It’s commonly said that queers throw the best parties, but are we lesbians keeping up our end of the bargain?
Nights for girls in Melbourne these days seem as diverse as the city itself. Every promoter says the same thing -” they want to create a night they would go to, the question is, do we?
The venue scales fall heavily in favour of the boys and there hasn’t been a dedicated lesbian venue in this town for a number of years now. While the situation on paper may look bad, the number of one-off, monthly and weekly regulars means we’re hard pressed not to find something that suits.
Since The Glasshouse closed its doors as a laidback, pool table lesbian pub, and re-opened as a queer-friendly restaurant and bar, there was some concern the ladies wouldn’t be looked after.
While Glasshouse licensee Maria Frendo has remained a great supporter of all things queer and avant garde, the gaping hole of lesbian nightlife has slowly but surely been patched up with the creation of a variety of nights -” arguably creating a scene more diverse than a one-pub town.
From the stylish Blonde on the Rocks nights in the city, the dancy Girlbar in St Kilda, all ages She Bar, Tuff Muff and drag nights at the Glasshouse, to the new nights popping up, there’s something for almost every night of the party weekend.
And new and revived nights seem to be popping up regularly. Last weekend saw the arrival of new monthly event, GenderFuck, at Blue Velvet for gender-bending fashionistas, and after a 12 month hiatus, Alia Bar is once again opening the doors for girls-only Thursdays.
Melbourne’s scene has always been more disparate than its Sydney counterpart, found in pockets and dotted and scattered across the city, rather than the more concentrated Newtown and Oxford Street hubs. That there is nowhere to go for a quiet pint on a Monday, however, is lamentable when our male counterparts have a feast for the picking. Promoters have always said it’s much harder to drag the girls from their living rooms and support queer nights, so perhaps we have ourselves to blame?
There is also the argument we’ve outgrown full-time gay venues and simply don’t feel the need, or choose not to spend as much time socialising in queer spaces anymore, integrating into the mainstream.
But how much is our identity and sense of community tied into the places we congregate? Is it more than a simple pick-up fest for the singles?
Allana Walker, 29, has been on the scene since her early 20s and says she is happy with the nights for girls available but would still prefer a regular.
-œIt’d be nice to have somewhere to go every night of the week, instead of waiting for the right night to come around, she says.
Host Sharon from She Bar at The Bendigo Hotel, says she has seen a steady growth in the five years she and her partner Andrea have been running the night.
-œIt was quiet during the football finals. I think people were out barbecuing and stayed on when they might have come out …. but normally we have steady numbers and always have new faces and a very diverse crowd, she says.
She Bar is one of the few strictly women- only venues that actively keeps men out. Sharon says she wants to create a -œhappy safe environment for women.
-œThe boys have their spaces which is really great but it’s nice to have a space for women only.
Hoochie Mama at Alia Bar is the latest all-girl night to hit the scene and is an event re-birth for queer performer Billie Lime, who hosted a night called Emerald Clutch at Alia last year.
The night is aimed at the frocked-up market with DJs, booty dancing and pole dancing to keep the crowds agog and best of all, no cover charge.
Lime has certainly been around the entertainment block, living and performing in Berlin for three years. -œI think there’s a few good things out there at the moment, but there’s nothing regular and I think that’s what’s really lacking, Lime says of her decision to start the night.
Hoochie Mama will compete head-to-head with A Bar Called Barry’s Thursday night Indie Queer (IQ), however Lime is unconcerned.
-œWhat we’re doing is smaller and more relaxed -” it’s thought out and there is substance behind it. There’s certainly a crossover crowd, so it’d be good if they could go between bars. There’s certainly enough people out there, they’re lined up around the block, she says.
One of those who have remained regular, for almost nine years now is King Victoria’s weekly drag king trans/queer shows, previously at the Opium Den and now calling The Glasshouse home.
King Vic promoter Bumpy says she is happy with the new venue and says crowds have been good.
-œI’m happy with it. Maria is energetic, loves women and the trans community. It’s a good venue for us and it’s important our clients are respected and they have a place they can relax and be themselves whether butch, trans, femme or whatever, everyone needs understanding.
-œIt’s important for queer, lesbian and trans that they are welcome, because we’re not welcome at The Peel which is the other late-night venue in the area and it’s good to know that we’re actually allowed in the door.
Catering to a different market entirely is the popular Blonde on the Rocks. Held in Chinatown alley bar Eurotrash, Blonde really shakes the stereotypical lesbian night right out of the tree. With a cool retro-swoon aesthetic from the pulp fiction the night was inspired by, it has three levels to keep the punters amused.
Tuff Muff, a once a month theme night at The Glasshouse, has also proved popular and is celebrating its first birthday this weekend. Frendo says she is pleased with the turnouts in its first year.
-œIt’s great, it’s a lot of fun, people have a good time, I’m happy with the numbers. They have been a little bit down lately, but I thinks that’s the case generally, she said.
Relative newcomer to the packed calendar is Party 4 No Reason at The Bendigo Hotel which centres itself around live music.
Linda Pierson is behind the monthly event which is billed refreshingly as -œstraight-friendly and says the key is live performance.
-œI wanted to create a place you could bring your friends and family and everyone can feel comfortable whether you’re gay or straight or whatever label you put on it. The common reason you’re together is live music, she says.
-œWe even had a hens night the other night and they had a fabulous time -” probably a bit too flirty with the girls, but what goes on, on the night, stays there she says with a laugh.
The night also provides a platform for queer performers, which Pierson say she hopes to develop further.
Performers Michelle Parsons, Anna Tirotta and Bluehouse have all performed and Pierson reveals she is looking further afield and at bigger names for future nights.
One thing is certain -” to keep on top of the scene, you’d better keep your party diary up-to-date.