how they're coping personally and professionally while they're not able to soundtrack our late-night hedonism.

  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Pictures: Supplied


It was Daniel Bedingfield’s early-’00s banger ‘Gotta Get Thru This’, blasted through Funktion-One speakers in a darkened nightclub, that soundtracked the beginnings of a six-year relationship between this CityMag journalist and her partner.

We were strangers at the beginning of the night, but that changed. We ditched our friends, rolled through the city’s revolving door of bars and nightclubs, and danced until we got stitches and ran out of money.


This article is part of a series. Read Part II at the link.

I don’t remember the minute details of that night, but the general feeling of absolute bliss, scored by pop, house and disco, has long lingered.

So it’s sad to think that from March until August this year, strangers, friends and lonely lovers have been deprived of these fortuitous moments.

When COVID-19 materialised in South Australia at the beginning of the year, hospitality businesses and venues were forced to temporarily close.

Some, such as Sugar on Rundle Street, haven’t opened at all, while others, such as Lion Arts Factory, have opened, offering only dribs and drabs of their former gig schedule.

None have returned fully to their former glory, because, as we are all too painfully aware, drinking while dancing is currently banned.

It’s music that gives these spaces, and the memories of nights like mine, so much weight. And so it is to deejays, ultimately, we owe our thanks. Without them, nightclubs are just sticky Escape Rooms filled with sobbing patrons, asking “Have you seen my phone?”

CityMag wants to show our appreciation for those late-night vibe-setters who make our nights out fun, but who haven’t yet been able to return to work, as nightclubs remain on ice.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll ask a cohort of Adelaide deejays how they’re coping personally and professionally without a dance floor to fill, and ask them for the tracks that have kept them sane during shutdown.

First up is Jade Barker (aka Milk Paste) and Mark Kamleh (aka Adelaide’s premier party liaison).


Jade Barker (Milk Paste)

Jade Barker should be booked as a deejay for her cheekbones alone


Prior to COVID-19, Jade Barker – billed as Milk Paste – spun house, techno and disco records multiple nights a week to earn an income. She threw parties like Inside Out – Dance Club, and has been a resident at Hindley Street’s Rocket Bar and Rooftop and Sugar in the East End for years.

Being a fixture in the music scene allowed her to pursue a creative career as an emerging fashion designer, with her emerging label Eau de Chanté.

But, at the tail end of March, all her professional deejay opportunities were cancelled. There has also been no confirmation on when these gigs would return, throwing life as she knew it up in the air.

“The whole time I found it very hard to be creative,” Jade tells CityMag.

“I wasn’t deejaying at home, I wasn’t sewing, draping, sketching, painting or even listening to records – what the fuck!”

The situation made Jade realise just how precarious her gig-by-gig hospitality work was. She decided to head back to university to complete a masters in social work, hoping for more stability.

Jade really misses the social aspect of deejaying. Cigarette breaks offered her a chance to have a chin-wag with mates, and even dance.

“By about July, I was contemplating cutting out cardboard figures of people and making a cocktail and chatting to them in the lounge room,” she says.

“That’s how much I missed the social aspect of work.”

Five songs that soundtracked Jade’s isolation.


Mark Kamleh

Mark Kamleh throwing up the finger guns – a classic party-starting move


Rundle Street polymath Mark Kamleh – who deejays at Skin Contact parties, slings tasty treats for Tiger Mountain, and is a renowned quiz master, plus a wine guru – says that within three days from 13 March, all his professional plans were put on hold indefinitely.

This included deejaying at clubs, bars, weddings – even a bar mitzvah – as well as an opportunity to do vintage with a winery overseas.

“I was pretty sad for the first couple weeks, but then I got into the groove of slowing down and relaxing,” Kamleh tells CityMag.

“The time to stop and actually think about what I was doing was welcome, and I was certain better things would come out of the other end of the shutdown.”

During peak lockdown, Kamleh deejayed with Thunderbus Road, the wine delivery bus/mobile party, but says that didn’t come close to performing in clubs.

“I miss making booties shake!” Kamleh says.

He’s still waiting for the day he can make them shake again.

Five songs that soundtracked Kamleh’s isolation.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by coronavirus news and feel like you’re not coping, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 any time, or via text at 0477 13 11 14 6pm until midnight any day.

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