At first glance, I had been disappointed with Melbourne’s nightlife offerings in the week I would be there. The biggest gay club in town, the Market, had recently closed down. It seemed symptomatic of the recent decline in the city’s gay scene. New venues had sprung up though. A once dowdy drag queen pub called, ingloriously, “the Greyhound” was now apparently a throbbing dance club and there was another new night too, with the similarly cringeworthy name “Poof Doof”.
The fabulous John and Trough parties (of which more later) were annoyingly scheduled for the weeks before and after my visit, so that was a blowout, but the more I walked around, the more flyers and posters I saw for interesting-looking events; there was a lesbian night with vogueing workshop on Friday, a gay bar ‘underwear party’ on every Monday, a Colombian Independence Day party at the end of the week …
I even saw people popping up on random suburban streets (above) on their way to parties or (below) dressed as animals on Chapel Street, heading to the bar “Killing Time” for its weekly ‘animal party’ where people dress up as beasts and dance to techno. I spent another evening on Chapel Street locked in a closed-up bar, afterhours, knocking back free (and free-flowing vodka) with the Slovenian waitresses.
By the end of the week I had reversed my opinion on the city’s nightlife 360 degrees. It was very “Melbourne” situation- the good stuff was not flashy or blinging, it took a little effort to dig away and find it. But if you did, it seemed there was no shortage of worthwhile things to do in the city after dark.
The Greyhound, as it turned out, was home to a fairly impressive “show” of Kazaky-inspired male dancers, old-skool drag queens (one of whom had just died hence an extended, rather dull tribute), and much more interesting acrobats who dangled lithely from billowing sheets of fabric or spun around in suspended hoops.
The biggest surprise though was “Poof Doof” ( translation of Aussie slang: “Faggot Hardcore Techno Music”). Its promotional slogan was “Drinks. Disco. Dick”. Given this, I had been expecting a fairly trashy, noisy, pick up party so imagine my surprise when on ascending five levels up a red-lit fire escape, we were ushered into a beautifully decorated and spacious venue playing deep house and electro music. It turned into a fun night of fashionably dressed hipster boys, a surprising number of girls and laidback straight dudes, a stray pornstar (apparently) and a strong Asian contingent (lots of hardbodied accountants from Jakarta) letting loose to everything from Lana Del Rey remixes (everyone knew the words to “Blue Jeans”) to Robyn, Azealia Banks and Die Antwoord (several times!), ending with a pensive disco heartbreaker, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”.
We were the first ones in the door, and we stayed until 5am. I would have stayed longer if we could.
As we left down the same stairs, we discovered the bar was actually on the top floor of a building full of interesting-looking (if straight) bars and dancefloors, still pumping at the end of the night. It seemed like a fun warren-like nightlife maze to explore.