Anyone can have a jolly time while slumming it in the city - Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons: 'The Smokers' by Adriaen Brower, circa 1636
Amid the gilded realm of Melbourne's haughty doors, alluring laneways and trend-setting social hubs lurks a rather more tarnished other-world where glamour-spots give way to unofficial flesh-pots and the city's juiciest fruits turn seedy. These places comprise the underside of Melbourne's nightlife; the dive bars and shadow lands of the urban whirl.
Now, don't let this dire description put you off. In order to really experience Melbourne, one must do more than dip one's toes in the city's crystal pools. From time to time, a bold and almighty splash is required the kind of splash that only comes from throwing oneself in the murkiest ponds of the metropolis. It does help to know what lies on the bottom however, and that's where we aim to assist. After all, like public toilets and greasy spoons, trashy nightlife has its place in society. Visits shouldn't be too regular and you'll almost always emerge feeling sullied, but sometimes, they're just the ticket, and for a while at least, you'll be glad you're there.
Good Guide to the Bad and the Ugly
Undoubtedly leading the way in unsavoury stakes is South Bank's Industry Bar, more often known as Pit 5, or simply The Pit an apt moniker if ever there was one. Proving that not all darkened doors in the city's side streets lead to golden enclaves of pretty young things quaffing cocktails, The Pit instead serves cheap basics with an air of notoriety and a whiff of weed to a clientele that can include burly bikers with braided beards, scrawny dealers in hooded sports tops, freestyling gangstas complete with gold chains and posses of cheaply (and barely) clad lady-loves, bewildered tourists engaging in uncoordinated fisticuffs for reasons unknown even to themselves, pill-popping beat demons, surly drifters, wasted young trades hailing from somewhere in the outer-west and people who simply got lost and decided to hunker down and wait for McDonald's to turn on the breakfast menu. Boasting not one, but two stripper poles at the top of the d-floor, a pool table, a surplus of ripped couches spewing their innards and toilets that offer little privacy from the street and neighbouring car park, The Pit, which is open every day until 7am, is not a place to be negotiated without the buffer of an adventurous nature.
Chasers on Chapel St has a very different vibe but still surely qualifies as one of the trashiest venues around for evening antics particularly during Warehouse Saturdays when the club is open until the wee hours. While The Pit is watched over by a team of seemingly bemused and disinterested bouncers, the security army at Chasers is comprised of a host of swaggering men and a surprisingly large number of tough, shouty women. The venue has several bars and a downstairs dance floor with a podium at the centre, on which paid dancers writhe at various intervals and young men stand while updating their Facebook statuses ("totes on the podium at Chasers") during the dancers' tea breaks. Catering primarily to the newly-adult crowd with marketing that pulls out all the stops in appealing to the power of hormones, this is a prime place for people watching so long as you can stomach maximum tack and little to no decorum when it comes to dance floor 'courtship'.
Straddling the very thin line between our grungiest bars and trashiest nightlife is Tongue and Groove on St Kilda's infamous Grey St. Open until 4am every night (or day), this bar is a backpacker haunt and a place where you're likely to see police chasing people out the door and down the road (always amusing). Possibly with their groovy tongues in cheek, the proprietors seem to have embraced this aspect of the venue and gone for a bit of a jailhouse theme patrons approaching the entry will oft be greeted by smokers closed into a small concrete cell who cheerily chat away to passers-by through the barred window. Inside, it's all dark of corner and cheap of beverage. The only things that are flashy are the disco lights and the gentlemen and ladies engaged in various mating rituals or providing peekaboo moments on the dance floor, unintentionally or otherwise. Like the zoo, this is a very interesting place to visit (once), though stay too long and things are bound to get messy.
Things can get a bit interactive at Inflation Nightclub.
Not quite on a par with Melbourne's trashiest nightlife but not that far off it either are the Elephant and Wheelbarrow pubs, most particularly the one on Fitzroy St. If you're up for a no-frills night of standard rock covers and a mish-mash of fellow frolickers, and if you don't too much mind the permanent aroma of vomit and old beer, then you're set for a fun night out. If you're looking for a classier 'British' pub, however, this place will fly quite shy of the mark.
Likewise Billboard on Russell St now touts itself as a premier music venue and indeed, it has undergone a deal of change since its early days as a uni student go-to joint but patrons can still discern the ghosts of heydays past showing through the cracks.
King St's Inflation Nightclub can be a lot of fun if you go with the right expectations, but you don't want to make this place a regular haunt. Primarily a place for an ironically clichιd hen's party or buck's night with its regular 'cabaret' shows, Inflation also has several other levels on which to slum it up.
Lastly, a shout out has to go to a few of the fallen, who were just too trashy for this town. Bubble, Heat and Salt (putting the three together even sounds like a recipe for disaster literally) were each closed down (at least temporarily) after a serious of unfortunate events took them out of the shadows and into the news headlines.
Let the Trash Out of the Bag
The Joint just misses our shortlist - is it on yours?
If you've had a few trash-tastic escapades and if you haven't blocked them from your memory we'd love to hear all about them. While hipster bars and swanky (that's 'swanky') clubs form the backbone of Melbourne's renowned nightlife scene, the sheer flesh and viscera of its underbelly is important too, and worthy of a few celebratory, nylon-clad gyrations in virtual fashion, at least. A thousand years from now, historians will judge us all as a society for the most shameful of our shenanigans, so we may as well own that jazz. Comment below with all the gory, glorious details of your jaunts at Melbourne's trashiest haunts.