Exploring the 10-year legacy of Thick As Thieves, Melbourne’s voice of electronic music

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Exploring the 10-year legacy of Thick As Thieves, Melbourne’s voice of electronic music

Words by Augustus Welby

Mike Toner co-founded Thick As Thieves ten years ago, determined to raise the vibration for artists, punters and co-workers. The Melbourne-based touring and events company has since been sourcing DJs from the electronic underground and taking a holistic approach to creating quality experiences.

Mike Toner was the part-owner of a record store prior to the agency’s inception. In response to dwindling record sales, he started running some events. After adding a few international artists to their early lineups, Toner perceived a deficiency in the way the touring acts were treated.

“There was a general pattern of the artist [who] would come out to Australia and they’d kind of just get dumped in a hotel room and left on their own,” he says. When Thick As Thieves started importing DJs themselves, Toner made a point of showing them a great time.

“I’m Irish and seeing all the amazing stuff in Australia, I always thought it was such a waste for them to come the whole way to Australia and not experience everything Australia has to offer,” he says. “I had a few relationships with some artists back at home and when I brought them out to Australia one thing I focused on was creating a really amazing experience for them.

“As a result, all of the artists went back and told their friends that they had this amazing time in Australia. Then it became a bit of a snowball and people started contacting me direct to put tours together for them.”

Toner and his tight-knit crew are throwing not one but four parties to celebrate ten years of operations. The festivities start at The Timber Yard on Saturday June 8 with veteran Thick As Thieves DJ, Boogs, who is promising a five-hour retrospective set.

“There will be a lot of tunes that represent my sets from the last ten years of Thick As Thieves,” says Boogs. “I also want to represent where those tunes have taken me and what’s influencing me now. So overall I am hoping to be able to give people a musical taste of what I do from past, present and future.”

Boogs is famed for his 7am residency at Revolver Sundays, which he’s been doing for 18 years. The gig has introduced him to an enormous amount of people and exposed him to a whole variety of strange behaviours. It’s also been an invaluable outlet for sharpening his DJ skills.

“It has been an amazing ride,” says Boogs. “As a DJ it has been priceless to have somewhere like Revolver to refine what I do and grow. Overall it is the friendships I have made that mean the most.”

The Timber Yard is a spacious party venue, which gives Boogs the chance to stretch beyond what he offers in a club environment.

For the landmark event he’ll be performing alongside Irish beat creator, Rebūke who achieved breakout success with his track ‘Along Came Polly’, which displays his intention to merge and reimagine early ‘90s house, techno and rave.

“Rebūke is Mike’s cousin so I definitely am looking forward to playing alongside him,” says Boogs. “I also love a lot of the tunes he has been releasing so am excited to hear him DJ.”

Thick As Thieves actually began with just Boogs and Toner. The two had become close friends after meeting on a Sunday morning at Revolver. Over time, the idea of starting an agency started to make a lot of sense.

“I still remember the first time I walked into Revolver, the energy in the place when [Boogs] came on,” says Toner. “I was 25 years old at the time and went to see him religiously every Sunday morning for two or three years. When Boogs plays at Revolver, it feels like the earth moves beneath you.

“Mike is an absolute force of nature and has built the agency into something that I am so proud to be a part of,” says Boogs. 

Toner has also been instrumental in his philanthropic work. Thick As Thieves has donated at least $500,000 to the Fred Hollows Foundation and has helped combat avoidable blindness among some of the world’s poorest people along the way.

As we prepare for the tenth anniversary celebrations, alongside Boogs, you can expect performances from Michael Bibi at Revolver Upstairs on Sunday June 9, Phil Kieran at XE on Saturday June 15, and Patrice Baumel and Patrick Topping at Shed 14 on Saturday June 15.

“Michael Bibi’s someone we’ve been watching for a while and he’s really hot,” Toner says. “Patrick’s one of the biggest DJs worldwide now, but his first-ever gig outside of the UK was at Revolver.

“I heard a podcast and it had this track on it which really grabbed me and it turned out it was Patrick. I think at the time he had maybe 600 fans – he couldn’t believe someone was bringing him from the UK to Australia. We’ve toured Phil more than any other act.

“There’s a really good story behind each artist we’ve got for the tenth birthday. It’s not just a bunch of names we’ve pulled together.”

Thick As Thieves’ 10th anniversary celebrations kick off on Saturday June 8 with Boogs’ five-hour retrospective set at the Timber Yard and will be followed by performances from Michael Bibi, Patrice Baumel, Patrick Topping and Phil Kieran across three extra shows. Grab your tickets to the events at thickasthieves.com.au.